The Pesky Pandemic

Dad

This post is for Linda’s Litebeing Chronicles Change Challenge on the litebeing chronicles blog: How have you changed internally? Can you share some new thoughts, ideas, projects, attitudes that have sprung up as a result of your evolution? This challenge is about describing how you have integrated the lessons from this “unprecedented time” and how you have seen your unique transformation unfold.

This is kind of an odd challenge for me to participate in because for me the pandemic has mostly been like a pesky fly in the background, buzzing around and annoying, but not actually impacting my life all that much. Some external habits have changed but otherwise my life has been so much more impacted by personal events that Covid just doesn’t seem like a big factor. Any inner realizations have arisen more because of the earth-shaking issues among loved ones than anything to do with the pandemic.

In January my then-94-year-old mother fell and broke her hip. The ensuing couple of months were an exhausting round of visits to hospital, skilled nursing home, then hospital again, and back to snh while trying to keep the house up and having to re-organize several rooms in order to create pathways for a walker to get through. Sitting in a poorly designed chair at one of the hospitals threw a pattern already in my hip out massively which left me doing all this in agonizing pain.

Toward the end of her skilled nursing stay news of Covid began to break. I was so busy getting the house ready I barely paid attention. About a week after she came home we were in lockdown. The next several months involved a massive learning curve about grocery shopping when supplies were low, how to stock a pantry for a couple months’ worth of food, and making easier meals than my normal complicated menus. That was a change but I can’t say I feel it transformed me internally.

For many people staying home and being isolated has been a huge change. As a somewhat introverted only child, my life has always involved a certain amount of isolation and being self-sufficient with alone time. But I’ve been coping with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue for 30 years and that added a whole new layer of staying home and leading a very solitary life. So for me Covid didn’t change a lot on that score — in fact the rise of meetings and activities via Zoom Skype etc. has allowed me to participate more than I have in years.

I miss eating in restaurants, but my mother has long been my main restaurant companion and she still isn’t really in shape to make an outing like that, so I’d be doing carry out anyway; for me the pandemic doesn’t loom as a reason I can’t do it.

During the spring I realized my Dad, who turned 95 in May and lived almost 900 miles away, was not in good shape and started trying to figure out how I could get my mother taken care of and pay for that plus a plane ticket. Before I could work it out, I received a call that Dad had fallen and been taken to the hospital. He wasn’t hurt in the fall, but it turned out he was in such bad shape he couldn’t walk any more, then they found cancer. In three days he was moved to hospice care and five days later he died.

Covid impacted all this in that even if I’d been able to arrange for Mom’s care and get down there fast enough (which it turned out wouldn’t have been possible), neither the hospital nor the nursing home would let me in to see him. So we had phone calls every day and a couple of Zoom contacts, then I talked to him and sang via phone after he could no longer speak…. But my Dad died alone.

Had to have a Zoom service and the Marines wound up doing the flag presentation portion in my front yard with masks on. The format was born of Covid, but the service was lovely and a bunch of family and friends who live in other states and would not have been able to get here under any circumstances were able to “attend”.

Since I first left for college my Dad called me every week and for many years it has been every Saturday at 2 p.m I’m still struggling some Saturdays to keep myself from grabbing the phone a little before 2 and getting ready to hear from him. In recent years I called him other times to check up but the only sacrosanct time was Saturday and it’s going to be a while before I get used to the silence at 2.

Many things about the pandemic have slowed down and interfered with the process of settling my Dad’s estate but really the biggest hurdle has been the high level of incompetence of so many people I’ve had to deal with. For instance, the VA misfiled the paperwork on his life insurance not once but twice, causing a month delay and another insurance company wrote the address down wrong and sent forms to the wrong address, causing a month lost on that one too. Multiply that by pretty much every bank (why transfer some money on the first call when you could make 12 before someone does it??), insurance company or service provider and you have an idea of how long and slow every process has been.

