~thankful thursday~ surreal chamomile

On pi day, I started typing some gratitude, right in the middle of a month, and with no deadlines or expectations to polish or publish attached. It has quickly developed into a sanity-saving, not-restricted-to-gratitude, self-integrating tool that I am relying on heavily for self-care purposes. I’ve mostly experienced mental health struggles in my life as depression, but it turns out I’m not immune to anxiety, either. But it also turns out, writing helps me with both; just simply putting my day down in words helps me gauge how quickly normal has slipped away, helps me keep my one unbroken line intact and whole, defragmented through the insertion of mile-markers from the menial and mundane to the major and monumental. I’m excerpting from my obscenely verbose word document from the first week or so, in a moment when I’m feeling less raw and more ready to share. It’s still messy, and long, and best enjoyed with tea.

~Timeline~

Thursday 3-12 Normal workday with everyone wondering what is going to happen. We go to swim lesson, we go to karate, we get the email from the superintendent that schools will close Monday the 16th, that the next day, Friday the 13th, will be the last day of school.

Friday is a whirlwind workday. A grad student from BC (let’s call her Tink) I have been working with extensively has to leave and go back to Canada. Immediately. The next day. The email from her university is worded politely, but in Canadian, it pretty much says get your butt back in the country. We hastily grab a raspberry rose cider at bier one when we finish our work at 6pm.

Saturday 3-14 Last farmer’s market, wore gloves, explained new protocols to each customer. The observation that people maintain social distance while shopping but not while standing in line. Trying to sound confident while answering questions about where we will be next week, saying, “it’s really out of our hands how this week will unfold. Keep checking the farm website.” The observation that humans dislike uncertainty. The NBA is shut down. USA banned travel to Europe for 30 days. After market I went to the lab for a few hours to load Tink’s egg respiration plate. Missed St. patty’s day festivities at camp boss’s but felt that was probably good in an effort to begin social distancing.

~3-14-2020 gratitude~

Kitties in boxes, fires in woodstoves, heated shirts from husbands. Exhaustion from work that feels worthwhile – feeding the people and saving the Arctic. Tiny fish egg bubbles that I see in my dreams. Hot bath. Echinacea and elderberry and sage. Piles of carrots to juice and potatoes to fry tomorrow morning. Obscure mathematical holidays to share with my son. Rich’s apocalypse Costco purchase of a tower of cashews. Three trout lilies blooming already. A week of sun, and a little rain. Seeds tucked into seedling pots underneath an old skylight.

~timeline~

Sunday night 3-15 the NOAA guidance read in supremely vague language that we should all be teleworking… to the extent possible… unless our lab experiments and field work were deemed mission-critical and essential…. like a pinball I could fall into any category at all. Guidance-free guidance. Relief at the thought of school lunches being provided to kids in our county, both via pickup and bus delivery. And not just lunch, but breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Also relieved talking to my mom, that the Rew household is taking things seriously and sanitizing the house, staying home. Hard not to run worst case scenarios but talking was good.

~3-15-20 gratitude~

Tink. I’m going to miss her and hope she comes back soon! We had some things in common, as well as the things she had in common with my 25-year-old Master’s student self. I found myself wanting to help her avoid pitfalls that caused me to stumble, like forgetting to prioritize my mental health. I kept telling her to hydrate, encouraging her to sit down to eat. She shared about her perfectionism-flavored undergrad studies, striving for all As. I know someone who did that. It can cause a tendency towards thinking one should be able to handle anything, shouldn’t need help, should be better than this. Grateful for the conversations and side-by-side work we got to do together. Grateful I am better at 41 than I was at 25 about recognizing that I am not taking this class for a grade.

~meme of the day~

“Nation’s nerds wake up in utopia where everyone stays inside, sports are canceled, social interaction forbidden.”

