Goal Oriented In The Time Of Covid

  Download-1 My goals right now are not lofty. In fact they verge on the ridiculous. Possibly they are not even real. But still, I persist.

    First - disclaimer. The entire country is falling apart. Our political situation is terrifying.  Innocent men are murdered on the streets. There's real work to do. I get that and want to be part of it.

    BUT Anxiety Girl needs to calm herself during these stressful times. She often does this by setting goals. (Evidently she sometimes does this by referring to herself in the third person. Sorry. )

    Goal One: Street Walking. No, not that kind. Mike and I, having gotten incredibly tired of walking our own neighborhood, are now committed to walking every single street in Chappaqua. We found an old street map during the great Covid Basement Clean Out, and every day, Mike takes a light blue highlighter and marks the streets we've covered. Download-3

    Does this count as a real goal? It's completely made up and in what way is it an accomplishment? Yet, it's oddly satisfying. We have a purpose! It's more than getting fresh air and exercise. We're on a mission.

    Goal Two is far worse: my pursuit of gold trophies in the online word game "Word Streak." I think I've written about this addiction before. Every weekend I play strangers in a tournament. Results are revealed at 11 pm on Sunday night. (Not that anyone would be playing games on their iPad in bed at that hour, frantically searching for words as the minutes tick down.) Once, months ago, I came in first. For the last three weeks, I've come in seventh. Download

    It's not even a real gold trophy. It's an electronic image of a gold trophy. I doesn't even have my real name on it. My game nom de plume is ...well, best not to mention it here. And yet I spend hours, waste hours, pursuing this completely ephemeral award.

    What's wrong with me?






Return of the Grammar Police

DownloadCivilization is nearing an end - not because of Covid, but because people are now using the word "language" as a verb, i.e. "I need to language this more clearly." No, no, no! A thousand times no!

And my son, who works in education for heaven's sake,  just texted that he was in a (remote) meeting where "dialogue" was used the same way. "We will need to dialogue this." WHAT?! You may engage in a dialogue and you may speak in a language, but please, no dialoging or languaging.

I also became completely distracted during a recent Zoom meeting - held by a highly-rated college, I might add - which used the following "marketing speak."

-"We need to do some big picture framing.

-"We need to leverage the power of alumni." Download-1

-"This project is going to need some new guard rails."

-"The presentation is a good capture of where we are."

-"We need to have stakeholder input and content coalition building."

And the WORST offender: "What are our learnings from this?" I mean, it's not enough to turn nouns into verbs. Now we're turning verbs into nouns!

Yes, the Language Curmudgeon (Anxiety Girl's alter ego) knows there are horrible things going on in this world, which is why standards must be maintained.

Oh, and I recently talked to an editor at a well-known website, and he told me that that I could potentially write for "six vertical publications." I was too embarrassed to ask what a vertical publication was. Later, I googled it. Vertical publications have content focused on a particular industry, business or profession. We used to call them "trade magazines."

Back in the day when people spoke English.

CoVET 19

VetNew York refers to its shutdown as "Pause." This story is about New York's "Paws."

Humans have telemedicine, but what to do when your pet is sick or injured? 

Our two kittens are now adolescents - 7 months old. We call them "The Wrecking Crew" because between the two of them, they create a lot of chaos in this household. (Several photos of their "work" are embedded.)  Earlier this week, Van Gogh - known at the shelter as "Crazy Cat" - broke through a screen window to get outside.  WC1

The day Van Gogh made his break (he returned within an hour or two), his sister Lily was no where to be found. We assumed she'd also gotten out and was lost, frightened, up a tree or worse. It turned out though she'd been in hiding in the house.

Cat owners know that when a cat is sick or injured, they bring "sheltering in place" to a new level. Lily was finally discovered wrapped in a tight ball in the back of our closet, behind some shoes and hanging sweaters. She winced when we pet her and hadn't eaten all day.

WC2We texted the vet and she told us to bring Lily in the next morning.

Here's what vet care looks like in the age of Covid: The office is locked. The vet, in a mask, meets me at the backdoor, takes Lily in her carrier, and closes the door. She tells me to go to the side of the building, where I can watch the exam and talk to her through the window.

The photo at the top was taken through the screen. The first thing the vet did was to spray Lily with disinfectant - a diluted bleach solution. Fortunately, as you can see, she is already blonde. After the exam - Lily's back is injured, there are no bite wounds, nothing is broken but she is clearly in pain - she gave Lily two shots (for pain and for inflammation) and then disinfected her again, disinfected her carrier, wiped down the handle again, and met me at the back door to return the cat.

Have I mentioned I love my vet? When her office is open in normal times, it's a menagerie of wandering animals - half blind cats, a dog missing a leg, a turtle whose beak is broken, a weird Siamese with some kind of skin problem. These aren't patients - just animals the vet has taken in. They wander around; occasionally the cats hang out on the desk. 

There has never been a time this vet wasn't available to us, and when it was time to put our last cat down, she came to our house to do it. Maddy was put to sleep while she was lying in Mike's lap. Our vet carried her away in her favorite cat bed. ("Why should her last moments be in a place that is stressful for her?" the vet said, about her house call.)

To me, our vet is another health care hero. I'm so grateful to her. 

That said, Lily is still cowering under the bed. I think we need to give her time. Which we have.

