While I do try to remain upbeat, some days are easier than other. And the daily grind is challenging. I don’t know anyone who disagrees with that right now!
Every day I hear grim statistics about COVID-19. Every day I read about people who “don’t believe in” the virus. Every day I see people scurrying around in masks trying to complete their business and get back home. Every day I see people playing contact sports, walking in large groups, and choosing to ignore social distancing practices.
How do you deal with the conflict that’s so obvious in our state and nation during this pandemic? I don’t think yelling at each other is a good idea. Shaming doesn’t seem to work. Everyone’s stressed out enough as it is, and being yelled at and shamed won’t make anyone change what they’re doing. I totally understand that, but I also understand how people react that way.
So, I’m looking for input. What are some ways of coping and maintaining an even keel that you’ve tried? Here are a few of mine (which aren’t working too well right now):
Limiting reading of social and news media
Spending time with animals
Reading cheerful books and magazines
Doing kind things for others (I ordered some herbal supplements for a young friend, for example, since I could get them at a discount)
I’ve written before about how human cultures cannot resist creating in-groups and out-groups, us vs. them, and all that. The Behave book I read recently had a whole chapter about it. It talked about how half the humans are “wired” to react to life in one way and the other half in another, roughly corresponding to conservative and liberal points of view (called different things in different circumstances). In this, we ARE literally born that way, though our life experiences can certainly have an effect.
In my naively over-educated way, I keep hoping that there are at least some parts of life where we can come together and enjoy each other’s company or deal with important issues while leaving our artificial differences aside. But no.
I’m truly disappointed that we’ve now degenerated into partisan camps about whether to take precautions against spreading the COVID19 virus. For goodness sake, it’s not stay at home and quake versus run around in big groups hug constantly. People need to take the precautions they find prudent, which may differ depending on their underlying health or risk aversion trait. And some people need to work to survive, so why can’t they do so and take precautions reasonable for them? None of this has anything to do with what color your state is or who you voted for in the last election. Sigh.
What actually got me going on how ridiculous our drive to make ourselves partisan and despise the other side is something I knew about, but didn’t realize how bad it had gotten. Even our beloved fiber arts have become divided. When the Ravelry fiber arts community site enforced their long-standing rule about not having hate speech in its groups (which applies to all members and topics), a sizable group of people left in a huff, so that they could go express their partisan hatred elsewhere. And as they did, they compiled a list of vendors and stores where they would not shop and teachers from whom they would not take classes.
This all made for fodder for analysis and raised interesting questions, for which I don’t have all the answers. Were their knitting patterns hate speech? Were the patterns produced in response hate speech? Hmm.
But the infighting in one of the internet’s most niche communities is about more than just politics and knitting. It’s a glimpse of how otherwise ignored populations—here, predominantly older women—are using online platforms to organize and make their voices heard. And the Ravelry falling-out highlights questions other platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, have tiptoed around: What constitutes hate speech, and how should censorship work online?
Technology Review, March 2020
Okay, they had a right to leave and to be pissed off, just as others had a right to be pissed off at them. However, it was over a year ago. Some of these folks are still trying to bully teachers and others with whom they disagree, and in a turn that seems eerily familiar, they started denying they ever had a list and accusing people of making it up. What? Aren’t they aware of the concept of “screenshots?” Honestly, if I felt censored, I could see why I’d still be upset, but I’d figure going after people who disagree would not be a great way to further my cause.
Why can’t we knit and crochet (and needlepoint, cross stitch and weave, etc.) and share our love of those things with others without dividing ourselves up into warring factions? If someone makes a nice sweater, it’s a nice sweater. If someone’s cross stitch with the F-word on it offends you, don’t make one for yourself. And if you want to make tributes to your favorite president, feel free to do so without engaging in hate speech as well.
I have a relative whose politics aren’t the same as mine. So what. I still think she is an amazingly talented needlepointer. I still like her. If we get together in the future, we’ll probably talk about family matters and crafts, not politics. That’s not so hard.
Honestly, I don’t want to hate or fear others, and it really looks to me like we are being encouraged to do so, so that we don’t focus on actual issues we all have in common, like the need for adequate health care, enough money to feed out families, and a wide variety of educational opportunities for all.
