Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


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Holding fast to my convictions

The President announced last week that churches are essential services and must be allowed to open. What he doesn’t understand, what so many people do not get, is that the church is not the building. It’s NEVER been the building, no matter how beautiful it is and how much people like worshipping there. This pretty much sums it up for me:

Image may contain: outdoor, text that says 'Churches are essential... we already knew that. When the faithful are scattered in every age due to persecution, disaster, plague, we persist worship and service, in sacrament and sacrifice- feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, being good news for the poor, working to free the captives and oppressed. Our highest and holy calling is to be the church, not go to church. CJS'

I work in a church that has not held in-person services since March 15th, but resumed yesterday with Golf Cart Church outside. Everyone was so excited to be back but I couldn’t make myself go. I knew almost no one would wear a mask which isn’t so scary to me outside – except they were singing. I cannot make myself do that; it’s too risky.

I’ve been singing in church choirs since I was 6 years old. It’s how I worship, it’s my community, it’s my home. But singing projects the virus far greater distances than even coughing does – as it also projects flu and colds. The coronavirus is highly contagious and there is no vaccine and won’t be for some time, no matter what the President claims. Science isn’t politics. Until there is a vaccine, it’s not safe to sing in groups; adding in close proximity and indoor spaces of being inside a church multiplies the risk. Not everyone will agree with me and that is their right. For me, this isn’t negotiable. Neither is wearing a mask out in public.

The country is opening back up after many weeks of shut down and almost 100,000 deaths, which are continuing to climb. But things couldn’t stay closed forever. Too many people are out of work, too many businesses are in financial distress or facing permanent closure. My neighbors are busy shopping, getting their hair and nails done, going out to eat, gathering for dinner parties. I rarely see any of them in a mask even though they are strongly recommended.

I’m wary. I’m not afraid of getting the virus, or even dying from it if it comes to that. I just don’t want to give it to someone else. Wearing a mask is a small thing to do – and it pisses me off that so few people do it. I’ve done a little shopping (okay, two stores other than grocery) but have no interest in eating out, dawdling in stores, or even getting my hair or nails done. They need it mind you, and my hair is ready, but I’m not.

So I’m feeling distant from my neighbors and friends. Well, there was a lot of that already because of politics. They are being true to who they are and the steps they think are the right ones for them to take, but those steps are not ones that feel right to me for myself. I think my Covid Isolation will continue a while longer and once it starts to get really hot (which is overdue), I know I won’t want to go out no matter what.

I do miss the gym, though, which is such an odd thing for me. It reopened this week but I’m giving it a little more time before I try to figure out a good time to go when minimal people will be there. Even without the gym and without getting maximum steps, I’ve continued to lose weight on Noom during lockdown. As of this morning, I’m down 45 lbs from my start in January. It feels good and I was actually insulted last week going to the doctor when they didn’t want me to get on the scale first.


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It started fairly quietly in China and has now swept the globe. A pandemic that spreads like wildfire and is particularly dangerous for older patients with medical complications like COPD, cancer, or other immune-related conditions. Hospitals are becoming overwhelmed. There aren’t enough masks or ventilators or hospital beds for the people who need them, because of course OTHER patients also need them for non-virus problems like heart attacks. And it’s just beginning here.

Italy has been particularly hard-hit and has been in lockdown, something that’s spread to other cities in other countries. Streets are eerily empty in Rome, in Paris, in London. And now, of course, it’s come to the United States. Why would we be exempt? New York City is an epicenter, but states from California to Kansas to New York are now in shut down mode. Schools are closed. Businesses are closed, with people working from home, or just at home not sure what to do. And the hospitals are filling up, and people are making masks at home for the hospitals. Yes, it’s that bad.

People are dying, and a lot more will die before this is over. We didn’t take it seriously enough and made fun of other countries as they started to deal with the reality of this new flu-like disease that has no cure yet. Texans tend to think they are invincible and really haven’t paid attention to things we were supposed to be doing. Washing hands, yes. Not being in groups, no. People were going out to eat, out to play cards or shop. Groceries are one thing, but that’s not what was happening.

I was part of it, I admit. Last Saturday I whipped around to about 5 different stores looking for clothes. I was there early, saw almost no one, and used hand sanitizer. But I shouldn’t have been doing it at all.

What I did right was to start about a month ago, when other countries were reporting illnesses and death, to stock the house. Not actually stockpiling (I don’t think) but making sure I had everything and a little more of it. I bought cat food and litter, extra gallons of distilled water for the CPAP, and large packages of toilet paper, paper towels, and Puffs from Sam’s. I usually buy them there but not usually together. There wasn’t a run on them at the time; now you can’t find TP anywhere. It’s weird, because the virus doesn’t make you have diarrhea.

