nonessential workers & their hardships

I am considered an essential worker, and for that I am essentially grateful. Our small little branch oversees the financial affairs of over a hundred households scattered across the United States. Although I could service all their needs from home, the space we occupy within a large cluster of buildings is mostly empty. So, two of us continue to occupy it.

As a result, my routine isn’t much different. Sure, there are small adjustments. My husband is always home. I never used to come home to him, and even just knowing he’s home while I’m here is a foreign feeling. Another difference: there’s a Starbucks a walk away from our building, and I used to walk to it nearly every day for a brief escape. I didn’t want to become a regular at a Starbucks, it kinda happened out of necessity for breaking up my day. When I walked inside, the cafe had bells on the door. The baristas would look up and say, “Hi Christina!” cheerfully, because they knew my name as it was listed on the mobile app. I’m a Chrissy, by the way.

I never thought I’d miss that greeting. Never thought I’d miss the inside of a Starbucks. It feels silly. I’d certainly prefer supporting a smaller coffee shop. We’re just not the type of area that holds them up, unfortunately. I’m getting away from the point: I miss the strangers that know me as Christina.

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“hey, can we reschedule?”

This is embarrassing because I’m about to start writing about thoughts I’m having which are rather… well, they’re rather selfish. I realize after I add a category, some tags, click “Publish…”, and wait about an hour; I’ll think back on this post and might even delete it.

But it has to be said.

I am enjoying my friendless weekends in social isolation. Immensely.

As someone closing in on their mid-thirties, recently married to their significant other of ten years, with a new dog, and no other responsibilities aside from work – I understand my situation perfectly. I understand I don’t have to care for small children and explain this new normal to them. I understand I’m not struggling with being recently laid off or wondering if I will be. I’m not fearful of bills coming in. I don’t have a sickly mom or dad in assisted living or a nursing home. Both our families are in decent health. And both of our jobs are reasonably secure.

I could spend a lot of time in a state of anxiety for other people, letting empathy wash over me. I can’t help feeding into it occasionally. If I spend too much time reading the latest news, or I walk Gigi through an empty parking lot (formerly crammed with life), those are the times I notice a feeling of uneasiness. There’s this restaurant that remains open for take out and to-go orders, and it sounds deceptively alive. They blast music on their outdoor patio, and Frank Sinatra croons to no one over empty checkered table clothes. The anxiety makes me bristle, and my thoughts begin to free fall.

But I’m still enjoying my friendless weekends in social isolation. Immensely.

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#amid

Working through feelings here, as my new pup chews a new squeaky toy in my lap.

I’ve settled in the living room, propping up my laptop on our velvety ottoman. A glass of wine at my left, Gigi (and squeak toy) on my right. I’m not working at home anymore, since our office building is basically empty anyway. I know I’m lucky to have a place of comfort to go, and a place of comfort to return. It’s when I return that things feel wonky.

My husband still works from home, and things are less settled for him and the business he has helped grow for the last six years. He’s doing his best, but tensions are high for him. He’s rightfully anxious and afraid, and he works so hard to uplift those who work with him, to make sure the company survives. They are more like a family, and you can see the family wilting from not seeing each other enough in person. What’s truly amazing is how they press on.

I’ve been home for about an hour now. I’ve let Gigi out, I’ve played with her, and I’ve filled my own personal anxieties with various snacks. An orange, a few Mary’s crackers with lemon dill hummus, and then because the crackers weren’t quite satisfying enough – pretzels. Why not dip those, too?

Finally I caved to the one thing I wanted, and the one thing I promised myself I wouldn’t have the last time I wrote in here. Vino rosso.

I’m doing that thing where I say to myself: it’s okay. You’re doing your best. We’re all just doing our best. And I genuinely mean it. The fact that I can shower regularly, dress up for my day, take care of my dog, take care of my husband, keep my house neat, and show up for regular workouts… is enough. So what’s wrong with the glass of wine? What’s wrong with getting the munchies and feeding the anxious hole?

Gigi makes a leap for my wine glass. She’s already developed a bit of an interest in the substance as it lingers around the rim. I’m sorry for this because I got her around the time the pandemic started, and I believe she now associates me with the stuff.

So, back to the answer. What’s wrong with it?

I guess nothing, when it comes down to it. It’s not interfering with relationships, it’s not interfering with work, it’s not interfering with my ability to care for a dog. But it is a bit of a nagging sensation, isn’t it? The sensation that you can’t cope without mollifying yourself with something – food, alcohol, television, scrolling.

