Clinic Trials

I started working in our local vaccine clinic back in March. I don’t think I’ve ever posted here about that experience; I’ve filled a paper journal though!

Today is my last scheduled shift. I might pick up shifts on weekends to come because while vaccination isn’t the ONLY thing needed to get out of this half life living, it is a NEEDED thing. As a single person who lives alone, I want us to move past this stage of recovery. I need us to.

Part of why I haven’t posted much is we sign that we won’t speak to the press haha and what if the press reads my blog, what if what if, and then they say according to this public blog, here’s what’s happening at clinics (woah, stop those conspiracy thoughts, there’s nothing like that happening at the clinics). Anyway, I overthink things as a hobby.

But as a psychotherapist who’s very interested in humans and how they be, working at a vaccine clinic is actually fascinating. As a psychotherapist with moderate ADHD who is genuinely and affectionately interested in people, there’s a lot of opportunity to observe, think, corelate, theorize, predict, wonder, and marvel. All while doing my job, fear not, fear not. It actually improves job performance. When it’s your job to process people through any point of the system, it’s good to build and refine theories on how they will react. Smooths out their experience.

Anyway, I think I’ll do a series of blog posts about what I’ve thought about while screening for COVID symptoms, searching for people in the COVAX system, and providing people with their vaccine receipts.

I’ll end this one with my reasons for why I started working at the clinics. One reason was I did need a source of income. I also needed a legitimate reason to get out of the house; my walls were closing in too much. I needed to relearn how to be near people, especially strangers and crowds of them. I wanted to be part of the COVID battle. I wanted to experience donning and doffing PPE for work. I wanted my dog Valentine to learn how to be OK with my leaving the house for several hours and learn that I always come home. I wanted to be INSIDE the system to see it from the inside and better understand what was going on. I wanted to be PART of something.

I have done all this. Truly my only reason to continue is I live in the worst region of Ontario for COVID cases, we’re possibly heading into a new wave of our own, and we are at risk of not re-opening until months from now. I know they can always call in the Army to work the clinics. Until then, they need staff to do the work and I am already trained.

got my second shot two weeks ago, Pfizer

Pandemic Year 2, Day 6*

(also known as St Patrick’s Day, 2021)

One year and six days after the proclamation of the COVID-19 global pandemic, I was immunized against the disease. Most days in that time period felt like an eternity. It is an incredibly short time to develop test and roll out a vaccine against a novel disease though!

But Kate! You’re not THAT old! It’s true. I wouldn’t otherwise qualify, but I have accepted a position as a part time admin clerk at the vaccine clinics and immunization is required prior to starting. I’m guessing that’s so people don’t go catching COVID AT the clinic!

But Kate! Didn’t you just quit a perfectly good job because you’re crazy busy with the end of grad school and everything? True, true. I did. There’s a few reasons I applied to the vaccine clinic job. One is I need to practice leaving the house for longer periods on a regular basis and this seems like the safest way to do that. I also need to get used to being in a room where there are bunches of people all talking or moving around and just doing the things people do. It’s been over a year and being near groups of humans is dizzying. I want to reacclimatize to in-the-flesh humanity before sitting with it in the therapy room.

Valentine also needs some practice. He has no idea that humans normally spend long periods of the day away from the house. He’s never had to try to not pee or to stay entertained for five or six hours on a regular basis. I’m going to be concerned at first and I don’t want to start sitting with clients post-internship, wondering how my dog is doing. I want a more sure footing than that.

And up to now, my experience of the pandemic has been hiding from the pandemic. It’s been the right thing to do because outside of dog walks and groceries, I don’t have a lot of reasons to leave the house. I don’t know what it’s like to wear a mask for more than half an hour or so. I want a more active role in the story. I want to be a part of getting vaccines into willing arms. I want to be sitting up close to watch the coming dawn.