Los dos gatos




IMG_0660This morning I texted my sister at 6 am. I was up. The problem is, she was up too. And she lives in California. Which means it was 3 am her time. This was not her "personal worst" but that's all you need to know. (Hi Sis!)

No one I know is sleeping normally anymore. They fall asleep and wake up two hours later. They can't fall asleep. They can't stay asleep. They wake up sweating or shaking or with the sheets in a knot.

Here are some Covid sleep tips. NONE Of them work:

-Don't look at the news right before bedtime and limit your exposure to the news. 

-Limit screen time before bed.

-Develop a sleep routine.

-Don't drink alcohol.

-Get fresh air and exercise.


-Try a warm bath before bed.

Repeat: None of these work. Coronasomnia is resistant to all these methods. 

Here's what works: Accepting that right now, there are some bad nights. You're just not going to sleep. The level of anxiety about the world is of the break-through variety. This is the way it is. The next day you'll be tired. And you might feel better the day after that. Or not. Chances are coronavirus will be here either way. 

Inside Story

Download-1A bit of positive news which makes me feel happy, or if not happy, at least a little proud and a little less helpless.

This week I was asked to draw up guidelines for a program in which incarcerated men and women could start keeping Coronavirus journals. The project, of course, is a remote one, and in a world that does not have Zoom, or Internet for that matter,  we try to connect the old fashion way - through (security vetted) paper.

Writing in a journal is something I feel strongly about. I started keeping a diary when I was 8-years-old.  Even as a little girl I felt a significant disconnect between what I was being told and what I actually saw happening. There was a general sense of "I better write this down."

Looking back, I think I was profoundly lonely and wanted to talk to someone. It was also a way of sorting out my confused emotions, not to mention to develop trust in my own perceptions. Those diaries were lifesavers for me, piling up over the years, with their cloth flower covers, or in my teenage years, black, no-nonsense sketch books.  Of course, prisoners won't have actual journals, but they can write down their thoughts and experiences on whatever paper that may be available to them.

So I was thrilled when asked to do this project. For inmates, keeping a journal right now is important for a couple of reasons. First, I hope it will be therapeutic for them in the same way it's always been for me. They can channel their anxiety, focus their thoughts, and hopefully better manage their stress. Second, they have an important story to tell. Only people who are locked up can tell the story of what it's like to experience the pandemic behind bars, with little way of protecting themselves. Someday the history of Covid-19 will be told. And this will be part of it. Download

There's one other thing I feel VERY strongly about. These men and women will be writing in journals.
They will NOT be "journaling." Journal is not a verb. It is a noun. For instance, we do not say we are  "diary-ing." We keep diaries or we write in them. 

Clearly all these years of writing has turned me into a curmudgeon. But standards must be upheld, even in a pandemic.

Here Comes The Sun

At my local hospital, when someone survives Covid-19 and is able to leave the hospital, they play "Here Comes The Sun" over the public address system. The medical staff lines the halls and sings along, sometimes through their masks. I have always loved this song (who doesn't?) and I nominate it as the official anthem to mark when this horrible pandemic is finally over. 



Every Day Losses

2019-05-ce-social-isolation_tcm7-255721_w1024_n"At least he lived a long life."

"At least you weren't diagnosed with a fatal disease."

"At least you have a home."

"At least you don't have to line up at the food pantry."

Brene Brown, a professor of social work who has spent years studying empathy, once said, "Rarely, if ever, does an empathetic statement begin with 'at least.'"

I've been "at least"-ing myself for a month. And my privilege is no small thing. At least I live in an area where I can take walks outside. At least I have a house. At least I can afford food. 

These are not the kind of things I would ever say to someone else, but I say them to myself constantly. And let me add, as someone who teaches in a prison, at least I'm free to protect myself from cornavirus as best I can. At least I'm free, period.

But it's important, too, to acknowledge our losses, big and small. Big - deaths of people we love from Covid-19. Inability to hold a funeral, or be with people you love who are also mourning, and to wrap your arms around them in comfort.

But Lord, the other less dramatic losses add up. Canceled weddings. Canceled trips. Canceled...every day life. I miss my (grown) children most of all - I was trying to conjure up their smell and the feel of their arms around me, and it's growing dim. I miss my friends, my work, the gym, hiking, traveling, going to the movies, restaurants, getting hair cuts, blah blah blah. 

Many of the ways that I cope with sadness and stress are also off limits  now. 

At least it's not worse. And that's true.

But it's really, really hard. 

Ghostly Google Calendar

Download-3As every day life has gotten more surreal with Covid-19, a ghost has taken residence in my computer. It hangs out in my Google calendar and makes things disappear. That mother/daughter trip to Seattle? Gone. The trip to California to see my son and daughter-in-law? Gone. Next three memoir classes to teach in prison? Disappeared. The in-person interviews scheduled with elderly folks? Not there anymore. Non-urgent doctor appointment. Vanished.

Will the April calendar, so full of plans, soon be wiped clean too? Who knows? Download

I am NOT complaining. I'm fully aware of how lucky I am to have a warm home for sheltering, a husband to be with, access to a 3 month supply of medication (covered by insurance, no less), and two kittens to cuddle. And there's always FaceTime for friends and family.

But don't you feel like time is beginning to warp? Working from home is disorienting, not going to the gym is disorienting, not keeping up my regular social contacts is disorienting. And the least said about the empty shelves in the store, the better. There must be a grocery ghost too.

Hamlet, Anxiety-Girl Style