mental health, perspective

Dust in the Wind

This past 15 months has been a train wreck on so many levels relating to school work for one of my kids. The train wreck has left carnage of a new kind spewed in or around my vicinity. My home. My email. My car. My inner circle. Just in abundance in my life.

When did it all begin.

Out of school without notice last year. The unknown. That’s when it started. 60 days. We got this. No it’s 90 days really. Or maybe 120 days but who’s counting. Not me because it’s temporary. Pain is temporary, right?

Into a summer semester for two classes to get ahead. Sounded simple pre-pandemic when it was arranged. Of course, in ordinary times taking extra classes is no big deal. Add a pandemic and your world is shaken to the core. Isolation. Digital learning when you need human interaction. Anti-glare glasses are now needed due to extended learning time online.

Back to school in fall of 2020. Out of school again after a few weeks. Rules change. Deal with it! You pull yourself together to get through that semester. Back to school again in the new year. Fresh start you think. Fear, anxiety and so much more as kids drop like flies in your class for being contact traced. A ruler is now a measuring stick. If the ruler says you are quarantined, off you go. No questions asked.

Fear. Shock. Isolation. Anxiety. Back online you go. What other choice do you have. More self-learning. More self-discipline. Is that too much to expect at my age? 

Shut out again. No people. Lack of purpose. Why do I need to do work. Digital sucks the life out of me. Kids are mean on Zooms. I can’t ask questions. Learning is hard. I’m depressed. Learning math remotely. Learning an advanced foreign language online. I feel alone. Lost. Depressed. Anxious. Scared. Failure is not an option. Or is it? Who cares. Who really cares. I was put in this box. This virtual box.

My parents hound me. My teachers hound me. It’s never ending. The counselors are over burdened. Expectations are still high. Everyone cheats. What is right? What is wrong? Is it over yet? Did I even pass? This year really sucked. It sucked for my kid and it sucked for my family.

Summer break. A reset button of sorts. Travel. Fun. No have tos. That’s what the doctor ordered. That’s what mom needs. That’s what I need. 

I need my friends. I need my social connections. I just want to hang out at the mall again. Maybe go to a movie. Maybe just not being trapped in the pandemic bubble. The virtual bubble.

College is in sight. My gpa needs an inflation pump. I need my sanity. I’m not alone. Many have side effects from the pandemic. Everyone has their own story.

Cheers to summer vacation and the shit that is in rear view. All of it. Good riddance. All I see is dust in the wind.

A special shout out to those of our readers from Singapore. We appreciate you visiting.

Bye Felicia!

celebrations

That Time of Year

Graduations. Awards ceremonies. End of year gatherings. Oh how fortunate one feels to be in public this year celebrating others. A gift of sorts. Really it is if you compare it to what others missed in 2020.

For me I’m selfishly excited. First I’m happy to celebrate others. Next to celebrate being able to celebrate at all. And finally to secretly honor those who missed their chance last year. The chance they can’t get back as time has moved on.

As we celebrate in any fashion this year let’s think of those who missed out last year. Some missed graduation. Others missed a normal funeral to honor a loved one lost. Many missed their wedding day. Some missed a big award day they waited many years to be a part of. Maybe even a final season of one’s sports team was missed. 

This year I went to a graduation. It was masked. It was socially distanced. It was different. But I was able to participate and celebrate the graduate. I didn’t take that lightly this year. While waiting I had many thoughts or reflections. It’s was an eye-opening experience in many ways. An awakening.

I went to a college signing event this year. I listened to the stories. The athletes who sustained season ending injuries in 2019 causing pain and rehabilitation to prepare for 2020 seasons only to have a pandemic hit. Only to emerge in 2021 to rise again and overcome. I would have missed these stories as they are not in the headlines yet deserve a spotlight as do the other untold stories. I may cheer in silence but I’m celebrating all who missed that opportunity for whatever reason I’m 2020. 

This experience also gave me a whole new level of understanding for playing like there is no tomorrow. Every game is like your last. Leave it all on the line. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed on or off the field.

