Category Archives: more than meets the eye

You will get through this.

So this is week…4 (I think?) of self-isolation.   The days blend in together.  I look through the news to see when this will all pass but there are no clear answers.  Lately though I’ve read small hints about the world starting to open up again and part of me is relieved to see that one day we’ll go back to “normal” but there is another part…and I’m a little ashamed to say it out loud…there is a small part of me that maybe I won’t ever be able to go back to normal again.

I’ve dealt with agoraphobia off and on my whole life so staying in the house for a week at a time isn’t hard for me.  I already hid from the mail man before this started.  I pretend to be on the phone when I see my neighbors so I have a reason to not panic and have awkward small talk with them.  And then it all lets up and suddenly it’s okay.  I can go out and talk to people again.  Not for long and if I have to be around people for more than a few hours I have to hide and recuperate for hours or even days afterward, but for the most part I look almost normal if you don’t look too close.

But this last month has been different.  In some ways it’s wonderful therapy…I suddenly crave people and the idea of going out to lunch seems like heaven.  In some ways this forced lock-down has given me time to take a deep breath and assess.  The self-distancing and social isolation in some ways came easy.  I’d been practicing for this my whole life, after all.   And I found that I became something new for friends I’d always relied on when I was low.  Those same friends and family were suddenly reaching out to me as they, sometimes for the first time, felt isolated and scared and numb.  They suddenly recognized anxiety and depression…though situational and temporary…and they didn’t know how to deal with it.  So I talk them through it as best I can.  And they get better.  And worse.  And better.

I suspect many of us are like this…sudden experts in dealing with constant fear and sadness and numbness and isolation.  Some of us even feel somehow better during this time.  It makes sense though.  With anxiety disorder you’re constantly afraid and feeling dread for something that isn’t real.  Now with something real to focus on it can be a sort of relief.  The rest of the world has joined us and the cognitive dissonance you feel for feeling so terrible when there’s no reason to feel terrible is gone.  Some of us use this time to recover.  Some see the rest of the world suddenly struggle and realize that this can bring empathy in some ways…both from the people who now see how exhausting it is to fear the unknown for so long, and from ourselves as we see that no one is immune to fear.

So I wait for the day when the world reopens and I have hope that it will be better, one day.  But part of me worries.  I worry that all this time at home has create a leash around me.  I worry that my agoraphobia will be worse and the world will go on without me.  Even now I want to go on a long drive just to see the world past my door but I can’t make myself.  The fear is already there.  I haven’t driven my car in a month.  I don’t even know if it would start.  I tell myself that it’s for the best because if I was in an accident I’d have to go to the hospital and be exposed to germs so I am doing the smart thing.  But deep down I know that it’s more than that.

It feels stupid to write about this.  About the fear of not being able to leave your house when you literally aren’t allowed to leave your house anyway, but still…it’s what’s going on in my head, and maybe it’s going on in yours too.  There’s something to be said about not being alone…even in isolation.

I remind myself that I have always escaped my broken brain before.  I have fought and I have won.  And then lost.  And then fought and won again.  It’s a cycle.  One that even those without mental illness can recognize.  We are all fighting.  And failing and thriving and barely surviving and then starting all over again.  I remind myself that I have tools to help and that when the time comes I will begin the forever-work of being human.  Just like you.  Just like all of us.

We will get through this.  This part and the next and the next.  And we’ll take what we’ve learned and use it.  And that’s how life continues.

PS. Every week of isolation I share one of my drawings that you can color or print or set on fire.  This one feels particularly fitting.

Keep fighting.  You are not alone.

Mandala with the words "I've burned for so long that all that remains is fireproof."

Click to embiggen.

I made something for you because you are special and because the world is so weird right now.

So this is week 3 of isolation and every week I’m sharing a drawing for you to print out and color or burn or ignore or tape to the door of a stranger so that they don’t know if it’s a compliment or a very strange threat.  Anyway, it’s yours.

drawing of a path leading to a home with "every day, she said, I make my twisted way home" written underneath

Click to embiggen

And now I’m asking you for something.  Today is my sister’s birthday and while she’s still feeling much better than the super-scary-can’t-breathe-sweating-to-death days she’s still sick and that means that she is STILL locked in her room away from her family and today is her birthday.  So if you have a funny joke or a nice story or something lovely happened or you found a great thing to binge watch then share it in the comments for her?

Happy birthday, Lisa.  You are the best and for your birthday I think you should lure a bunch of moths in your room and make them your new birthday squad.  I did that yesterday but then the cats murdered them.  They were really happy though.  The cats, I mean.  I’m going to stop talking now.  Happy birthday.  We love you.

