The new normal

I’m doing okay with this isolation. It’s not that I don’t like isolation, I like having a choice. I was supposed to be on a beach in Florida right now.

Things are breaking down. The DVD player broke that I watch my exercise videos on since the gym closed. Thankfully my ancient laptop has a DVD player. Our main TV died. I don’t think it responded well to the surge of overuse. Or maybe it didn’t like being the bearer of bad news. Or maybe it got a virus. Oh wait, that only happens to computers.

We dug out some puzzles. After sorting the pieces of three puzzles in a row on the same day, all three were missing multiple edge pieces so I threw them out. Then Clara and I opened a brand new puzzle still in its plastic wrap and that was missing an edge piece too. We searched and searched but all I found was some dried up dog puke behind the couch. Now I remember why I hate puzzles. I had to walk away for a few days. The last remaining shred of my sanity was on the line. Seriously!!?! A brand new puzzle had 4 pieces missing.

This corona virus is the new crisis in my life right now. It’s not that bad really after the last couple months of crap going on. Being lonely and bored has been an adjustment. It’s hard to sit still and not to feel like I should be rushing around doing something. I almost feel guilty about sitting around while essential employees are working hard with people getting sick and dying.

I worry somewhat about my loved ones getting sick. I realize that my husband and most of my best friends are over 50. Having my mom, husband, and close friends all be older than me is slapping me in the face hard right now. It’s forcing me to look at death. Thankfully at this time all my friends and family are healthy.

My daughter Arabella got her old job back at the grocery store. The last couple weeks its been like the day before Thanksgiving there. They recruited her hard. They gave her a raise and put her back in the bakery packaging products and washing dishes. They told her customers would probably be rude to her. Arabella was happy about this. At Culver’s she used to run orders out to people’s cars. People treated her kindly and gave her tips whereas they chewed other employees out except for the ones with special needs. Then she started worrying that the customers thought she had special needs because they treated her differently than everyone else.

Our foreign exchange students are still here. They could stay if their host and real family still wants them to as long as school is in session. Online schooling is scheduled to start on Monday. They both realize they could be stuck here beyond the time they planned to go home. Estelle is feeling homesick and Clara was also crying about it this week. They are keeping a journal of their experiences and hopefully some day it will make for an interesting historical book.

It seems like all of our plans have been washed away. The trips we were planning are gone now. Financial security. Gone. Paul and I are working on starting a new business soon. How will that go in this economy? My structure and routine are gone. The gym is closed. I won’t even be able to see my daughter graduate from college.

I worry about death more. I even worried about what it would be like to become very sick from the virus. After running outside I felt a little wheezy from seasonal allergies. I wondered what it would be like not being able to breathe. My workouts are lackluster. Why bother? The races I might sign up for this summer might not even happen this year.

I have to hope that soon we will get through this and it will be on to the next crisis.

Enviable ignorance

This week my autistic brother Matt celebrated his birthday. He was rather upset he was not able to celebrate his birthday with family at the bowling alley like he has done every year for over a decade now.

His program he attends for autistic adults and children was also shut down. The group home he lives in closed its doors. They don’t have enough staff to cover the hours at the house where its residents were previously gone.

Matt was sent home disrupting his day to day routine just like the rest of us. This was rather disturbing for a population of people who don’t understand why the change is happening. But as they say ignorance is bliss. He is happy to be at home because he likes it there. He adjusted really fast to having my mom dote on him.

Matt wasn’t upset the day the police officers showed up at my parent’s house to talk to my dad. But that was the day the rest of our lives changed forever. You see, the police came on a Friday. That was the day Matt was scheduled to come home for the weekend and all was well for him.

Matt isn’t worried about the corona virus. He isn’t trying to stop touching his face. He is not worried that our parents who are in their 70’s might die. He just worries about whether his food will show up on the table when he is hungry just like a small child or household pet. He doesn’t have the responsibility of a family. He doesn’t even have to take care of himself.

In all honesty, sometimes I wish for that ignorance. Dementia doesn’t sound all that bad to me because who wouldn’t want to forget all of the bad things that happened to them. Maybe sometimes I just want someone to take care of me.

I wish I lived in a world where there weren’t so many things to worry about. I envy Matt’s ability to remain calm and worry free in times of great chaos and unpredictability.

