Kids, Parenting, Self-awareness, Self-improvement

Recently, I listened to the audiobook, Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki. He is a proclaimed minimalist from Japan. Even though he is a single, childless, guy in his early-thirties, he found himself in the trap of having entirely too much stuff. The apartments and living spaces over there are often much smaller too, so he was overwhelmed by how many things he had and what to do about it. That is when he found the ways of minimalism. He realized that many of his possessions were either sentimental, things he planned to something with “eventually,” the latest-technology and electronics that didn’t properly fit in his tiny space, or collections of things he kept mainly to impress people (like books or art).

aaron stuff
This kid had too much stuff.

He purged, over time, the majority of his possessions so that now, according to him, he could pack up all of his things and move out of his apartment entirely in about thirty minutes. Thirty minutes! As someone who is currently experiencing an evacuation warning (due to the raging Mosquito Fire in N. Cal) and having to determine what I would take or leave if we get a mandatory evacuation order, I think about Sasaki’s simplicity of taking a mere half hour to pack up his things and go.

Obviously, he does not have children, animals, and an entire household to think about, but his advice and questions for choosing what to keep in your life and what to give away or toss are very helpful. I will be purging over the winter (I hope and plan to anyway).

Here are some of Sasaki’s tips and questions to help you too:

  • If you lost it (or in my case, if it burned up), would you buy it again?
  • Start with things that are clearly junk.
  • Minimize anything you have in multiples.
  • Get rid of it if you haven’t used it in a year. Let go of the idea of “some day.”
  • Don’t get creative when you’re trying to discard things (meaning turning that broken lamp into a vase).
  • Let go of the idea of getting “your money’s worth.”
  • Don’t get hung up on the price that you initially paid for something
  • Don’t buy it because it’s cheap, don’t take it because it’s free.
  • Discard it if you have it for the sake of appearance.
  • Take photos of the items that are tough to part with. It’s easier to revisit your memories once you go digital (i.e. your child’s artwork, trophies, medals, your own childhood things you don’t want to carry around anymore).
  • Leave your unused space empty.
  • If you are dealing with a deceased loved one’s things, try to imagine what the person who passed away would have wanted.
  • Discard anything that creates visual noise.
  • When deciding to keep something, if the answer is not a “hell yes!” then it’s a no.
  • Ask yourself why you can’t part with your things.
  • Remember, the things we really need will always find their way back to us.

Good luck, everyone. I don’t think I can pare down to moving in thirty minutes, but thirty hours would be a nice start!

Grief, Parkinson's Disease, Relationships

Almost everyone experiences it, but now it’s my turn to know what it’s like. As of this writing, my mom died a little over two weeks ago. She had Parkinson’s Disease for thirteen years and finally succumbed to it. My family (but mostly my brother) and I watched her go from a functioning person to someone who was completely debilitated, and then mostly unconscious. In a sense we had been mourning her for many years. Each time she would decline, mostly mentally because Parkinson’s comes with its own horrible dementia, we would grieve.

And each time it hurt to see the person I once knew so well, degrade, and leave us a little more. First, being unable to remember things, then to delusions and hallucinations, then to the mind of a small child, and finally to someone who slept about twenty-three and a half hours a day and couldn’t communicate. Physically, she went from walking to using a walker then to a wheelchair and finally bed bound. The end stage of the disease is being unable to swallow, which gradually happened, along with losing whatever appetite she had for her pureed meals. She came close to dying multiple times due to various infections and sepsis, and I was convinced that ultimately would be her demise, but she managed to recover each time, although not fully in her brain.

So, when one of the nurses decided to call hospice (for the second time) because my mom had trouble swallowing and didn’t want to eat, I wondered, could it really be the end this time? Part of me didn’t think so, she had hung in there for so long. But you can’t stop eating or drinking for too long before it all catches up with you, and it did for her. Within a week’s time, she was on the brink, and we were told that she had less than twenty-four hours. My brother was at her bedside, my other brother was called, and I picked up my daughter from a friend’s house, planning to go there straight after. But it was too late. She left us late that morning, for the final time.