~timeline~

Monday 3-16 Conspiracy theories, reminders to check your constitutional rights, plans for homeschooling, plans for home cooking, lots of arguing about what social distancing means, and most of all, toilet paper and other panic purchasing. Showed up to work hoping a plan would formulate throughout the day for how we were scaling back experiments and what measures we would take to correctly carry out social distancing. Left work with no plan, no measures in place. Made my own plans and brought home everything I could think of that would enable me to tackle some telework; backed up files, copied data, gathered notebooks. VSA (vitality supported agriculture boxes) invented and implemented by the farm literally overnight. Restaurant closures ordered.

~meme of the day~

Had a great laugh at all the memes concerning GenX’s ability to survive a pandemic being inevitably better than other generations; specially equipped with experience in being left home alone, to self-entertain and play board games against ourselves, to pick up a book or watch reruns and sit there. “Smells like middle aged spirit.” “I can live on spaghettios and pop tarts for weeks if I have to.” “And when the real push comes, those shoplifting skills we learned early on will really kick in, we actually know how to fight and we are used to living on food that starts off as powder.” Talkin’ ‘bout my generation… grateful for laughter.

~timeline~

Tuesday 3-17 I also appreciated the memes replacing homeschool plans with corrected versions involving all-day screen time, memes replacing meal plans with corrected versions involving many successive “meals” of stress-eating. Started feeling real anxiety about previously planned visit from Rich’s family. Superintendent announces schools closed until April 28th – four days after closing them for two weeks, tacking on four more weeks. Finally cried that night.

~3-17 to 3-19-20 gratitude~

As I’ve been peering into the shadows of chaos and unknowns, upheavals and differences of opinion, these last few days it dawned on me what might pair nicely with my militant social distancing campaign: gratitude (also nachos, thanks to Rich’s valiant Costco trip on Saturday). We left off last November with the monarch butterflies encrusting the bark of trees to sleep for the winter. In February, the butterflies woke up and started heading North. Now it’s March, and the maps of their sightings across the southern U.S. are a good distraction from other maps sprinkled with colored dots that one may be looking at lately. How do they know which way is north? Do they remember how they got there? Even if they do, they will soon breed a generation of offspring who will travel to a place they’ve no reason to know how to get to.  They face a lot of unknowns on their journey, too.

I feel about as flimsy as a butterfly’s wings right now, not nearly up to this journey. I wouldn’t have guessed I’d be such a lightning rod for the energy all around me, it’s like I have antennae that are efficiently collecting it all – the gruesome, terrible whole of everyone’s collective nightmare that we may be living soon and are already imagining. Tuesday night I finally let some of it out on my husband’s shoulder. And while I’m usually one to speak my mind, I wouldn’t have guessed I’d be speaking up quite so much. I have three jobs and none of them are fully shut down; with the farm job, it makes sense to me that people need to eat and the farm has food – it does no one good to let it go to waste. The science jobs are a little different – but scientists have trouble with being left to self-define words like “essential.” I do have one thing going for me: the clarity that I’ll be able to live with being the loud mouth and then being wrong about this; my conscience won’t let me live with being the other kind of wrong and finding out too late I was not doing enough. I desperately hope I am wrong, please let me be wrong.

Please. My mom, autoimmune/cancer survivor, a ridiculous number of surgeries and a round of radiation just last year. Please. My dad is over 75. Please. Outlaw mom. Please. Oklahoma parents heading for 90. Please. The list gets long, their faces popping into mind on a loop, all the loved ones for whom I am so grateful, but the soundtrack right now is only one word, repeated: please.

Time for some balance, some gratitude, some thank you. Scientists figured out that the butterflies gauge direction by using the sun’s position in the sky in relation to the horizon, but they have to integrate this data with the internal knowledge they have of the time of day. Listening to the rhythm of their own clock. Trusting this instinct, as well as their observations of the world around them. Making the best choice they can given the circumstances. So today I’m grateful I’m able to listen to my internal knowing.

I have so much to be grateful for, and it makes it all so clear to me how much I therefore have to lose.

Like the butterflies, I will try to keep my eye on the sunlight and follow the compass of my inner knowing.