There is something attractive about having a child like faith and sense of wonder in times of struggle. I want to be like a carefree child who dances and plays. I want my only worry to be about whether or not someone feeds me having the security that they will.

Yet I have been given the gift of reason. With this gift comes a great burden. Difficult decisions need to be made. It’s hard to break free from the stress and struggles that awareness brings.

I don’t want to be like Matt but sometimes I envy him.

What could’ve been

Last month someone close to me attempted suicide.

Maybe you noticed I didn’t write much during that time, maybe not. It’s been easier to write about crusty old scabbed over wounds than the ones currently tearing open my flesh. But now I’m ready to jump back into the flames of the fire that consumes me and threatens the very walls of my foundation.

Part of it I blame myself. I was where I spent most of my life, in survival mode. I was consumed by everything going on with my dad. It’s very bad and it sucked every ounce of energy, joy and peace out of my life. I thought about it every day and every night much like we are thinking about the corona virus. There is not a day that goes by we can completely purge this crisis from our minds.

I didn’t notice anything was wrong. If I did, I dismissed it as superficial (not as bad as what I was going through with my dad). When you are drowning, you tend not to notice if someone else is going too deep.

This person took a handful of pills and settled into bed for their last peaceful slumber. But it wasn’t like that, peaceful. Their life passed before their eyes taking a nightmarish turn. What have I done? Terror coursed through their veins as they struggled to purge the pills. Then they reached out for help.

When I found out, I screamed wildly with rage. I kicked the garbage can and assaulted the contents within. I wanted to put my fist through the wall, but restrained myself. For a few days after, my logic brain shut down. I forgot what day it was. I couldn’t process things in my mind that before I did with ease. My strong suit of structure shut down. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t write. Fear coursed through me day and night making it nearly impossible to sleep.

I felt angry with my dad. After what he did, I didn’t think I would ever smile again. Did this person think I was angry with them because of my reaction to my dad? I pushed everyone away. I’m so sorry I didn’t realize they needed help until it was almost too late.

I’m not going to lie, this past year has been tremendously difficult. What little joy remained within me was destroyed after the suicide attempt.

I feel like the mistakes of others are ruining my life. My childhood was ruined and is not salvageable. I tried really hard not to let the things other people do ruin my life, but it is easier said than done. If I am going to wallow in despair my whole life from the mistakes of other people, I might as well just screw up my life myself.

I can’t bear the weight of this anymore. Have it back. I don’t want it. Call me selfish, but I just want to worry about myself.

Thankfully this person realized they made a mistake to try to end their life. They are now getting the help they need. But still my mind wanders to what might have been. What would life be like if this person was not around? It would be horrible to find them dead.  Gone forever. There is much sorrow in thinking of what might’ve been. Thankfully this is not how their story ends. If nothing else, I can take comfort in that.

Garbage day

We were supposed to leave for Florida today.

Today we found out that our music trip to Europe for this summer has been cancelled as well. I was going to go on the trip with my mom and daughter Arabella.

I suppose it’s just as well because I don’t know if we can afford to go any longer anyway.

I just want to take my 2020 calendar and toss it in the fire. I wrote too many things into it in pen that will no longer happen. Every time I look at it I will be reminded of that.

With everything going on, I don’t think my daughter wants to be a foreign exchange student anymore. She was planning on staying with Estelle’s family. But Estelle and Arabella haven’t been getting along that great. The honeymoon is over and now they are like real siblings. I don’t think Estelle wants her at her house anymore anyway.

Yet we will continue on with our foreign exchange students. Although I have a new worry. What if one of their family members die at home while they are stuck here? It is stressful having four teenagers in the house and sometimes I just want to send them home.

I am feeling really bummed out by the change of plans. I’ve always lived by structure and routine. Now everything I thought was certain is uncertain.

The gym closed so today I dug out one of my old exercise videos. In the process I found out that my DVD player no longer works. Maybe it conked out in the 1990’s. Who knows? Then I got the video to work on my computer but messed up my TV. My 45 minute workout turned out double than that. In the meantime, Estelle fell asleep on her exercise mat.

Then I thought to dig out a puzzle. It seems like half the pieces are missing to make the edge. I might have to throw that out too. What a way to clean the house. If this never happened, I might still think these things worked into the next decade or two.