*a friend posted about Year Two of the Pandemic and is sank in hard and real. She goes by the day we were told to go home alone and stay there; I’m going by two days prior when they deemed COVID-19 a pandemic. I found an ugly online clock to count by. Do you know a better clock?

If I Should Die Before I Wake

Use My Soul a Screaming Head to Make

Thanatology Quiz Question: What do you think about rites, rituals, ceremonies and funerals? In my work,  I am noticing very few church funerals, more funeral home funerals and even more … no funeral at all.    Ever given any thought to what you would like at yours?  If you have a funeral, who is your funeral going to be for?  Share your thoughts on rites, rituals, ceremonies and funerals in the context of yours ….

My Answer: Barring my having a late-in-life lasting romance, it will be my children choosing what to do with my death and memorial and they know that I believe funerary rituals are to help the living to grieve. The funeral instructions in my mother’s will were simple: if you must have a service, keep it small. Nine months after her death, my children and I hosted an afterparty for our hometown community theatre which we and my mother were all members of; attendees were encouraged to drink red wine and complain about the show (tongue in cheek and lovingly of course) as my mother would have (though she was earnest and not very loving about it). My children know I believe green fields should be for planting and playing and that I want my body (once harvested for any life giving or science learning) to be dealt with in the most environmentally sound way which pleases them. If I ever have sufficient funds just rolling around in my pockets, and if the artist still offers this, I would like to have my ashes turned into a Screaming Head, and my funeral be a folk festival.

My children playing on a Screaming Head in 2008

New Year Resolutions, 2021

“Bottle of Stories” by Tammy Routley (2018)

The mornings are brighter; the days, longer. Hope steals into my life.

My last entry was dark. I think it is important to note the dark and I think it is worthwhile to sit in the dark when you know you have the strength to stand and turn to the light. Leave some breadcrumbs, both ways.

I do have some resolutions for the new year. Let me speak your name. I have intentions for 2021. Anyone with a past in sales is accustomed to goal setting. Several of my notable goals will be achieved in 2021 because of work I did last year. I have additional goals for this year. I have stretch goals, too. Stretch goals are there for additional challenge and additional reward. You won’t get fired if you don’t hit your stretch goals, but you’ll be rewarded if you do. I have Pandemic stretch goals. I have Holiday stretch goals. With my CRB days gone, rewards might be harder to generate; though actually, the attainment of these goals manifests its own reward.

Resolutions are not stretch goals – they’re straight up targets. Not that I can get fired from the job of living my best life if I don’t hit my targets. It’s important always to recognise that these targets are flexible, editable, subject to change. I do not know where I will be working or living at the end of 2021; this makes visualising harder. I will trust that my family, social, spiritual, financial, and artistic lives will take care of themselves without goals or resolutions.

Resolutions, 2021

  • Lose net 10 pounds, which brings me to a healthy maintenance weight. In 2020 I gained 10 pounds, and I lost 15.
  • Develop a plan by which to gain the strength needed to prevent injury. I’ve noticed that it’s easier to hurt myself now, and harder to heal. Again, and always, I am so glad I reveled in my youth when I had it.
  • Open my psychotherapy practice and have one – or more! – client. It sounds like a small goal but there are ten times a kabillion things to learn before opening such a business.
  • Related; drop the “Qualifying” from the ‘Registered Psychotherapist’ designation I have just applied for.
  • Have Valentine certified as a therapy dog. We both need training.
  • Develop an Obsidian practice that incorporates books read, lectures intended, process journal, research notes, and more.

December 31, 2020

Better than champagne is this gifted local cider!

It is the end of the year, in the way that we mark time and define years in Canada. I’ve always marked the turning of the year, while also believing that time is an invented construct and essentially meaningless. Holding and celebrating opposing points of view is how I do life.

