Pandemic 2020

April 21sth, 2020

“Still” Here 

 

Cloaked in uncertainty, this day has brought to me and nothing is sure to be.

Except, perhaps, that time has passed just as carelessly.

As the drops that now escape the sky, have no place left to flee

Neither do we know for certain, but our breath leaves us just as faithfully.

Pandemic 2020; Uncertainty

March 26th, 2020

 

One emotion to describe our present times, uncertainty.  Each day, perhaps, revealing more uncertainty. Uncertainty can cause us all to unravel.  To grope, to claw at what we do not know and to plead for answers.  The unknown can feel so scary, I know.  That sensation of falling, spinning and not knowing when and how you will land.  Some will respond with anger, some with despair and some will cling to an illusion of control. Ah, yes control.  That is a phenomenon for another day.

 

I have developed an intimate relationship with uncertainty in my life.  I can fully appreciate that now.  Overcoming the uncertainties in my life since I was young, is helping me to be strong now.  No, not strong in every second of every day, but overall…yes.

 

When it hits me, I recognize it almost immediately.  The sensations in my body.  My mind scattered.  I walk to a window, lean my forehead on the cold glass and gaze outside.  The cold feels refreshing on my skin.  I have done this since I can remember.  In fact, it is one of my first memories as a child.  I watch the trees, one or two leaves even, and how they sway in the breeze.  I focus my attention on nature.  I breathe deeply and give myself space to feel.  I do not judge it.  I am not ashamed.  I am a human and a resilient soul.

 

Uncertainty in my life has been not knowing if I will ever see a loved one again.  It is not knowing if I will be abandoned again.  It is experiencing two divorces by the time I was eighteen.  It is witnessing firsthand the grip of significant mental illness on my loved ones.  It is enduring loss and not knowing how I will cope.  But, somehow, I always did.  And, so have you endured…the uncertainties in your life as you stand today.

 

I have stopped expecting that all my questions will have answers.  I can still ask, but I must first be OK if no answer comes before I can be brave enough to ask.  Yes, uncertainty has taught me as much.

 

“And, if it didn’t hurt, would you be this strong now?”

 

Yes, it hurt.  And, I am strong now…even in uncertainty.  The uncertainty of this pandemic illuminating the lessons that it has taught me much of my life.  And, I have hope that it provides that possibility for every one of us.

 

“She has grace in her heart and fire in her soul.”

 

 

Pandemic 2020

Day Four (3/15/2020)

Today, I ponder and am granted ample time to do so.  Perhaps, this is a giant wake up call to those of us who are walking mindlessly through life.  This virus has forced us to engage the emergency brake.  Every one of us is affected, some more than others.  I consider those who are in unsafe homes.  Those among us who are barely sustaining.  Those among us who struggle emotionally.  I know life as we know it will not be the same.  This will affect every generation moving forward, however subtle it may be…it will.

I consider the emotions involved: fear, panic, uncertainty, angst, suffering, anger, outrage, bitterness but also hope, love, faith, unity, determination, compassion, creativity, and the list goes on.  I do frequent check-ins to determine where I fall on this spectrum.

I sense the stillness that surrounds me in my home, my community, and in the country.  But, I also sense the intensity and mission of those on the front lines.  I am trying to discover the balance between the two.  It does not seem fair that I can indulge in this stillness, while others must struggle.  The thought comes, ‘I am a nurse.  Maybe, I can volunteer to help.’

Governor Baker is addressing the state on the current mandates.  He is tightening the grip and doing more to enforce social distancing.  Social distancing; a concept that is at the forefront of containment.  I have never heard these words more than in the past two days.  Schools are mandated to close for three weeks now.  Bars and restaurants are being forced to close.  There are heightened regulations protecting those in long term care facilities.  The city is essentially being locked down.  There are so many unanswerable questions.

It seems to be sinking into my children that this is not a vacation, but a world event that will have a significant impact in one way or another.  At this point, no one knows the reach, but this is certain.  The press conference is over just as quickly as it started.  Brooke was making macaroni and cheese standing by the oven on her phone when the notification came in.  We scurried to turn on the T.V.

Within minutes, they have turned on a silly movie with cartoon characters and Michael Jordan.  Their version of decompressing.  It is a lot to process for everyone, but particularly for those whose life has been relatively stable and predictable to this point.  I have faith they will gleam the good out of all to this.  Concepts such as sacrifice, gratitude, and empathy.