In the fall my dear friend, Pat, who beat stage 4 throat cancer a year or so ago, started having health issues and found she needed to have a clip put on a valve in her heart. The procedure went okay and when I spoke to her after she was upbeat and looking forward to getting back to her healing work. Then she started falling and feeling badly and was taken to the hospital where it turned out the clip they put on her heart had sepsis on it and she’d had sepsis for weeks. She died the day after Thanksgiving. My Mom loved her too and pretty much every day one of us says, “I can’t believe Pat’s gone…”

So my life has been so hard hit by dramas and traumas related to people near and dear to me, the pandemic is just a pesky problem in the background. Yes, I get tired of the hassle grocery shopping has become. Yes, I spend small amounts of time considering where I will go and when in order to avoid being in crowds. Other than a few carefully chosen groceries at certain times, I just don’t go out. I started curbside grocery pickups long before Covid hit — other than doing it more, it isn’t a change. Yes, occasionally I miss my rare coffee or lunch meetings with friends but they didn’t happen often enough before Covid for it to make a big hole in my present. And frankly, handling all the Mom care, plus the extra time it takes to grocery shop, and the endless paperwork to do with Dad’s estate have kept me so busy I don’t have the energy to wish for more activities.

The main internal noticing for me involves deepening insights I’ve already had. Formerly neurotic and overdramatic, I’ve stopped here and there to note with surprise how calmly I’ve handled this year. Having started meditating in 1984 and practicing yoga in 1986, followed by many years of metaphysical/spiritual workshops, doing all sorts of inner/shadow work, etc. I’ve been much more calm for a long time. But I don’t think any year since I started has challenged my equanimity as much as this year, so I’m pleased to see how well all the years of practice serve even in traumatic times.

Through all the ups and downs I’ve managed to keep yoga practice regular. Meditation has been a little more hit or miss but I manage pretty often and I’m in love with Steve Nobel’s meditations on YouTube, so I’m drawn to do one pretty often. I also manage to slip a yoga nidra in here and there. And thanks to Covid, Deva Premal and Miten for quite a while had a free Gayatri meditation every Saturday on FB which became an oasis of big, loving energy. Practice always helps maintain the calm.

Through years and years of transformative work I constantly had my finger on the pulse of inner change and change happened all the time. But in this big year of political and medical upheaval in the wide world and personal upheaval in mine, I can’t say I see a big inner shift. I see the benefits of all the shifting that came before and I am so grateful for all the years of inner work and all the hours of practice.

Covid Gratitude 5: Masking your breath

I’m in Florida working on getting summary probate going on my Dad’s estate and doing some clearing in his condo. Sticking pretty closely to the condo as much as I can since Covid is bad here.

The only places I’ve been with other people have had strict policies about wearing a mask, which works for me as I would anyway. Today as I drove to the bank to take care of safe deposit box I realized how sinusy I am here, which always leads to worrying about my breath when I have to meet with others.

And then I started laughing because I realized I’d have my mask on when I got near anybody. Which led to realizing how great it is that wearing a mask means you never need to worry about bad breath when you’re out and about.

Some combo of growing up brainwashed by ads about the probability of having it plus actually smelling a lot of bad breath on people in my life left this as an occasional nagging worry. Now, is the ease of that worry enough to want to wear a mask forever??? Hmm…

Covid Gratitude 2

 

Full Pantry

I was never a cook who kept a pantry stocked for possible long term cooking.  Had an assortment of staples I’d keep on hand, usually enough to make one recipe of each.  And I’ve always tended to cook kind of elaborate dishes in big quantities. So I’d make a list of what I needed for that particular meal and get exactly what I needed.

In recent years, shopping, like most things, has been pretty hit or miss as my energy goes up and down. So when the pandemic hit and advice began circulating about stocking up for a couple of months worth, I quickly realized we were way behind the curve.

It became an interesting challenge, given all the panic buying, to get well stocked. I’ve been keeping lists going on three different grocery sites, checking in often to see who has what and which place on a given day seems likely to provide a fair portion of the list. But slowly built a store.

But, not having thought in terms of being that well stocked, I kept realizing more things that should have been on my list. And then that I didn’t really get enough of others. Slogging through order after order in which a number of things didn’t show up, I finally got us to a place of well-enough stocked to feel comfortable.  Not hoarding piles, just enough.

Quite a learning curve. While I can’t say I appreciated every moment of it, I am grateful for attaining a better sense of how to keep a well stocked pantry. That includes gratitude for a series of really good articles by various chefs in WaPo with their suggestions of items for a well-stocked pantry (some of which admittedly left me blinking and going, “Geez, wtf would I do with that stuff??? 🙂 ). Especially grateful for discerning what allows me to make which selection of things.