When I find myself feeling a little afraid to go shopping wearing a mask, I need to tell myself that no, most of the people not wearing masks are NOT going to yell at me. I’d also like to be able to go into a craft store and not feel judged for buying rainbow yarn, a Franklin Habit book, or something ridiculous like that.
I’m gonna stubbornly care about everybody, even if I get puzzled by choices some people make or beliefs they hold. Even, gasp, if they hold logically inconsistent beliefs. I want to live in peace with my neighbors and enjoy what we have in common, not get all worked up about differences.
So there. It’s sad, not funny that we can’t cut each other some slack and not call each other horrible names.
Hmm, haven’t whined about things that aren’t really earth-shattering lately. I’ll fix that. And I’ll share random photos, because I don’t have a theme.
Generally, I’m a pretty healthy person. I have the occasional ache or pain, thanks to having been alive for so many trips around the sun, but really, I’m pretty good. Even the doctor said I was healthy “for someone your age.”
I’m wondering, though, if perhaps dealing with the undercurrent of stress for the past couple of months is starting to take its toll on my physically. It’s nothing major, but a lot of my former stress-related physical symptoms have been quietly manifesting themselves.
For example, I have started to get these very itchy little fluid-filled bumps all over my hands and arms. I used to get them a LOT when I was in college, especially during the summers when I spent 8 hours a day sanding pieces of fiberglass (printed circuit boards) by hand, or breathing chemicals that plated metal to said pieces of fiberglass. Guess who had no mask or gloves? Me.
I thought it was bits of fiberglass getting under my skin, but as I got older, I realized I broke out when dealing with long-term stress (bad relationships, bad jobs, deaths in the family, divorces). Here they are today, itching like mad.
And I suddenly can’t walk right! Out of the blue, when I was walking home from feeding the horses, my left foot began to hurt with every step. It feels like I strained a tendon or something. I kept waiting for it to go away all evening, but nope, it’s still hurting. This is NOT the foot upon which the large light fixture landed earlier in the week. That bruise is not bad. But, what the heck, I didn’t trip, fall, drop something…nothing.
And then there’s the twitching. My eye has been twitching since February, so I guess it’s not a virus issue. I think it has been the underlying stress from starting a new company and worrying about the company I already work for (I was really worried my boss would lose his job, with good reason). Eye twitches are so annoying. It feels like everyone on earth can SEE them, even though as far as I can tell, they can’t.
One symptom I’m not having, thanks to my friends the anti-anxiety meds, is what used to be constant for me, which was a really strong tingling going down the back of my neck. It used to be worse when dealing with certain friends and family members, but hardly went away at all during the 80s and early 90s. Yay, I’m cured. Now my neck just stays tense. I miss the chiropractor!
I guess I should be glad I don’t have the symptom so many of my family have had, which is horrible digestive issues. (I only have MILD ones, thanks to all my probiotics, I guess.) And I’m not getting bad headaches, which is good. And of course I’d rather have annoying stress symptoms than get put on a ventilator or have a stroke, like people with COVID-19 have.
What’s going on with you? Any weird symptoms out of nowhere? Do you also have dozens of mosquito bites on your feet, because you were helping someone put together light fixtures while wearing sandals? (That’s another reason why I am wearing shoes and socks: scratching prevention.)
This topic did not come from me; rather it came from a very enjoyable email newsletter I read every day, which you might also like. It’s called The Well-Tended Life, and it’s by Kerri Wilt, a motivational speaker-type person.
Kerri talks about how much the current times have been weighing everyone down, herself included. I know my friends and family are weighed down.
For example, my Cameron Breakfast Club friends, who now meet on Zoom, spent a lot of time today trying to figure out some way to see each other in person without it making any of us uncomfortable. We all have slightly different levels of comfort with social distancing and staying safe, it became clear. After talking about what the library will do, what restaurants may do, and where germs lurk in public spaces, the best we could come up with is sitting around a fire circle on private land, with our chairs at least 10 feet apart. I guess some yelling might be involved?
Now, this came from a pretty darned positive bunch of intelligent women who are lucky enough to be able to shelter in place and stay safe that way. I can only imagine the frustrations of people who don’t have the options to isolate (large families, cramped houses, people who work in essential places like groceries and drug stores, health-care workers)…the negativity seems pretty justified.
