LFH: I’m losing count of the days
I’ve been neglecting my blog lately, and don’t ask me how many days it’s been since we went into isolation. 40? Something like that. We landed in STL on March 13th, came straight home and the great sequestering began. So that was 41 days ago. Tomorrow will complete six weeks. It feels much longer in some ways and shorter in others. Mostly longer, though.
Yesterday I taught my last two Zoom sessions. It was bittersweet. I’ll miss my students and I’ll miss the structure that teaching twice a week provided, but I won’t miss the exhaustion, stress dreams, and wakefulness in the middle of the night. I read that everyone is sleeping badly now and having bizarre dreams when they do sleep. There are reasons for this, but no remedies. But last night we both slept reasonably well, and I’m sure it’s because we aren’t mentally preparing for the next onslaught of Zoom sessions. The cognitive drain of Zoom is so much greater than face-to-face teaching, or any other kind of meeting, really.
On the happy side of Zoom, though, I had my first two Zoom Happy Hours. One was a replacement for our semi-annual conference dinners (one of the conferences would have taken place this past weekend) and the other was a Blast From the Past get-together with regular drinking buddies from my NYC days (only one of us still lives there now). It was terrific to catch up, even though in both cases the conversations had their depressing phases. Higher education institutions are not in good places now and things are only going to get worse. And we (the Zoom Happy Hour people) are the lucky ones. We’ll still have our jobs in four months.
My university furloughed 1300 people this week, mostly from the medical side, but the Arts & Sciences furloughs are coming. Budgets are being reworked. And so on. There is just so much uncertainty. It seems highly likely that we’ll be teaching at least part of the fall semester online, but no announcements have been made. The possibilities include starting online and finishing face to face, starting the semester later, and probably other options I haven’t heard about.
Beloit College is going to split the semester into two halves and have the classes begin and end in a single half rather than having them all run across a normal-length semester. The idea is to reduce the number of classes students and faculty have to juggle at a time, and also to allow for an easier adaptation to a partly-online, partly-offline fall. I know the students are dreading having to take online courses in the fall, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of them took a gap semester or even year. And that’s not counting the ones whose changed economic circumstances make paying tuition, fees, and room and board much more difficult if not impossible.
Gosh this is depressing. Sorry.
There are good things happening! My students and I agreed that even though classes weren’t what we wanted them to be, they were still worthwhile. Many expressed appreciation for the changes to our syllabi which took account of their varied and demanding circumstances. And they assured me that they had learned plenty from the course, even if they hadn’t been able to apply their learning through individual papers and projects. They’ve been using the twice-weekly worksheets to think about the topics in interesting ways, so they’ve had some space to be creative.
I didn’t get a TBR book read for SuperWendy’s challenge this month, which makes two months I missed. I just haven’t felt much like reading romance, and while I know we can read whatever we want (and I didn’t read romance in February), I’ve drifted away from challenges this year. I took note of the International Booker, Women’s Prize, and Best Translated Book Award long and short lists, but I haven’t had the urge to structure my reading around them. I even sent back library hold books when I got them and cancelled most of my upcoming holds.
All this is because I was already reading less overall this year (challenges turn out to make a difference in the amount I read), and then when the pandemic changes hit my time and inclination for reading fiction went out the window together. Both have slowly come back, but I’m gravitating toward old favorites, comfort reads (whether new or rereads), and 19thC doorstops. I picked up I Promessi Sposi again and started from the beginning, and I’m quite enjoying it. Manzoni’s novel has been enjoying a renewed popularity lately because it deals with the 17thC plague in Milan, but I haven’t got to that part yet. I’m still in the early chapters, and it’s very 19thC and operatic. Everyone has dramatic lives and interesting backstories and there is much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. It’s kind of fun. And Renzo and Lucia haven’t even started the bulk of their adventures yet.
St. Louis continues to be a manageable place to experience the pandemic. There have been way too many cases in majority-minority parts of the city and county, but the hospitals are still running below Coronavirus capacity and should continue that way. The dreadful governor and some idiot county officials are pushing for opening sooner rather than later, and we have our share of #Covidiot #teapartyalumni demonstrators, but for the most part people are being sensible. Workers have masks and other forms of protection, and shoppers and walkers are wearing masks more.
And it’s spring! We planted our annuals and some tomato and herb plants and are thinking about how to make our deck more habitable. We should have a brief respite before the hot and muggy STL summer arrives.
On the TV front, we haven’t been watching much, but we’re working our way through Star Trek: Picard so that we can finish before our free month is up next week. It’s pretty good, and for all my complaints about fan service I did love the episode with Riker and Troi.
FORMATTING NOTE: I’ve enabled nested comments so that we can talk to each other more easily. Our numbers are small enough that we shouldn’t run into problems and if we do, we’ll figure it out.
