Pandemic Diary: Where Are We?

July 10, 2020

nature summer yellow animal
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

To you, this lioness may be yawning — to me, she is roaring and royally pissed off. She is ready to claw, bite, and tear something apart limb by limb.

On June 10, 2020, a month ago today, I posted my last blog post before I took a much-needed break from blogging. On that day, with all the chaos in this country, like millions of others, I felt like I was screaming into the abyss and no sound came out.

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit in late February, I’d felt raw, exposed, frightened, frustrated, and angry that 45 wasn’t doing a damn thing to contain the virus or prevent more infections and deaths. The Governors were on their own. Soon, states were reopening left and right. My neighbors weren’t wearing masks or practicing social distancing. People in some states were defying stay-at-home orders and congregating in churches, parks, bars, restaurants, and on beaches. Who are these people? As the number of infections and deaths grew, my anger and frustration grew. I felt we would never get out of this virus mess, but important changes were taking places in other ways.

Some days, my anger reached unhealthy places, where my sleep patterns, appetite, and concentration were affected. My mood was negative, I could feel my blood pressure rise, and my attitude was shitty at best. The anger felt like the day 45 was elected. Worse than his mistreatment of Puerto Rico and its citizens after Hurricane Maria. Much worse than when the US government put immigrant children in cages and then lost thousands of those innocent and unprotected children. That still causes me to lose sleep.

I needed a break. I needed to write. I needed quiet, balance, and peace. I needed my garden. I needed my children. I wanted to escape. I didn’t know how long I’d be away from blogging. I’d set no date. I wasn’t depressed–it was anger fueled by fear, the unknown, and my extreme disgust of this government, our laws, and the greed and callous disregard for human lives. Too much toxicity, I heard over and over from friends and family members. I agreed with them. I’m a retired 62-year-old woman dealing with solo quarantine–it can get difficult when you don’t have many people to bounce things off of and discuss–you can lose perspective.

During my month-long break, I didn’t write in my daily journal. I didn’t read and I stopped watching the news as I’d been doing each night from 6-11 since 2016. I donated to good causes and enjoyed my coffee on the kitchen patio that overlooks my thriving vegetable gardens. I listened to the birds, watched the clouds. I gardened, baked bread, caught up with family and friends on Zoom, cooked good meals, and each evening I watched one or two classic films. And thank God, I was able to work on my novel. I wrote and worked with my critique group each week. Thanks to them, I learned a great deal in a short amount of time that enhanced my story in many beautiful ways.

A week in, I’d felt better. My shoulders lowered, I stopped grinding my teeth at night (it wakes me up), and I started eating better again. Lord knows I slept better.

Tonight, alas, the lawless crap continues. Trump commuted Roger Stone’s sentence. AG Barr, Trump’s bagman, as he is called, is still out of control…there is no rule of law in this country, it’s abuse after abuse after abuse. Where the hell are we headed as a country? November can’t come soon enough.

I wish I could end this blog post on a positive note but that would seem like a lie. From what I’ve read, many states are right smack back to where they were in March with this virus. Close the states. Yes, again! There’s no other way. If my kids were younger, no one could force me to send them back to school. It’s not safe.

We are no better off now than we were in March.  Actually, it’s worse. We are in trouble, deep trouble. God help us all.

Be well, wear your mask, and stay safe. Resist. Take care of yourselves.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in turn of the century Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses. The author currently lives in West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1926 Puerto Rico. Eleanor’s adult children are in the world doing amazing things, which fills her with enormous pride. She is still in quarantine with her buddy, a Chihuahua named Sophie.

 

 

 

 

In Solo Quarantine: Hanging In There

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Photo by Flora Westbrook on Pexels.com

April 3, 2020

I realize my blog posts are all over the place, but my thoughts and emotions are all over the place. I’m amazed I can write at all. So, good morning. I hope you are well.

This global pandemic is highlighting (and forcing) the need for change in the world. That’s a heavy statement, I know. The list is long: global warming; protecting the environment, our oceans, rivers, animals, and our precious resources, which include protecting the most vulnerable people in our societies. In light of covid-19, however, the most pressing and vital change needs to be our nation’s lack of preparedness for future pandemics and other global catastrophes. The United States failed Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in 2017 after Hurricane Maria and it is failing now. I could talk your ear off, rant, and complain about why the US is in the pathetic state of preparedness, readiness, we’re in, but I won’t go there on Palm Sunday. I will say that I would feel a whole helluva lot better if New Orleans native General Russell L. Honore and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo were running this country today.