And now…time for the weekly wrap-up:

********

Shit I made in my shop (Named “EIGHT POUNDS OF UNCUT COCAINE” so that your credit card bill will be more interesting.):

Shit-you-may-or-may-not-want-to-see:

This week’s wrap-up is brought to you by StoryWorth, who I love desperately.  From them:” These days it’s more important than ever to stay in touch with your loved ones. If your phone calls with family are starting to sound repetitive, StoryWorth is a great way to prompt meaningful conversations. Once a week for a year, they’ll receive an email with a question about their life. All they have to do is reply with a story, which is forwarded to you and any other family members you invite. After a year, their stories are bound in a beautiful keepsake book your family will cherish!”  For real, I’ve done it for both my parents and it is fantastic.  Plus it’s a really good distraction.  Click here and you’ll get $10 off.  

This is not easy. Give yourself credit.

Tonight makes three weeks since I’ve seen anyone I know in real life other than Victor and Hailey.  I’m not alone in this.  My sister is still relegated to her bedroom after close to two weeks (she’s doing so much better though, thank God) so compared to her I’m lucky.  And compared to the people who have no choice but to expose themselves to help others or themselves she’s lucky.  But knowing that others are suffering more doesn’t really make it easier for anyone.

I see so many people struggling with working from home and trying to suddenly homeschool their kids and I see other people who have their shit together and are giving advice about how to get through this like a badass but here’s the honest truth:  I work from home.  So does Victor.  Hailey goes to online high school.  I am near reclusive at times.  But even for us?  This shit is hard.  It’s hard to concentrate.  It’s hard to prioritize.  It’s hard to finish deadlines and not feel stressed out and have cabin fever and feel like you don’t know what the shit you are doing while everyone else seems to be doing 10 zoom meetings a day and creating a home gym and learning three new languages while doing perfect yoga and making homemade jam.

But I suspect that most of us are just getting by…just watching this slow-moving crisis and surviving and trying to make the right decisions even when it’s hard as hell.  We get mad at others who are not doing their part.  We get mad when others aren’t aware of what we’re going through.  We break apart and cry and worry about so many things at once that eventually we just freeze up and refresh the internet a million times and yell at people we love because we’re worried about them and can’t keep them safe and feel helpless.

I know it’s not like this for everyone.  Some people have it easier or care less.  Some people have it harder and feel desperate.  But I think a lot of us are stuck right here…in that still but strange paralysis…waiting for it to get better…waiting for it to get worse.  Waiting for it to be over somehow.

I don’t know what the future holds.  But I do know this.  We will do our best.  We will falter.  We will struggle.  We will help others and be helped ourselves.  We will become stronger together by surviving this.  We will deal with the damage and mourn people and places and events and moments that we took for granted would arrive but won’t.  We will emerge with new stories and new memories and new tools and very different perspectives…and there is the potential for so much good.  I see family members and friend who struggle, but still push forward.  I see people I love make terrible sacrifices to care for strangers and each other.  I see strangers become heroes.  I see assholes, yes, but frankly if we’re being honest, most of those people were assholes before.  But mostly I see us.  We fight in strange ways and we hope and we reach out and we try to help.  We grow.  We make mistakes.  We learn.  We remind ourselves that we don’t know everyone’s story and try not to judge.  We hold the people we do know accountable even if it’s awkward.   We survive the day, and even when it’s just binge-watching tv all day with the cat that can be a victory.  This time is painful, I know.  But don’t short-change your victories and actions in this fight.  If you can find small ways to make this experience life-changing or rewarding you totally should.  But if you can’t, THAT IS TOTALLY FINE TOO.  

Remember that you are not alone.  Even when you feel it.  The quiet of the streets and the closing of the doors is a sign that people care.  It is a huge and incredibly quiet revolution of sorts…of people stopping the world to protect others.  Who would have ever thought so many people around the globe could work together to protect the most vulnerable amongst us?  And as painful as it is to live through it, I’m glad to be able to witness it.

I hope you are too.

I am sending you love tonight.  And I know maybe you can’t feel it but I’m there. We all are.  You can hear us in the silence and see us in the twinkling window lights at midnight.  We’re here.

I didn’t want to write this post.

Okay, if you are having massive anxiety and can’t deal with any more bad news and you’re already doing hand washing and social distancing then skip this post and feel this giant hug from me and go read a book in the bath.  I super love you and we’re all going to get through this.

Everyone else?  First off, I apologize for writing this because I know you come here for laughter and we need laughter more than ever but I have some stuff to tell you and I need to vent and I need you to listen.