And it’s this finality that we all grapple with in grief – they are not coming back, ever. Even though I went to the nursing facility and saw her expired, peaceful body lying on her bed, so obviously without life in it anymore, I was in shock that it finally happened (and still am to a degree). I now realize that there was always this small, fictional hope in the recesses of my realistic mind, my own childish fantasy, that maybe she’d get better someday. Maybe some incredible medical innovation would happen and she would walk out of there. I knew in my brain, and in a large part of my heart, that this was completely illogical and would never happen. I knew this, but that tiny, impossible hope continued on anyway. Now, it couldn’t. Knowing that is hard to accept.

The hole that’s left behind is hard too. It’s like a chunk of yourself has been removed and it can’t be replaced. Time will dull the pain of the loss and that chunk may fill in a little, but I know that it can never be whole again.

Right now, it’s the the little things I notice that signal her absence – not needing to leave my phone on at night because the nursing facility may call, not working my visits with her into my schedule, not having that topic of discussion with my brother when we have our weekly phone call. That’s all done, over.

And I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit that there is a great sense of relief in that. These years, especially the last five, have been so heart-wrenching and full of sadness. Watching someone decline in that way is a slow torture. My kids have no great memories of their grandmother and in the last couple years, we had to visit her at her window (due to Covid) and, if she could see us at all through her constant sleep, it was in masks. How can I not feel grateful that it’s now over? That’s from my perspective. For her, I can’t imagine what the last thirteen years were like and I never heard her complain once about her disease. I can only hope that this last period of her life was free of pain and excessive suffering. In the end, that’s what we all hope for.

May she rest in peace.

Linda Laidlaw

Fear, Grief, Kids

The hardening of Batman.
Week 1:  The last Batman movie, The BatmanPOW (because now he requires an article to sound more important) is pretty dark in almost all aspects, from the actual lack of lighting in the film to the character himself. As someone said, he’s the “emo Batman” with his smudged eye make-up and the lonely, gritty life he leads. A digital production company decided to take the “original” Batman, Adam West, and put him in The Batman’s trailer. They titled it, “The Batman but with the Goofy Batman.” It’s an entertaining watch to see the original Batman in tights with familiar visual sound effects “BAM!” “KAPOW!” etc. in the mean streets of Gotham City. What it made me think about, though, was Batman’s progression from campy entertainment to dark and violent justice. What does this say about what viewers want to see and what filmmakers create? Do we all want the latest version of Batman to be haunted by his past while ruthlessly killing his foes or would we occasionally like to see some ridiculous dancing and ludicrous situations? I vote for men in tights and silly lines, most others (including my brother, a dedicated fan) would vote otherwise. Do a quick search for “Adam West in the Batman” to check it out and see what you think.

Cause of death? Misinformation. 
Week 2: According to the FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, “misinformation is now our leading cause of death.” He was referring to the wealth of questionable information on-line and in the news that people read, believe, and then make poor decisions based on. Interestingly, he put part of the onus on reporters. He said, “People are distracted and misled by the medical information Tower of Babel, but journalists like yourselves play an important role here and your work has a tremendous impact on public trust.” One would think that reporting truthful information would be journalists’ number one goal, but as we have seen with so-called news programs that label themselves as “entertainment” when in legal trouble, it is hard to trust any one source. Truly, it comes down to the individual’s ability and desire to use critical thinking, to check multiple sources, and not believe everything you hear (or read or see). That definitely seems to be lost in our current society, and apparently death can be the result!

Instinct.
Week 3:chicks  We recently got chicks (baby chickens, that is) as we do almost every year. What is so incredible about a chick is its instinctual ability to survive almost immediately upon hatching. It begins to peck for food, drink water, and seek out the warmth of the heat lamp from the moment we receive them. They don’t technically need a mother hen (though it is nice for them to have one for the protection) because they inherently know what to do from the very start. Humans, and probably most mammals, don’t have a fighting chance, not from birth anyway. We need the care of someone to survive initially. We have instincts too, of course, but as time goes by, we usually explain those away with our thoughts and emotions. A chick’s simplicity – to eat, drink, sleep, poop, repeat from the very start – is admirable.