These ARE hard times and we DO all have a variety of responses and a variety of feelings about the best way forward. It is simply a complicated issue from a an practically unimaginable number of totally legitimate perspectives.
Nonetheless, I firmly believe that it can help us deal with our own stress and frustration by some positive reframing. Rather than rephrase, I’d like to share what Kerri Wilt said in her email (here’s a link to the whole message).
Some Ideas To Combat the Negative Narrative Virus:
-Challenge yourself to begin ALL conversations with a positive statement. Chat first about the good things that are happening all around you.
-Try to curb your use of words like: crazy, hate, sucks, and ridiculous. Having trouble breaking the habit? Then take it a step further and create a “corona curse” jar that collects a dollar from anyone who uses these negative words.
-Consider even renaming this time we are in, by calling it a time of high adventure, excitement, exploration, reflection, or reinvention. Or begin referring to it instead as an awesome opportunity for community, for family, for fresh starts, and even for fun.
-And for goodness sakes…SMILE when you come in contact with people. Your face may be the only positive thing they see all day, so make it count!
And on that last one, you CAN tell people are smiling when they are wearing masks, so don’t let that stop you!
My favorite idea is to call this a time for reinvention. It certainly IS that. Finding creative solutions to meet our needs, like the Breakfast Club friends did today, is one kind of reinvention. Our newfound drive to tell people we love how we feel NOW, as my friend Nancy did with me on the phone earlier today, that’s another “awesome opportunity” we can all engage in. My letters I’ve been writing to random friends and family (slowly but surely) are another way to build community that I wouldn’t have done otherwise.
Take your mind off your worries, even for a little while, and think of things and people you love. Do something for someone or make your environment a little better. This way, we absolutely WILL have some fond memories of this time, along with the other stuff, which we can’t deny or make go away through forced perkiness. I’m not recommending forced perkiness, just noticing the opportunities as well as the challenges.
One more thing, read inspiring content, not just doom, gloom, name-calling and arguing. Here’s where to sign up for Kerri’s newsletter, by the way. And don’t forget Nataly of Happier Now! Her emails have helped me, too.
Let me know what’s been uplifting for you, what’s helped you reframe this time to be something with both positive and negative aspects, or any other news you’d like to share. Staying in touch with our virtual friends counts as community building, doesn’t it?
Every day it’s something new. Today I’ve been trying to attend and lead meetings, dealing with irritated people, and handling email/messages, but my head seems to have inserted a fuzzy barrier between the brain and the world. I’m just all fuzzy, buzzy, or I don’t know, maybe wuzzy.
Are any of you going through periods like that, where you know you have to do something, but you just draw a blank? Once I get going, I’m fine. I’ve managed to get my meetings done, respond to requests, and review some content today, but each time I switch to a new topic, I space out. It took me FOUR tries to get a meeting on my calendar where it was supposed to go! Geez!
I took a walk around the block and that helped for a while. I guess I just need to walk in circles in between activities!
At least there’s some good news. Kathleen determined it’s safe to see my sister again, so I got to see her today. I guess two weeks have passed since…something, I don’t know what. I do know she’s wearing her mask and not going out so much now, so maybe we all have made it past some quarantine milestone.
Honestly, I think it takes a lot of energy (psychic and physical) just to keep on doing what needs to be done, with the underlying fear, dread, worry, or anger (depending on your viewpoint) that the shelter in place guidelines bring out.
Listening to the news can be more than I can take. This morning they were playing a montage of dire headlines about the stock market and unemployment, and I just pulled to the side of the road and looked at the sunshine on trees for a few minutes. When the guy on the news keeps chirping, “Yes, it’s bad; it’s the worst it’s ever been; it’s something to tell your grandchildren about,” your motivation to head into the office and listen to the CEO tell you how great your software company is doing (because OUR clients aren’t restaurants and oil/gas businesses!) becomes less. Hmm, maybe that’s just me.
Well, darn it, I think I ranted again. I got through a WHOLE day with no rants, though. Here, look at one of our copper ceiling tiles. That’s cheerful.
