After COVID-19

I have a dream about this novel coronavirus’ appearance in our lives. I hope that when we are on the other side of this outbreak, and it is contained globally, not just in the United States, but everywhere, that it will change our relationships to one another forever.

I hope we will see each other (countries, states, cities, towns, human beings) as essential to each other’s lives, health, and wellbeing.

I hope that we will accept and embrace that what one of us does to the planet impacts all of us.

I hope we will see each life from Australians to Peruvians to Africans to Asians to Americans as valuable, remarkable, and irreplaceable.

I hope all of us will begin to speak and act in the best interest not only of ourselves but to benefit all.

I hope that this crisis pushes us not away from each other but into each other.

I hope we can work together as scientists, teachers, politicians, and parents to solve the problems of hunger and war and homelessness and access to clean water and medical treatment not just in our own countries but across the globe.

I hope that from this day forward, we will carry each other’s burdens.

I hope we will ease each other’s suffering.

I hope that we will forever remember we are intricately connected, and the best way forward is for everyone to have enough of what we need to be healthy and thrive.

I hope even considering the tragic loss of life that this virus has brought to us, I hope it leaves us better than it found us.

Connection During Coronavirus

Many writers are offering free meetings and classes online so that those of us who write won’t feel so isolated during this pandemic. I attended a poetry class on the Zoom platform today with a group of other writers. The prompt was to write to the coronavirus. I only had a few minutes to write, but here is the poem I came up with:

You may come to us once a year
infecting us,
but not in as great of numbers.
Some will have immunity by then,
and your presence will be less of a storm,
a tsunami, a hurricane,
a tornado, a locust
on the crop chewing
eating leaving nothing
to harvest.
I weep for those who are dying,
but death visits us daily
with cancer, heart disease,
car wrecks.
We don’t think how close it is to all of us,
and how what happens to someone anywhere
can easily be the stone
skipped across the water
that reaches us all in a wave.

I also attended an hour-long writing group on Zoom for creative nonfiction. I journaled for the first half an hour and then started working on this blog post for the second half an hour.

These groups are a great way to connect, especially for those people who are accustomed to going out to write in coffee shops and interacting with people throughout the day. I rarely write in coffee shops because I can’t handle the music. One of my symptoms of schizophrenia is that music often bothers me and agitates me. There are times when I listen to ‘80s music with my husband, and when my friend came out to stay with me from West Virginia, I bought us tickets to see a group that plays the Carpenter’s music. I am not sure why, but music from before I developed symptoms of schizophrenia can be pleasant, while most other music I want to be shut off almost immediately. I think it has to do with a malfunction of my senses, but I know nothing about that.

If you need to join a group to get through this, please let me know, and I will steer you in the right direction.

I am here if you need to reach out. If there is a way for me to help you through the pandemic, please let me know, and I will try. We really do need each other. Be there for someone if you can.

How to be a Hero to Millions of Americans

I went for a walk today to get out of the house, but to keep up with social distancing. We passed a bar, and dozens of people were sitting next to each other at the counter, and small tables and I wondered, “What is going to change people’s minds and make them care about the health of others?”

Shortly after I got home, the governor of California followed Ohio and Illinois’s lead. He ordered all of our bars closed, and our restaurants have to move tables to provide for social distancing. My cousin in Ohio said, “If people are going to be irresponsible, then the government is going to have to step in and mandate that we do the right thing for each other.”

My husband has a compromised immune system and damaged lungs. He is at risk for severe and possibly life-threatening complications. My mom and stepdad and my dad and stepmom are all over the age of eighty, and most have underlying health conditions that make them high risk. It recently came out in the press that those over eighty who are sick in Italy will be left to die. Italy’s health system simply can’t handle all the people needing care (you can easily find articles about this online).