What makes a shooter.
Week 4:  The incredible and heartbreaking number of shootings lately has been hard to take. Why it continues to happen is the part that bothers me the most. Gun control of certain types of weapons is obviously an issue, but it’s only part of the solution. We should be asking why someone thinks it’s acceptable to kill multiple people in a rampage (especially kids), how they got there, and what we can do about it now as a society.

Turns out, two professors, one of criminology and one of criminal justice, have researched that topic and wrote a book about it, which came out last year (Violence Project: How to Stop a Mass Shooting Epidemic). From studying and researching mass shooters, their personal histories, and the shooting sprees, authors Peterson and Densley found some commonalities among them. They note a “consistent pathway” for would-be shooters. “Early childhood trauma seems to be the foundation, whether violence in the home, sexual assault, parental suicides, extreme bullying. Then you see the build toward hopelessness, despair, isolation, self-loathing, and oftentimes rejections from peers.” This build-up often leads to suicide attempts. “What’s different from traditional suicide is that the self-hate turns against a group. They start asking themselves, ‘Whose fault is this?’ The hate turns outward. There’s also a quest for fame and notoriety.” The last two shooters (at the time of this writing) were 18-year old boys. 18. What could’ve been done for them during their short lives to help them become young men who were looking forward to their futures after high school instead of plotting to kill themselves and take many others with them? The answer to that is multi-faceted and, of course, costly which unfortunately involves the government and politicians. And that’s where many of us lose hope and feel helpless about anything changing anytime soon. Sometimes, prayers and a desire for change can only get us so far, sadly.

 

 

Grief, Relationships, Self-awareness

Here are some thoughts from April:

So I have to pay attention?
Week 1: “Forgetfulness isn’t usually a memory problem so much as it is an attention problem.” Isn’t that comforting news? On her brain puzzlepodcast Brené Brown interviewed Dr. Amishi Jha, a neuroscientist who has studied memory and the brain. She says that when many of us get older and “can’t seem to remember where we put things,” it’s because we aren’t paying attention to where we put something, not that we’re getting dementia or that our old brains don’t work as well. My dear friend Vicki was infamous for losing her car keys since the day she got her driver’s license. It’s interesting to know that she wasn’t forgetful so much as not being mindful of where she set them down (and they could end up anywhere). However, the rest of us can still lose our glasses while they sit on top of our heads…

It’s hard to accept life sometimes.
Week 2: “You know, I’ve tried to accept this life. But it’s hard.” This was spoken by a woman being wheeled into morning activities at my mom’s skilled nursing facility. I couldn’t help but wonder, did she mean her whole life, or living in a place where most patients are at their last stages, or some other time that she regrets. And, let’s face it, there are some points in all of our lives that we’ve tried to accept, but it was hard. I’m hoping she has a better day tomorrow.

Should dead be forever?
Week 3: The concept of the show Upload on Prime offers interesting and perplexing questions. In it, the main character dies, but before doing so, his consciousness is uploaded to a server where he can continue to “live” at a resort style hotel and keep in contact with people on Earth. Of course, only those who can afford it can go (and everything there costs extra too so you must have alive, wealthy people paying for you). The idea presents some thoughtful questions, like should we stick around after death, even as consciousness, and still be in contact with the living? Would we want everyone we know who has died to be around forever? And when we die, would we rather leave this life forever or try interact with the living from afar? At different points in the show, the dead character realizes that living in a VR resort isn’t so great. He wants to be back in the land of the living, regardless of the many crappy parts. Personally, I’ll just go to the hereafter when it’s my time, wherever that is.

What’s good for some….
Week 4: “Good for her. Not for me. That is the motto that women should constantly repeat over and over again,” – Amy Poehler, Yes, Please. In her book, Amy (because we’re on a first name basis) was speaking about childbirth and the use of hospitals and painkillers during labor. A friend of hers used no drugs and birthed at home. Amy’s response was, “Good for her. Not for me,” then said that we should all be saying that to ourselves. So true. We should avoid comparing in any situation. Especially as women, where comparison and “not good enough” is bred into us as little girls. What if we just said, “Good for her. Not for me,” instead? The world would be a better place. (I’ll have to practice saying that about every Kardashian and the watchers of their show becredit-cardcause I can’t understand why people like these women and what makes them so popular, except for their ridiculous wealth…. “Good for them, not for me.”)

