I’m in a mood

I’ve been in a mood the last few days. It’s been hard to not be in a choir and singing. It’s what I know, how I worship, how I’m in community, and I miss it so much, especially during Holy Week. The Episcopal Church is in the liturgical tradition and we have services all week. I’m used to singing all of them, from the celebration and drama of Palm Sunday to foot washing and celebrating the Eucharist on Maundy Thursday, ending with the stripping of the altar. Then the quiet agony of Good Friday, often ending with a requiem in the evening after services from 12-3. Saturday’s Great Vigil was always my favorite Easter service, recounting in chant and ritual the history of the Jewish people up to the death of Christ, then bursting out with bells and lights and alleluias of Easter. Easter Sunday is a work day for choir people, often with 2-3 services to sing, and the Vigil gave us a chance to be in the moment and worship ourselves.

This year, though I have a church and followed online services, I’ve not been physically present – and not singing. Most of my neighbors are Baptists who of course celebrate Easter, but do so very differently than the tradition I’m used to. The day is the same, the resurrection is the same, but the way we do it is different, and the music is very different. I miss my friends from choirs past and found myself watching YouTube videos of choirs singing favorites such as Beethoven’s “Hallelujah!” from Christ on the Mount of Olives, Matthias’ “Let the People Praise Thee, O Lord“, which I learned in Virginia, and “We Shall Behold Him” which is newer to me but oh so powerful. And then there are the hymns. It’s not Easter without the eleventy million verses of “Hail Thee, Festival Day” which I think only Episcopalians sing.

On top of that, it’s been a week with lots of people in it, making me realize how much I’m more isolated now than ever before. Having people come over is great and wonderful but really tired me out. But if I don’t ask for help, ask for visitors, I don’t have them. I guess I still expect that other people will reach out to me but they really don’t. It’s out of sight, out of mind – and I can’t complain about it because I recognize that I often behaved that way myself. If someone I knew moved, there was a hole but it quickly filled up with people who were still there and life activities that kept going. I wasn’t good at keeping up with them when they were gone, so why would I think people would keep up with me after I moved? The difference this time for me is that I only moved 12 miles away instead of 1600 miles. I guess I thought it was close enough to stay in touch but it really hasn’t been. But phones work both ways and if I want to talk to/hear from people, I have the responsibility of reaching out myself. Being in a wheelchair doesn’t abrogate that.

So it’s a conflict. I’ve been alone for so much of the last eight months. Sometimes I’ve been achingly lonely, missing people like my right arm and needing their help. Most of the time I’m fine, just adjusting to being alone – tho months and months of Covid isolation actually prepared me for that. I’m figuring out how to do more for myself, partly to prove that I can and partly because there’s no one else to do things. Today I figured out how to reorganize near my bed so I can put my decorative shams back on the bed and have a place to put them when I sleep. I know, that sounds small, but it really isn’t. My bed looks more finished and I’m therefore happier.

Also making me happier is FINALLY having my porch screened in. The cats have hardly been inside since Wednesday, preferring to hang out on their chair cushions supervising the lawn and watching birds and squirrels. I haven’t figured out how to get out on the porch without using the walker and I’m not supposed to be doing that by myself. The chair won’t go through the door so it has to be the walker. I need to ask therapy this week about that.

Physically I’m in discomfort from problems with my shoulders, mostly on the right but some on the left as well. You can’t roll yourself in the chair without reaching backwards in a motion I don’t use for anything else, but the muscles are also essential every time I try to stand up or walk with the walker. This pain is muscular, not nerve (for a change) in the front of the upper arm/pec/inside the armpit. How on earth do you put anything on THAT to help? It hurts and it’s annoying.

Isolation of the Home

I’ve been in a nursing home for almost five weeks. Oh, they call it a “skilled nursing facility” but it’s a nursing home with three sections: skilled care, memory care, and assisted living. We’re here because we need help that we can’t get at home. I’m the youngest person I’ve seen so far, though granted I haven’t seen most of the residents, just the ones in my unit and the ones who go to rehab.

But this is a lonely place. It’s regimented with wake up time, meal times, rehab time, and some scheduled activities for those in Assisted Living; not sure about Memory Care. But we skilled people mostly sit around in our rooms and wait for visitors or rehab or naps or whatever. Some people never have visitors that we see, and I wonder about their support and say a prayer for them. Of course, they could have lots of phone calls and visitors I don’t see, but I’m not betting on it. Because they are so quiet when I see them in the halls, and stare vacantly ahead at something that may or may not be there.

Meal times are particularly odd for me. It’s like eating dinner by myself surrounded by other people also eating dinner alone. We share a table and eat the same foods but no one talks unless I start a conversation. There’s only so many chats we can have about how therapy was or what we did this afternoon, because we didn’t do anything. No talk of family, homes, children, things we like to do. We don’t know what’s wrong with each other and what brings us here. And I think most people are not sure where they are going; they may or may not get well enough to go home again.