By the time I finish writing this I hope to have thought of a photo to take that somehow summarizes how I feel in this moment. I thought of taking a picture of the truly excellent pizza I had DoorDash bring me, but by the time I had this thought, the pizza was no longer intact. Yes, I ordered in dinner this evening. We’re asked to do so, to help support local business. We’re asked to buy our drinks from local producers – my Milky Milk Stout is from TWB. We’re asked to stay home, which is pretty easy when DoorDash delivers and I can play an online escape room with my family. Doing the right thing is so easy, eh?

I mean, it is if you have privilege. If you work from home and have sufficient funds to pay people to cook food and bring it to you, it’s so easy to do the right thing. I tried and tried to think of light new years thoughts but right now people with ample privilege are predrinking before new years gatherings, and the callous, selfish misuse of privilege enervates me. I don’t KNOW this is true, that revel rousers are gathering, but whenever we’re asked to not gather, cases of COVID 19 go up anyway. In 2020 I put down my rose coloured glasses and because I’m in my fifties, I can’t remember where I put them.

I am enjoying my pizza and beer. I will enjoy an online escape room, and I will marvel at the fabulous technology that makes it possible. We are so blessed. We are some of us so blessed.

Posts are appearing denouncing 2020 and anticipating 2021; I do not feel this. There is no magic to the new year. Tomorrow, the CBC will report on the toll of unfortunates who did not live to see the turning of the year. As I type this someone in Canada is dying of a preventable disease. Still, I will make merry, if quietly and alone. I have always been skilled at appreciating the little things and enjoying the moment. This year that became more difficult – not because the moments weren’t there, honestly, there is an ever present abundance of beautiful moments – but because in 2020 I became much more aware of the tapestry of suffering these moments adorn.

In 2021 it won’t be magically easier to live as a BIPOC citizen in our country, nor in the chaos state below us. Women will still be raped and abused in shocking numbers. Opioid deaths will keep making news but somehow this news will not effect change. Generations in Indigenous communities will still wonder what it would be like to have clean tap water.

2021 will also bring vaccinations, and stories of people helping each other heal and recover. Everywhere, life is full of heroism. The Earth will keep spinning and summer will return and it will be safe to sing and dance once again. 2021 will hand us back our baskets of all we have been missing, and smile, and tell us it is safe to be the way we once were.

I want to hold each item in that basket and ask myself if it sparks joy. Will this relic of the beforetimes bring joy to my life in the After, or will it only distract me from the truths 2020 exposed to those not living them? With great power comes great responsibility they say. With great privilege comes great obligation. We have learned that the responsibility and the obligation are by choice only; nobody requires you to be a good person and there are rewards for discarding any sense of requirement.

I’m simply a changed person and the things in that basket might not fit. I am a changed person from before starting grad school; that isolation and that education changed me. The isolation of the pandemic has changed me that much more. I am perhaps simply more myself and I feel changed because I had been so accustomed to my many social masks. If we have not spoken for a while, we may need to be reacquainted when all of <<this>> is over. Some time next year, maybe.

It’s been a year since I dropped all my fucks; has it ever been a year. Not that I DNGAF about anything. I donate monthly to a fund supporting the legal costs of Black citizens in Toronto. I strive to minimize my environmental impact, and I am putting my all into building a career of helping people suffer less. I just might not start shaving my legs again.

That’s the lightest note I can muster. Stay home. Shop local. Be kind. I love you.

No Beginning, No End

Can we tell where our journeys begin? Did this journey begin on my first day of Grad school, excited, nervous, and unsure of where to park? Was it during the application process, with me attempting to generate a sample of academic writing after being out of school for over two decades? When I quit the bank, when I graduated with a BSc in Psychology, or when I asked my childhood therapist “So is this what you do all day, just talk to people?”

No beginning and no end… ah now where is that from? Yes, yes – it’s a Hawksley Workman song – lalala “don’t dive shallow, in deep dark waters…”

No end because they need to accept my application and that takes months. No end because I have one more term of school, because I need 225 more client hours to drop the “Qualifying” from the title I’ve just applied for. No end because I want to grow in this career until I die. Are we going to get literal here; are we going to get metaphysical? There is never an end when your work lives on as hope and happiness that will radiate, radiate, spread and grow. There is no end, there is no beginning. No shallow diving here.