I also bought frozen fruit and veggies, ground beef and chicken, pork roasts and salmon, and oatmeal packets. All things I eat often. And canned tomatoes, corn, and beans to use to make things I eat a lot. Then I cooked. The freezer now is stocked with portion controlled containers of soup, meat sauce, chili, and chicken teriyaki. Unlike some of my neighbors, I didn’t stock up with chips and cookies and popcorn (yayyy Noom, for teaching me to eat better). I was concerned about having enough prescription medicines, but I have at least one month’s worth of the ones that matter the most.

Last Sunday I decided I didn’t want to go to church. The CDC had announced new guidelines the night before, advising us to limit gatherings to no more than 50 people. Church has a lot more than that and it felt wrong. The next day, the church board executive committee and pastor met and decided to cancel church services for an indefinite period of time, and to suspend all scheduled church activities. There will be no choir rehearsals, no Good Friday service. Maybe no Easter, unless we can figure out a way to do it in golf carts and still get the sound to project. But of course there IS Easter, even if we’re not in church with lots of lilies and big organ and wonderful music.

Now is limbo time. My colleague and I decided this morning that, at the rate things are changing, we may be under lock-down mode come Monday, with orders to stay home. We used our work time to do things that could only be done on-site such as updating paper files and processing payroll. And then we packed up work to bring home and set the computers so we can log in remotely. I can do much of my job from anywhere (as long as Ellie doesn’t sleep on the laptop while I’m working), so I will be fine.

It’s time we all pay attention to what is happening. We are going to know people who get sick, maybe even people who die. We might be those people ourselves. We need to take care of each other as best we can, maybe just with words online or in phone calls to neighbors to keep them from being isolated. I’m glad that Daddy is gone so there are no worries about how he would cope, and I’m not afraid for myself, though I’m generally anxious, irritable, and tired.

But I am afraid for my country, for how we will cope with the reality of what is coming. We haven’t seen anything like this, really, since the Spanish Flu in 1918. World Wars took place in other places, not on our own soil. We will have significant disruptions in our lives for a long time, that will require serious attitude, behavior, and cultural adjustments for years.

Take care of yourselves, my friends.


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To Boston and Back

Trinity Church, Copley Square, Boston

I flew to Boston last weekend for a special event that I anticipated for weeks. I left Boston in 2007 for a new job in New Haven, a whole 2.5 hours to the south, but rarely went back even though it was close. But I’d missed it. I missed the history, the bustle, the traditions, my church and the choir, the weather. And then I moved to Texas; quick visits weren’t possible anymore.

So I was super excited to get an invitation to go to a 25th wedding anniversary party for two special people, having sung at their wedding years before. The bride was a member of our choir, and her father described the wedding as a “concert accompanied by vows.” I knew there would be many other choir friends present, and I’ve missed that choir like my right arm. I had to go.

Saturday night was magical, seeing my happy friends and meeting their talented, creative children. Catching up with those I hadn’t seen in years as though that time was just a blink of an eye. As one friend said, “It was like, ‘Yes, that’s you, I had you on my heart all the time’.” I had spirited conversations with spouses I’d never met, gave and received hugs, shared wine and song and delicious food with wonderful dinner companions I haven’t seen in ages.

And there was music. How could there not be, given how important it is to the happy couple? The band was fun, playing Motown and standards, for dancing and for the caberet songs that seemed spontaneous but weren’t. It was like old times – and then they called the Trinity Kwah alums up to sing two pieces that we sang at the wedding 25 years before (“Rise Up My Love” by Healey Willan, and “Ubi Caritas” by Durufle). And for other occasions, to be sure – we all knew the music by heart and hadn’t rehearsed, but the sound knitted together seamlessly under the direction of our fearless director. It was Magic.

Trinity Church Reflected in the
John Hancock Building, Boston

Sunday I went to church at my former church, the gorgeous and historic Trinity Church at Copley Square. And I was disappointed. It was not realistic to think it would be the same but in my mind, I thought it would be all that and more. Congregational singing was minimal which made me crazy because music was such a huge part of my life in that place. But in a way, it’s good that I wasn’t blown away because then I would be even sadder to have left it behind.

After church, I lunched on Newbury Street with a law librarian friend, comparing notes about her new job, cats, and Irish genealogy among other topics. The afternoon was an adventure on the “hop on, hop off” trolley which has graduated to buses instead of trolleys. I’ve seen the inside of all the historic places and walked the Freedom Trail dozens of times. What I really wanted was just to ride around and see Boston without trying to drive in it, to see the changes post-Big Dig – and boy, there were many. So much construction everywhere! A little shopping after, a lobster roll for dinner, and early to bed before an early morning flight home.