Now that we are in 2021 and restrictions are lifted I seem to be on the go. Go here go there. Do I complain about being busy? Yes. Would I want to be in isolation? Heck no! I do however need to be able to pause and make sure I don’t miss celebrating others due to my busy schedule. For the reasons I noted above, others need the chance to celebrate in 2021 because so much was missed in 2020.

I may have too many graduations to make them all but I will send that card. Send that text. Make that call. It’s an important step in 2021. For all those virtually reading this I’m sending you a celebratory high five if you are in need of celebrating. For those of you who have the opportunity to celebrate a milestone in 2021, make it a point to honor others.

It feels good to celebrate others. If you have somebody in your life who missed something big in 2020, send them a follow up this year. A card. A note. A call. A secondary celebration for making it a great year despite the blah of 2020. Why not? We have so many have-tos in life why not just do something different. 

friendship, mental health

I Heard the Whisper

I don’t have any friends.

Silence.

I don’t have any friends said the social teen girl. Pause. Reflect. Think.

The beautiful girl is right. She has acquaintances. She has teammates. She has adults that are supportive. She has siblings. Unfortunately she is missing the friends piece of the equation. True friends.

The bestie or group of pals that come over to hang out. The girls that go to the movies. The inner circle of sorts. What could have happened to this social butterfly.

One word sums it up: corona.

Corona has taken away spontaneous trips to the mall. Quarantine has limited gatherings at other homes. Fear has lurked in every home limiting activities. The list goes on and on.

In this community two teens have died by suicide in the last 10 days. I can’t ignore that. I can’t understand a day in the life of these teens. Their desire to end their lives is the solution to their perceived problems at that time. We have to listen to these cries even if they are masked.

So many no you can’t. So much time alone. So many milestones and memories being missed in isolation. So much time is solitude in their room. Many sleep it off. Many struggle for daily motivation.

Who does the cheerleader role fall on when parents work? What if the teen is an only child? Is the school talking about this subject with this vulnerable age?  Are they offering parents solutions? Why no they are talking about tests scores and must complete your assignments or even pick your schedule for next year.

Do administrators even consider what a day in the life of a teen is like in isolation? They lost their friends. They lost their home away from home that is school. They lost competition in the classroom. The lost giggles in the hallway. They even lost their imagery. Always covered in a mask. Gasping for air. The image of themselves in a super cute outfit on the first day of school. Shopping for a prom dress. So many important things for a girl in her formative years.

Instead they get to go to the drive thru with their parents. Maybe a Netflix movie in the same place they eat, sleep, socialize, go to school, etc. (their house). Maybe weekends of extra homework because they lack the motivation to do it on day 1 when it was due. The list of blah goes on and on.

I see this cycle repeated. I try to engage my teen to give her fulfillment in the tiny box that is currently around her. It’s by no means perfect but it’s what I can offer today.

I often wonder if she drove and had a car if it would be different. Would being mobile allow her to wave at friends from the curb but allow her time to smile away from the homestead. I don’t have these answers. I may never have them.

For today I will enjoy the time I have. Tomorrow is not guaranteed for anyone. Memories last forever. Today I will make memories with her.

Parents don’t forget to look around you. Right in front of you. Listen. Spot the abnormalities and take action. Any action that lets them notice you see them. You hear them. You want to be with them. They need you. They don’t always feel like they have anyone left. Corona has taken much from many.

Don’t let environmental conditions take away another bright future.

This post was sparked by the song Pink just released with her daughter Willow, Cover Me in Sunshine. Pink noted they sang the song because it makes them happy and they wanted to share it to make others happy. They did it together. Today I will cover those around me in sunshine for no other reason than to make them happy.

Enjoy today. No matter how shitty things may be tomorrow. Every day is a new day to get covered in sunshine.

perspective

Pandemic Dilemmas

(A note: sometimes posts for our blog sit on the backburner. There’s all kinds of reasons for this. The post below was written in April 2020.  It has lived in the drafts folder ever since.  Current news and trends brought it back to mind these past couple of weeks, and it seems as relevant as it was then, if not more so. The resources I worry about most now are our health care workers, but as you can read, those worries were already bubbling up last April.)