Honestly and truly, I have been doing my best to be a good citizen (or sheep, depending on who’s perspective you’re taking) about this whole COVID-19 issue. I really haven’t gone anywhere other than back and forth from the ranch to the office, I’ve Zoomed with people I want to talk to, I’ve dutifully sat on the porch and enjoyed nature…all that stuff. And I’m truly grateful for the family and friends who care for us all.
You can’t logic away feelings, nor should you. We have to just live with complexity. Relief that the government is doing the right thing to protect lives. And sadness for the loss of the ordinary dumb things that before we could just take for granted.
You Can Be Sad With Decisions You Agree With, Boots and Blessings, April 20, 2020
So right this minute I want to declare to the world that I’m really, really sad to see more and more of my favorite Austin restaurants closing forever. Sure, it’s all for the best that we can’t eat out (and in my case can’t even be in Austin), but damn, I will miss the Threadgills Old Number One where so many of my friends have played, the Magnolia Cafe in the beautiful (but expensive) location, etc. I’m very sad for all the people who worked there, their suppliers, and the people who owned the place.
I’m sad that oil futures went negative. Income from wells was the source of income that let Lee retire to focus on doing good in the community. Everything’s closing down. Whether I agree or not that fossil fuels are great, I know many people who earn their livings in that business, and who will not be bringing home paychecks for their families. (I am relieved that our nephew, Chris, has many skills that are useful outside of oil fields and can start his business renovating old houses soon.)
I’m pissed off that because people are unable to pay their rents (Lee’s second source of income), we’ve had to lay off Mandi (who is fine; she’ll make more on unemployment than we pay her, and we do plan to bring her back). Laying off your friend is never the highlight of one’s day. Speaking of layoffs, I’m also pissed that my boss in Austin, you know, the best boss I ever had, got laid off, leaving a big hole in my team.
And darn it, I miss seeing my friends and my family. I miss Anita and Declan and Rollie and my Austin neighbors and coworkers. I miss my Cameron friends and my sister.
While we’re at it, I want to GO SOMEWHERE. ANYWHERE. I think I’m gonna get in my car and just drive down dirt roads for a while, just to see some other scenery than FM 485 and Travis Avenue in Cameron.
Yeppers, I still have many wonderful small things to be grateful for, and I am glad I am able to keep myself relatively safe (many don’t have that chance; have you read about how the Navajo Nation is overwhelmed by the virus?). But:
It is absolutely okay to mourn the many small things you’ve lost.
I’m not gonna dwell on this stuff. Just putting it out there to help me let it go, take a deep breath and get back to that one step at a time thing. Hoping the same for you.
Life is rolling along here in scenically rural Milam County, Texas. And its population is getting sicker. There are only 25,000-ish people in this county, so our ten COVID-19 cases are a lot. It was NOT good news to find out yesterday that one person who got sick worked at the local Dairy Queen. We’ve gotten take-out from there during our confinement.
Oops. This has led Kathleen to declare that we bring lunches from home from now on. No one has disagreed.
Now, an important point to make here is that we have the best Dairy Queen possible here. It’s in a modern, new building. It’s clean. They pay well above minimum wage and have employees who’ve been there many years. The staff have all been briefed on precautions to take. And the owner, Robert Mayfield, immediately closed the store so that they can disinfect it from top to bottom and be sure that it’s safe (and that the workers there have a chance to quarantine and stay safe, themselves).
Our County Judge, Steve Young, has been doing a heroic job going on the radio, doing Facebook Live, and otherwise staying in touch with the people here, urging them to not gather in large groups, wear masks if working with the public or out in public, and to stay the heck home. We’re all really proud of the work he and our Health Department are doing.
But, it takes actual cooperation to prevent the spread of disease. No one at the hardware store, serving the public, was wearing a mask this morning. No one at the gas station where I got fuel this morning was wearing a mask or gloves other than me. I am NOT gonna touch a credit card machine with my hands! I also have a very clean credit card now.
I know Cameron is not alone. There are people everywhere who believe themselves immortal or invulnerable or just don’t give a shit who are wandering around like nothing has changed. Now, I’m not referring to people who have no access to masks or gloves and have to be out so their families don’t starve; I know isolation and protection is a privilege. I’m talking about people who feel perfectly comfortable putting other people’s lives in danger by their choices. Who knows how many innocent folks with underlying conditions that predispose them to having a bad case of the virus these people will kill in the name of their personal freedom?