Most of you are doing all that you can to stay safe and keep others safe.  Some of you are heroically working first responder jobs or other essential jobs and I can’t thank you enough.  Some of you are posting bullshit on Facebook about how coronavirus is a hoax and you’re not changing anything and are encouraging others to do the same because no one you know is sick.  *INSERT GLARE HERE TO SEVERAL PEOPLE WHO I LOVE BUT WANT TO STAB IN THE KNEE WITH A FORK*

I have 5k Facebook friends so I see a lot of people’s lives through the screen.  A lot of them are sick or have sick family members.  Most can’t get tested so you’re not hearing their numbers.  Some have been tested and are positive for coronavirus.  At least one of them has died.  There will be more.

But still I see people I love say, “It’s not real.”  Or “I’d rather get it now and get it over with.”  Or, “It’s just a hoax.”  It is not a hoax.

My sweet niece was in Europe when this started getting scary.  And before you start yelling about irresponsible traveling she was actually living in Belgium to help Syrian refugees so she’s a goddam saint.  My sister Lisa insisted she come home to California, which was the right call but she was exposed to a lot of sick people on the plane and in the overcrowded airports that were in disarray so she’s in full quarantine at their house…like sheets over her part of the house like in ET and unable to throw her trash away and just a crazy sort of living that makes us all feel lucky that they have the ability to do it.  She’s feeling fine (but bored probably) but a few days ago my sister started feeling sick.  She’s sicker now, with a fever that goes from 100-103 and so she’s quarantined in her room until further notice.  Does she have covid?  Probably.  But you won’t see her number on the lists because the tests aren’t easily available so it’s not being reported.  There is so much misinformation or lack of information that honestly I’m afraid to even share this stuff because it all changes so fast, but I’m going to share what I know as of now so you can have a better idea of what it’s like living through this and not really knowing.  I’m not calling Lisa because it makes her cough so we communicate through texts.  Here’s what it’s like in her world right now:

(By the way, the tylenol thing (in case you haven’t heard) is a great example of how fast information changes.  The WHO said that anti-inflammatories could aggravate COVID but a few hours ago they just announced that now they think it’s fine.)

So here’s the deal:  My sister will probably be fine.  The majority of us will either avoid the infection or we’ll survive it.  But a lot of people won’t.  And a lot will have serious health problems for the rest of their lives from it.  That’s why it’s important to stay home when you can, to social distance, to support the vulnerable who need help, to thank the people who are out delivering groceries or working at the pharmacy, to support businesses in safe and responsible ways and to not spread fear, racism, or misinformation.

I see people in my Facebook feed saying that we should just get this over with now and let everyone get sick at once and recover.  I thought myself until I realized that it was so contagious and serious that there literally are not enough ventilators or beds to keep people alive if we flood the system.  Plus, the doctors and nurses are getting sick so there are less of them to help save the people we love during the peaks.  That’s why that “flatten the curve thing” is important.  We have to slow the spread so there are enough vents and doctors and nurses and beds for everyone who needs them.  This is why I am asking you (if you aren’t already) to social distance, to wash your hands, to call the vulnerable in your neighborhood who need help and may not know how to get supplies that they need and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD stop posting bullshit about how this isn’t real or important.

Right now a lot of people have this backward.  They think they should wear a mask to keep from getting sick when they are out.  You wear a mask to keep others from getting sick from you.  You should assume you are infected and work in a way that keeps other people safe.  Because honestly you very well may be sick.  Many, many people are asymptomatic and are spreading it without realizing it.  You may be sick right now.  I may be too even though I haven’t seen anyone outside of Victor and Hailey in what feels like forever.

We are very, very lucky in that Victor and I work from home and Hailey goes to correspondence school and we have the resources to stay home for now.  Not everyone does and if you want to yell at me here you totally can because a lot of people are in super shitty situations and need to vent.  There’s a lot of bad out there and a lot of fear.  But there’s also a lot of good.  And I see so many people staying home as a sign of love to the people who will have a better chance of surviving this if we slow this down.  And I see people reaching out to help others when they can.  And that’s a good thing.

A special note to those of you who, like me, deal with mental illness.  This shit is fucked up, right?  I know.  I know it exacerbates all your issues and you can’t escape your house and it can trigger anxiety and depression and OCD and it’s a quick spiral.  You are not alone.  Keep taking your meds.  Get sunlight.  Take walks if you can.  Drink water.  Keep your appointments with your doctor who should be happy to do them on the phone.  Know that this is not forever.  Enjoy the laughter when it comes.  You are not alone.  Neither am I.

For the people who are suddenly working at home with their family and are thinking that the real fatalities are going to come when you all strangle each other, just know that this will end and that it will make an amazing story you’ll tell your grandkids.  About all the memes you sent each other.  I don’t know.  Actually, wait, I do have one thing that helps.  In our house we have an imaginary coworker named Kevin and when something goes wrong (the house is a mess, no one let the dog out, etc.) we blame Kevin.  The thing heard most in our house right now is, “FUCKING KEVIN“.  Honestly, he’s a real dick but thank god he’s here.