Maybe all we can do is take it a day at a time. An hour at a time? Wow! A scroll free hour. Gold star for you. No alcohol today? You’re a freaking genius.

I’ve done neither, and Gigi still wags her tail approvingly at me. That’s enough for now.

 

social (media) isolation

I guess the worst part about knowing you have an addiction to an object is when you’re in a happy moment, and you want to reach for it. It won’t add to the happy moment, but you feel inclined to grab it, to feel it, to see it, to scroll through it. Why?

In my last post I wrote about what I was doing right during this global crisis. I give myself a lot of reassurance in this. My best moments are honestly outdoors with Gigi. We maintain social distance, but I’m phone free, smiling, and noticing everything her eyes notice. Not in an anxious way, because that sounds pretty anxious, but in a beautiful way. A family of mallards swimming through the pond across the street; we watch together. A squirrel checking her out from an oak tree. The breeze pulling a branch along the street spookily. She reacts a little, I correct, and I love that process; we’re here to observe.

It’s probably good to give ourselves props right now. Good to feel proud, good to recognize accomplishments, small or big. I’ve always been that person who is layering on levels of self-growth, as I know most of us are. So what’s happening right now to deter that growth? I think it’s valuable to go easy on ourselves, to not correct our own bad behavior in an admonishing way. We’re all doing our best. However, as time stretches on, I do feel the need to correct some things. And that’s why I’m writing this.

I’m giving myself two goals to get through this next week. Two seemingly simple goals to stop habits I think creeped up into a negative space.

  • Nightly cocktails. I’ve made a habit of pouring myself a glass or two (or three) of something to give myself a boost. I think it’s time to save it for weekends, and I’d like to start tonight – even if it is a Sunday. I think I’ve had enough for this week.
  • Screen time. The jokes about it increasing are many; what it does to your mental state as it increases is no joke. Again, I don’t want to reach for any object during a happy moment. Even if it is just to take a photo. I’d rather enjoy the moment.

In exchange, I think I’ll write and read as much as I can. That sounds overly simplified, but I know I genuinely like to do those two things. And if it means I’m cranking out more posts in here, or having more observations? Great.

I also hope to enjoy the outdoors (six feet apart) even more. Lastly, and probably most importantly, I’ll share space with my husband and Gigi that isn’t interrupted by an object, or a drink, or a wish to do both.

 

wh o o ps

Why haven’t I been writing at all during one of those most crucial times to write? Not to be read. To be released.

I’ve encountered so many different takes on this global pandemic; except for those who have been sick and deeply impacted it in that way. I know we are fortunate. The personalities I encounter range from the laissez faire (completely oblivious and borderline stupid). The panic-stricken (fueled by anxiety and fear and stuck in the future). The ones who are in-between yet strangely disconnected. The people who are tired from managing their jobs, striving to keep their jobs, all while running a household. The people who take care of the elderly who are isolated even more than they already were.

It’s enough to make you sit in a corner and scream.

But, I’ve got Gigi.

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the speaker

I was speaking in front of eight little girls. Between ages nine and ten, maybe? Girl Scouts. Juniors. I was part of helping them earn a Muse badge, which sounds super flattering.

They were interviewing me. I was able to talk about my roles in life, and stereotypes for girls their age, and women in my industry (finance & fitness). It’s interesting because in both fields, being a woman can be both a tool and a (perceived) weakness.

My goal during the talk was to have at least one of them connect to something I said. Maybe not such an ambitious goal, but I’m aware of the distractions that come with their age, events, donuts (they were ten feet away from all of us!), and nervous energy.

I felt like we were all clicking, and it was coming to an end, but not until their last question. “What part of the Girl Scout Law do you identify with the most?” I’m sorry to say, having not been a Girl Scout for twenty-some years, I did not recall any bit of the Girl Scout Law. A girl named Addison was kind enough to point it out behind me. I quickly scanned it, and like a word that was highlighted in a word search puzzle, I saw courageous. To be courageous.

I quickly turned around and faced all of them and repeated it back, boldly.