Happy thoughts, yeah.
I Said There Would Be Some “Ups” in This Post
Yes, I did. I was looking at myself on Zoom yesterday (it’s hard NOT to look at yourself) and realized I looked as bad as I felt. So, last night I re-colored my hair for the first time since early March. It’s now orange with some pink highlights. (My next hair appointment isn’t for another month, at least, so plenty of time to wash out color by then.)
I put on makeup and lipstick today, added my sparkly yellow shoes, and I donned my new Hearts Homes and Hands lab coat. I look all professional and up-beat, and I’m hoping that will spread to my mood and attitude. So far, it’s helped. If I have to take things one step at a time, at least they will be sparkly steps!
A Little Pope News That’s In-Between
Chris is really close to getting the first two offices completely done, other than installing the barn door between them. He has been working on trim all week. There is a LOT involved in doing trim, which is sorta sad, since when it’s well done, it blends into the background.
The doorway between the two rooms will NOT blend into the background. It’s darned bright and cheerful, especially on Lee’s side!
Another thing that is taking a while is that they have to make dozens and dozens of shims to go behind the metal to trim windows on the tin walls. And, well, the house isn’t all level, so many shims are needed elsewhere. Easton spent an entire day cutting shims. Now, that sounds fun. Or does it?
The plan is to get the remaining two rooms all cleaned up and move the supplies needed to finish the rest of the downstairs over there. We can’t paint the ceilings or refinish the floors if there are wood and tools all over the place!
So…even though we remain sort of dazed and confused, my plan is to dazzle with my shiny hair, shoes, watch band…anything cheerful!
Sure, the UU Lent word for today is anticipation, because it’s the traditional day when Christians anticipate the culmination of the passion/story/tradition of Easter. But really, who isn’t anticipating a lessening of the very necessary restrictions we are dealing with right now? More on that later.
First, it’s still spring. Resurrection is all around us. Here in Cameron, lilies are blooming everywhere, butterflies are making their appearance, and the birds and bees are everywhere (especially when I’m trying to drink a beverage on the new patio break area we made).
I keep coming back to it, but anticipation of the familiar, regular, slow and sure changing of the seasons has been really helpful to me the past month or two. Be sure to look out and see what’s changing outside your window – it can help.
What ARE We Anticipating?
I’ve been idly wondering (okay, maybe not so idly wondering) what’s coming up in the next few months. This morning I read two articles that hit me like a big ole brick wall from across the street at the Pope Residence.
First, Kathleen shared this article from the Houston Chronicle about the phases of coping with the pandemic. Gerald Parker says we’re in Phase 2, mitigation, but there are two more phases to come that are just different kinds of mitigation. Next will be containment, where we start things back up a bit, but remain cautious, since we will not yet have a vaccine, but hopefully will have better treatment. We will be much more careful about sanitation and isolating sick people
Once there is a vaccine for people who believe in such things, the virus will be much less prevalent, but never go away, just like the flu that comes every year and kills people. That will be the new normal, according to Parker, anyway.
I thought it was a little discouraging, but my friend Jean, who has a background in such things, has another perspective:
Actually, it is kind of encouraging. We’ve been executing a plan for this and it’s on schedule. I may not like it, but this contingency has been planned for, some of the problems we are seeing were recognized as such but not acted on (not surprising by the way — I was responsible for our organization’s shelter in place plan before I retired, and there were things I knew we weren’t ready for because it was fiscally not feasible to do), but our national strategy is working. Had we not had a workable plan for this, we would be in a far worse place now.
I’m glad to read this other perspective. It makes me feel like we’re all helping.
Next, let’s talk about spin. Here’s an article that has been shared all over my Facebook today, which pessimistically predicts that as soon as we are all out of our homes and those extremely creepy commercials about how companies love us in our confinement are over, the advertising/marketing engine will gear up to try to get us to forget all this ever happened. Talk about Orwellian dystopia coming to life. Argh.
The author, Julio Vincent Gambuto, calls it the ultimate gaslighting (and let me tell you, as someone who experiences it often, I do NOT like gaslighting). He predicts we’ll be hearing how all the things we are directly experiencing right now will be minimized. This gives me the shivers. I am not sure this will actually happen to the extent Gambuto claims it will (after all, the article is on Medium.com, which does not fact check), but now that I know about the possibility, I’ll be anticipating it and keep my eyes and ears open for marketing gaslighting.