I’m so much more tuned in to shopping not just for the meal I plan to make tomorrow but for being prepared to cook from on-hand supplies.  Feeling glad to have acquired this skill. And I have to say, probably wouldn’t have happened without Covid-19.

Covid Gratitude 1

Gratitude

An interesting phenomenon has been occurring for me throughout the Covid-19 crisis — as the pandemic causes me to try different things, change old habits, rethink things, etc. I’m finding many reasons for gratitude. Haven’t decided if this will be weekly or randomly, but have decided to launch a Covid Gratitude series.

Immune Boosting

This one actually started before we knew there was a crisis, when my mother fell and broke her hip.  Because I knew hospitals are a breeding ground for viruses and bacteria, I took her a bottle of Aireborne chewables to take one daily and I started drinking daily (and then eventually every other day) glasses of the fizzy version.

We’d been bucking up for two months by the time the warnings started coming, just about the time she was coming home from skilled nursing.

I’ve used the Chinese anti-viral herbal formula, Ganmaoling, for years (close to 30!) to ward off colds and flus.  Long ago they used to put a preventive dose prescription in the instructions, 3 tablets, 3x/day for 3 days.  So as soon as she came home I put us through the preventive regimen.

Through the advice of some friends I also started us on elderberry gummies, taken every other day.  And I already have been drinking turmeric ginger tea every day for some years (and since Mom doesn’t like the tea, I make her a tincture she takes every day) — some studies have found it more effective than flu shots because of its immune boosting qualities.

So we have felt decently prepared for this crisis. The one time she had an in person doctor’s appointment after this started, we were stuck in the waiting room being sneezed and coughed on by a family of four who all had something. And amazingly neither of us came down with anything, which I attribute in part to our boosted immunity.

Feeling very grateful that not-such-happy circumstances led to us working on immunity before we knew there would be an emergency need for it!  And grateful that I know a bunch of alternative health/remedy stuff to assist. I’m not saying I think this makes us totally immune, just that I feel like we’re safer than we might have been and that gives me peace of mind.

The virus and the rabbit hole

As Mom moved toward the end of her stay in rehab and my hip/psoas issues were hitting a zenith, we started hearing about the coronavirus.  Things were revving up when we got home. But we’d been sent off with Mom having barely moved from diaper changes to being able to get to the bathroom with assistance and no home help coming for days, so I felt too overwhelmed by dealing with the transition to full time caregiver to do more than note it as a rising issue.

Before long, though, I was discovering that with Mom in the house I should be going out as little as possible — some say not at all but I have yet to figure out how to get everything done for her without leaving the house.  As much as possible I get curbside pickup or delivery, mostly curbside pickup, but for a couple of places I have to go in.

Otherwise I’m staying home. I gather this is a huge lifestyle change for many people but, having dealt with health issues for a long time, I’m used to staying home a lot, so I feel like life has prepared me for this moment very well.  Not to mention being an only child means I’ve spent tons of alone time since early childhood…

Not feeling huge fear except for my Dad, alone in Florida and not taking this too seriously.  One silver lining to all the time spent in hospitals, etc. is I had Mom and I taking Aireborne every day to ward off the many things that float around those places so we were more immune boosted than normal.  And I’ve had us keep taking some along with elderberry and preventive doses of ganmaoling. Sent some of all those things to Dad and he’s actually taking stuff! I don’t go quite as far as some about wiping everything down or quarantining the mail, but I’m careful and Mom is not going out at all.

The hardest part is watching our already-dwindling investment account go down and wondering how we survive on the other side.  Otherwise the adjustment to this new normal after adjusting to a life of daily hospital/SNF visits and then adjusting to be the only caregiver 24/7 just seems like part of the ongoing fall down the rabbit hole. Head over heels, down and down, dizzy and disoriented, heading for a new world.

In the meantime, I’m looking at the commentary on what an opportunity this is to decide to change the world and throw off the beliefs about wealth and striving and what drives economies to start anew from a different set.  Now is the chance to work on “people power”, for which I advocated in my recent series. Let’s dream and plan a new world. And I’m excited about that.