I have missed your blog!
As stressful as teaching has been for you, I envy you a little for having had that structure. My days have been blending into each other. Each day seems like the last.
Your Zoom Happy Hours sound like fun! This past Sunday, friends with a PlayStation set up games for us to play together. They were of the party game variety and, not counting the PlayStation, didn’t require any equipment besides computers and smartphones. Although there was a Pictionary-like game, Drawful, that I will probably dig up my husband’s old stylus before I play again.
Some of the pictures were hilarious, and the other game we played, Fibbage, was also funny. We laughed so hard. It was the first interaction I’ve had since quarantine began that felt like a social event, even though I’ve had some Skype calls with family. For the first time in my life, I wish I had a PlayStation.
I am sorry to hear your urge to read romance has faded. I have other friends that this has happened to. One of them cannot read fiction right now; the other can’t read anything.
On me the pandemic has had the opposite effect. I am reading more than usual and staying up much too late in order to keep reading. Reading has been my escape from stressful situations since childhood—whenever my parents fought, I would hide in my room and read.
It’s good to hear that things are manageable in St. Louis as far as the Coronavirus, although the disparity between some portions of society and others (not just in St. Louis but in many other places, too) is distressing. A friend just sent me an article from the WSJ that suggested that in addition to having less access to healthcare, income disparity and discrimination, there’s an another issue that makes POC more susceptible —less vitamin D3 absorption (due to skin pigmentation). This can be ameliorated by supplements, so I’m forwarding the article to my POC relatives and friends.
We sure have our share of #Covidiots here in Southern California too. There have been protests by the beaches in Orange Country and elsewhere.
I hope the gardening is soothing. It sounds like something that might be. How do you and your husband feel about summering in Missouri this year, instead of in California?
We have one episode left to watch of Picard. I am dreading it a little. It will probably be a cliffhanger.
A while back you asked for comfort read suggestions, so even though you’re not in the mood for romance, I will recommend a writer to you: Aster Glenn Gray. I find her books very comforting. The characters are so thoughtful and caring toward one another. I just finished The Threefold Tie which I would not have thought would work at all, but for the most part, it did.
LikeLiked by 2 people
I’ve heard about people playing more games online and it sounds like a great idea. TheH and I have started playing dominoes, which he did as a kid but I never have. It can be almost mindless or very complicated in terms of level of strategy/commitment, and we’re more toward the mindless end right now. It’s quite soothing.
The gardening has been nice. I have a very not-green thumb, but since we’re around all day every day even I care about how the plants are doing. Our deck is small but quite functional and with plants it feels more welcoming. We’re going to miss California, no question, and if STL opens up too soon in our opinion, we may pack up and go to CA later (we’d drive straight through as much as possible and camp if we have to). But right now staying here is fine. Our CA county is very locked down at the moment, so it’s probably going to be a while before there’s more than minimal mobility there anyway. Not that we’d need it, but no need to stress the facilities there.
Thanks for the rec on the comfort read, I’m filing it away. And we are up to the last episode of Picard as well. I agree on the probable cliffhanger.
It’s not days, any more. It’s weeks and months. It’s not lockdown, it’s just life. It’s weird and it’s normal. It’s quiet and it’s hectic. It’s staying home except when it’s going out. It’s knowing things are scary and it’s not knowing how scary. It’s staying the same and it’s constantly changing. It’s impossible to process and yet we’re constantly processing it.
If you’re getting dressed every day, if everyone in your household is fed, it you’re doing the minimum that your work expects or requires, you’re winning.
My friend and work colleague who was hospitalised with coronavirus a few weeks ago is home and recovering. Others who’ve had it but more mildly at home all seem to be getting better. But a friend of a friend has now been in intensive care for nearly 4 weeks and it’s not looking good. Famous people who I am sad about are dying. Not famous people who I don’t know are dying. Health care workers are dying, and in the UK, very disproportionately health care workers from ethnic minorities are dying and no one knows why.
I’m sad and scared, and fine and happy, and getting on with life as usual, and coping and not coping. We’re making plans at work but we’re not making plans because we don’t know what plans to make.
And I’m about half way through The Mirror and The Light, though I have had some breaks for occasional romance reading along the way.
LikeLiked by 3 people
Second what Janine said, Ros, this is beautifully and movingly written. It is so, so hard when we stop and think about it, or when we get a piece of news that is just gut-punching. I learned that one of our graduate students, a former TA, had lost her grandmother and has another relative who is ill with Covid-19. And another student, one with chronic health conditions, contracted it but thankfully has recovered.