It’s a significant trail marker. I made it this far. I’ve got the next bit of the trail mapped out, waiting for Christmas to come and go, a breather in the expanse of middle ground. Time for some metaphysical GORP and holiday cheer.

Things I Said in the Spring

I recently finished a journal notebook – now labelled May 30, 2020 – Nov 24, 2020

May 30 “…I might forget how to have real live conversations with people…
It’s cold out. Our weather is all over the map. May held the coldest May day on record and the 5th hottest May day on record. last night was 2 degrees….
Maybe I can get through it better if I frame it as ending in January. I can always reframe in November.
My dog is bored. I should mow the lawn. Get beer. Do all the things. Pass school. Do my job. Lose weight. Be an ally. Stand up. Save the world.”

June 1st “Yesterday I called Valentine Domino and the kids laughed because “that was so many dogs ago” – we are telling time by dogs.

June 5th “It’s going to be another hot day. I’m figuring on buying asparagus. I’m figuring on gassing up the van. I might be OK living like this forever.”

June 7th “The dog is chasing a bumble bee. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to teach him to catch flies but not bumble bees… I like this quiet life. I want to write letters and learn things…. I haven’t peed anywhere but home for over three months. Weird.”

***

Basically I have liked many features of this slow, quiet life. I liked it more when I had a small bubble of people I could hug. If I could hug, hold hands, and dance to live music – and see clients in person. Oh, no, wait – also dine with others. Maybe thinking I’m fine with all that’s gone is simply because it’s been gone so long.

The new journal notebook starts “This winter will be soups and soft blankets – if this were my house I’d hang heavy curtains on all the windows and reflect within that crushed velvet hush.”

Then, Suddenly

In the story of the Pentecost, I am drawn to the experience of those who received the flame of the Spirit and then, suddenly, they could converse and praise their God in languages formerly not their own.

Our professor shared this image with us, which is Emile Nolde’s “Pentecost”.

Before being licked awake by flames from the divine, were they praying with eyes closed? Were they heavy lidded and desiring knowledge and understanding? How does this feel in their brains, this wash of knowledge and ability? I think it would be akin to how some psychoactive drugs must feel.

Or how about Paul who used to go by Saul? He was blithely on his way to persecute more followers of Jesus and then, “suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him” (Acts 9:3). He falls down blind and Jesus speaks to him inside his mind. Saul/Paul is instantly changed. Jesus tells him where to go and what to do and he is obedient and dedicates his every remaining day to serving Jesus.

This is the picture we got with that story. It’s Caravaggio’s “Conversion of St. Paul“.

Life will never be the same. What was happening in HIS brain? Here is the moment of his change; before this was he laughing? Telling a joke about Jesus freaks? After the flash of light and voice of Jesus, did Paul have a moment of “What the…?” Did he have to try to accept his changed state, or was he so changed, that it seemed obvious that this would be his new reality?

One thing that did not change for Paul is a near obsession on Jesus. He thought about Jesus and his followers all the time before the conversion. He thought about them just as much afterwards. Similarly, those present and affected at Pentecost were already followers of Jesus. In both stories, those affected were focusing hard on the thing that eventually changed them.

Now to be even more flippant and irreverent. I think the same applies to the concepts of flow, and about my learning juggling. I’ve been thinking about juggling, using my mind and my body-mind. It’s been weeks of thinkinging juggling juggling juggling.

This morning I picked up the balls and then, suddenly caught 53 throws of a three ball cascade.

Yesterday I was trying to connect to the emotional state of a client and I opened my mouth, not knowing what to say and then, suddenly, the right words fell out.