It was the classic problem.

Hans has a sick child.  Hans is poor and can’t afford the medicine his child needs to live.  Is Hans morally wrong for stealing the medicine his child needs to survive?

In the eyes of the law, sure he would be wrong.  Stealing is a crime. He doesn’t have the right to take what belongs to someone else.  But is he blameworthy?  If he does it, should he go to jail for it?  If he doesn’t steal it, isn’t there a different kind of penalty?

I was a philosophy major in college, specializing in ethics, or figuring out right / wrong / morality. I shouldn’t say figuring it out, since we rarely if ever got to the bottom of anything.  But we spent a lot of time thinking about Hans and these sticky situations, where different people have different rights and those rights cross or conflict.  Moral dilemmas.  So many of the ones that interested me most involved relationships, deciding who is more important, and trying to figure out a good reason why.

I’ve had my moments of anxiety during the course of the coronavirus so far.  But it’s the dilemmas that trouble me most. I get deeply, truly sad when I think about health care workers being forced to make decisions about who has access to life saving medical equipment if supplies are running out.

Here’s an example: Two 50-year old men come in to the ER at roughly the same time, in roughly the same condition, same medical history. About the only meaningful difference is that one of them has three kids, one of them has none. Should that be the deciding factor if only one of them can have a ventilator?

Of course, it only gets more complicated.  What if the one with the kids is overweight and pre-diabetic while the other is in good overall health.  Or one is married, the other is a widower (and what if the one with the kids is the widower, or the one without kids…does that matter?)  One is an affluent business owner with many employees who depend on him, the other is on public assistance.  One is insured, the other is not.  One is African American, the other is White. Add in factors of gender, age, medical history, addiction, other ailments that might be seen as patient life choices (like smoking) and others that are genetic.  You can see how the picture gets very complicated very quickly.  What matters?  What doesn’t?  Who decides?

In our medical ethics classes, we would talk about assisted suicide and the problems with a doctor “playing God,” deciding who lives and who dies…or in the coronavirus case, who even has the chance.

I know a taste of this, from when I was the one who made the decision to take my father off of breathing support to effectively end his life.  Even though he had prepared me to do it and I felt confident it was the right thing, it still stays with me. I will just say that all of this is simpler when it is clear cut.  Still, it is not simple and never easy.

I know there are people who question if this whole pandemic is real.  If all the staying at home and disruption of our daily lives is necessary.  As a member of a family who is supported by a restaurant, I face the same economic uncertainty that has so many people anxious, restless, angry, and scared. I can’t minimize that suffering, but I hope that the help in our communities and from our leaders will sustain us for a little while until we can get the virus more or less medically managed.

What wakes me up at night, though, is thinking of the doctors.  The nurses.  The medical heroes whose hearts and minds will be scarred from watching people die that they truly wanted to help.  That they could have and would have made a valiant effort to save in nearly any other circumstance.  The people they eventually had to walk away from because there wasn’t enough equipment to go around. The trauma to their hearts and minds is immeasurable, not to mention all the people who might not have a chance to survive if we run out of ICU resources.

I believe these moments say much about our values as a culture, as a society. Can we just sit tight for a little bit? Can we help our neighbors and loved ones survive this strange and challenging moment in history?  In my mind, if we can prevent the damage to those who care for us and give everyone a chance to get access to care, as they say flattening the curve can, we should.  If you doubt that this is a real thing, please find a health care worker and listen to them.  Please.

There are a million other issues with this situation.  Reasons to be angry, stressed, depressed.  Some day I may write about my worries over my students now trying to learn at home.  Or the heroism of medical workers who continue to show up and do their jobs when they are inadequately protected.  Or the many other front line workers, often forgotten and in high risk but low-paying jobs.