Thanks for reading!

Fear, Gratitude, Kids, Parenting

Instead of covering subjects and topics in-depth as I have in the past, I’m trying something different. These are my observations from each week last month. It makes me pay attention, and ponder even more…

Ah, to NOT be a kid again…
Week 1: I realized this week that, although youth may rule here in the West, I am grateful to be an adult and have already gone through many life experiences. My daughter had a lunch meeting with her school principal to discuss the drama club and its needs (she was invited by an upper classman). She fretted over what to wear, what to say, what to eat. In essence, she was nervous and intimidated by authority (which, thankfully, still has some influence). She got through it all fine, as I knew she would, but it made me appreciate not having to been a teen or young adult worrying about dealing with older people or authority figures. I’m well into adulthood, phew!

Who are the meanest commenters? ADULTS
Week 2:man computer As it turns out, the age group that should act the most “adult” – doesn’t. Surprised? Recently, I was listening to a younger podcaster interviewing an even younger food blogger (both considered Instagram “influencers”). They agreed that, when receiving comments/feedback from their posts, TikTok users are the least mean, IG is second, and Facebook and Twitter have the meanest and nastiest commenters. Who typically has accounts to these two outlets? ADULTS. Come on, FB and Twitter adults, grow up and be mature (or maybe that’s not a thing anymore).

Your idea of what’s best for your kid versus what is truly best for your kid…
Week 3: As parents, we often think “we know best,” but do we always? If you’re living in Ukraine and your city is actively being bombed and you decide to leave, then yes, you do know best. But if you have an idea in your head about what your kid’s life is “supposed to be like,” but your kid disagrees (or worse, is too afraid to tell you), is that the best thing for him or her? It’s a fine line that we walk all the time. To think that we, as parents, know everything about our kids’ lives and can control them until they’re eighteen then set them free to make their own sound decisions is setting us up for disappointment. The first question to ask when making decisions for your kid is, who is this serving? If it’s you and you have no idea what your kid wants, I would re-think it, or better yet, ask your kid.

Nukes and more nukes
Week 4: Did you ever find out information that you wish you didn’t know? Ignorantly, I did not know how many nuclear weapons were out in the world (13,000). I had a vague idea about which countries had them, but found out that Russia and the U.S possess skeletons-bomb90% of them. The other countries are China, France, U.K, Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea (that’s in order of the most to the fewest). The more startling fact is that scientists think it would only take about 100 of these nukes to make life on Earth unsustainable (due to air quality, lack of sunlight to grow food, etc). That’s it, 100! And yet, being the ridiculous Earthlings that we are, we have 12,900 more than necessary. Surprising and yet not surprising, no? Let’s hope they stay un-detonated.

That was the month of March in a nutshell.

Gratitude, Self-awareness, Self-improvement

Here is a re-post from four years ago (with some tweaks and updates) that still applies today.

Much has been touted about the benefits of thinking with gratitude. If we can be truly grateful for what we have, we are supposed to feel happier, be less stressed, and experience life with more joy, overall. It’s true. If you stop and think about two things you are grateful for that happened at the end of the day, be it the guy who let you in on a crowded freeway or that you got your kids to school on-time with no complaint from anyone, a little gratitude can go a long way.

But sometimes it’s just too hard to be grateful, or to truly feel it in difficult situations. If you’re behind on bills and have nearly run out of money, thinking about how grateful you are that you’re not starving to death in a third world country, or that you don’t have some terminal disease, doesn’t really help matters. Granted, you might feel truly grateful for those things (I know I do), but it does not change your attitude or situation for the most part.

A shift in perspective when gratitude isn’t working is to think in terms of abundance. This means seeing what you have instead of what you lack: abundance instead of scarcity. Many of us see our lives in terms of scarcity only – what we don’t have, what we want but can’t get, what we think we will never have. Advertisers bombard us  with the latest things that we just have to have, be it a gadget or a lifestyle, and show us how much better they are with those things. Social media can show us (often falsely) of the perfect life we think we “should” have. We can’t help but think we are lacking, and when we try to be grateful for what we do have, we still don’t feel truly glad.