What I hadn’t really understood was that traveling itself would be very hard. I hadn’t flown in almost 4 years and plane seats – and bathrooms! – have gotten a lot smaller. My body is not in good shape and I traveled with a folding cane to provide extra support and balance. Hiking through the airports was exhausting. Walking through the city was slow and lumbering. My sciatica was in full force with pain up and down my right leg. I couldn’t walk far or long without stopping, short of breath and hurting. I felt like a cow. And I was actually ashamed to see how hard a time I had getting around. I have things to work on before I can consider taking another trip but at least I know what they are.

Trinity Choir at Salisbury Cathedral

Taking the trip, taking the time and expense to travel back for something as frivolous as a party, was important. And it wasn’t frivolous at all to be there. Thank you, Carrie and Jon, for the invitation. Thank you, so many choir friends, for connecting and for sharing a few things that you remembered that shone crystal clear once you spoke of them. You matter. You all matter. What we did then mattered, and how we are connected now does, too.


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Liturgy Recharge

shieldSix days a week I report to the local church at 8am. Five of those days are for work; Sundays are for choir and worship, though often members of the congregation ask me work-related questions because, hey, I’m there and I have answers. But that doesn’t mean I like it.

I also really miss liturgical worship. For forty years I’ve been an active member of the Episcopal Church, from a college church to a cathedral to a very high church and a huge historic church in Boston. I’ve sung in choirs, run stewardship programs, studied the Bible and church history, served on vestries, visited the sick, polished brass on altar guilds, been part of small groups, organized libraries, cleaned up kitchens after parish suppers, and served on search committees.

But no matter where we were, our worship followed The Book of Common Prayer. My godmother wrote when I was confirmed many years ago that the BCP “is still a tremendous source of strength, its prayers for quiet confidence, for raising of children, for those we love, for those in mental darkness, have been invaluable to me and I have never been without comfort and support.” She was a woman of great faith with a solid core foundation that shone through her life and relationships. I learned from her that the prayers of the BCP, said automatically so many Sundays, provide the needed words when the heart is full or hurting, beyond words but wanting to cry out.

Most of my churches celebrated communion every Sunday, but the Order for Morning Prayer is also beautiful. I found comfort in the ritual of the liturgy, of an order of service with well-chosen words for celebrant and congregants, with responsive readings and a lectionary that led us through the Bible on a 3-year cycle. With structure and symbolism, kneeling and music. I’ve missed it.

So today I took a needed day off from my own church to recharge at a local Episcopal church. It was a more contemporary service than I was used to, but the words of the liturgy were the same and I found I had forgotten none of them. We celebrated Eucharist, with bread instead of wafers and wine instead of grape juice, gathering around the altar. And we were sent forth with these words, “And now, Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.”  I always liked being sent out to do the work of Christ.

Mostly, though, I could simply worship and not have to lead anything. I will not be leaving my current church but I will definitely be back. For I may not belong to an Episcopal church, but I am and will be an Episcopalian.


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Back Again After a Blogging Break

Big Happy BuddhaI haven’t been a model Weight Watcher for a long time now. Nothing wrong with that, but it also means that I’m not exactly losing weight, either. When I do follow the program for a string of days, I always see and feel a change but I’m not sticking with it, and I don’t completely know why.

My friend P asked me why I was continuing to go to meetings and count points when I’m not paying that much attention to doing things the “right” way. My only answer is that going and doing even the minimal bit that I’m doing has kept me from gaining back all of my weight. Since my history is to lose big and gain back even more, this is a bit of a miracle.

But I’m not happy where I am with my body. I don’t like the way it looks in clothes or the way it looks naked either, for that matter. Not that anyone else is seeing it that way, but I do and it’s pretty lumpy. My knee has been catching today and hurting more than usual, which means that I’m less interested in moving because it hurts – joint pain, not muscle pain. So some of it’s physical and some of it is social.

I don’t know what would make me happy. I was talking to Jen tonight about ideal jobs and where we thought we would be in retirement, and half-listening to a story on 60 Minutes about being happy. One thing I heard in passing was that some of the happy people interviewed said that they had scaled down expectations which were reachable. Somehow that stuck in my head.

I scaled down my life when I moved to CT and stepped down from a senior management position. And I couldn’t be happier about that. I still supervise people but everything is scaled down – and I’m loving being able to leave at what seems to be an early time but still gets in my scheduled hours. I have time to have a long evening and yes, there’s time for exercise if I was inspired to do it.

It’s lonely, though. I do well on my own and am completely comfortable with my own company. But sometimes it feels achingly alone rather than comfortable, so this morning I went to church for only the second time since I moved. Choir and church have provided instant community anywhere I’ve ever lived and it felt like coming home to slip into the pew this morning. The hymns were old favorites and so were the anthems, which I sang quietly from the pew.

I felt welcomed and at peace and will be back, probably next week. It’s Lent and that seems a good time to be reflective and open to new possibilities. No commitments yet for joining the choir – after only one visit, it’s too soon – but I think it could work. We’ll see how it goes. I do know that I go into this week feeling more at peace and that’s a Good Thing.