~timeline~

Wednesday 3-18 Extreme intensity on social media, people exhorting others to check their rights, people begging others to keep the health care workers in mind and stay the f*ck at home. So many insecurities, so many chips on shoulders out on parade. In retaliation against the shadows, a lot of posts attempting to share some good news and inspiration. Redoubled meal planning and homeschool lesson planning, new ways of distributing homegrown goods, volunteering to help others in need, restaurant takeout options to support local businesses. Free virtual museum, zoo, aquarium tours, concerts. Wellington the penguin tours the Shedd Aquarium since it is closed to visitors, to everyone’s delight. More tears, frustration with work and mental exhaustion. Realizing my muscles are tied in knots, my breathing is shallow. The idea of a visit is causing me to feel panic. Realizing I feel safer having Quinn stay at his Dad’s house instead of coming home Friday, but feeling depressed at this thought. I have been practicing with google hangouts this week and the highlight of my day was by far my hangout lunch chat with Lauren.

Thursday 3-19 Awake at 3am becoming more resolved in my need to control the only factors I could so I could accept the ones I had no way of controlling; leaning towards keeping Quinn at a safe distance, isolated at his Dad’s, isolation being a skill that I know his dad truly possesses and this is the first time that attribute has ever been positive.

In the morning Rich and I cleared the air on all of the stress that was getting between us. He said I didn’t have to hold the world on my shoulders (obviously he is still getting to know me, because I most certainly do), and doesn’t want me being a martyr… funny, in my mind I could just picture both my brothers breaking out into song, as we Rews have a special song about martyrs.

Quinn and I had our first space phone call to discuss him staying put, and Quinn is thankfully old enough to understand.

Quinn would have been leaving for Italy tomorrow. The wave is cresting there. Watched video of an Italian artist, son of a doctor, telling what it is really like in Italy right now, with footage of at least twenty caskets lined up at one local church in his region.

3-19 evening. I just made a list of things to do with Quinn together in google hangouts. I am at three different jobs right now, where varying levels of precautions are slowly being taken, and Rich is going to work daily as well. I am also teleworking as much as I can but being in and out of the world and then coming home to my lonely thirteen-year-old feels like the wrong choice when he has a safer option.

~gratitude 3-19~

These space age phone calls might just save me. I’m also attending a virtual baby shower this weekend.

Gratitude for the good man I married. He gave me a special broom as well as a ring when we got engaged, and we have been diligent with the metaphor of keeping the space between us swept and clean.

Grateful for emotional awareness, so I can tell instantly when a decision makes me feel relief, or dread. I am grateful to be officially teleworking with the blessing of both supervisors, as of this evening. So many decisions that felt so hefty today. And a much lighter feeling this evening. But tired. Like thin wings that have flown a bit far for one day and need to rest.

Elderberry bourbon smash gratitude.

~timeline~

Friday 3-20-20 Woke up to the news that Kenny Rogers died. This is my first day of full telework. I am keeping busy and a good dynamic is flowing; I am writing procedures (they’re photo heavy, in case anyone is wondering) for D who is being a champ and taking on all my hands-on duties in the lab. Attended my second virtual lab meeting.

As the day went on, I started feeling one million times better than I have in the past 48 hours. It’s been a tough week. Pandemics are no joke. My decision has been made, and Quinn is staying at coparent’s and my heart is a little sore right now, despite also feeling relieved.

Our governor is calling for medical gear donations; links for people to start sewing fabric barrier masks to donate for health care workers as they start running short of N95s. Depoe bay set up a trailer testing site. Not sure anyone had been testing in this area at all yet. “No positive cases” may mean no tests have been run. Perhaps some have been sent to the state lab, whose capacity is only a few hundred a day, but my guess is those few hundred have been dedicated to the hot spot of Portland. Out of curiosity, I took a look at the CDC protocol for PCR testing for COVID-19 and it’s totally in my wheelhouse. With just a few virus-specific supplies, I could run it off the document with the reagents and equipment at my lab. I can see a reality where personnel/labs could need to be diverted for this type of task. It’s mixing like oil and water with my other reality where the vibe is so much more chill than what’s going on inside my head.

But I also escalated to the ultra-cautious end of the spectrum in just a few days, last Friday I went out for a drink with Tink. It has been a big whirlwind of changes and sequentially dialing back, and the choices I made last Friday seem idiotic to me now, but that’s just perspective and I keep joking 2020 will be the year of hindsight.

