Month: November 2020

Pushing Back at the Darkness

Pandemic feels heavy and omnipresent today. I fear how bad things might get over the next two months. I’m pre-grieving because I won’t get to see people in person over the holidays. I wonder who among my loved ones I’ll lose permanently.

But tomorrow I’ve got molds coming so that I can make food in ridiculously elaborate shapes. I expect to have a terrible time getting the food out of the molds, but it is something joyful to do. Deliberate joy is how I’ll push back against the dark. Right now that looks like silly-shaped food and stickers for my journal.

Tossing Breadcrumbs Forward Through the Woods

I’ve been feeling gray lately. Most years I don’t start feeling winter blah until after the holidays, but it came early this year. A friend says we’re all like squirrels starting the winter with empty trees, winter reserves already depleted. That feels true of me this year. This same friend has been combating the mood by undertaking a completely non-productive project which spends resources but makes her happy. I was glad to see it working for her, but no project I contemplated sparked any sort of joy in me. Holidays seemed a set of looming obligations instead of something to look forward to. On top of the gray mood, I seem to have hit a migraine cycle.

This morning I started the day with caffeine to stave off the impending migraine. The caffeine unlocked that portion of my brain which allows me to be happy about projects. I’ll pay for it with insomnia tonight, but this morning I purchased elaborate shaped silicone molds for making ridiculous desserts for Thanksgiving. (Molded jello, truffles, shaped butter, etc.) I have a plan which involves delivering food to my married daughter we’ll have to wave to from afar this year. I’m going to have my two in-house assistants help me create the ridiculous food. I also have fragmentary ideas for a blog post on how holidays are always a construct that we create for each other, and the shake ups of this year are an opportunity to create anew.

I hope I get to keep some of my creative anticipation once the caffeine wears off. My molds are arriving on Monday, so now I have a small thing to look forward to. After that I can look forward to making the foods. After that, delivering the foods. By the time I get there, I will hopefully have found some other small thing I can look forward to just a couple of days out. I think that is how I’ll make it through this winter. Not with anticipating large things that are weeks or months away, but by tossing small markers only a couple of days into the future, and making sure I toss the next one just before I reach the current one. It’s like a reverse Hansel and Gretel breadcrumb trail to lead me out the other side instead of back where I started.

November Gray

I can feel depression nibbling at the edges of me. It shows itself in such small ways. The friend I think of calling, but don’t because conversation sounds exhausting, even though connection is the point. The emails stacking up while I seek the energy to answer them. The small household tasks I was handling fine three weeks ago, but which feel overwhelming today. Persistent thoughts wondering why bother. Feeling hopeless and powerless, even when I logically know I am neither. I was doing so well, but then the leaves vanished and the grass turned brown. Even when the weather is warm, all the plants are dormant, waiting. Part of me wants to go dormant too. Sleep until spring.

I can’t of course. That’s not how humans function. Instead I have to see the nibbles and choose to do the proactive, self-care things even though they feel pointless. I have to plant seeds in the hydroponic garden so I can have flowers in January. I have to make myself go for a walk because exercise makes me more resilient to the nibbles. I have to carry on doing all the life-maintenance tasks because that is how I sandbag against the creeping tide of blah. And yes I have now described depression as both seeping and nibbling. Is it water that sneakily causes structural damage or is it mice that chew holes? It is neither and both. If I don’t take action against it, life can fall apart in ways that require large renovation.

Depression rarely goes that far for me. I usually have a couple of down days then I bounce back. But its been a couple of days, and I keep being aware of how much winter is ahead of me, and how many winter coping strategies are disallowed by pandemic. I keep thinking ahead to the holidays and knowing that if I want to connect with friends and loved ones, I’m going to have to figure out new ways to do that. Because I have experience with online connection and parties, I’ll have to lead the way in making the connections actually happen. It is how I serve my communities. It is important. And today the thought just makes me tired. I so much prefer the social mode of showing up and supporting someone else’s event to stepping up and hosting.

November is more than half gone, hopefully I can shake off depression and leave it behind along with the remainder of November.