It’s terrifying to be alone in a room with a body that’s not working the way it used to for reasons you may not understand, and to not know what’s ahead. Time stands still. Your mind short-circuits the thoughts about how to handle it all and you just start to shut down mentally because it’s too hard to process the pain, the uncertainty, and the isolation.

That’s where I was when I was first at the Olympic Center. My body was doing alien things, people wanted me to do impossible things, and I could see no way out. Add in the “no visitors” policy and I could just deal with whatever was immediately in front of me, without being able to think ahead. When I got to this second place, my mind was clearer but I bawled like a baby when I was shut inside this room and realized this was my space for an indefinite period of time. It’s been brightened up by colorful things including my gorgeous quilt and when the sun shines in, it’s not too bad. But I spend a lot of time here on my own. My attention span is narrow. I can’t concentrate on a lot, including some great books waiting on the Kindle, and waste time watching Food Network shows which have no plot to follow.

If you know someone in one of “those places”, brighten their day with a card or a note. They can pick it up and see that they are remembered even while they are alone. Flowers from the grocery store, a box of soft Puffs for a sore nose, some scented lotion are all lovely and inexpensive gifts. But mostly just remember that people are here, and keep them in your prayers. It can be a very lonely place for most of us. You don’t want to be here unless you have to be – and when you are, you want to be remembered.

Post-vaccination thoughts

Arm With Bandaid After Vaccination

It has been a crazy, stressed, isolated, angry, and terrifying year; Covid19 changed everything for all of us, though not in the same ways. Last year at this time we were about to be completely shut down, with those who could beginning to work from home. Schools closed and families scrambled to homeschool AND work from home without preparation or equipment. Zoom became a verb as we taught classes, held meetings, went to church, celebrated birthdays and holidays. We lived in pods and wore masks to protect ourselves and others when we went into the few places that were open or gathered in socially distant groups for wary, careful visits. Those of us living alone were the most isolated, and all of us are sick of living limited, restricted lives. Unfathomable numbers of people died of Covid or Covid-related illnesses. Everyone I know knows of at least one person who died and many who were seriously ill, some living with long-term complications.

The promise of a vaccine was tied to our ability to return to some semblance of normal. A vaccine doesn’t erradicate a disease but it does protect the vaccinated so they get a more mild case of whatever the disease is. Two, then three Covid vaccines emerged from testing to provide protection but the distribution process was a dismal failure of confusion and delay. No one knew how to get a vaccine, who would provide it, when it would come, or how to know where you fell on a waiting list. Things worked differently in different states, different counties, different cities. And those without computers and cell phones found themselves at a great disadvantage in getting any information at all. Massive winter storms disrupted transportation lines even more.

I am one of the lucky ones who got Moderna vaccine shots. I am over 65 and am morbidly obese, which is one of the co-morbidities that could make me seriously ill if I got Covid, and I was alert and persistent in getting on waiting lists and following up on possibilities, so I qualified for the first round here in Texas. It required two shots one month apart, and I have to wait two weeks for all the antibodies to kick in, but what I’m feeling is …relief. I am so, so lucky, so grateful that this was possible – that the vaccines were developed so quickly, that I was able to get one, that I can start to think about traveling or simply going out with also-vaccinated friends. That I can get a hug. That I don’t have to be so alone.

But it’s not over yet. Covid isn’t gone and there are more variants popping up that may be immune to the vaccines. Not enough people have had a chance to get vaccinated, and those who have could still get sick and give it to someone else. States, including mine, are starting to open up and remove mask mandates and limits on business capacity. While we’re still be urged to use “personal responsibility” and mask up, I’m not expecting to see much of it in my part of Texas. I’m expecting to be ridiculed when I’m out in a mask, and have already decided to stick closer to home even while others are jubilantly filling restaurants, stadiums, and stores. I just don’t feel that safe. It’s still a confusing time.

It’s not over yet.

A 2020 Thanksgiving

I cancelled Thanksgiving plans with my brother and sister-in-law and will spend the day home alone (well, with the cats, but no people). They probably think I’m over-reacting but I’m just being cautious in this weird 2020 world of Covid. The news is full of stories about hospitals being overwhelmed by patients, with warnings from medical experts about the dangers of gathering in small groups indoors this year. Which most holiday gatherings are because it’s almost December and it’s too cold even in Texas to hang out outside for turkey, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, and pie.

Far, far too many people are ignoring that advice to cancel Thanksgiving. It’s hard to undo tradition and the familiar habits of generations and we all miss our loved ones. But I’m afraid of seeing the hospitalizations and deaths increase through the roof after this. I have pre-existing conditions that make me vulnerable to Covid, so I don’t want to get it myself, but I really really don’t want to give it to someone else. Most people I know who had or have it warn us to NOT get it. So why are so many people walking around doing exactly what they want?