On our mailbox date, I received my photo prints; all the 5 by 7 nature shots I had ordered a few weeks ago to hang up in my office at work. Just when I was feeling more inspired to take up a more permanent residence there.

~3-20-20 gratitude~

Sunshine is flooding my new office at Quinn’s desk (with nature photos). I’m sitting here in between procedure writing tasks and soaking it in, finishing my coffee until my nettle-lavender tea cools. Nettle leaves and lavender flowers I have in jars, saved in years past, in addition to lots of other food stores I feel so lucky to have put aside over time. Right now lavender and nettle feels like the perfect mix of calm and strength to see me through the pandemic panic attacks.

Today’s noon google hangout with Quinn featured his two guinea pigs, who I never normally see. On breaks, I’ve been visiting the trout lilies and more of them are blooming; so grateful for my backyard bayou.

There is so much to be grateful for and I think when this is all over maybe everyone will have a better grasp of that concept. But I also have to remember that I can picture very clearly what my son looked like hooked up to a ventilator as a baby and not everyone has that ingrained in their mind. I don’t wish it on my worst enemy. I wish it didn’t take people dying before our eyes to make that perspective shift happen, and my heart is very fearful for a lot of people. I have to keep reframing that into gratitude for the gift of these people in my life to begin with, otherwise I start forgetting to breathe again.

My kiddo, I am so grateful for him. He has taken in stride all the disappointments of this pandemic, beginning with his Italy trip being postponed, and now the extension of time away from me.

On the bright side, nature is taking back Venice, as dolphins and water fowl return to the now clear blue water of the canals. Edit: After fact checking, this claim was found to be exaggerated at best, though what is true is the water is clearer with less boat traffic. And although we’re sad about being apart we’re staying positive and focusing on how this free time can be a gift. Quinn is making himself up a study schedule with drums, karate, duolingo (for Italian), algebra, maybe some chemistry or ecosystem dynamics for science, computer programming, etc. Our noon hangouts will be so helpful. He texted me last night to ask me if scheduling a game night hangout for 6-7 on Fridays would be okay, in addition to our noon meeting. So tonight we played Taboo in hangouts. Oddly enough, one of the cards I held up to the camera for Quinn, that he had to get me to say, was “martyr.” Then he talked me through solving his 2×2 Rubik’s cube after I scrambled it. He blew me away with how he could visualize and articulate what I needed to do and then tell me how to orient and twist the cube to solve it again. It worked!

~meme of the day~

“Your quarantine nickname is how you feel right now plus the last thing you ate from the cupboard.”

Yours in gratitude, Surreal chamomile.

3 comments to ~thankful thursday~ surreal chamomile

  • wow, your timeline just brought all the feels back for me all over again. someday, this will be quite the incredible journal to look back on. i’m so sorry that you are separated from your son. what a strong and selfless decision to make… putting his safety before your desire to see him. thank goodness for this face to face technology. it really seems to be helping people stay connected. i can’t believe how fast everything has changed. i feel like i’m on a roller coaster. p.s. i absolutely love the photo with the spiderweb and the queen annes lace (is that queen annes lace?).

    • I don’t know if it’s good to have brought you back there (too soon?) but I have definitely been needing to reflect on it so I don’t just stay in the reaction/feeling but take one step back and get in observer mode if that makes sense. I hope it feels more validating than re-triggering.

      And thank you, I always think of you when taking web photos now. I took it at Ona beach the day before state parks closed, just beside Beaver Creek, so it is a wild family member of Queen Anne for sure, with Angelica as my best guess. The web felt metaphorical of how all our interconnectedness is so amplified right now.

  • camp boss

    It is so interesting reading your timeline…. we are really so close in physical proximity yet you feel oceans away..! i am glad you are recognizing what you need to do for you and then doing it!!! i hope my meyer lemons will keep long enough for us to have some cocktail time!! although i’m sure we could find a way to keep at arms length (yours not mine) and still enjoy an Amy Rose cocktail! love you

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