Month: July 2020

No Going Back

I remember visiting at my parent’s house for two weeks after my first year of college. It was technically my childhood home, but it had been completely reconstructed after a fire nine months earlier, so it was an odd mix of home and not-home. I had a lot of emotional sorting to do evaluating the newness and not-newness of my surroundings. During the course of my visit I realized that my imbalance was not just that my home had been rebuilt, it was also that the emotional space that my family had held for me to return to was slightly the wrong shape. I’d grown and changed while I was away. I no longer fit neatly into the family patterns or habits. I still remember the surprise of that not-fitting when I’d expected to fit, and the micro-surprise my family expressed when I didn’t respond as they expected. It was all subtle and thoroughly mixed with the joy of being home to visit.

When my daughter came home to visit during her first year of college, she was only a couple of months into her growing and changing. When she came home for the summer after her first year, we sat down and talked about how to create a space for her that was an adult space rather than the child space she used to inhabit in our house. I remember a moment when she realized that there was no going backward, no way to retreat into the comfortable childhood she used to have. She could use the memory of it to sustain her, but she could not have it again. Not in the same way. She had changed, and we had changed, and while we would always hold space in each other’s hearts and lives, our mutual existence had to re-shape around those changes.

I am once again looking around me at surroundings that are both familiar and different. Pandemic has changed my world. It has changed my communities. It has changed the ways that everyone interacts. In the past week I have had conversations with three of my four young adults where they grapple with the idea that a level of security that they used to enjoy (without even consciously realizing they had it) is now gone. They don’t get to have it back. There are hundreds of possible futures where security is rebuilt, but they have to participate in the building of it, they don’t get to just enjoy it. This is their coming of age moment where childhood is gone and they realize they don’t get to go back. None of us do.

I remember sitting in the room which was both my teenage bedroom and an unfamiliar space. I remember sitting with my daughter as she looked at her childhood home unfamiliar. I sit here now in a world shifted around me. It is normal and needed to grieve for what is lost, even when that loss is a necessary part of moving forward, but the moving forward is the more important piece. I can’t unknow the things I have learned about racial injustice, and I wouldn’t want to. I can’t make the economy boom the way that it used to. I can’t reclaim the events which were canceled. Instead I have to plan a future which adjusts for the ongoing pandemic. I have to learn new ways to stay connected to people I can’t see in person, new ways to move through the world so that I protect others as well as myself, new definitions for what safe means. I have to participate in building a new stability, and so my young adults who are coming of age in this tumult. Sometimes this knowledge is exciting: I get to help build a better world. Other times it is overwhelming: there are so many sources of chaos right now. No matter how I feel about it, there is no going back, only forward.


It is full summer now. The world outside is hot during the day and comfortably warm at night. When my kids were little this was the season of running through sprinklers, eating popsicles, and playing with friends. Once the kids got older, summer was unscheduled days and lots of video games while mom and dad both worked. Sometimes there would be family gatherings and outings. Holidays like Independence Day were an opportunity to look up from the habits we’d fallen into and gather together. This year I watched fireworks from my front lawn by myself. Howard joined me for a bit, as did one of my sons, but mostly it was me watching explosions in the sky. Some furnished by the city, but most from the hands of neighbors. I had a moment of sadness for how different life is now than it used to be. Yes the pandemic, but also the natural shifts of children moving into adulthood and family events not coming together the way they used to. I’m not sure if my failure to orchestrate these events is evidence of me being tired, or if it is simply the natural result of kids growing up.

I sat down to do accounting on Saturday. Because of a conversation I’d had with Howard earlier in the week, I opened up my Accounting Instructions file. These are a series of documents designed to walk someone else through my accounting processes, just in case there comes a time when I’m not available to do the work. The were in dire need of updating, and I discovered that some tasks which are supposed to happen quarterly hadn’t been done since June of last year. That gave me pause, I’m usually far more conscientious about the accounting. Then I remember the series of events from the past year. How I spend all of last summer tearing apart my house and then fixing it again (all while in a blind financial panic at the massive hole blown in my finances) because we had to replace the sewer line. That project wound to a conclusion just before my daughter became engaged, which led to me acquiring a wedding planning job (across the Christmas shipping season and holiday celebrations.) We’d just triumphantly celebrated the wedding when Howard got sick, and then the pandemic changed everything. I haven’t had a period of emotional/event stability for more than a year. No wonder I’m tired. And no wonder I’m not spending extra effort to pull my kids from their settled pursuits into an activity that would expend more energy in service of bonding. I know the value of bonding, but energy is still in short supply.

I wonder how much of my emotional state in the past few weeks is because of remembered trauma from last year. Even though I’m not consciously thinking about it, the limbic lizard brain inside my head tracks things like daylight and weather, then it sends alarms “Last time conditions were like this, things suddenly got very stressful. Remember all that stress?” Of course this year has a sufficient supply of stress all by itself. I just think I got a dose of remembered stress on top of this year’s stress. No wonder I’m nostalgic for the Before Times, but I need to reach past 2019 to find memories I’d like to dwell in.

