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.

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!

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.

 

Deadbeat Dad Greeting Cards

Today is my dads birthday. I thought of creating a new line of greeting cards as I searched for the perfect card at the grocery store. I know, grocery store. I should’ve went to Hallmark. But that would’ve probably been a bigger waste of time. I could’ve spent hours searching every single card and still go home emptyhanded.

Maybe I should’ve just said the hell with it. My dad never sent a card or called me on my birthday. He never took me out to eat for the said event. He never bought me flowers. Yada, yada, yada. I bet he doesn’t even know when my birthday is. Yes, he was a bad dad and doesn’t deserve recognition.

I am reaching out to him because I am a good person.

The first card I opened had a greeting that said something like this…you are the reason why I am who I am today. Yeah, you are the reason I am in therapy. Nope! Next!

The next card…you are the perfect role model. Yeah, for how not to be. Nope!

Card after card spewed the most ridiculous sap. After I’ve exhausted all the dad cards, I looked at cards for step-dads, like a dad, and grandpa cards. It was all the same over the top scribbled dribble.

I can’t be the only one that feels this way.

After I rejected all the dad related options, I started looking at other cards. The funny cards are no better. Seriously, poop cards never have been funny. They just remind me of all the crap you put me through.

Cards for guys with hot ladies….yeah, why not piss off my mom too.

Cards with a get out of jail free card inside…Might be acceptable for an incarcerated dad.

Cards that make fun of old people…that’s just wrong!

Cards about drinking, sports, or golf…That might work for some dads. But my dad isn’t into any of that.

I ended up getting a birthday card with nothing written on the inside. That’s just as bad. So I wrote something generic in it. Happy birthday Dad! Enjoy your special day.

Now most of you are probably wondering…Why not text? My dad has a flip phone and does not get texts. Darn! Why not call? I haven’t seen or talked to my dad in almost three months. I don’t want to break that streak. (I have valid reasons)! I hate talking on the phone anyway and even more so if it is awkward small talk.

I think the obvious solution here is starting a new business. The Deadbeat Dad Greeting Card Company. There will be various levels of cards. I could color code the envelopes on a scale of one to ten to correspond with the cards. A one would be for the worst dad all the way up to a ten for the perfect dad. Then you wouldn’t have to waste your time reading all the cards. You pick your number and find the envelope with the corresponding color.

Now the cards don’t have to be just for dads. They could be for your wife, kids, siblings, teachers, etc… People could even find the perfect card for their ex. Win-win. Now I can still be a good person even if you don’t want to be.

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.

Breathwork

Last week I started deep breathing therapy.

I have been a lifelong member of the insomnia and nightmare club. What I didn’t tell you, when I am really stressed out I also grind my teeth at night. Some mornings I awake with the insides of my cheeks all bit up and sometimes also have canker sores in my mouth. I hold my mouth tight and am somewhat surprised I haven’t yet developed TMJ.

My therapist was rather shocked with my insomnia that I don’t awake when I chew myself up. I guess I never thought about that before. How do I sleep through causing myself pain?

So we decided to try something new. With this therapy, I laid down on a massage type table without my shoes on. I also had on an eye mask and kept my eyes closed. I covered with a blanket. I was told to breathe deep in a circular pattern with my diaphragm. Every breath in caused my stomach to rise.

My therapist asked me to imagine my grandma standing at my feet holding a multi-colored ball. I needed to visualize the color moving up to the top of my head from my feet.

My therapist asked me what I was doing and how old I am. I told her that I am 3 or 4. I am looking at the books in the basket up north. I am coloring. I am coloring the book that has the pictures of the ladies with the long cigarettes from the Virginia Slims ad. The book is tall and narrow with glamorous women smoking cigarettes. I am getting crayons from the chocolate tin they are stored in. I am playing with dolls. I am filling up a bright turquoise container with lake water.

Do I feel tension in any part of my body? Yes, my shoulders. What do you want to do? I want to push it out, I want to fight. The therapist puts a pillow over my hands and I push as hard as I can against her. I am afraid to hurt her because I am very strong.

Where do you feel the tension now? I feel it everywhere. I feel trapped like I am being buried alive. Every year the weight is getting heavier and it pushes me down. The little girl trapped in the coffin is sinking deeper and deeper with each passing year. She can’t get out and feels sad.

What does the little girl want? She wants to color. She has been trapped in the dark for so long. She tells herself she likes it there. But she tells herself that because the darkness is all she can see and all she thinks she will ever see as she sinks further away from herself. She wants to see all the colors again.

That night she goes home and colors. Coloring is fun. She colors the house pink. The things she finds scary, she colors black so she can’t see it anymore. But everything else is in brilliant unusual shades, like the sky is green and the grass is blue. Pretending is fun.

For two nights afterward she is able to sleep deeply.

My logical mind tells me this is all hokey. But my inner child has been trapped in the dark for so long she just wanted to see if it was safe to come out and play.