I told them I had spent most of my thirty-three years on this planet being afraid. Terrified of everything. Making friends. Dating. Driving. College. A regular Chuckie Finster (they don’t get that reference). Don’t get me wrong, I honed talents privately, too. Drawing. Writing. Weight lifting. Singing. I didn’t claim to be amazing at any of ’em, but I honed them. And still, I sat back. Afraid to show any part of myself. “To have courage” is everything in order to achieve something. And I felt myself uttering a cliché that has never felt more real for me: “if you’re not doing something that scares you, you’re not growing.”

I revealed that I was even scared to stand up in front of all of them, but that by doing it – I was learning something huge about myself. And I watched all of their faces relax, with big smiles of understanding. Maybe I surpassed my unambitious goal.

We’re all afraid. Some of us get used to the fear, and we do big things.

Some of us take it a little slower.

LINE ME BACK UP, baby.

Dr Smiar’s blue gloves are in my mouth, and as I look up at his wiry Kenny G frame (hair too, except he’s a blonde), I feel as foolish as we all feel with someone’s hands spreading open our mouth, you know – in a non-sexual way.

Not that I was thinking about sexual things in Dr Smiar’s office.  It’s an orthodontics office, for Chrissakes! We were surrounded by middle schoolers – or maybe they’re younger.  I can’t tell anymore.

Dr Smiar does this thing where he pats my arm reassuringly after we talk about my teeth.  When I gaze down at my shoes, pointed toward one another, I feel exactly like I’m one of the kids in that open-air treatment room.  I look to my left at someone I hopes name is Bobby.  He looks like a Bobby.  He’s staring at his phone.  Shit, I didn’t think to grab my phone.  I look to my right at someone I hopes name is Molly.  I don’t know, it’d be funny if kids named Molly and Bobby were sitting to the right and left of me, that’s all.  I imagine they’re my angel and devil.  Bobby’s obviously the devil.  Molly doesn’t need to be on her phone, she’s sweetly looking straight ahead out of the large glass window.

Maybe I’m creepy, staring at the kids next to me.  But it doesn’t matter, I’m a young lady; I can stare.  I think this defiantly, as I square my shoulders and try to keep my head back.  There’s a squirrel trying to get into a bird feeder, what a bastard.  And Smiar has returned, seated on his stool which is much bigger than his ass, advising me to be sure I wear my retainer nightly this time.

When I answer him, it’s like my voice is exactly the same voice as a sixth grader.  Besides, I have the slightest lisp. I shuffle out of my seat and feel happy to be back there, as if I’m not thirty-two at all, I’m twenty-seven again.  My teeth only shifted a bit since then, but I’m vain enough to notice it.

Bobby’s still firmly attached to his phone, and I want to “tsk” at him, but I really kind of get the devil.

anti-secco

This feels hard.  I’m gonna get myself into it by saying I smell like peppermint right now. Peppermint is always cooling, but I feel warm.  Maybe it’s the cup of tea I just consumed at a feverish pace, maybe it’s the glow of the soft light by my arm, or the timer counting down minutes to write.

I’m warm and I have things to say and I wish I didn’t.  I wish I could quiet my thoughts and not care about this particular subject.

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a honeysuckle lined fence

When I was a child, summer was the best thing in the world.  I took it for granted, like all kids do.  Or at least – kids who are fortunate enough to be born in a world without struggle.  And I sit in my guilt for being a kid who had zero struggle.  Not a freaking care in the world.  This doesn’t mean struggle didn’t find me in its own complicated way, as it does for all of us.  But my summers in childhood?  They were as perfect as the word summer itself.

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fraternal

I filled out a form on the internet for a doctor’s appointment.  It asked for specific family history of mental illness.  I was to name the mental illness and the relation to the person with it.  I froze for a few minutes as I thought of my sisters, two out of three with varying degrees of mental illness.  My hands hovered over my keyboard.

I typed out my twin sister’s illness, and froze again.  Not ready to move down the form.

I considered my own time on this planet with the possibility of mental illness.  Thirty-one years.  I’ve spent a lot of those years feeling distracted, hidden, sad, aloof, uncertain, scared, anxious.

Frozen.

My relationship with my twin had always been fragile.  It isn’t now but,  we fought a lot.  I think most twins do.  People want to believe twins have a poetic synergy, finish each other’s sentences, or have some kind of Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen vibe (before they needed to become gaunt shadows of their celebrity).  Often people prefer twins to be Parent Trap-esque and adorable with one another.

When I tell people I have a twin their eyes widen with intrigue, as though I revealed a layer to my personality.  “Are you identical?” Inevitably follows.

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