Surely, some day soon I may be writing about an actual Hans, who lost his hours at his job and needs medicine for his kids. Those stories are out there and more are coming.  The economic, social, mental, and physical impacts will be spinning out for years and years. Once this initial crisis has passed, we will turn our full attention to the suffering of many other groups who need help, who need heart, who need solutions. We will be writing about this for a long time. This is an endurance test. Both our patience muscles and our helping muscles must grow, strengthen, and sustain throughout this marathon.

But for now, in this initial fury, I worry for the doctors and nurses and patients.  It takes me back to those college classrooms, before I had kids of my own, when Hans’s predicament was nothing more than an interesting little thought experiment to ponder. Now I have kids.  And a lot more to lose.  I don’t wish true dilemmas on anyone.  While there is a choice, there is no win.

mental health, Uncategorized

Gift of Words

I’ve mentioned the challenges of working in an elementary school during this time of COVID. Telling the kids to spread out. Masks all the time. So. Much. Sanitizer. Constant changes. One of the reasons I wanted to work in an elementary school is honestly because it seemed playful and fun. That hasn’t always proven true, and this fall has been even less fun than usual.

In typical years, the time between Thanksgiving and Winter break at an elementary school is equal parts festive and frantic. We have 15 days to cram in two month’s worth of learning and celebrating. The schools I’ve been in go all out with decorations, which means trees, menorahs, stockings, and so on. It’s also the wrapup of the first half of the year, so we pile tons of tests in there just to add to the excitement (and panic).

This year was different. Widespread testing is postponed or canceled for the most part in elementary schools where I live. And when I got back from Thanksgiving break there were no trees going up, no stockings… maybe just a handful of stars and tinsel in the hallways. The lights and energy of the holidays are usually palpable when you walk through the front door. This year no one would have known it was December.

My job has changed so I am not telling stories to kids anymore right now, so no Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Christmas tales. Last year I made a tree out of ancient textbooks. I also have a little sliver tree with international ornaments. The kids love these touches. This year I didn’t find time with all my other shifting responsibilities.

Every year has also brought a dress up countdown for teachers, 12 Days of Christmas style. We all wear red one day, silver the next, silly socks on Tuesday, crazy hats Thursday. I wore my tacky Christmas sweater on the right day and I was the only one who did! Most of us are so tired and beat up we are just lucky to be dressed and physically present. December, such a special, silly time of celebration and connection, was just more show-up-and-get-it-done days.

The twelve days also bring treats at times. Hot cocoa after school. Cookies in the mailroom. Pancakes from the local breakfast place. I generally skip all that since too much sugar makes me sleepy. But one morning, when I returned from my morning outdoor duty all dressed up in my tacky garb, a piece of paper caught my eye. It was a paper, to me, thanking me for my gift of flexibility. A quote from Picasso about finding your purpose and sharing it. A short explanation of how I have adapted to every role and challenge this year. An appreciation.

It was a simple thing. A word. An acknowledgement. A recognition that in this crazy time, I have played my role as best I can. And what I do matters. Then I noticed that every teacher’s door in the school had a similar paper.

I made excuses the rest of the day to walk around the building, dropping off items or doing other errands. But what I really wanted to do was see other colleague’s notes – what gifts did our administration identify in them? Kindheartedness. Generosity. Passion. Good humor. Creativity. I nodded my head at each one. Maybe not what I would have said is most important about that person, but each one still rang true. Some of them made me laugh since they were gifts I often struggle with. Efficiency. Patience. Productivity. Focus. Again I nodded, but understood why those weren’t top of mind for me.

This has been a year of challenges. My job has changed at least weekly, sometimes daily. Stress levels have brought patience muscles to their breaking point for many, even me. While the cookies and chocolate are sweet, the gift that meant the most to me was just some words and the knowledge that what I am doing is seen.

Who around you needs to be seen? Who can you lift up with a word or two? Who brings a gift to your life just by being in it? I hope you’ll take a minute to let them know this week. Words are precious gifts.