Paper cuts

12/24/19

I have nothing left to live for. My whole life has been a joke. Hell couldn’t be any worse than living at this point.

Why? Why did it have to end this way? There isn’t a day in my life that I feel joy or peace. It’s just unrelentless pain. Why would I want to continue down this path of suffering? I just want it to end. Every day it’s the same struggle to place one foot in front of the other. Every day I fight against this meaningless existence. I don’t want to do this anymore. I feel like I have to. There is nothing left here for me.

The holidays are the hardest time of the year for me. This year especially with everything going on with my dad. It happens every year, the holidays come and like clockwork, I’m depressed. It seems like the season of light, joy, and merriment are the darkest times for me.

Why am I telling you this? I want you to understand what it is like even if you can’t relate.

This was a really bad episode of depression. My very heart was being attacked. Every time I have a heart attack I hope I will survive. You can’t tell me to be happy and count my blessings once an episode starts. Don’t you think I would if I could? It’s like telling someone who is drunk to be sober. Once it starts I can’t positive thought my way out of it. I have to work my way through it and it takes time.

I can be depressed for days, weeks, months at a time and not once feel suicidal. It’s a long lasting sadness. Sometimes I don’t feel depressed at all. Then there is the rare occasion I feel extreme intense depression. It generally is short lived ending within a few hours. It sometimes includes rage. Usually it has to do with a trigger, flashback, or extreme stress that throws me through a loop. Once it starts I can’t stop it until it is done. That is why I think I have Complex PTSD. It really sucks to feel like your emotions are out of control.

Later that evening, life went back to normal. We attended the candlelit Christmas Eve service. I was still feeling pretty down, questioning the existence of a God that allows evil, and couldn’t even bring myself to sing. But I was there. Then we had a Christmas Eve supper with Paul’s family. Paul’s family consisted of his step-dad Darryl and his girlfriend/fiancee/ex-girlfriend (it’s complicated).

Darryl and his SO got into an argument when he was walking her out to her car to leave our house. There was drama he wanted to get us involved in. Now my family causes the most drama by far, but not all. I’m going to tell you right now, I am so sick of the drama and stress our so called role models try to get us involved in.

I am done rescuing and trying to fix people. Right now it’s a full-time job just trying to fix me.

I learned now for the first time I am not responsible for cleaning up the messes of others. Not my problem. No longer my job. I am trying to heal me. Writing is a wonderful way to cope. Now when I feel over the top depressed, I’m going to write about how I feel. I am not going to do anything stupid. Although there is always a chance I might get a paper cut.

I am alive, but what I want more than anything is to fully live.

 

When fear calls

I called my daughter that Sunday morning right before church started.

She was worried about suicide…or murder/suicide. After everything that happened, I shared her concern. What could I do about it?

I had been scheduled to sing that morning with the worship team. I ended the call abruptly as I saw everyone head up to sing.

I worried. Maybe this is good-bye. Maybe I will never see my parents again. It’s a horrible feeling especially when I had to act happy and sing on a live recorded feed. I felt so fake.

Smile! I felt like I was going to throw up or pass out. I started shaking. Smile. This could be the last day he is alive, they are alive. My God, the horror. Twenty minutes later, I felt like I was going to have a panic attack. Everything in my body told me to run off the stage. Flee. I had to stay. Everyone was watching me, in church and even online.

Maybe they would think I was having stage fright. I wish that was all it was. I couldn’t tell anybody. I wanted to drive out to the house. But the day before the car broke down, the only one free that afternoon. Plus I was asked not to because my family didn’t feel like it was safe.

I wanted to ask for prayer that day. But my husband was not in church that morning. He got asked by a friend of mine to help her out with something in place of her husband who spent the night in jail. I told him that helping out someone in need was more important than attending church. He agreed.

Shallow, I suppose. If I left the stage for prayer, it would be obvious. Then people might wonder if I was having problems with my husband because he wasn’t there. It could be misconstrued and gossiped about. I didn’t want that.

I called my brother Luke when I got home. Although he was treated the worst by our dad, he was the first to try to pull dad out of the grave he dug. That day my mom took my brother Matt back to his group home and stayed with us for several days. I made sure the doors were locked and became hyper-vigilant to signs of trouble.

Sometimes I wish my only stress was worrying about the holidays. The simple worries of getting that perfect gift. I couldn’t even think. Or worrying about hosting parties with special diets. Or having 4 teenagers in my house. Anything but this.

We are all worried. You’ve been depressed, suicidal before. Now you have a reason to end it all. Is this the only way your heart will change? Will your curses to God change to cries for help? Maybe this is the only way. But it’s not what I wanted for you, for the rest of us.

It’s been a month since I initially wrote this. I feel anxious. Tomorrow I will be singing on the worship team for the first time since this happened. I don’t want to do it anymore because it is triggering my feelings of fear. I understand why people seek isolation in times of despair. So many seemingly innocent things trigger bad feelings and memories associated with them. I’ve been trying to see my world as it really is but at times it is utterly terrifying and I question everything I blindly believed before.