Thinking with abundaabundancence in mind means looking at situation and seeing the possibilities in it instead of the lack. Back to the example of being behind on bills and money, we can see the piles of bills and the small stack of money with which to pay them, or we can see the possibilities we have in creating more wealth and paying those bills (which could be anything from a second job to a yard sale to selling unwanted collectibles on E-bay), and we can be grateful to have the opportunity to do those things. We can see how to make that money stack grow instead of continue to shrink. Will that solve all of your money problems? Not yet, but it is a start, a way towards seeing the world in terms of offering you opportunities instead of stripping you of everything and just being glad you don’t have to worry about eating cat food for dinner or contracting Ebola.

Steven Covey states it well, “The Abundance Mentality… flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity.” This can be difficult to do when you had a bad day at work, you find dog crap  on your shoe (again!), or all of your dieting has equaled to weighing more instead of less, but instead of going to extremes and trying to be grateful for things that you can’t really connect with, try to stop and see the abundance in your life. That may mean just accepting that things aren’t perfect right now, but trusting that they will get better, reasoning that you usually have more good days than bad at work (the dog as well), and that you do actually feel better and your pants are looser even if the scale doesn’t say so.

thanksgiving-table-1888643_640One current example in my life is my choice to take a break from alcohol (more on that in a future post). As I have now noticed, alcohol is everywhere and people are drinking it everywhere too. Instead of seeing all of the beverages I cannot (choose not) to drink, I will focus on the abundance of non-alcoholic drinks that are available (even if it means providing my own). So, as the holiday comes and we sit at the table with our families and friends, try not to focus only on the one person who antagonizes you or triggers you. Instead, notice the many people you enjoy being with, the table covered in food, and the one day out of the year when we overeating is encouraged!  Abundance abounds (when we choose to see it).

Self-awareness, Self-improvement

Have you ever heard of the RAS part of your brain? Me neither, not until recently anyway. It stands for the Reticulating Activating brainSystem and, put simply, it’s said to be the link and filter between your conscious and subconscious mind. It’s located in your brain stem and takes instructions from your conscious and passes them onto your subconscious.

The example often given is if you decide you want to buy a specific kind of car, you’re set on it, then that’s all you see when you go out into the world. Or if you’re thinking about getting pregnant, or trying to, you’ll see mothers-to-be everywhere. Your subconscious is now picking up on that specific thing and trying to find it.

Supposedly, using our RAS, we can guide ourselves towards accomplishing our goals more quickly by changing the way we word what we’re trying to accomplish. It lies with the word, “intend.” If we say we “intend” to do something, our subconscious brain will do its work to make that happen. One example I found is by comparing the use of the words: hope, want, and intend.

If you “hope” to buy a boat, you have some inclination and desire to get one someday. Maybe it will work out, maybe not. Hoping doesn’t guarantee anything.

If you “want” to buy a boat, you’ve made the desire a little stronger. This “want” could become a reality, or not depending on how things work out. As Mick tells us, “You can’t always get what you want…” boat

However, if you “intend” to buy a boat, you have a clear goal of purchasing one. You might start brainstorming ways of getting the money to buy one, look up different models and styles more readily, and drop it into conversations so that people know and might pass on any leads.

The intent to accomplish something becomes the goal and you subconsciously start doing more to achieve it. I’ve heard lots of talk over the years about “setting your intention” whenever you begin something. Set your intention for a good day, a better meeting, a successful outcome. You can then manifest it into happening. I can’t say that I completely believed that to be true, but I can see how the wording matters. I can hope all day for specific things, but that feels like whisps of smoke disappearing into the air. Intending seems different, more concrete and sure.

Will it work? I can’t say, but I can definitely hope so, or oops, intend it to. I’m going it give it a try.

Let me know if it works for you.

 

Health & Diet, Self-awareness, Self-improvement

I like to believe, or maybe want to believe, that once I “have it all together,” then my life will flow so easily and effortlessly. Like once I can check all the boxes of: exercise daily, write daily, eat well, meal plan for the week, drink less alcohol, drink more water, meditate, stretch or do yoga every day, keep up on this dang blog, save more, budget better, journal, monitor my plankids’ screen time, monitor my own screen time, date night once a week…the list goes on and on. Somewhere in my head I think, yes, that’s it, once I consistently do all those things, my life will be easy and good, even perfect.