The Judgement of 17 Year Old Me

A question is circulating on Twitter this morning: “Would 17 year old you be proud of the person you are today?” I saw the question and instantly thought “probably not.” Then I had to unpack why. This imaginary younger me is lacking thirty years of experience and context to understand the triumphs, joys, and compromises behind the person I’ve become. She didn’t understand disability. She didn’t understand systemic racism. She didn’t understand love, sex, parenting, religion, gender, power, or anything else in the complex and nuanced ways that I have come to understand. Because of all this, her opinion of me would necessarily be ill-informed and possibly negative.

The more critical question is: “Am I pleased with the person I am today?” The answer to that is a clear “Yes.” I like who I am becoming. I like the life I have built. I am comfortable with my regrets and griefs as I learn to incorporate them into who I am. I like the dreams I’m currently reaching for and the plans I have for living inside pandemic restrictions. I’m excited to see what else comes my way once pandemic restrictions are lifted. I am happy to be thirty years past the opinions of 17 year old me.

Fixing the Floor in Howard’s Office

Last summer we had flooding and I had to replace flooring in Howard’s office and our family room. Because of deductibles and various other expense, the vinyl plank flooring we chose was on the cheap end. In the family room space this has been fine, but in Howard’s office, where he was rolling over the flooring with an office chair, a problem developed. The planks started to slide and gaps opened up.

Some of the gaps were large, more than half an inch wide.

I took an afternoon and tore up the problem section. These flooring pieces are flexible enough to allow this where more rigid pieces would have required tearing apart all the way to the wall. Of course their flexibility is also why we had a problem in the first place. So there is that.

In order to prevent this problem from happening again, I took two preventative steps. The first was to push some blocking pieces underneath the dry wall and up against the wall stud. this meant that there wasn’t a space for pieces to slide into anymore.

The second was that I used flooring glue to attache the pieces to each other. It would provide just enough additional friction that the pieces stick instead of sliding. Or so I hope. This sort of flooring isn’t supposed to need glue, but I used it anyway in the interests of prevention.

The job was fiddly and at times annoying, but I got it done. Now Howard has a functional floor again.

As an added protection, we purchased an office mat designed for hard floors. It’ll be just one more layer of defense. If the problem happens again, then the only real fix is to tear out this less expensive flooring and install something that is higher quality. Not really what we want to spend time or money on right now. It feels good to have an annoying house problem solved. I like that.

Writing in the Winter

Today I find myself missing my hammock. I brought it indoors and stowed it for the winter a few weeks ago when the weather turned cold. The patio with it’s fire pit is still available, but sitting out there is not ideal for writing. Typing with gloved hands doesn’t work well and the smell of wood smoke permeates handwritten pages in a way that lingers. I’m left seeking an indoor setting that invites me into a writing head space.

I began the work of setting up such a space late last winter when I acquired a faux-fireplace heater for a corner of my office. It does make the spot feel a little cozier, but the minute I photograph it, everything feels shabby, dated, cobbled together.

Even worse is what I’m looking at when I sit in that chair.

It is a jumble of clutter that needs to be cleaned up, remnants of completed projects, storage, and piles of to-do items. Considering the insights I gained while watching Stay Here on Netflix, I’m absolutely failing at creating a space where my writer self can enter and instantly feel welcomed.

So I have work to do and I have some limiting parameters for the project. My ideal writing space would be a room with a large window, flooded with natural light. It would be a room that is fully mine, no one else in my house would use it for anything. In the short term I have to work with what exists rather than wishing for what doesn’t. So, my options are: 1. The pictured basement office which is mostly mine, but has no windows and is a passage way for some family members. 2. My bedroom which has a window, but no room for a chair/desk and is shared with Howard whose work process often includes taking naps mid-day. 3. The front room which has a window, but which is in the middle of everything and people frequently wander in and start talking to me. Each of these options require compromises away from my ideal and other compromises so that I don’t cause problems for the other people living in my house. The best option to create a space for me to focus and be less interrupted is my basement office.

Having identified the work to do, and having written a blog post about intending to do it, I need to acknowledge that none of the above counts as actual writing of fiction. So for today I’m putting a pin in the project and going to my novel to try to remember what scene I was working on.

Unfocused

I am distracted today and for no easily discernable reason. Yes politics, Covid, and social media tug at my attention, but most of the time I’m able to step away, reset, and get work done. Today I keep frittering from thing to thing. Perhaps that means my mind needs to NOT focus for a while. That’s okay too. I just need to step away from trawling through my internet places which give me the illusion of focus without actually allowing me to really rest.

