I have just finished the run of a challenging but artistically rewarding play. Two evenings ago, after the curtain call, a friend presented me with the gift of a beautiful red rose. Full of the praise and satisfaction of the play’s run, I decided to bring this rose as my offering to the communal vase. What could better represent who I am right now, than the rose given to me to celebrate my performance?
Knowing I have a tendency to get distracted and show up late to things, I left and arrived early. However, being me, I forgot the rose. I could PROBABLY have made it home to get it – but I would run the risk of getting distracted and being late. So I wandered the grass behind the church parking lot… and noticed pretty wildflowers growing roadside just down a bit of a grassy slope.
I proceeded down the slope and realized pretty quick I’d have to take my heeled sandals off. Slipping barefoot on pine needles, I scraped my knee making my descent. I picked five types of wildflowers of different colours, trimming the stems with my nails and removing the lower leaves. I got a mosquito bite climbing back up the hill, and looking at the clutch of feral petals I wondered if it was actually worth it. There’s always loads of extra flowers.
I put my shoes back on, straightened my skirt, pulled a bug from my hair, and checked to make sure my knee wasn’t bleeding. Seems to me, those wild chaos flowers were the most representative offering I could have possibly made.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I mean, no. Of course not. That seems implausible. But to be honest if someone got shot down the street I would just shake my “get off my lawn” fist at presumed firework noises. The incessant private firework demonstrations have made us complacent to the sound of explosions. How can that be a good thing?
Obviously I want to sleep through the night and not wake up with a start because of explosions outside. I want my dog to have a run of evenings where he isn’t panting with anxiety because of the crashing bangs. But also, I don’t want our already COVID-burdened hospitals to have to contend with the inevitable burns that come from inexpert firework use. And with our region in the middle of a drought, I want our local fire chief to follow the lead of those in Tay Township and surrounding area by banning fireworks before the whole town catches fire.
Everyone is on edge. The physical world is tinder dry and firebrand hot. The masses are set to erupt, unable to withstand the hideous inequity of our constructed reality. There are loud, loud calls to dismantle the police forces so they can be restructured with serve and protect at their heart, and with racism rooted out. In the meantime, a citizen was beaten in part because the police mistook the sound of fireworks as gunfire. Trying to right society’s ills will take time. For now, could we please require people to cease igniting explosives for fun?
When I was recovering from COVID in April, I was keenly aware of my health. There’s no way to know for sure when you’re done having COVID, and the symptoms are so diverse.
Out of breath walking the dog – is it still active COVID? Are my lungs permanently scarred? Or am I just out of shape? I started thinking of these questions as “Fat or COVID”.
As April fades to memory, my dog walks are getting longer so either my lungs are healing or I’m getting into better shape. On days when I feel that asthmatic hitch and cough, I wonder again – is the COVID back? People can get sick more than once. Maybe it never did go away. I was so sick with it. I probably shouldn’t have been alone the whole time, there are gaps of time I don’t recall because I’d sort of collapse on the couch with exhaustion and low oxygen. My chest hurt more than it ever has with bronchitis. Every breath felt like I was 14 years old and trying smoking for the first time. I do not want to go through that again – and that was mild.
Some reasons I might feel breathless aside from succumbing to a novel and deadly virus: extreme humidity, seasonal allergies, anxiety, and exercising outside of my cardio capacity. Some more adult minded readers might come up with others but I am writing this in the pandemic and I live alone.
I have found it best to treat the breathlessness as if it has arisen from one of these more mundane causes. Drink water and find a cool place to be still. Take antihistamine and wait and see – COVID won’t respond to allergy pills. Take grounding breaths and centre myself to fight anxiety (and medicate if needed).
The combination of breathlessness and exhaustion for most of the month of April reminded me of how I feel the week after donating blood. Iron deficiency can cause both symptoms, and with the drastic change in my shopping habits, I only occasionally had meat in the house; rarely red meat. I don’t think we give enough credit to the influence our diet has on our day to day health, including mental health. Taking iron supplements once I twigged to the connection helped resolve some of the brain fog and weary breathlessness.
My exhaustion could be because I, along with literally everybody else, am living through the isolation and anxiety of a global pandemic. Going through a ‘normal’ day of completing tasks such as preparing and consuming food, bathing and dressing, walking the dog, and sweeping the floor is just very tiring right now. Personally I’ve added on top of that attempting a graduate degree term remotely over a novel delivery system, and commencing an internship placement where I cooperate with people I haven’t met over software I’ve never used. I am so tired, COVID notwithstanding. We all are I think.
My exhaustion could be mostly from recovering from a disease. I’m STILL healing. While the virus vacates the body in its two to three weeks, symptoms can continue for months. I still nap more days than not, and not planned naps but rather ‘my body is shutting down for a wee bit’ type naps. My lungs don’t function like they used to. Every once in a while my temperature goes up a degree and a bit and I worry; I cough and I worry.
The other day I had a novel symptom – the mottled discolouring of legs; my worried turned to alarm. How could I have a new symptom? The discolouring lasted for less than two hours – had I had this before but not noticed? Or…. is it back? Luckily, Ontario is finally letting anyone be tested for COVID. I got my result online within 48 hours.
It feels like a clean slate, a new starting point. No, I won’t be physically joining a protest. Yes, I will be wearing a mask if I need to enter a building. And I will continue to do so for the months that it will take for medical science to make the world feel safe again. Allergies and anxiety I can handle, but I never want to see COVID again.
For those who live alone, with nary a human about, can you remember the last five people you touched? On March 12th, I went to see Hamilton in Toronto at Mirvish with my daughter. Things had not yet shut down; in fact, this turned out to be the second last performance of Hamilton in Toronto. We knew the virus was coming, but I wasn’t carrying hand-sanitizer yet.
We ran into hometown friends while we were there. Did I hug them? Or was my caution level high enough not to – we saw them in the evening after a long day of hanging out on the York campus watching news reports roll in. If I did hug them, it was so casual and automatic that I don’t even remember if it happened. How could I be so complacent about this now rare commodity – hugs?
I hugged my daughter, certainly. I don’t recall that hug specifically but I can’t see spending all day with my daughter and not hugging her. Surely I did.
A friend of mine had stayed at my house to take care of my new puppy while I was in the city. I got home at 1AM so he stayed over on the couch. Seeing as how isolation was in place overnight, and given that I had a cough so if I was sick, he was already exposed – I suggested he stay for a few days. He left on March 17th and I haven’t touched a human since.
Who are the last five people I hugged? My dog-sitting friend. My daughter. Maybe a couple from our hometown? A friend who visited the Saturday before this prolonged intermission?
I don’t remember when I last hugged my son. That hurts.
There are a lot of motivational posters and greeting cards extolling the advice “Live Each Day As If It Is Your Last.” Many of us are more keenly aware of the fragility and impermanence of life now. For over three thousand Canadians that last day was written by COVID-19. How many of their loved ones are sitting in their isolation, pained because in addition to their grief, they cannot remember when they last hugged the departed?
My motivational poster for the After will be “Give each hug as if it is your last.” I want to be present for the hugs of the After. I want to remember them. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Zen Buddhist monk, teaches a practice called “Hugging Meditation“. Though it’s going to be awkward for my friends and family, these hugs include being “aware of how precious it is that you are both still alive.”
Who are the last five people you remember hugging?