Making changes in society and in the world, often requires personal changes in attitudes and behavior first, attitude adjustments, if you will. Today, however, most of us are having to reach deep to hang onto any semblance of normalcy and balance in our personal lives and in the lives of those whose care we are responsible for like our elderly family members and children still living at home. I’m surviving this pandemic as a single person, which is tough. I chose to live alone ten years ago, but a mandatory stay-at-home order is another beast altogether. There is no one to run to the grocery store for me and should I fall ill, I’m on my own. My neighbors have already agreed to take Sophie (my dog) if anything happens to me. It’s the first thing I thought of when things started to get ugly.

Anyone experiencing this horror alone has my respect. All healthcare workers, doctors, nurses, and anyone on the frontline of keeping this country running have my heart and eternal gratitude.

The most important thing I’m doing is trying new methods of coping with and working through negative thoughts and uncertainty and incorporating new ways to balance my life under tremendous pressure and strain. A few years ago, I would have told you that going organizing a household move with two teenagers from Europe to the United States after a marital separation was the most difficult thing I’d ever faced. That was a cakewalk compared to living through this virus. You know, I bet I could write a comedy skit about the comparisons, but that’s for later…much later. God knows it’s okay to laugh, cry, and laugh some more, though. Humor keeps me sane along with my garden and staying in good touch with my kids, family members, and good friends.

I don’t know about you, but my brain has worked overtime these past weeks, in good ways and in some not-so-good ways. At times, my fight or flight reflex has also worked overtime, which I know can’t be sustained without causing damage to my healthy body and mind. It feels like we’re living in a Ground Hog Day/science fiction film–a never-ending epic of iffy, should we, shouldn’t we? outings to forage for food and supplies; quarantining at home with others or alone; and being mindful to wipe down each item our hands come into contact with, including disinfecting our shoes in a tray of bleach before entering our homes and doing the same for our car keys and credit cards. Nothing seems familiar. For most of us, daily routines have changed, unless you live in the eight states with no stay-at-home order, which is insane…I can’t imagine. The incredible part to me is that each person on this planet is dealing with varying degrees of anxiety and fear, and we’re all doing the best we can with what we have or don’t have. Yet, people still go out and congregate, even in states with stay-at-home orders. It boggles the mind.

A few days ago, my daughter emailed a useful and informative link to the website of Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, which I was grateful to receive and happy to pass along to you. Bessel van der Kolk is a Dutch psychiatrist, author, and educator, who specializes in trauma and stress. He offers webcasts, resources, and tips on how to cope and manage stress in traumatic situations. I highly encourage you to check him out and give him a listen.

https://www.besselvanderkolk.com

His videos did me a world of good. I felt more in control of my life, my body, and my mental health, which I know how to do in theory, but I needed to hear it again. I needed the reminder. I took the good doctor’s advice about moving my body, and after being too sedentary this past winter, I worked in the garden today. I mowed the lawn for the first time this year, aired out the damp gardening shed, and pulled weeds from the vegetable and herb garden and the flower beds. The sun’s warmth on my body felt amazing and my mood improved. I certainly felt more positive than earlier in the week. Weather permitting, I’ll be out in the yard tomorrow.

My most heartfelt prayers are with those who’ve lost precious loved ones to this horrific virus. My heart is with everyone fighting for their lives. Please hang on and fight, we need you.

Be safe. Be strong. Stay home, if not for yourself, then for others who are at high risk.

Eleanor x

***

April 4, 2020

As I sit on my kitchen porch admiring the beauty around me, I realize you’d never guess anything is wrong in the world, nothing seems amiss. It’s a beautiful Spring morning and like every year, the plants, bushes, and trees are doing what they do this time of year–they blossom, thrive, and begin to crowd each other for precious sunlight. The only thing that’s different on my street and in my city is there is very little traffic, no foot traffic, and the constant whine of ambulances often drowns out the birdsong. I’ve learned to focus harder and to practice patience–the birdsong always returns.

Last night, my son and his girlfriend set up a family video chat. We logged in from four US states and from Thailand. It was nice to see their smiling faces as we sipped our drink of choice and checked in for the first, two-family hangout since covid-19 reared its ugly head.

This morning, I joined a conference call with my sister, my stepmom, and the woman who cares for my 89-year-old father in a VA-sponsored home in South Florida. We are understandably worried about my father, who suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s. We, his family, needed to hear him and we wanted to let his caregiver know we are here for them. It’s more important than ever to connect with our friends and loved ones. We are planning on a video call soon.

A funny aside—my dad was enjoying his breakfast when we called, which we were hoping to avoid because he seems able to only focus on one thing at a time. So after telling us he was fine and at his caregiver’s gentle nudging, he told us he loved us, he added, “Bye! Now get the hell outta here!” We cracked up and kept repeating, “Bye, Daddy!”. He laughed with us until the little game got old for him (not for us, we love and miss that surly, comical side of his), he sent us all to hell one last time. We showered my Dad with a chorus of how much we love him and hung up. I immediately cried because although I’ve known it’s possible for me to miss being by my father’s side when he passes because he lives in Florida, it’s now a reality that I may never see him again or hear his voice if he dies before a vaccine is found.