News Articles Today

This happened today

Image of Washington Post headline: Joe Biden projected to be nation’s 46th president

It is a political development which makes everyone in my house glad. I’ve skewed liberal for decades and I never felt as appalled by a republican president as I have for the past four years. He did so much social damage. His existence combined with the pandemic brought so many simmering problems to the surface. Possibly that is a good thing for us in the long run, because now we see the work we have to do. There is a lot of work. This election means being able to settle in and do that work without having to negotiate with a leader who denies the work needs to be done. I am happy to work with people who disagree on how to solve the problems, but I can’t work with someone who denies the problem. Racism is a problem. Income inequality is a problem. The level of poverty in our country is a problem. How to handle immigration is a problem. The pandemic is a huge and urgent problem. The current state of policing and incarceration is problem. The cost of healthcare is a problem. We have lots of social discussion to do in order to figure out how to address these problems. We have a much better chance at actually having those discussions when we’re not constantly fighting a landslide of denial and misinformation from the very top.

This also happened today:

Utah Covid graph from 11/07/2020

I do not like the way that this week’s spike isn’t a lone day reaching high. It is solid and sustained across three days. This means the low is probably not going to dip down much, and next week we’ll have another set of new records. Particularly since the state guidelines haven’t changed and the weather is going cold. We still have kids going to school in person. Church meetings every week with up to 100 people in attendance. I got an invitation to a wedding reception (which I won’t attend) that had no information about quantities of people invited or safety measures. Sports events are happening. Youth activities are happening. People are planning to gather for Thanksgiving. Restaurants are open for dining inside. Gyms and fitness centers are open. None of that will shut down unless someone in government states clearly that they must. Until some of those things shut down we will continue to see increasing cases. The deaths have begun to roll in as well. I have friends and family who have tested positive.

So today I feel relief tempered with caution and an awareness that the work has only just begun.

Thinking on Four Years Past

I just went back and re-read blog posts from election week in 2016. The sinking-despairing feeling which permeated that week in 2016 is alluded to lightly by the words I wrote, but not fully expressed. I remember it so clearly, but I didn’t write it publicly because I was focusing my public face on finding ways to move forward. I reserved the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of anxieties for my private journals where I was free to say all the thoughts without hurting anyone else. That is always my instinct in the face of difficult things. I would rather say nothing than say a thing which would cause more harm. Yet much growth has come from those depths of emotion I felt four years ago. I learned that sometimes saying nothing can also harm. That I have to be willing to speak up for those who don’t have as much power as I do. The discovery of my own power was a revelation in itself, particularly when contrasted with how powerless I felt. We can never control everything. We’re always at the mercy of forces larger than ourselves. Yet that is not the same thing as being powerless. The situation is very rare where we can’t make choices to steer ourselves, our lives, our families, our communities. The river may be large with a strong current, but we still have a rudder on our boat. And of course, my mind immediately supplies “but what if the rudder is broken?” which is definitely a thing that can happen via disability, mental health challenges, abuse, etc. Every metaphor is broken by special cases, we sometimes have a tiny rudder, or no paddles, or maybe we have a giant rudder and gorgeous large sails. The key thing is that we almost always have some sort of choice about how to respond to our circumstances, even when we have no control over the circumstances.

The thing that strikes me most about 2016 and all the events that came after both personal and public, is that I am here in 2020, made stronger, surer, and more ready to face whatever is next. I’m also feeling a dawning hope that, when all the votes are counted, my country will have a president who will listen to advisers, who will make a coherent plan and stick to it. I may not always like the plan he makes, but he’ll behave as an adult leader who considers his words and actions rather than as a reactive, self-absorbed, person. My country still has to contend with deep divisions between people, many of those divisions were created in part by that selfish man in power who benefited from people being angry and scared. So part of my hopeful feeling is that his social power will wane along with his visibility. Yes there are plenty of other politicians who attempt to hold power in the same ways, tackling them is what all that learning in how to be strong and speak up is good for. I feel hope, not because now I get to relax, but because my country has some additional traction and less head wind for the further work that needs to be done.