2020 Sheltering in Place Random Notes During COVID-19

A story by Phyllis Merriam, LCSW from 2020

By Phyllis Merriam, LCSW

Reading about people who are sheltering in place and energetically tackling tasks and chores they’ve long ignored creates in me a combination of envy, self-incrimination and dismissiveness. I did purge and re-organize two closets in the early days of sheltering in place. But that seems so petty and common compared to other people who report they are learning a new language, like Spanish or Russian or Arabic.

Everyone has had to learn new words, acronyms or new meanings: New corona virus; COVID-19; outbreak; pandemic; “wet markets”; fever; coughing, sneezing; breathing difficulty; sudden loss of taste and/or smell; delirium; CDC; WHO; state of emergency; sheltering-in-place; stay-at-home-orders; social distancing; physical distancing; spread mitigation; flattening the curve; good hygiene practices; testing capacity; widespread testing; contact tracing systems; N95’s; PPE’s; disinfectants; thoracostomy; ventilator; prone positioning; induced coma; resurgence; suppression; surveillance; shutdown; lockdown; rebound; asymptomatic carrier; current, active, confirmed cases; quarantine; empirical evidence: data; vaccine; antibodies; stimulus checks; unemployment rates similar to The Great Depression; Dow; S&P 500; Nasdaq Composite; food and toilet paper hoarding.

Sometimes its hard to tell one day from another if there is no notable event, like Trash Day…or the kitty litter box needs cleaning. I once had a client who trained her cat to use the toilet. Would that I had such animal-trainer skills.

Our male tuxedo cat, Big Boi, now wants to be outside more, so litter box cleaning is reduced. I read that virus carriers petting domestic animals can transmit covid-19 to cats. Luckily, I don’t need to worry since Big Boi runs from strangers and even family and friends.

We have acquired a new house pet. A ladybug somehow got into the house and now lives and dines on a kitchen windowsill. She prefers raisins, grapes, oranges and small dabs of cloudberry jam. I consider giving her a name. When it’s warm enough I’ll release her into the garden. Thinking of not having the ladybug, I miss her already.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s important, what can wait or what doesn’t matter. I remain either uninformed or need a specialized class to grasp the difference between the usages of its and it's. This one remains a mysterious and unfulfilled personal skill.

In April, I did our federal and state income tax preps/returns and filings. This first sentence sounds like I know what I’m doing. Actually, I used robotax.com for the first time. It was, however, annoying to have to come up with yet another user ID and password. (I have a folder of passwords, which, if I lose, will be catastrophic because I’ll have to start all over inventing strong replacement passwords.) Robo’s coaching and simple explanations matched my primitive skill level and are reportedly confidential. Not that I’m convinced governmental confidentiality exists in much of a trustworthy manner these days, in particular. After all, I was a ’60’s activist.

Keeping track of daily news reports of what is important, what is wishful thinking, what is real science vs. pseudo-science, and our president’s constant projecting, name-calling, mismanagement and blaming others for America’s ill-prepared responses is so enervating. The news feels essentially the same and repetitive.

I have to limit my US and world news to dietary levels of no brain weight gain. Otherwise, I’d face plant into my cereal bowl from all the accumulating bad news and fake science emanating from non-professional poseurs.

The news of more positive new corona tests, hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths and the daily, hourly extreme risks and deaths of first responders and medical personnel are selflessly undertaking is too big to fit into my head and heart.

Cloudy, stormy days increase my sadness or anxiety. Being in my seventies it is inevitable that the meaning of life, in general and in the present, is much on my mind. Will I outlive this virus? Will it take me suddenly like an unseen thief? Going for walks in our yard and in our neighborhood on days when the sun shines makes everything look and seem normal, at least for a while.

I am doing daily squats in an attempt to fend off atrophy. My 5 lb. free weights hardly compare to the Y’s weight machines I was using. But they’re better than nothing. I muse about all the super-fit people I saw at the Y. They must be anxious about losing muscle tone, too. Maybe when the Y re-opens, we’ll all be unrecognizable to each other.

Have been lazy about finishing the spring yard cleanup. It's still too nippy outside to be comfortable for very long. Maybe that says something about not laboring hard enough to work up a sweat. A huge branch from a tree fell from the terrific howling winds. It’s a good thing I put off going to the mulch pile with offerings. I would either have incurred a traumatic brain injury - or worse. This time, lack of motivation had an unintended positive consequence.

I did a complete downstairs bathroom cleansing the other day, including washing the ceiling and the walls.
The ceiling and walls didn’t looking any different afterward. Not sure that’s a measurement of my motivation or the bathroom wasn’t really dirty. Now that the bathroom is pristine clean, it feels invasive to even use it. Being able to control some small part of my condensed world gives the illusion of having control when the world is out of control.

Just noticed two women walking by our house, side-by-side chatting, with one wearing what looks to be an authentic N95 mask while her companion wore none. How did the woman find a N95 and are they field-testing its effectiveness?

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