It’s not a flash of divinity – but I think it lands in the same spectrum of experience. And in a thematically beautiful flash of inspiration I recalled these images of Paul and of the Pentecost. Now, I have this paper to write that is actually past due because in a flurry of changed due dates, I got confused. Maybe though, maybe I needed this small dose of divine inspiration to finally get me writing.

the penultimate* day of July

I must have blinked once or twice; July is almost over. Classes are over I haven’t written anything remotely academic for two weeks. I’ve been learning new skills and engaging in almost daily new challenges. I volunteer for the Crisis Text Line once a week. I have psychotherapy clients over phone or video through my internship. I’ve been practicing juggling for the theology class that ended <time has lost meaning> months or weeks or ten years ago. I get afraid the new skills won’t stick – I’ll forget to write a paper when I try to write the juggling / spirit / community paper.

My puppy Valentine has been learning new tricks as well. Some of them are not entirely welcome; he has recently learned the trick of barking incredibly loudly without stopping at anyone who stops by to visit in the backyard. But he has also learned to jump through a hoop!

Look at that focus!
Look at that focus!

Which is to say I taught him to jump through a hoop, meaning I learned how to teach my dog to jump through a hoop. When the hoop and the kibble come out, he concentrates his energy on waiting for the command and then jumping through the hoop, and then getting his reward of kibble and praise. Nothing else matters. He’s a dog of course – what else could matter? I find I learn best of perform best when I can get into that single minded focus. When everything else drops away and nothing else matters and the essence of my mind and being is aligned with my purpose. Since COVID, and the requirement to learn and achieve all things in the same space, I’ve found it incredibly difficult to get that keen focus. That Mind of Dog. In the juggling, in my classes, in my job, internship, and volunteering; it is so hard to prevent the stressful elements of one from distracting me while I try to engage in another. I need a hoop and some kibble I guess.

What I need is community, and not online. I need a variety of spaces to live my life in again. We all need these things, to differing degrees. I find that this is another area where spirit and community are entangled. As community recedes, it is easy for spirits to fade. In our course we learned that for many cultures, community was needed to fully engage with the Divine, as each community perceived the Divine to be. Maybe this is true for reaching transcendent states in learning or arts or psychotherapy. Maybe we can’t always do our best work alone. We need someone to hold the hoop for us, so we can focus on the jumping.

*I wrote this last night but was so tired I forgot to hit publish twice!

Three Juggling Balls, Two Hands

Morgan, saying hello to everybody.

Video four done and we are ALMOST at the point of juggling with three balls. The rest of the videos aren’t up yet though, so I will have to get my daughter to teach me the rest in person. I just checked; my three-ball cascade has not improved. It’s something I learned years ago and just do the same way, when I do it. I think my core skills of throwing and catching are better, but now I’ve added thinking about it which negates the improvement in core skills.

Thinking about it is the challenge. Thinking about the ways that we do habitual actions can be a stumbling block, but it’s one we need to acknowledge and challenge if we want to change our behaviours or thoughts. If I want to get past 28 catches in a three-ball cascade, I am going to think about how I throw and catch and build better physical behaviours around those skills. If I want to lose weight as a middle-aged human, I’m going to have to think about my eating and fitness behaviours and understand them to rewrite them.

By the time I submit this assignment, I will not have mastered this skill. I’ll still be thinking about it. When my proficiency is such that I can perform the three-ball cascade with few drops and without thinking about it, I believe I will experience this as transcendent. I will have reached beyond effort and struggle by going through effort and struggle, and will have arrived in a place of flow. This flow state is one of “optimal experience” which author and psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes as “when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile” (Flow, 1990. Harper & Row, New York: NY, pg 5). I have enjoyed such optimal experience before in writing, acting, providing counseling, sports, and other arenas.

My experience of flow state has been akin to the spiritual state of transcendence. It is a mind state, a spirit state, an internal space where we touch Spirit, as we conceive Spirit to be. It is a state of harmony and ease; it is being one with everything. Which leads to the inevitable question:

What did the Buddhist monk say to the hot dog vendor?