it’s been eight weeks since you looked at me

it’s been eight weeks since you looked at me

I haven’t gone into the office since March 12. 58 days of this new way of life.

They say it only takes 21 days to form a habit. So why does all of this still feel so wrong?

I crave new experiences, and yet find myself rewatching familiar shows and movies, picking up books I’ve already read. The uncertainty of our current world is so discombobulating, confusing need and want.

There is time and there isn’t. There is quiet and there isn’t.

I have found solace in online writing workshops like Undercurrent, in the meeting of creative minds fighting to make magic out of exhausted fear and loneliness and joy in each other’s presence on a Friday night.

Where do you go when you can’t leave home?

My doctors have asked that I stay inside except for doctors’ appointments that can’t be done virtually. The combination of my conditions, plus concerns about continued mysteries around my inflammation markers, make my hematologist especially worried about my susceptibility to the virus and the complications that might come from contracting it. If I wasn’t already afraid, I definitely am now.

I try go through the day focusing on what I can control. Wake up, fix hair, eat breakfast/drink coffee, change clothes, log into work. Try to remember to take a lunch break, but often forget. After work, try to write or read or work on one of my secret projects, but if I lay in bed and watch reruns of Schitt’s Creek instead, that’s okay, too. Weekends are trickier, with all those unstructured hours, so I am trying to log into write-ins like the ones Barrelhouse is running or find other organized events that keep me focused. I schedule time with friends, if we can make it work. I let myself sleep.

Some days I am better at going with this flow than others. Some days, I lay in bed listening to true crime podcasts and feel tears pricking my eye line for hours but can’t cry, and can’t not cry, and can’t move because that might make me cry, so I do nothing except lay still and breathe and let the words wash over me as I drift off to sleep in the middle of the day.

If I have learned anything so far, it’s this:

  • I have to just keep trying new things to find what works and what doesn’t.
  • I will have bad days and I need to accept that.
  • My disabilities are not instantly better or cured by working from home—their management is just different.
  • Virtual appointments are weird for everyone, and we are all still learning how to make them work.
  • Everyone deserves grace, now more than ever, and granting it to others brings a little back to you.

I hope you are finding your way through this strange time. Share your coping strategies and fears and joys in the comments.

On Audre Lorde and Self-Care

On Audre Lorde and Self-Care

I have always struggled with taking care of myself.

Not only do I put the needs of others first, I find it challenging to spend time in “treating myself” in ways that actually take care of me. It’s easier to disappear into a pile of blankets and watch The Good Place for the fifth time than it is to engage with what I actually need.

But I am learning to see self-care as Audre Lorde did – an act of self-preservation.

As a disabled person, I have to prioritize caring for myself in a way that others don’t. Doctor’s appointments ad nauseum, researching specialists and treatments, managing my many medications, tracking symptoms and possible triggers.

Respecting my limits so I can go on to fight another day.

I like to think this is the kind of political warfare Audre Lorde meant – keeping yourself alive despite the forces trying to destroy you.

a study in the things i need

a study in the things i need

yesterday

i’m not sure what compelled me to seek out my copy of emily dickinson’s poetry, but i couldn’t leave for work until i had it in my hands.

the front flap was tucked into the pages. i pulled it back, trying to set it right, when i noticed the signature hidden on the inside cover–my grandmother’s name in beautiful, distinctive flourish.

i don’t know how long i stood in the kitchen, fluorescent light casting blueish shadows on the floor. i don’t know how long it took the tears to form, to fall.

eighteen months ago

april in texas is a kind of first summer, wet and hot and relentless.

my mother called me on a sunday. she said my grandmother had fallen in her home and had been taken to a major hospital in a nearby city.

forty-five minutes later, i was navigating the maze of bright-light hallways and shades of antiseptic melancholy. underneath the hum of activity was the ever-present beeping of machines.

i found my way to her room. my grandfather offered me the only chair.

she seemed far away, numbed by medication and shock, but it wouldn’t last. the eight broken ribs would make themselves painfully known, throughout her body and ours.

within a few days, our extended family–my mother and her siblings and all but a handful of the grandkids–had taken over the wing. we claimed the waiting room, blankets and snacks and electronics strewn around us. we talked late into the night. we shared stories and laughed and cried when we accepted what was happening.

six months ago

how did i hear about it? an article? an ad? the trailer, maybe, on a social feed?

a film called wild nights with emily proposed a new interpretation of the emily dickinson’s letters and works–that she was in love with her brother’s wife, sue, and not at all the fearful, unrequited lover of unavailable men we’ve come to believe she was.

after a particularly challenging week of work–and while my mother lay in the same hospital her mother had died in, recovering from surgery to remove a 13cm tumor from her abdomen–i sat in a dark theater and watched molly shannon kiss susan ziegler as a narrator recited the version of the story i already knew.

molly’s emily felt more real to me than any other, this vibrant being of passion and humor and regret and sadness so deep that she didn’t know a way out. could i call her my sister then? fellow poetess with an affinity for the same kind of love?

yesterday

i shared a photo of the book with my mother. the day after chemo is usually one of her best days of the week, steroids like buoys against the grey of sick sleep.

“i must have stolen this at some point,” i said. “i want you to have it, if you want it.”

instead, she said i should keep it. maybe it was meant for me. maybe it was my grandmother’s way of letting me know that she wasn’t really gone.

i’m not sure i believe something like that can happen. more than likely, it was serendipity, or maybe the vague tugging of memory, grief leading me back in time.

however the book came back to me, i’m thankful it did–if only for the reminder of books’ magic.