But will it? True, many of those things will help, but I always fail to see the reality tucked in between those healthy tasks. Like, injuring myself so I can’t exercise, hearing that my mom is continuing to decline so I skip the meal planning, just plain being lazy so I don’t stretch or journal, that list goes on too. Where is the middle ground? And when will I accept that life isn’t so black-and-white? Doing all those things will benefit me, but they won’t solve anything. Maybe that’s what I’m looking for, the solution to stress, sadness, a stiff and aging body and brain, overwhelm, grief – and wouldn’t I be richer than Jeff Bezos if I could bottle and sell that magic potion? (Ah, to dream)

In the end, I suppose the real solution is to accept that life isn’t meant to flow easily and effortlessly all of the time. Even Jeff Bezos has bad days; and who knows, maybe he is so discontented with his billionaire’s life that he has to leave Earth on his rocket ship to get some perspective.

Where does that leave us though? The “regular people” who don’t have his money (or want it), and also realize that dollars wouldn’t solve our problems either (at least not all of them). For me, it’s probably picking a few of those things listed above and trying to do them on a daily basis. Doing all of them would be nice, but let’s be realistic, it’s not going to happen. If I start with one, like keeping up on this dang blog, I’ve already accomplished something. Yay for me!

And, of course, the funny and ironic part is that many of those healthy things would help anyway (exercise for stress, meditate for overwhelm, etc). It’s just that doing them requires effort and discipline. And that’s where I start all over again – if I only made more of an effort and had better discipline, my life would be…

 

Health & Diet, Illness

virusThe title says it all, I caught COVID-19 (it was well over a month ago so don’t worry if I’ve been in your presence lately). Yes, I was just as surprised as you are. I live in California, which is a hotbed of cases, but where I live in NorCal, there haven’t been too many, especially in my county in the sticks. And, yes, I took the precautions we’re all told to take: wear the mask, hand sanitize, wash my hands, avoid touching my face, etc, etc, but I caught it anyway.

Everyone has been so curious about my experience, asking questions upon questions. My guess as to why is because 1) they don’t know many people who have had it yet (at least not that they know of), and 2) they want to know the details for if/when they catch it. So, here’s my rundown.

I went shopping in a nearby town on a Sunday, an area much busier and more populated than our small town. I went to three stores. I’m pretty certain that I picked it up somewhere during that time. If I count back the days, it makes the most sense. I felt symptoms four days later. I was driving back from visiting my husband’s family while he and other family members went on a fishing trip.

During the two-hour ride home I started to feel “off,” that crappy feeling when you know that you’re catching something. My chest felt tight too, like I had a weight on it. When I got home the symptoms continued. I took my temperature – 99. I am almost always in the low 98 range, so I was alarmed, but tried to reason that I was probably fine. How could I catch it?

That night I slept poorly. I woke up every hour or so. At midnight I took my temperature again, 101. I started to panic. “Oh no, I have it!” I thought, and struggled to get a little more sleep in the wee hours of the morning.

I felt bad the rest of the day, mainly fatigue and the overwhelming dread of knowing I’m in for some kind of illness. That night I had a weird headache in the back of my skull and my fever came back again. The next day I called my doctor and we had a video appointment. I relayed my symptoms: fatigue, slight sore throat, slight heaviness in my chest, headache. She told me that my symptoms may or may not be the virus. She’s seen patients with those symptoms who tested negative and some who tested positive. Basically, a non-answer. She did recommend I get tested, however, and thankfully I was able to do it the next day, on a weekend. The test results would take 24-72 hours.

In the meantime, I sat like a zombie on the couch and watched TV. I felt bad, but not bad enough to sleep. I delayed my husband returning so no one would be unnecessarily exposed. Twenty-four hours after my test, I got the result – “virus detected.” I was dismayed, but not completely surprised. I had most of the symptoms listed (minus the stomach upset and lack of sense of smell).