Well, let’s change the subject. I anticipate the end of UU Lent tomorrow. I’ll have to think of my own topics! Don’t worry. I can do it.
By the way, I said I’d write about something today, but I decided not to, since it had to do with corporate practices, and I currently work for a corporation. I’ll follow their social media guidelines like a good corporate citizen and go paint, scrape, and clean some more.
Right about now, lots of folks are finding their resilience tested. It’s another really appropriate word for UU Lent. Every day we try our best to bounce back, face the day, move forward, and support those who need our support. It ain’t easy, especially for my family and friends who’ve lost loved ones, have sick friends, have lost their income, or are trying to teach children AND do the job they still have.
Some people are born more resilient than others. I’ve read all those studies about how some people will thrive no matter what circumstances they are thrown into. You hear stories of people who have overcome really sad situations in their youth to become amazing contributors to the well-being of others.
Others of us aren’t resilient by nature at all. Still, with support and care, many of these folks can learn coping skills and do very well in life.
The rest of us are somewhere in between, and do better or worse due to our environment and other support systems. It’s the support systems, I think, that matter the most, which is why I’m grateful to all the people around me who are supportive.
My friend Pam shared the types of resilience she’s working on, in a comment that doesn’t show up on the Instagram photo. They are too helpful not to share. Here’s what she said:
8 forms of capital I have been working for quite some time to strengthen my resilience in. Some days are easier than others. Time, social, cultural, emotional, knowledge, material, living and financial are the 8- sending you peace and love and light today Suna💕
Chris Martenson, PhD and Adam Taggart in their 2015 book, Prosper! How to Prepare for the Future and Create a World Worth Inheriting
I love getting helpful feedback with resources to help out, so thanks a lot, Pam!
Nature and Resilience
One of the things we learn about in our Master Naturalist training is how resilient things are out there in nature. We learn how forests recover from fire, how ecosystems can regain their balance once important species are re-introduced (wolves, reindeer), and so on.
We also learn about the most fragile members of ecosystems, like frogs, who just can’t take all the rapid change. The most resilient plants and animals get to keep going (why we have so many medium-sized mammals and so few giant dinosaurs now).
It’s just hard to watch entire groups of plants and animals going away because of the actions of humans. We have re-shaped the planet in so many ways, with our agriculture, selective breeding of animals, depleting resources like trees, and taxing the ecosystem with our large population.
I once read that plagues happened when there were too many people in a place. Is Nature trying to tell us something? Can we stay strong and get through to better (or at least different) times?
Hey. I’ve got to tell you ALL a big thanks for reading yesterday’s post and providing such positive and healing feedback. I feel much less alone, and am ready to go forth and find awe in the world around me again. Yep, that’s today’s word.
It’s not hard at all for me to find awe. Very often I am stopped in my tracks, just in awe of how the Universe works and the gifts we receive if we just pay attention. That’s why I put my altar in my Instagram post of the day. I’ve carefully put little reminders of things that tie me to the rest of creation, things I admire, and gifts I’ve received from the Universe.
I’ve got art by people I admire depicting the mysteries (look at that big ole Persephone hole at far right), symbols of religious traditions I admire (Ganesha, Buddha, a dark godddess, and a St. Brighid’s cross you can’t see. There are crystals, including my beloved labradorite heart and a flint rock from my previous house. In front is my wand that I made from an ash branch back when I was in a spiritual circle in Urbana, Illinois. Well, you get it, a bunch of symbols that matter to me and reflect what I’m in awe of. The lady in the photo is Deb Frueh. She is someone whose guidance has helped me more than she realizes, and who understands so much more than I do about the things we can’t always see with our eyes.
That Tarot Reading
I did promise you a tarot reading. I don’t often do these for myself, but the cards were still sitting there from a reading I did last week, and I actually had a question I could use some guidance on. So, I did this:
Getting in touch with your emotional truth, by processing feelings to improve the human condition in the 21st century. Living out loud by my motto,"Triumphing over Trauma" 🌈
In light and in shadow, always with ❤