I’m afraid I might lose track of time. The garbage truck never came yesterday. Did I have the day wrong? How will I remember without my schedule?

Ah yes, today. Today is the day we were supposed to leave to go to Florida. It is still written in with pen on my calendar.

I miss the life I planned

Today was a sad day. We cancelled our trip to Florida.

There has been a lot of feelings going around our house lately from sadness, anger, and anxiety.

We are preparing to spend the next two months at home.

Our foreign exchange students are having an especially hard time because they are not at home. The separation from their families has been heartbreaking for them at times. Both students have shed tears of sadness and fear.

Some of the foreign exchange programs are sending their students back home. But as of right now, ours is not. My daughter is uncertain about whether or not she wants to be a foreign exchange student next year.

What isn’t uncertain at this time?

Prom has been cancelled. My daughter’s college graduation has also been cancelled. Thankfully she lives off campus because otherwise we don’t have extra room at our house for her to move back home.

One of the host parents of a foreign exchange student said she could no longer handle the responsibility of caring for a child that is not hers. They decided out of fear to abruptly stop hosting. Now the child does not have a home.

The foreign exchange students are panicking. Will they be sent home? What will they be sent home to? Will they have to stay longer? Their whole experience is off the rails now.

Our foreign exchange student from France, Estelle, has parents who are not together. They disagree about what should be done. Her dad wants her to come home, her mom wants her to stay.

Now I long for the days when I had to convince my kids to get out of bed to go to school.

This is the beginning of the new normal.

All of the restaurants and bars closed in Wisconsin. I never thought I would see the day the bars would close on St. Patrick’s Day. The churches will be closed on Easter. They closed the mall today. We can no longer order items on Amazon.

I’m trying to get everything done before I can’t do it anymore.

Today I got fingerprinted for the census job. I tried to make an appointment immediately after I got the link but apparently the link was not active right away. I called their 1 800 number and got a recorded message. I figured I needed to get in ASAP because I didn’t want to call that number again.

I plucked my eyebrows and shaved my legs. I even painted my nails. This will be the last time I leave the house in awhile. Normally I wouldn’t shave to get fingerprinted. I mean, it is too cold to wear shorts.

Yesterday I ran outside. I won’t lie, it was cold. I had to be careful too because the roads were icy in spots and I nearly fell. I really miss the gym. I even miss my stalker. I miss the guy that sweats on the machines around him. I miss the lady my age who runs and smiles at me. I imagine we are friends although we never spoke.

I miss the life I had planned. This is my new life now.

On a good note, I should not have an excuse not to write everyday.

Stay safe!

Together we will get through

The gym closed today.

I found out about it late last night when my pastor commented on Facebook. He said something like the one time he was thinking about going to the gym it was closed.

Exercise is a big part of the keeping myself sane routine. Addiction might be taking it a little far, but… More than anything I’m a routine addict.

Our trip to Florida we were planning for the end of the week is pretty much over.

The kids went to school today, but now the schools will be closed until at least the middle of April. My daughter works at Culvers and her work hours for this week have been cancelled.

The world is ending, yet here I sit calmly. I don’t feel like my anxiety is any more or less than normal. I’ve been dealing with a high level of stress and chaos since I was born. How is this any different? My husband is doing well too. We are not freaking out or buying massive amounts of toilet paper.

Yesterday I felt hopeful for a small amount of time that maybe our trip would still happen.

Today I am preparing for isolation. I am no stranger to it. I wish I had some control over it, but I do not. I like being alone. But I fear for the ones who do not.

I spent three years from 8th to 10th grade homeschooling. I rarely saw people outside of my family, much less my friends. That was before the days of cell phones. Right now we are safe. I’m not sending my children off to war. We will get through this.

Although I wish I could start my census job tomorrow. I would have more of a chance of finding people at home. Once this is all over, no one will want to stay home again.

Tomorrow starts the first day of the new normal. By the grace of God, structure, and routine will get us through. This might be the best memories we have together as a family.

We will be forced to get through this together and together we will get through.

Gratitude week 11

Wow, what a tough week to have gratitude…

1. My daughter Angel is feeling better after having a fever. She called the doctor’s office and they weren’t concerned about her having corona virus. My mom and I decided to just go on with life and attend the bridal shower today. However, we were told they didn’t want us there although my aunt with lung issues works at the hospital and her future DIL flew across the country to be there. Everyone there had the potential to be exposed which created hurt feelings from my mom.