 

“The best teacher I know is life.  It has a strange way of humbling us and forcing us to grow and open our hearts and minds.”  Joe Duncan (CEO and Founder of Before 5am)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pandemic 2020

Day One (3/12/2020)

I mindlessly maneuver the corner as I have a thousand times before, my car window is cracked just enough to let a subtle, cool breeze in.  Today, however, feels entirely different. Brett Young’s voice is like honey in the air.  I am tranquil, which is odd given the current events.  It seems time is moving at half speed.  Even other cars pass me seemingly slower than usual.  This type of synergistic energy, I have not felt before.  Something is coming together. I sense my heart orchestrating in my ribcage and the rhythmic expansion and contraction of each breath.

“Beautiful believer

Every time I doubt myself

Before I even ask for help

She’s right there next to me

Beautiful believer”

He continues to soothe me as I make a simple, decisive list in my head.  First of all, I must call my parents.  I reach for the dial and lower the radio as I pull into my driveway.

It is my Mother’s sleepy voice that enters my senses now and I am comforted by its familiarity.  My breathing softens more.

“Mom, oh so sorry.  Did I interrupt your four o’clock nap?”

“Oh no, Maary. I was not sleeping. Is everything Ok?”

I do my best not to cause panic, but since the start of this all, my thoughts always return to them.

“Everything is fine, but I wanted to let you know that things are developing quickly and I want to be sure you have what you need. Most importantly, Phil has a good supply of his medications and that you have anything else you may need for the coming weeks.”

I share with her what I know at this point, but that things seemed to be developing rapidly.

“Oh, Maary,” she sighs, “Thank you. This is scary. Do you think I can still go for my walks?”

Next, I reach out by text to my siblings.  The word has been leaking out.  School districts are taking a lead on this and I want to be sure they are aware, be prepared for what may come.  Rumors predict that schools will be shut down for two weeks.

It was two hours prior as I readied myself for a course I am taking after school, that my professor shared this projection with my class.  She had scurried in on her phone.  It was obvious she was concerned.  She had done her best to proceed with the lesson for the afternoon, but every single one of us was distracted.

“What am I going to do for two weeks?” my classmates commented.  I could almost see everyone scratching their heads at this uncharted territory.  We had not been granted vacation for two weeks.  We recognized that much.

“I’ll write,” I immediately concluded, not fully appreciating the full scope of it all.  None of us do.  But, I do understand that this is bigger than all of us.  Beyond the library in which we sat, beyond the school, beyond the community, beyond everything.

It is my twin brother that is most responsive to my information.  I can feel his concern like telepathy and we are united in our thought processes within seconds of the exchange.  I would not call it panic, but a mutual awareness that life can change at any moment.  We understand that we must proceed with reverence to that undeniable fact as we had many times before. We faced numerous changes together and in that, we are united. This is no different.  This alliance comforts me immensely.

A text from my husband comes through before I exit my car.  He was working from home and was now in line at the grocery store.  He sends me a picture of his cart and the line.  ‘Thank god for him’, I affirm.  Our viewpoints on this whole thing differ and just last night we had a heated discussion.  I am rarely one to argue a point.  Most often, I let it go because I strongly dislike confrontation, but this felt different.  It was important that my perspective was heard.

I back my car up carefully and head back out to the pet store.  Kaiser becoming a priority next in my mind.  Check, check, check.

 

“Nothing is more important than empathy for another human being’s suffering,  Not a career.  Not wealth. Not intelligence.  Certainly not status.  We have to feel for one another if we’re going to survive with dignity.”  Audrey Hepburn

 

 

 

 

An Open Letter to my Students

To My Students,

I am your teacher. But, what you may not realize is that I am also one of your biggest supporters. I hope you understand that my words, actions and intention all stem from that fact.

I have had my successes and achievements in the healthcare profession. I have had many highs and feel incredibly fulfilled for what I have accomplished.

Now, I look to you. My success now walks in your shoes and rest in your hands. I am committed to supporting you in the path you chose. I will be with you in spirit wherever it leads you.

I ask this of you. Are you grabbing ahold of the education and opportunities presented to you or do you sit passively, uncertain or uninterested as it all passes you by?

You must know I cannot stand to see that happen. I will care more than you when I have to, but I wish I never had to.

I see you all for the struggles you must overcome, but more so for all you are capable of. I see it. In my gut. I see your face and there it is, the light that is you. The possibility; the potential you hold. Each unique and special. I cannot unsee it.

This is YOUR time and I am here to fight for it for you (or better yet… with you) how, when and if I am called to. Let’s make a mark together.

Sincerely, Mrs. Green

I Will Not Be the Last One (Part Two)

“Joan, when she graduated high school, decided to enter the military,” he offered.  His gaze returned to his faithful watch of the gray skies.

A few moments passed, “Within months she was shipped off to Germany.  She was so young.  My brother…she was his only daughter.”  He looked at me again, his eyes still not completely registering me.

“She was rapped there.  She lost the baby.  She was never right after that. She blamed herself…for everything.”

