As I grew up, there were always Reader’s Digest magazines in the bathroom–at home and at the Cottage. As a rather precocious childhood reader, I devoured each issue. From the jokes to the true stories and health articles, I was all in. I especially remember reading the true stories of people who had dealt with some dramatic illness. Some people survived, some didn’t, but what I remember the most was being an 8-12 year old, going through some major body changes early, and thinking I was going to die! I was like the med student who thinks they are experiencing the disease or condition that she is studying and so with these Reader’s Digest articles adding some flair and drama for the sake of readability, I was all in. Of course those aches and pains as my childhood/pre-teen body grew and stretched were actually the signs of some hidden adult illness. Of course it was! Alas, I made it through those years with my only significant health issue being childhood onset asthma. Thank goodness!!!
I have felt the past couple of weeks like I am back in that world again with the COVID-19 pandemic–and everyone around me is experiencing the same thing! We are reading and hearing so much about the illness–what we need to do to keep ourselves protected, as well as what signs and symptoms we need to look for–and it is hard not to absorb that information without freaking out. It doesn’t help that the guidelines seem to be continuously in flux. Was the extreme exhaustion I felt 2 weeks ago as we started our COVID-19 School Shutdown and the sore throat that went on for nearly 2 weeks a sign that I had the disease? No temperature, but still… I took every precaution that I could when I went grocery shopping on Thursday, but when I walked the dogs in the rain on Saturday, I experienced congestion when I came home. Was that a sign of illness or simply seasonal allergies???
However, as of today, this chilly spring Tuesday here in Chicago, I am good. No sore throat, no congestion, no temperature. And the spring flowers are finally starting to bloom!!!!
The thing is, my pre-teens and early teens were often pretty awkward. There was that Dorothy Hamill haircut, an early growth spurt (even though I stopped by 10 or 11 at my present 5’1″), weight issues, asthma, etc.; however, I persevered because while it was often awkward, it was also often pretty awesome: supportive family, important friendships, summers spent on Lake Charlevoix at the Cottage, excellent schools, that love of reading, and an active life.
So despite the last couple of weeks being pretty stressful, they have also been pretty decent, as well, and I’ve been able to keep a certain amount of perspective–some mental distance, shall we say. However, nurturing that perspective has often been thanks to reminders coming from others and from unexpected places. Last Sunday morning, I chatted across a silent street with a fellow dog walker that I had never met before, and she was appreciating how all of this sheltering in place and working from home is like a big, positive recess for her. Last year, she spent 3 months inside while going through cancer treatment and now she is appreciating being healthy. Her opinion is that this pandemic is like a big pause button on her life.
That is something I remember from my own cancer experience 8 years ago: dealing with cancer was like a big pause button on my everyday life. I had to put a pause on what I was focusing my energy on, how I was working, when I was working, evaluating how I was spending my time, what was I doing about survival. Where I was with my usual life was on hold–and not all of that was a bad thing. I got my start as a blogger with Caring Bridge, which led to this blog, and took a sewing class, which was fun, but I haven’t really gone very far with my sewing. Terry and I found a beautiful vanity in an antique shop in NOLA’s French Market for my birthday. My parents and sister altered their Christmas plans to be there for me with my late December surgery and they were able to be there for me. Grams sent me a lovely orchid that jumpstarted my affection for these beautiful plants. I had an extra week of Christmas vacation to recover from surgery and when I returned to school, I was able to put some unhealthy things in check, at least for awhile. And Summer 2012 was one of my favorites, with lots of awesome reconnections.
My conversation with this fellow dog walker/neighbor reminded me of this alternative view of our current situation and helped carry me through the week. ROW embraced our new reality and started our online Erg classes, using the ZOOM platform, and I coached my first indoor rowing class–on line! Who would have thunk it 2 months ago when we did our UCanRow2 coaches training? A funny aside, I coached my first class on Wednesday, which was the most beautiful day here in Chicago, and knew that I had to get a handle on the new technology I was going to use, so instead of going for a long walk with the dogs along the Lake, we did shorter walks around the condo and I prepped for my session. Well, a lot of people headed out to the Lake and Chicago’s parks and did NOT follow social distancing protocol. Busted! The mayor had to go bad cop and close all Chicago parks and the Lakeshore. Was I saved by indoor rowing? Chuckling here.
On the school front, we have been in limbo land these first 2 weeks of the COVID-19 School Shut Down. We have gone from today being the day students were to return to classes to April 21st. Late last week, the state issued a remote learning notice, where Illinois schools would be expected to provide remote learning for their students. Chicago Public Schools, the third largest US school district behind LA and NYC, will be doing a soft rollout of our version of a plan these next two weeks with the official start date on April 13, when we are supposed to return from spring break. Recognizing that we would be entering a new level of this unchartered territory, I spent the weekend catching up on all of my pre-COVID-19 School Shut Down grading which was a HUGE relief, especially knowing I will be so much more nimble moving forward. While there is a lot of fear, stress, and disappointment going around, there are plenty of opportunities in all of this, as well, that are only just starting to present themselves.
Some other positives? I’m sleeping 7-8 hours a night. I’m catching up on watching the old movies I saved from TCM’s February celebration of the Oscars. Terry made some awesome chili (two kinds–beef and chicken) on Saturday. I’m starting to work on some of the history projects that I’ve been wanting to work on for a long time. The dogs and I are loving our walks.
So, a big pause button has been pressed on our old lives. How is this pause going for you?
A couple of things:
Here is an inspiring piece by one of my favorite motivators, Eric Barker at Barking Up the Wrong Tree:
If you are in the US, did you complete the 2020 US Census for your household?
And here is our mayor, Lori Lightfoot, urging people to stay home to save lives with humor:
Finally, Happy Birthday wishes to my wonderful sister friend, Gracie!!!! Miss you and hope you are having an extra special day!!!!!