2. Everyone in the family is currently healthy.

3. And more compliments on my hair.

4. My daughter Angel was offered and started a new job in her field. She will be graduating in 2 months.

5. I had a wonderful week with my daughter over her spring break. With her new job she insisted on taking me out to eat and paid for my lunch. I feel gratitude she is good with money and has a new job that will pay her bills.

6. I was offered a job with the census today.

7. I’m grateful for my husband and children.

8. I am grateful to be able to make fairly good decisions while under a lot of stress. We still have not decided whether or not to go to Florida on our planned vacation this week. I try not to let fear dictate my life, however still have the need to make realistic plans under the circumstances. The good thing is we developed a plan I am more comfortable with if we go. Angel will stay at our house while we are gone with our son Alex. I trust my adult children will be able to take care of things while we are away.

9. If we end up being stuck in our house for a month, it is a great place to be.

10. I am grateful to belong to an awesome church.

Getting viral

Life changed in the last 48 hours.

As if the time change, full moon, and Friday the 13th in the same week wasn’t bad enough…now we’ve got a pandemic on our hands.

Just 3 days ago, life was normal for us. My husband had plans to see the Bucks game with friends. The girls had track practice. Clara had play practice. The girls were planning on going to state. We were planning our trip to Florida in the following week. Then upon our return, we were going to Angel’s recital. We were going to visit family for Easter.

Today we were planning on going bowling for my brother Matt’s birthday. Tomorrow is a bridal shower.

Then everything changed.

It seemed strange, but the basketball game was cancelled.

Then we found out my daughter’s college is closing until after Easter. The dorm rooms are closing and everyone was sent home. The recital cancelled. Graduation? Who knows?

Angel’s boyfriend Dan works at a hospital and developed a fever a couple days ago. Should we be concerned about corona virus or is it something else?

We had our friends over last night to plan our trip to Florida. Should we even go? Disney and Universal closed.

We received word yesterday that all of the schools in Wisconsin will be closing for almost a month after Tuesday. The track meets are cancelled. The girls aren’t going to state. Will they cancel the play? What about prom?

It’s as if someone took an eraser and wiped our plans away like they were insignificant.

People are panicking. Toilet paper is flying off the shelves.

Angel came down with a fever last night. Is there even a place where we can go for testing? What should we do? Angel has been waiting for the last two hours for a call back from the doctor’s office.

My mother stopped by yesterday right before Angel got sick. The bowling birthday party is cancelled for today. I decided not to go to the bridal shower because my aunt whose future daughter-in-law it is for has some serious lung issues.

We are supposed to leave in less than a week to go to Florida. Our friends still want to go, but I am the only one that no longer does. I want to go, really I do. But is it wise? Our discussion got rather heated. Everyone is extremely emotional about this. We don’t know what to think or do.

What happens if my parents get sick while I am gone? They don’t have to worry about that. My closest brother is 3 hours away and has health issues.

What happens if we get sick on the road? What if we need to be quarantined in an unfamiliar place? What if we get stuck somewhere? What if we can’t find restaurants that are open? What if we can’t find a place that has food and toilet paper? The what if list goes on and on.

Yes, we want our foreign exchange students to see America. But is this the America we want them to see? Life seems different now. People are not at their best.

I have images in my mind of the apocalypse. Check points with people in contamination suits. We will be taking our visitors to a dystopian world. Tylenol and test kits.

Right now the allure of an adventure is gone. I think it is safer to stick with what we know even if it means being stuck at home for the next month. It’s hard because we were really looking forward to our trip.

Maybe we are already sick and don’t even know it.

 

Gratitude week 8

I’m not going to lie…this past week has been the hardest week of the year so far. But, well, gratitude..

  1. And multiple more compliments about my hair. Really?
  2. Watching my daughter’s choir perform.
  3. Clara and Arabella making it to state.
  4. Surviving this past week.
  5. The guys returning home from an extended weekend fishing trip.
  6. Something to laugh about. My mom went along with Paul on the road trip to visit my brother. On the way back, my mom sat on a fish hook. My husband stopped at a Kwik Trip with a pliers to pull the hook out of the rear of her pants. She didn’t get hurt. I can just imagine how crazy that must have looked.
  7.  I had a long talk with Arabella about the trauma in my life and the things happening with grandpa.
  8.  I also talked to my best friend Cindy about everything happening with my family for the first time. She wondered how I remain sane, but I swear after this week I am losing it.
  9.  I met with our pastor’s mom over the weekend. She wants to mentor me. The funny thing is I had a dream one night that this was supposed to happen which makes me feel better about possibly trusting her. I don’t really know her well.
  10.  My cousin and I decided to do another 50k together.