We really do try to take it a day or a week at a time, because looking into an unknown future is even more stressful than living in this present. And I try not to think too long about how the UK and the US governments are behaving and not managing this, because it doesn’t help and makes me so angry and upset. Whatever we have done, as citizens, none of us deserved what we’ve got in leadership.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Ros, your words resonated with me and made me cry, too. Thank you for sharing your reality.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Ros, that was so beautifully said. ((((Hugs))))
LikeLiked by 3 people
So good to hear from you! For me it’s the dates that run into each other! I still know the dates because the toddler’s pre-school (on zoom! I am privileged and blessed), have certain sessions on certain days. The toddler’s zoom classes also give structure to my day. As does, having a toddler who has to be fed three meals a day, given a bath, and an afternoon nap.
Our bed time though has been andandoned! I felt guilt initially, with the husband and I gnashing our teeth and stressing ourselves out to make it on time but now we have happily given up. No school means we can get up an hour late (toddler and me), even though husband still gets up his regular time as he still has to start his work-day as he used to do.
Reminding myself to be mindful of what I am tuning into, especially news wise has had a really, really good effect on my overall mental health. As had meditation. I don’t know what I would do without it. It makes auch a difference especially in how I view and interact with my toddler.
Cooking too is helping. I was stressing about it too initially because our dinner times have become later as I chop, prep and make dinner along with everything ke but now our family has just made peace with having dinner later than we usually do.
I still find wedges of time to read. I loved Miss Read’s first thrush acre novel. Also really liked Grace Burrowes’s forever and a Duke. And cooking shows. They are my relaxing vehicles too.
It has also been helpful to give myself permission to take ten minutes rest during my busy, things have to run on schedule time which tend to be mornings and evenings. accepting all the rubbish feelings have also been helpful. As in, not trying to feel better or rationalize them or judge them but to simply…. be ok with wanting to ignore my toddler in the moment. Or wanting to yell at him. Or wanting to not do anything even though the dinner still has to be started!
I feel like these times have put a magnifying glass even on a microscopic day to day personal level for me. I’ve become aware of my go-to reactions to things I probably wouldn’t have noticed before.
Anyway! Off to make some bhatura now! It’s a chola-bhatura day here at our place!
Wishing you and all your readers peace and restfulness! Thanks for updating !
Whenever I feel as if my days are getting away from me and I am down to my last coping mechanism, I think of people like you who have small children at home. It is so much harder! I would also remind you that our child-raising routines are much stricter than those of our grandparents and earlier, when little children just got to run around and the main thing was to keep them from hurting themselves. And everyone did fine. You are doing an amazing job, it’s pretty clear. Sleeping in? Do it! Eating a bit later? Yes please (we have been doing that too, because sometimes it just takes longer to get into the kitchen). And chola-bhatura, yum. I made lamb keema for the first time in ages and we had it with gobi and paratha. It was SO GOOD.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I still know the days not the dates is what I meant!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Read a post on tumblr a while back about how eerie it was that the entire country became liminal in basically a week. Yeah.
I’ve definitely been comfort rereading. And making an effort to attend at least one Zoom art making hangout each week so I can talk to people from around the world who aren’t my coworkers.
I was suspicious of the Zoom hangouts but they are great. I didn’t really have the time or headspace a month ago, but I’m really enjoying them now.
And you’re so right about the week that everything changed. I still can’t quite believe that on March 12 we were having lunch in a cozy bistro where everyone brushes up against everyone else, and then on March 14 we went into isolation.
I’ve decided to stop counting the days, because I don’t think there will be a return to pre-COVID days. Too much has changed, and we’re too aware of what needs to STAY changed, and what has to be changed further, to go back. So for my mental health, I am working to stay in the moment, now, and accept things the way they are. I’m extremely fortunate in that our lives individually haven’t been much changed; we both are still working full time, though from home, and we are privileged to not have a deep financial impact. For that, I’m extremely grateful.
For sleep, I’ve been doing a LOT more meditation. I’m up to two and three times a day right now, and I’m using Outlook during my working day to ping me to do chair yoga stretches and get up and make tea. That seems to be helping. I’m in the process of weaning off coffee, and am at the bottom of the bag of regular coffee. It’ll be gone in another day, maybe two, and I won’t replace it. I’m feeling very mixed feelings about that; panic mixed with nostalgia and sadness, but also excitement for what it means I’ll be up to with my next phase of herbalism education. I made an amazing beverage tea for myself today that I’m calling Heart Chakra Balm, and it has rose petals, hibiscus, and strawberry in it and is absolutely amazing.
I’ve mostly been staying off facebook, and am doing craft circles weekly (which reminds me, just sent you the invite; if you’re reading this and want to come, you’re very welcome, there’s not cost, just let me know and I’ll send you an invite to the Zoom). That’s been helping. We’re in warping week in my rigid heddle weaving class, and I’m doing a mystery weave-a-long in my pin loom weaving support group – it’s totally messing with my cognitive brain, which I kind of love. “What do you MEAN, I don’t know what this is going to BE? WHAT IZZIT!? WHAT? IZZIT!?” I think that’s good for me. Surrender to the process.