Perhaps the thing that gutted me the most was that people in every country where the virus is present, are dying alone. Family members can’t visit many who are sick because they are in isolation. Just knowing that people are dying alone without loved ones surrounding them pushed me to a new level of anxiety, fear, and sadness.

I don’t think any person should die alone. I don’t think anyone wants to decide who lives and who dies like the doctors are doing in Italy. I can’t believe people refuse to stay home for two to three weeks to save another person’s life. Rarely in this life do we get the chance to be heroes. If we are not doctors or nurses, we rarely had the opportunity to save a life. Now is the time. Right now is our time to be great, to be heroic, to do something that makes a life or death difference. I know you might never get a thank you for not going out to a party, or staying home from a social gathering. But I thank you. My husband thanks you and the millions of people who are high risk would probably thank you too if they knew that you made choices to put their lives over something as trivial as getting a coffee with friends.

How to Respond to a Pandemic?

Today, I was crying. I think my tears are like a pressure release value to let out some of the stress. I exercise most days of the week, and I am sure that helps with anxiety, fear, and the stress it causes, but maybe I should be working out more right now? I usually ride my stationary bike thirty minutes, six days a week, but perhaps I should try riding it twice a day until some stability and normalcy return to our lives. I don’t know.

I was searching through my computer files, looking for a review I wrote about guided journals. I have completed approximately thirty guided journals, and most days, I work in twelve of them. I write in a variety of journals, spiritual, gratitude journals, some of them are about increasing happiness, others are about getting organized, mindfulness, increasing joy, etc. I wanted to post the reviews here today in case you would like to buy a couple of guided journals to help distract you or calm you during the pandemic.

I didn’t find the review I wrote, but I did find a generosity experiment that I worked on for several months back in 2013. I consciously tried to be more generous by sending letters, gifts, and trinkets to friends. I bought people their coffee at Starbucks. My husband and I purchased a man and his two kids their groceries at the store. I kept track of all these acts and the generosity I received in return. For example, after I sent six of my friends a package with chocolate and earrings in them, I received an unexpected check for one hundred dollars from the house I sold when I was married to my ex-husband.

Not every act of generosity I performed resulted in something good or unexpected happening to me, but it was a great experiment. I thought this would be an excellent time to revive or create something similar to this.

I saw on the news that one of the health officials said that we were going to need kindness, care, and compassion above all right now and that these characteristics would carry us through this crisis. What are some things we could do to be kind, caring, compassionate, or generous right now?

I am currently checking in on my parents every day. I am reminding them to stay safe by staying home, washing their hands frequently, and just making sure they have what they need. All of us probably have some people in our lives that would appreciate us checking in on them.

Since we are all supposed to practice social distancing, we can easily have Skype calls with those who have mental health issues to make sure that they are not entirely socially isolated and suffering.

If we have a little bit of money to spend, and we know the type of books that interest someone, we could order a new release for a friend or family member and send it to them so they can spend some of their time enjoying a good read.

We could talk to grocery clerks, and baristas, and the people who are walking their dogs, we could ask them, “Hey, how are you holding up?” We could listen, really listen, to their answers.

It doesn’t take much to be more considerate of others than we usually are. I called my experiment the generosity experiment, but it could easily be titled CARING FOR ONE ANOTHER. Let’s do it, okay?

A Day in the Life: Pandemic Version

Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) changed the designation of the COVID-19 outbreak to a pandemic. Also, today, I received notice that a health conference I was going to attend in Dallas in April is off. The conference is the first cancellation that has impacted me directly. I watched the news, and there are closures and cancellations all over the country. (Before posting this, I received an e-mail that a writer’s festival where I was going to present canceled. Two significant events off). I’m sure the impact on others is even more severe.