I then went through the uncomfortable process of telling people I recently saw that I was positive for COVID. It was awkward and I felt terrible, like confessing that I exposed them to a possible life-threatening carcinogen. Thankfully, they all took it well. Some of them got tested, all came back negative.

Most of my symptoms soon went away except for congestion in my nose, and then, five days after my initial symptoms, I lost my taste and smell completely. That morning I had my usual tea. It is normally fragrant and flavorful, but not that morning. It had no taste whatsoever; hot water had more flavor. I couldn’t smell it either. I then stuck my nose in the pot of freshly brewed coffee – nothing.

Over the next week, I dealt with tasting nothing, smelling nothing, and worrying that I would be stuck that way. You don’t realize how much these two senses are a part of your life until they’re suddenly gone. My husband would talk about what to eat for dinner. I didn’t care. I couldn’t taste it anyway. Why waste delicious food on me? It was devoid of anything rewarding for my taste buds. Comfort food, a sugary treat, a great cup of coffee – all of it was pointless.

A week went by and I could slowly taste salty things, then sweet. After two weeks, both senses were at roughly 65%. I’m still waiting for it to return fully. I’m really hoping that it will. Yes, I know, I could be on a respirator in ICU fighting for life; or I could be a “long hauler,” dealing with daily debilitating symptoms. I’m aware that my minor ailment isn’t as serious, but this is my experience with the virus and yes, I’m thankful that I got through it all okay.

And my guess is that most people will too. But we don’t know who will and who won’t. And that’s the scary part.

(My family requested that I leave them out of this post so, respectfully, I am.)

Fear, Kids, Self-awareness

Thquarantine count3is pic is my daughter’s running total of the start our COVID “adventure,” when things went funny and we all went into hiding. For her that’s when school ended and distance learning began. (She says it won’t be over until we can go to the movies, still not open yet, and not wear masks.) That was 108 days ago. I dashed her plans of having a  “quarantine party” on day 100 though; I told her those two words don’t mix well.

So here we are, over three months after the coronavirus changed our daily lives, and what’s different? From completely sheltering in place and hoarding food and toilet paper to, as of right now, getting our haircuts again, going to more stores, and not living in constant terrified fear of “getting the virus.” And yet, I can’t help but feel like my family and friends are in some kind of weird quarantine limbo. The infection rates are increasing, but no one I know has had it yet. We see the numbers go up, the red dots fill in on maps, but it’s like we’re all waiting. And waiting. For what? To get it? To not get it?

In the meantime, we can do nothing but speculate and question the future. What will life be like in a few months? Will school start as it normally should? Can my husband ever go back to his office? Or will we all go back to how life was in March?

And the question that is most on my mind: how are we ever going to fully avoid this virus anyway?

And guess what, there are no answers. We are back to the “wait and see” mode of living, and let’s just say it, it stinks! Us humans don’t handle uncertainty well. We like to have concrete plans and a solid vision of the future, even if that’s unrealistic because no one can predict what may or may not happen tomorrow (we still like to believe we’re in control of our fates).

So, here are some helpful tips that I’ve been trying to help deal with this big question mark time in our lives:

Focus on the now. As difficult as it is to not think about next week or next month or next year, we must try not to. We just don’t know what will happen. We can only look at right now, the present moment. That’s often easier said than done, but know that it’s an ongoing practice, not something you’ll figure out and be done with forever. Every time your mind lingers to the future, bring it back to now.

Accept unpredictability and change. Lately, I’ve heard many people say, “I just want to go back to normal.” Hallelujah, I do too. But the fact is, we can’t. Not yet. And, I hate to say it, but we may not ever. I don’t like the uncomfortable feeling that comes with such an acknowledgment either, but the sooner we learn to accept change (even if it’s just agreeing that it’s happening), the easier it will be. After all, there’s that saying, “the only constant is change.” Each year I realize how true that is.

Control what you can. Focus on the things that are within your control, even if it’s just the little things, what to eat for dinner this week, what to wear the next day (assuming that’s worth the effort!). Make routines for yourself or your family to create some structure. It helps.heart-hedge

Until then, we’ll keep at it. And hopefully, see y’all on the other side of this virus.