Some are because they’re tired of people telling them what to do. Covid fatigue is a long haul, especially in these days of 24/7 non-stop media and social media coverage of the pandemic. They’re tired of being told to wear a mask and that stores were closing and that they can’t travel to foreign countries because we’re banned from entry. They don’t want government pushing itself on them, not that I’ve actually noticed much of that happening from the feds, anyway.

A scary number don’t believe that Covid is real or can kill people, or at minimum will make a lot of people very sick in ways we won’t really understand for a long time. Some feel that they’ve lived their lives and if God takes them, it’s okay with them. It doesn’t seem that anyone NOT wearing a mask cares if they infect someone else; it’s just all about doing what they want.

If we all wore masks, kept our social distance, and stayed away from other people until there was a vaccine available and distributed, our lives would be different. I actually had a foreboding last winter that this wouldn’t go away quickly. But people aren’t going to pay attention to that. They will just show their independence, individuality, stubborness, and selfishness to do what they want. Which is why 50 million people are traveling for Thanksgiving. I expect the infection and death rates to soar by Christmas.

Me? I’m staying home with the cats. I’ll swap fall decorations for Christmas, eat pork roast instead of turkey, and watch Hallmark movies. I have a 4-day weekend when I don’t have to go anywhere or do anything. Avoiding people on this big family and food holiday is how I’m spending this weird 2020 Thanksgiving. I suspect Christmas will be the same.

That said, I am thankful for my family and their understanding of my need to do this. For my beautiful ginger girls who bring joy and companionship every day. For my friends here and spread across the country, both ones I know in person and ones I met online and who have become close friends. For the strength and focus that allowed me to take weight off in a way that is healthy and sustainable. For a job that lets me serve, sometimes be creative, and learn new skills. For my health and for good doctors. For my home, cozy and now personal after last year’s renovation. For my life.

Thank you, God, for loving me and keeping me safe. Protect those I love and help us to make wise decisions in these extraordinary times.

Nooming in Isolation

One of the things I’m grateful for while under COVID Stay Home orders is that I’m on Noom and have enough time under my belt for it to have become a way of life before isolation started. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, and I know it’s far easier for me than for someone with others to cook for, or who are medical professionals now working insane schedules under intense pressure.

I asked my Goal Specialist to reset me to Week 1 when I realized I was blowing off DOING article work instead of just reading. I also wished that I’d known to start taking notes and journaling at the beginning of Noom and not two months in. I now have a beautiful journal at my side, with pen attached, and take notes as I work through the articles. Blogging is also a form of journaling but I’m making notes to myself in writing as I go.

The world has changed since January and COVID-related articles are included now. The basic ones are the same, but others talk about how to maintain mental health, making yourself a priority, and readjusting goals under changed circumstances. Sometimes working on behaviors and habits are more important than getting in a big workout (not that I ever did a big workout, but other people did).

Reading articles, planning meals, and logging my food provide a structure that continues what I was doing back when things were normal. They’re not things I’ve imposed on myself because of isolation, but they do help me in an otherwise fluid time. When our office was closed and I was working from home, I got work done but during different hours than in a pre-COVID work day, and I found myself getting all snacky and reaching for things that by themselves are not a problem but are when eaten in a fog.

My goals for last week and this week are to eliminate the snacking except as planned out, and go back to what worked in my Noom early days: sitting in early morning with a bottle of water and logging what I expect to eat at all my meals and snacks BEFORE I actually eat them. That gives me huge structure and a calm. I can plan for a Healthy Choice Fudge bar or a slider basket delivered from the club when I want to work in something special. When I follow this pattern, I feel in control and I lose. Win-win!

Every two weeks I make a huge batch of chunky applesauce in the crockpot to eat as a snack or mix with yogurt or oatmeal. I bought 5 lbs of 90% fat free ground beef at Sam’s on Friday when I went to pick up prescriptions, and will be making meat sauce today (love my crockpot!), as well as two batches of taco meat for the freezer and a package of browned meat with onions for some future recipe. I also have a rotisserie chicken to pull apart with meat for salads; some of that will go to the freezer, too, joining lots of meat, veggies, and fruit.

One thing I’m having trouble with is getting in my steps. While I’m not a gym rat, I really was enjoying being more active, and I miss at least getting in all my steps. Usually at work I’d make laps around the sanctuary a few times in a morning which helped, and would go to a big box store to go up and down the aisles even if I didn’t need to buy anything. I do better holding on to a cart or a treadmill than just walking on the streets of Emerald Bay, but I’m still getting 5K+ steps most days, even with flaring sciatica. Go me. I’ll be glad to have the gym again when it’s safe to go.

I know myself and know how I’ve reacted in the past to enforced stay home time for blizzards and surgical recovery. Usually I’d be eating all day long, feeling bloated and lethargic, and disappointed with myself. This much longer COVID time is different. I’m eating healthy, tracking my food, building in movement and meditation, and providing structure without making myself crazy.

Noom works for me, with daily readings and accountability steps. And as of this morning, I’ve lost 41 lbs since January, 8 lbs since COVID became something to factor. I’ve got this.