I can tell that even though I am far from panicking, I am at a high level of stress. I usually get up very early and then have to take a nap about an hour after my morning medications.  (No, I’m not lazy, medicine can make different people respond differently, and mine happen to make me tired in a way I never was before going on them). Anyway, I’m not waking up early at all. I am sleeping until almost nine o’clock. Of course, with the time change recently, it is like sleeping until eight o’clock because my body is still on the winter schedule. But seriously, even sleeping until eight o’clock is late for me. A friend of mine said that it is probably stress and the body’s need to heal that is causing me to sleep more. I happen to agree.

One of my neighbors came over for coffee yesterday. I told her that my husband and I would be willing to run errands (mostly get groceries) for anyone in our building that was, or is, fearful of going out. I saw that there was a recommendation for those over sixty to stay home as much as possible. Most of my neighbors are over sixty.

It is our twenty-first wedding anniversary this weekend (it is our twenty-first and our twenty-second as we were married two times). My husband asked me what I wanted to do to celebrate. Last year, we had a party at a restaurant and ordered a wedding cake (oh my gosh, it was the best cake I have ever tasted), and invited about twenty of our family members and friends. On many anniversaries we have traveled back to Las Vegas where our legal marriage took place, or we have gone to a resort somewhere. This year, I want to stay home.

As a gift, my husband said he would buy me subscriptions to several magazines (which I love because it is research for my writing on where to publish and what is currently popular). I asked if the two of us could stay home and make a vegetarian chili together, possibly a soup, cinnamon rolls, and maybe some kind of bread or biscuits. I would also like to take a long walk and work on a book idea I have that my husband can work on with me.

None of this may sound romantic or special to you, but all of it will make me happy.

Greed and the Virus: People at Their Worst

I’ve been reading about why people act selfishly in situations like the outbreak of the coronavirus. There is the selfish hoarding and then reselling of products like hand sanitizer and face masks. It turns out that greed is a big motivator for people to act selfishly. People’s greed is so intense they put other people at risk (which in turn puts all of us at risk). I don’t need any further evidence that some people will put money above the lives and health of others (we knew this about many corporations, but I didn’t know this about the average person). It is ugly. The greed of individuals puts all of us at a higher risk of being exposed to the illness by not making sure everyone has everything they need to help fight the spread of the virus.

Then there is self-preservation – making sure that you and your loved ones have what you need (or more than you need) so that you can try to reassure yourself that calamity won’t knock on your door. Of course, having a hundred rolls of toilet paper isn’t going to keep the coronavirus from visiting you or your loved ones.

There is also comfort. I have been doing much more lately to comfort myself. I have bought things that I consider to be “treats” and I have been indulging in them daily. I have been trying to prepare for a two-week quarantine in the best way I can because having supplies ready makes me feel safer (even though, nothing about being prepared means that you won’t get the virus). I haven’t been stockpiling or hoarding. I have just slowly been buying a few more cans of vegetables, a couple of frozen pizzas and things to get us through fourteen days if necessary.

Then there is fear and panic. I am sure some people are so fearful they can’t function or so panicked they are buying supplies that will take them a year to use. I don’t know any of these people, but I have seen pictures at Costco of people buying over one hundred rolls of toilet paper. Even if you used a roll a day, it would take over three months to use all of that! I’ve heard there is a run on beans as well. I hope when the virus is more contained that people take their extra stash of food and supplies to food pantries so that people who need it can have it.

I read an article in The Atlantic about people who choose to save other people’s lives at the risk of their own and also about people who have chosen to save themselves over others. The article doesn’t give any clear cut answers about why people do what they do other than to ask if it is selfish or smart.

I don’t know if saving yourself over others is selfish or smart, but I do know that I am a community person. I want not only safety and wellbeing for my loved ones. I want safety and welfare for my neighbors, my community, and the country at large. Just because I don’t live in Seattle (where we currently have the most extensive outbreak) doesn’t mean I don’t care about what happens there. I care very much about what is happening in pockets throughout the country and even in other countries like Italy, China, and South Korea. One thing we are all going to learn the hard way about this virus is that once you live in a global economy and community, what happens to one of us, impacts all of us.