I still have half a summer ahead of me. During it, I want to teach my son to drive. I want to finish a patio. I hope to buy flooring for the next stage of the kitchen remodel. In service of these things, I have work to do to bring in funds, and new ways to work that still need to be figured out. I need to fully embrace being in July and not waste energy trying to see beyond it. Hopefully I can do that.

All the Scattered Thoughts

On the day before Independence Day, my brain is full of too many things. I’ve been struggling to pull them into some sort of coherent order and failing. So instead I’m just going to list stuff without trying to make anything relate to anything else. Welcome to my brain which almost always has piles of unrelated thoughts in it.

I’ve been following through on my plan to spend the week prior to Independence Day posting links to people I think are helping my country be better. It has been fun to seek out people doing good things and to share them with others. The twitter thread is here.

I’m still watching Covid 19 graphs and case counts in my state. I don’t like the look of the graphs. I don’t like that Howard ran a fever last weekend (Covid test still pending, I expect it to be negative.) I really don’t like that apparently a worker at the Orem Driver’s License division was Covid 19 positive on the day I took my son to get his driver’s permit. I’ve reviewed the visit in my head and I think transmission to us is unlikely, but it still shows me how this is everywhere. I’m trying to not spend brain cycles worrying about what to do for school in the fall. We can’t make those decisions yet.

Howard continues to have good air days and bad air days. With the pulmonary function test claiming that his lungs work just fine, we’re entering a new round of testing where we kick the tires on every other system in his body. Blood tests, echocardiogram, various other labs. Surely some of this additional data will help us form a path forward. If nothing else it will help us prune some branches off of the massive contingency tree I’m holding in my head. I’m trying to stay focused in now, to answer today’s needs with today’s resources, but on the bad days, when Howard is really struggling to function, my mind races ahead to the things I might have to manage, to what long term looks like. In the mean time, Howard has focused all of his available energy on delivering a good ending to the Schlock Mercenary comic. Once that is accomplished, he’s under orders (from me) that health comes before work. And we’ll build a new life structure which prioritizes his health.

In the last few weeks I’ve given up on writing fiction. I’ll come back around to it, but I have to quiet my brain first.

The kitchen project is stalled because the next step is purchasing flooring, which is a big spend. With not being sure the extent of testing that will be required to chase down a diagnosis for Howard, and with the end of the comic meaning that our income streams are about to shift, and with the national economic downturn, now is not a great time to be doing a big spend. So instead I’ve done a much smaller spend on concrete pavers to create a patio in my back yard. I now have hours of digging, leveling, and setting pavers ahead of me. I’m really glad to have some sort of project where I can visibly see that my work turns something ugly (a dirt patch) into something pretty (a patio.) It is also work I can do with my hands no matter what state my mind is in. I need something like that right now.

I still don’t know how to build a path forward for my young adults who are cloistered in my house. The driver’s permit is our one push, and it is stalled because the car my son is learning how to drive has its Check Engine light on. Probably because the car didn’t like being repeatedly stalled while a 17yo learns how to drive a stick shift. It is such a tiny roadblock, but when I’m this emotionally worn any bump is enough to make me stop.

Local temperatures now top 90 degrees daily. This impedes my ability to bake as much bread as I would like because the AC struggles to keep the house comfortable when it has to fight with both heat from the oven and heat from outside. I’ve been exploring more stove top cooking as I’m trying to find uses for all of the vegetables that came in my farm share bag. I only get a bag every other week, but so far it has taken me that long to use what came in the first bag. Figuring out savory uses for fruits, and ways to make beets delicious has provided me with some focus during the hours when it is too hot for me to work on digging for the patio. Also, people need to eat anyway. Right?

I’m still paying attention to national conversations about race and police reform. I’m still learning new things and holding myself to the resolutions that I made several weeks ago. This is a marathon, not a sprint. I’m also spending some thought on how people hurt each other and how communities should prevent someone who habitually hurts others from doing that. I’m thinking a lot about punishment and shame as tools to control harm. They concern me because punishment and shame inherently cause harm even when used trying to prevent it. There needs to be a structure where we can prevent harm completely instead of just shifting the recipient.

I’m struggling with feeling like I am not productive enough, like I’m not using my time wisely. Then I sit down with that feeling and ask exactly what I mean by “productive” and why that should be more important than personal satisfaction in house tasks done. In some ways it comes down to money and stress over money. Because I’m worried about other things, the financial squirrel in my brain wants to stash away all the resources against possible future need. I want to make debts vanish and build up reserves so that I can handle every single one of the branches on that medical contingency tree. So I feel guilty when my day is spent on tasks that use resources instead of accumulating them. Which is silly, because the point of having resources is to use them. This includes time. However stress reactions are hard to short circuit and this is apparently one of the ways I react to major life shifts in the middle of a pandemic that has no end date. I’m working on letting go of the guilt, while simultaneously being understanding with myself that it shows up.

I’m being impressed with how kind some people are even when their kindness is invisible to everyone.

There are so many more thoughts in my head, but they are so fragmentary that I can’t even put them into sentences. Hopefully these pieces of thoughts will either coalesce or fade away. For now, I need to go make lunch.