I agree about counting the dates. They are just our days now, or rather our lives. I hope to post more now that classes are over and meetings are winding down, and I hope to finally post about non-virus things.
Thanks for the invite, I do want to join so keep me on the list! I’ve been thinking about my knitting and crocheting and definitely want to get back to it.
Meditation is a very good therapy. I haven’t started that yet, but walking for me has a meditative aspect if I can do it without worrying. Now that people are wearing masks outside it’s a bit easier and I want to get back to it. I feel so much better when I go out, if only for 45 minutes.
LikeLiked by 1 person
@Sunita: we’ve been getting out pretty much daily for walks and it makes a huge difference. Not swimming, though, is beginning to be a problem for my balance and arthritis; if the gym doesn’t safely reopen I need to rethink my physicality a bit so I don’t end up worse off. I’m losing the weight I was aiming to, so that’s awesome. But I miss my pool.
I have a friend who is in the same boat (heh) of missing swimming. I swam a lot in my youth and 20s/30s but then stopped because I couldn’t find a pool I liked. But yeah, there’s not really a good substitute for that activity.
Glad to see your new post. I figured you were busy with end of semester work and too busy/tired to write.
I am still reading, but the books now are all second-choice ones, so my enthusiasm is down. All of the new releases that I really want to read are trapped behind those closed library doors!! (I find it head-ache inducing to read on a screen for any length of time and I have yet to replace my dead e-ink dedicated reader). Our library system has us holding on to the last books we borrowed, so I had time to finally read ‘Greenwood’ by Michael Christie. It started slow and gradually grabbed me to the point that I did not want to put it down. All in all, a very satisfactory read, with lots to think about.
‘One day at a time’ seems to be the mantra for all of us. Maryland is right in the thick of things, with no sign that the cases have peaked. We are all wearing masks in public places, the grocery stores are limiting how many customers can be in the building at one time, etc, etc. Our special needs son is bored to tears and can’t understand why he can’t go to his day program, why he can’t get out of the car when we go to pick up carry out, and so on. We do have a half-acre lot, with a fenced back yard–so of course it has been rainy and cold on more days than not and he doesn’t want to go outside in that. Sigh… We take lots of naps.
May your weather continue fine enough for walks and may all your plants flourish.
That’s good to hear about Greenwood, Barb. I’ve had my eye on it since it was listed for the Giller. Speaking of which, the winning book by Ian Williams finally had its US publication date.
Your Maryland situation sounds like our Missouri one, at least in the greater STL/KC areas. It must be so hard on your son. I’ve been a little worried about my neighbor, who is on the autism spectrum but lives with roommates and has a steady job. But he’s doing OK from what we can tell.
May we all have a slowly warming, flower-filled spring!
All of my students who stayed in the class (which is all but a couple) submitted their papers. In their final reflections I added questions about what was hard and what helped in moving online, for all their courses, to help me think about how to shape a probably online Fall semester. Which brought out comments about caring for children, being laid off, being asked to work more because their jobs are essential, etc. If I hadn’t felt compassion for them before, I certainly would now. I’m so impressed by how well they have finished the semester.
It is kind of comforting to be immersed in the normal old bad feelings of end of term grading (I procrastinate, I hate myself, I somehow get it done, etc.). I have to finish this on Monday, and then I’ll need to set myself a structure and goals for the summer so I don’t get too depressed and anxious. Weirdly, I’ve felt better for much of this time, maybe because it’s OK and normal to not feel OK. But I really have to take it one day at a time and avoid reading speculation about what the future might look like.
I’m so lucky in so many ways. I try to hold on to that, and to remember that I may have less on paper than I did at the start of the year, but I can certainly still afford to help others. Because I am lucky.
It’s hard always to know how our students are doing; I don’t want to pry but if they want to talk I want to be there for them. The surveys I did at the beginning certainly helped. I am worried about the more vulnerable ones as the economy and the virus continue to make things difficult.
I do think the fact that the world is horrible and scary makes regular anxiety and depression different. It’s still there, but it’s so obvious why it might be continuing that we don’t do the standard thing of being hard on ourselves because we’re not doing better. That doesn’t mean it goes away, often the reverse, but it doesn’t feel the same.
So happy to see a new post from you. Yes, days feel all the same, so they all feel like one because of similar activities mostly.
It seems to slow a little bit here, but whether it will be a trend I have no idea, hoping and keeping fingers crossed but it is still a lot.
I also had been reading less, but first couple of weeks I could not read at all ( almost at all I should say I was doing comfort rereads but nothing new0, so any new book feels like an improvement.
I am doing toast masters on Zoom, but we will have Trivia game on Zoom next week too. YAY.