“I am so sorry Sammy.  How devastating.” My heart sank.  A call bell rang interrupting the respectful silence we were sharing.

“I visited her as often as I could, but she was never the same.  Shock treatments twice a week.  Me and my brother, we could never help her.”

He continued to share that she never married or had another child.  From what I could gather, she was hospitalized the majority of her life.

“Sammy,” I asked, “Was she ever diagnosed with a mental illness?”

“Schizophrenia,” he clarified after another period of stillness.

My heart met him at that moment.  “Oh Sammy, my brother has schizophrenia.  I understand how difficult it can be to watch your loved suffer and become someone else. You have been such a loving Uncle to her.  You did what you could.  She is being taken care of now. I want you to know you are not alone. I understand some of how you are feeling.” I utter each of these sentiments intently.  There are no truer words that could be shared with him now, his twilight years.

“I dream of her.  I cannot tell if it is her.  She is so different.  I cry as I reach to see her face,” his eyes began to well with tears.  I become concerned that I have troubled him more than anything else.

‘Damn it, Mary!’ I think to myself.

He continues, his words are heavy.  “She snaps at me, ‘Stop that crying! Stop it now!'”.

Both hands raise to his chest and he pats it slowly, his face grows flushed, “My heart, it gets me here when I think of her. Her parents are both gone now.”  Pandora’s box is open.

‘Oh Sammy, I know that feeling,’ I think to myself.

“You are such a loving Uncle.  She knows, Sammy.” I walk closer to him, around the periphery of the bed.  “I am so sorry if I upset you. I cannot leave you upset.”

He speaks with conviction now, “NO, NO!”  His voice is soft but his tone strong.  “You just helped me.  In fact,” he adds looking at me and shifting his position, “You have given me some good things to think about.”

Bending down to meet him face to face, I touch his shoulder and share, “Sammy, my name is Mary.  I want you to know I will be back.  I am grateful to have you as a new friend.”

“Mary, Mary. Yes…you will be back. Thank you, Mary,” he states and for the first time, his eyes meet mine fully registering my face.

Before I leave, I check in with his nurse.  “Please keep an eye on him today,” I request.

On the ride home, I see Sammy and Joan, the boat, the pictures.  I hear his voice.  I feel his pain.  I do not want him to leave this earth with that pain, the burden he has carried his whole adult life. I am reminded to make peace with the burdens I carry.  I resolve to be his friend so he can do the same.

And now, I am comforted knowing I will not be the last one to hear his story.

 

 

 

I Will Not Be the Last One (Part One)

The picture, once I held it, spoke a thousand words.  It had been placed on his window sill when he was admitted weeks ago to the long term care facility.  This picture and one other all that remained of his most personal possessions. It symbolized a story that would change his entire life I would soon learn.

I held it carefully in my hands and inspected the faces that looked back at me from the distant past.  Two young men casually stood by a small wooden boat.  Between them, propped up on the bow of the boat, was a young girl in a dress.  The expressions on their faces did not give any clues as to what a special day it had been.

Sammy barely spoke during our visits other than to politely answer my questions, “How are  you feeling today Sammy?”  “Did you sleep good last night?”

I am compelled to greet each one of the residents and confirm to them that I see them and that they are valued.  If I can do nothing else, I see them.

“I am doing O.K., ” he would respond slowly lifting his blank eyes to mine.  His face expressionless and his voice monotone.  But still, there was a gentleness I sensed beyond the melancholy he displayed.

Today, I slowly approached him as he sat staring out the window, past me and the photos,  in his wheelchair.  “Sammy, who is this?  Is this you?” I asked pointing to one of the young men.

His hand raised to hold the photo, his gaze shifting but his body remained still.  He brought it close to him, “Ah, that is me and my older brother.  That was a special day.” He turned and looked at me.

I smiled and folded my hands together.  He continued, “That is my niece, Joan.”  One finger raised to touch her face.  “We named the boat after her that day.”

I had learned previously that Sammy never married or had his own children.  He worked at a light fixture factory the majority of his life.  He loved to fish and had served our country. This niece had to have held a special place in his heart.

“Wow, that is a special day! Is this her too?” I asked pointing to the only other picture he had.  It was a formal picture of a young woman in a military uniform from decades ago.

I walked back around to the window sill to look at it closer.  “Yes, that is her.  That is Joan.”

He leaned towards the bed beside him and tapped it with his hand, “Can I tell you something?” he asked.  As he spoke, he lifted his face to me completely and took a deep breath.  I sensed it.  Adjusting his photo back on the window sill, I paused.  “Of course.”

“It is not good,” he added.

“That is O.K., Jimmy.  I am a nurse,” I spoke expecting him to recount a horror from a war.