Losing my reality

I felt good for about a half a day this week. I told my husband to enjoy it while it lasts.

It’s been a rough last couple of weeks. It’s that time of year again where I am reminded of the anniversaries of the deaths of three loved ones. I especially remember my grandma who seems so far removed from me now that it is hard to believe she even existed.

In this past week I’ve heard about the deaths of the wife of a friend and the daughter of an acquaintance. Both died unexpectedly, tragically. They were both young, upper 20’s and lower 30’s. They both left behind families, very young children.

Then there was an acquaintance this week who told everyone via Facebook he was going to stop kidney dialysis. He is in his 30’s, had a failed transplant, has no family, and can barely make ends meet because of this. I have to question, is it suicide? I want him to want to live, but would I make a different choice in his circumstances?

Death is in the air and the sorrow of it is making me sad. So I gladly breathed in a reprieve from the anxiety I was feeling if but for a few hours. I thought just maybe I would sleep for the night but to no avail. It’s been almost 3 weeks now since I slept a full night. The exhaustion of it is almost relaxing to me.

I can’t relax. Depression is the closest thing to relaxing I do. My body resists all attempts to relax me. I sometimes wonder if local anesthesia doesn’t work for me because my body literally fights off all attempts of relaxation. Maybe it is just a crazy thought.

I was in hypervigilant mode for two weeks. It was awful. One day my daughter came up behind me unaware to hug me. I freaked out and screamed at her to get away from me. Later I talked to her in a general way about the trauma I experienced as a child and explained to her how startled I was by her unexpected touch. Even my husband tried to comfort me by touch and I told him not to touch me.

I tried to explain to my daughter why I had a hard time with touch and she got mad at me. She told me I was overexagerating and that her life is just as hard as my life was. I tried to give her the kind of life I wanted as a child and it is painful to hear her say that. It’s hard to have compassion for the trivial things.

Sometimes my autistic brother would attack us while we were sleeping. Is it any wonder that I cannot find sleep? My brother beat me on the daily and I was not protected or comforted.

Being physically abused wasn’t the worst. Even my dad’s verbal abuse wasn’t that bad. Being called stupid frequently didn’t end my world. What really hurt was the psychological terror. My dad seemed to have this innate ability to know what our deepest fears were. When we were little he would force us to do things we were afraid of. Then he would laugh at us when we showed fear.

My dad would torment us in the presence of our siblings. We weren’t allowed to be angry or cry, then we would get it worse. In fact, the more we laughed and taunted our frightened sibling, the better it would be for us. Compassion or kindness was punished.

We were terrified of my dad. My dad was especially abusive when our mom was not around. I don’t even think she knew about most of the abuse. At best, he would ignore us and watch TV. Sometimes my mom threatened to leave my dad. We were so terrified of being alone with my dad that it was my brother Mark’s job to beg her not to leave.

I built this wall of strength around myself. My dad robbed me of compassion, tears, and anything perceived as weakness. I can do anger, but I cannot cry. My mom cried and  was too weak to stand up to my dad or my violent brother.

But yet I am weak, yet I am vulnerable. In the whole healing process, I’ve lost a part of my knowledge of normal and real. Is this normal or is this normal to me? Am I not safe or do I just think I am not safe? Am I reading people right?

For example, I told you about the old man at the gym who complimented me on my running and looks. Perhaps it is creepy, perhaps he is just a lonely old man. He seems to know my patterns now. I saw him watch me when I was in my exercise class. When I am running, he gets on the treadmill next to me and starts talking to me.

I always wanted a dad who paid attention to me. I am starving for that. I am so hungry I might ingest things that aren’t safe for me to take in. Because of my hunger I reach for anything offered and I seem to no longer be able to distinguish if it is good for me.

I’ve seem to have lost some of my discernment.

That’s probably why I wasn’t prepared for what happened next…