I hope that I am the kind of person that would help save the lives of others rather than climbing over them to protect myself. I hope most everyone else is too because the ones who are motivated by greed or trying to save themselves without regard for the rest of us are depressing to me, and I don’t need anything else to bring me down right now.

 

 

A Much Needed Distraction

I am not a big movie, television, or cable watcher. I watch the news to get caught up on the headlines every day, but I am not a big fan of all the shows on Netflix or streaming service. When people talk about Breaking Bad, or The Crown, or Game of Thrones, I can not follow the conversation.

On Friday, my husband had the day off, and we started watching a series on Netflix, and we binged watched it all weekend. We just finished watching the last episode of season one. It was a suspenseful detective show.  It doesn’t matter what we watched. What matters is the realization I had after several hours of following the characters and story. I realized I hadn’t once thought about a loved one getting sick or any of the worst parts of this coronavirus outbreak. My mind got a break from the uncertainty and the fear that surround this health risk.

I highly recommend turning off the news and losing yourself in a book, movie, or series. You can spend some time lost on the Powells, Amazon, or the Barnes and Noble websites. The time you spend searching for a book to purchase will get your mind off of current events. If you want to buy used books, Powells has a used section, or you can go to the Goodwill Books site (I buy many of my books used).  What I love about the Amazon site is that you can read several of the pages of most books before you buy them. Please avoid movies or books that have to do with the apocalypse or widespread disease. The goal is to escape reality, not increase your anxiety.

I’m not suggesting that you don’t stay up to date on the latest information coming from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control). I am saying that we all need mental breaks, especially those of us with anxiety disorders or those with a tendency to worry. By the looks of the shelves at grocery stores and all the reports I have read of people stealing hand sanitizer from offices and masks from hospitals, I think everyone, even those who are generally level headed, need to take a breath and relax and think of something besides COVID-19.

*For suggestions of things you can do with a partner, relative or friend, check out some of my earlier posts.

Remember to take care of both your mind and your body! To our health!

Trying to Stay Positive When There is So Much Negative

Thank you to the people who looked for hand sanitizer for my dad. I also read on social media that people were offering to run errands for people in the Seattle area who had to self-quarantine. Along with the healthcare professionals and first responders, everyday people are going to be the ones who get us through this time of fear and uncertainty.

I don’t know if you saw the recommendation from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), but they are recommending that people sixty and over stay in their homes as much as possible. We are not over sixty, but we seem to be at home more than usual. One thing we are doing less of is going out to eat.

The great thing about not going out to eat is baking and cooking. My husband has been doing a lot of cooking since I came down with diverticulitis three years ago, but we are planning to do even more now. Today, we bought the ingredients for black bean burgers, and my husband is making them into patties and preheating the oven as I type this. We also bought the ingredients for oatmeal cookies and cinnamon rolls, and we plan to bake together tonight or tomorrow.

If you are someone with a health condition or over sixty (or your anxiety or fear are running high) and you want to stay at home more, maybe it would be possible to have a friend or relative come and visit, and you can cook, bake, play board games, put together puzzles or live like it is the 1970s again (the ‘70s had some high points!)

If you are a writer or artist, you could have one of your creative friends come, and the two of you could create a creative retreat together. I do this about once a year with one of my friends from West Virginia, and we get so much writing done. I haven’t even finished submitting all the essays and articles I wrote the last time she was here.

If you don’t have someone to keep you company, and your fear and anxiety are keeping you from social engagements, leave me a comment with your e-mail, and I will get you a link to join writers virtually four days a week. It isn’t the same as having someone next to you or being in a workshop, but you can check in with people and get some work done.

There is plenty of anxiety-producing and fear-producing information out there. We don’t have control over the fact that a new virus has been introduced into the human population worldwide, but we can look for ways to enjoy our lives despite the bad news.

Putting our phones down, spending time at home with people we care about, and doing creative, healthy, and fun things together are positive among so many negatives.