My heart goes out to those who’ve lost loved ones during this time. No one should die alone. Yet, here we are, it’s horrific.

We need the man occupying the White House to order a nationwide stay-at-home order, immediately make nationwide testing happen for all Americans, and we desperately need a vaccine soon. Why the hell Trump isn’t supplying federal help to all state Governors is beyond comprehension, it’s reprehensible. I don’t understand.

I’ll end this blog post with something from Maria Popova’s amazing newsletter called Brain Pickings, which I’ve followed for years. The essay is called Stillness as a Form of Action: Tocqueville on Cataclysm as an Antidote to Cultural Complacency and a Catalyst for Growth.

“Even when nothing is happening, something is happening. This is a difficult fact for the human animal to fathom – especially for us modern sapiens, who so ardently worship at the altar of productivity and so readily mistake busyness for effectiveness, for propulsion toward progress. Silence is a form of speech, Susan Sontag wrote: “and an element in a dialogue.” Stillness is a form of action and an element in advancement, in evolution, in all forward movement.”

Beautiful.

As we head toward what the Surgeon General calls, “…the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives”, I wish you and yours a safe and healthy Sunday. Please wear your masks and gloves when you venture outside, and if you’re not in desperate need of food or supplies, stay home.

And for the Governors of the eight states who have yet to enact stay-home-orders, you will have blood on your hands. My prayers for the residents of those states.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

Me in March 2020

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in 1900 Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. She is the mother of two adult children, who are in the world doing wonderful things.

 

 

 

Still Writing and In Quarantine

March 26, 2020

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

This morning, I awoke ahead of the alarm to be ready for a delivery of seven bags of soil from Lowe’s; it’s that time again. I timed the delivery right as it’s supposed to be sunny later today. What I need at this time is a day in my garden for my mental health and for a bit of vitamin D.

I lay in bed, grateful for the doctors, nurses, mental health workers, and health care aides across the country, and worried for all of us in light of the government’s inaction in enacting the Defense Production Act. I’m trying to remain positive, but it’s getting more difficult to muster up any positive thoughts about this president and this administration. Honestly, I’m furious. Sorry, not sorry.  And I’m not alone.

This morning, I didn’t check my phone or turn on the news, probably because last night, I watched nonstop. I literally clicked between CNN and MSNBC. Anyway, within ten minutes of waking up, I was teary-eyed. I didn’t even feel it coming. After a good cry, I felt a little better and not as hopeless about the lethal spread of this deadly virus, knowing full well the news of the day would probably erase all the positive thoughts. Instead of allowing myself to “go there” again, I concentrated on remaining positive and grounded. I prayed for protection and good health for my kids and for my family and friends, and I offered up prayers for the world and for the end of this horrible outbreak. I prayed for negative results for anyone awaiting test results at this time, especially a wonderful nurse in Virginia I am fortunate to call a friend, who, along with some family members, is showing all the reported symptoms.

Then, I had a talk with myself. I’m fine. My children and my family are fine. In light of those who are at high risk for exposure and who are working nonstop for us–our doctors, nurses, health care workers, mental health therapists, and counselors–we are fine. I thought of other heroes on the front line, who are supporting us all during this frightening time–the people working in our grocery stores, pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, and testing sites. God bless them and keep them all safe and healthy.

Unfortunately, those good thoughts turned into anger. That’s how it is these days, my emotions are up and down, positive and negative, spiritual and open to closed and angry. I felt anger (rage) toward anyone who chooses the economy and the almighty dollar over the health and well-being of the American population. Trump needs to sign the coronavirus stimulus bill already and evoke the Defense Production Bill now. No one seems to know or is willing to tell the American public why he is dragging his feet?? Doctors and nurses need all the supplies they keep asking for (and more!) like yesterday, two months ago, for their fight to save American lives and keep themselves safe from this virus. What is the damn hold up?

Praying. Trying to remain calm and praying some more. And not freaking out when I feel a tiny ache in my shoulder, a cough out of nowhere, and do I feel a bit feverish? Shit.

***

March 27, 2020

Ever since my mother put a pencil, bond paper (as it was called in the olden days), and crayons in my hand, I was hooked on art. I’ve kept drawings that go back to my early teen years. After my beautiful mother passed away in 1992, I found several Mother’s Day cards I’d made for her over the years. They are precious to me.

As a young mother, I loved drawing and doing crafts with my kids, which kept up my drawing skills and fed my creative spirit. I imagine like most parents, I keep a few Rubbermaid containers in the attic with my kid’s early drawings, school papers, and art projects. Actually, I have way too much of their school stuff that includes their middle school, high school, and university sports gear, trophies, clothing, and diplomas. They really do need to collect this stuff one day. Who am I kidding, they’re both in their 30s; it’s not going anywhere unless I hold a major yard sale. When this is all over….nope, not going there with anything negative today. Hell, no.

When my children were in elementary school, I began to study with a local watercolor artist, who encouraged me to exhibit for the first time in my life and to sell my watercolor pieces. I did quite well. Two years later, my then-husband was offered a posting at NATO. We shipped everything, including our mud-brown Toyota minivan and arrived in Brussels, Belgium at the end of summer 1994. I’d lived in Europe twice before as a child and as a kid in middle school. That tour was my first time living abroad as a young mother of a young child and an infant.

A few years later, In 1995 or 1996, I joined a group of international and local artists and writers. Together, we formed the first English-speaking art guilds in Brussels, that’s still going strong today. In addition to holding different positions within the guild, I continued to paint and exhibit. I sold my work and began accepting commissions, which didn’t last long. I didn’t enjoy painting people’s homes or their pets; not because I don’t love architectural renderings or pet portraiture, I didn’t enjoy how picky and demanding people can be when they’re paying, smile.

I continued to sell my paintings and around the end of 1999, I added collage and pastel to my repertoire. In 2000, I read Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artist’s Way”. In 2001, I organized my first creative cluster with six friends. By 2004, I’d facilitated three or four groups in Brussels (I can’t remember now for some reason), and in 2005, I finished the draft manuscript of my first novel called  “A Decent Woman”. I’ve written many blog posts about my writing journey, so I won’t repeat myself too much, but what happened is that writing overtook painting and it became my passion.

I don’t know why I wrote all that. I suppose it’s a reminder that I am a creative being and that’s what I do best. Creativity has always fed, inspired, led, and grounded me. That’s no different now, but cable TV is encroaching on my creative life. I want to know what’s going on, but I don’t need it all in my face 24/7.

Be well, be safe, stay home, be kind.

Eleanor x

***

March 28, 2020

I’ve been a writer for ten years and have lived in a hermit bubble without cable TV for the same amount of time, which is perfect for a writer. A month ago, I had but a few outside distractions (excluding family, they are not distractions; they are lovely), other than those I allowed into my life. I focused on writing, editing, and rewriting my work-in-progress called “The Laments”. Even when coronavirus reared its’ ugly head in Asia and I was worried as hell, I was able to gather up whatever writers need to keep themselves at the writing desk. It wasn’t easy. I did my best to keep writing through my fears and anxiety.

Two weeks ago, I realized if I want to keep in touch with the outside world and global news, and not risk my life going out for the daily newspaper, I had to act. It occurred to me that Comcast support might stop going to people’s homes to install cable, so I called. Two days later, I had cable.

Now I have mixed emotions about the wisdom of that decision. I spent nearly a week glued to the TV and what that did my anxiety was to shoot it up to unhealthy levels. Yes, I was caught up with minute by minute news alerts and breaking news, I watched good films on Amazon Prime and new series on Netflix, but dear God, it was too much for my hermit psyche. My body, my nervous system to be exact, was overloaded.

On Friday, I limited myself to only watching MSNBC in the evenings, starting at six in the evening until 11. That’s still a lot of television, but it also kept me at the writing desk and I began to plant seedlings for my vegetable and flower garden in trays and empty egg cartons and berry containers. By Saturday, I’d limited my television viewing to watching Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefing and I stopped watching the White House briefing for my sanity and to keep anger levels down…it worked.

Early this morning, a thunderstorm woke me up and it’s raining hard. No gardening today. When I turned up the volume on my cell phone, at least a dozen notifications popped up from the news channels–the 2$ Trillion Bill, the largest relief package in modern history passed and Trump signed it. Thank God. There is anger simmering, though. I try my best to squash it and to remain positive and hopeful.

Yesterday, I learned something new: stress can bring about low-grade fevers. I know stress can mess with our immune systems and cause disease, but the fever information was interesting.

There are reports of severe weather from northern Illinois to the Ohio Valley and in the south that brought (or is still bringing) tornadoes, damaging winds, and giant balls of hail. What the hell is going on with the planet? Pacha Mama is royally pissed off.

Many countries are reporting wildlife critters roaming in the cities: dolphins in Venice canals and on the island of Sardinia; pumas in Chile; wild boars in Italy and Spain, and a lone wolf was recently spotted in the mountains France. Animals are reclaiming our cities. You just can’t make this shit up. We are truly living in a new world.

Be safe, be calm, be kind, and big hugs. Prayers for the world.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

Me in March 2020

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in 1900 Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.