Stay healthy and try to help others!

Hand Sanitizer: Liquid Gold

As in most difficult or challenging times, we are about to see the best and worst of people. My husband, who is immunocompromised because he has sarcoidosis, had hand sanitizer on his desk. Someone he works with stole his hand sanitizer. I have no way of knowing if the person who took it was a healthy adult (so the impact of coronavirus would probably be mild), but even thinking that makes the theft worse.

My husband, a person at high risk for developing complications from COVID-19, tried to help his community avoid the virus by using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and someone stole it. It wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but we can’t replace the hand sanitizer. First, we can’t find a single store in our city or the cities of family and friends who have looked for it, that has any hand sanitizer on the shelves. All the online stores are either out or have raised the price to $50 for a small bottle.

We have two small bottles at home for personal use, and we can’t put one of them on his desk because if they keep getting stolen, we will be without any for our use, and my husband takes public transportation and needs to use the sanitizer a few times daily.

I am also worried about my dad, another high-risk person not just because of his advanced age, but because he has damage to his lungs due to emphysema. My dad lives in a small town in Washington State (not too close to Seattle – the epicenter of the infections in the United States), but still in Washington, and I can’t get any hand sanitizer to him. I have called his local stores, and looked at Instacart to have some delivered, etc. but the stuff is like gold right now.

Although I am discouraged by the theft from my husband’s desk, I am encouraged by other people. My friend went to every store in her small West Virginian town, trying to find hand sanitizer to send to my dad. My mom (divorced from my dad for over forty years) wanted to help me find this new liquid gold at her local stores in Tucson. So, in my estimation, people are stepping up and doing more good things than bad things. People are trying to help more than they are thinking only of themselves and their needs.

Let’s try to make a pact here to be the kind of people who help out instead of the type of people who would put our interests above anyone else’s. Let’s lend a hand whenever and wherever we are able in these times of stress, fear, and uncertainty. Let’s show our better natures and not the worst of who we can be.

When the COVID-19 outbreak is over, and we look back at who we were and what we did to get by, let’s make sure we can tell stories that make us all the heroes I know we can be.

COVID-19 and the Vulnerable

I am concerned about the patients in psychiatric facilities, prisons, and on the street. It seems like if Covid-19 were to spread among these populations, the rate of transmission would be high, and in the case of those living without shelter, the death rate would likely be high because they might not have access to medical treatment.

We all know that more psychiatric facilities are a way to combat the crisis in mental health treatment and a way to see the numbers of those on the streets and in prisons go down. How can we work together to get more hospital beds in our communities?

I haven’t seen a single article written about this topic. Have you? I have seen dozens of articles about the mental health of medical staff (mostly nurses) and the general population (hello anxiety), but I haven’t seen anyone writing about the impact of Covid-19 on the most vulnerable (except for the elderly and I’m glad to see that addressed).

For years I have felt like people who have psychosis (drug-related or otherwise) were the invisible population. Most of us living in the city know that many people on the streets are mentally ill, and we see them, but don’t know how to work toward a compassionate solution for them. It doesn’t take much to realize we need more services (I often hear people say that many people living unsheltered choose to live that way, that is not my experience).

According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, 50% of people with schizophrenia and 40% of people living with bipolar disorder have anosognosia or lack of insight into their illness. Meaning these are the people who rarely accept treatment because they are unaware they are sick. It is cruel to leave the gravely disabled on the street just because they refuse medication. They are unaware they are ill!

I support a local nonprofit that feeds the homeless (unsheltered), but I think I am going to call my representatives and try to get handwashing stations to put all over the city so that people without access to public restrooms can wash their hands easily and help stop the spread of the virus. I know this is a small thing, but it could have a huge impact on thousands of people’s health.

Can you think of anything else we can do? I would pass out hand sanitizer to people on the street, but every store I have visited sold out.