Another hint that’s helping me?  Zoom.  I didn’t even know what it was and tech scares me but it’s basically like a free online meeting room where you can invite all your friends and have a video call/happy hour together in your pajamas.  It was super easy to install and I’m an idiot and did it myself so try it.  (This isn’t an ad, I swear.)

Fingers crossed that sometime soon this will be a strange adventure we all lived through.  We will probably always remember what we did during our plague year so make it memorable.  Play cards with your kids.  Read all the books you ever wanted.  Attempt to work even though it’s impossible to concentrate.  Write.  Binge watch everything.  Be kind even when you don’t have to.  Remember others.  Take care of yourself and know your limitations. Realize it’s okay to not be perfect or to feel whatever you feel.  Laugh.  Cry if you need to.  Ask for help.  Call your family.  Watch the stars from the backyard.  Make your kid teach you tik tok dances.  Don’t panic.  Forgive people for being dumb.  Hold politicians accountable.  And most of all, remember that we will get through this.  But only if we work together.  (But separately and from your own home.)

If you have any hints of things that have helped you in this weird time please leave them in the comments.

I super crazy love you guys.

PS.  There may be angry people in the comments.  Sometimes justifiably angry and sometimes not.  That’s okay.  You can yell at me.  Don’t yell at each other.  Focus on the good.  It’s harder to see sometimes, but I promise you, it’s there.

 

Papa

Last week was hard.  But also beautiful.  And terrible.  And lovely.

I sat in a room filled with family as we all shared stories about my wonderful grandfather.  We laughed as much as we cried and the nurses looked the other way when we smuggled in my grandfathers dog – Buster – for a final snuggle before he passed.  It was a hard thing to witness, but beyond the sadness of his last moments I witnessed the greatest people I’ve ever loved gathering to be there for the kindest man I’ve ever known and it made me realize how lucky we are to have someone who is so hard to say goodbye to.

“This is what it’s supposed to be like,” I told Victor.  “A celebration.  Kindness.  Understanding.  Laughter.  Compassion.  This is how you know you made a difference.  This is what we all should hope for in the end.”

I learned stories about my grandfather I’d never heard before.  About being raised by bootleggers during prohibition and inventing imaginary cows and working on planes in the military.   He was the most religious man I’ve ever met but his brand of religion was in kindness and love.  He was a quiet man but he wasn’t afraid to speak out when the church made what he thought were recent missteps.  Hailey came out as gay at the same time his church decided to not conduct gay marriage and although I never knew it he let his disappointment in their decision be known.  I know that he’d have felt the same way whether Hailey was gay or not, but it was so lovely to know that he was fighting for her and for others like her in his own quiet way.   I wonder how often others are fighting for us behind the scenes.  They say that you never know what battles others are fighting at the moment but I often forget that we never know how many good and wonderful people quietly move the world forward in such important and positive ways.  Those people don’t make the news.  But they make the world.

If you read my post before this one you read about the silver moth and how I saw it as a sign that we’d all gather together to be with my grandfather as he flew away home.  On the night that he passed the moon was so enormous in the sky that I pulled my mom and sister outside and we stared at it in silence.  August’s full moon is sometimes called The Flying Up Moon, because it’s when birds fledge and fly away.  It felt like a sign.  But things often do when you are reaching for meaning in sadness.

Then at the burial my grandfather’s dear friend told a parable about belief in the afterlife even when you doubt and it seemed fitting.  And then everyone gathered together at the grave sang a song I had not been expecting.  I’ll Fly Away.

I am a girl who believes in signs.

My grandfather was such a force for good that he leaves a hole in the world.  I hope to fill it.  With compassion and love and forgiveness and generosity and most importantly joy.  Instead of flowers he asked that people support Planned Parenthood or Bread for the World or – most importantly – to go out and commit a simple act of kindness for a friend or loved one or a stranger.

Be kind to one another.  It makes a difference.

 

 

The silver moth

A day ago I was in the pool when this happened:

And then this happened:

And then this happened:

View this post on Instagram

Part 3. WTF YOU GUYS.

A post shared by Jenny Lawson (@thebloggess) on

Now I am a girl who believes in signs and I assumed the first sign was that I now had a new pet.  I was going to name her Mothra but then someone on twitter was like, “Kate Moth” and that was pretty great and then someone on instagram was like, “WING CROSBY” and there’s no way we’re getting better than fucking WING CROSBY but then Wing flew away to a rose bush so it was moot.

The second sign, however, was a bit more concerning.  According to the (never wrong) internet, the moth represents faith.  They are nocturnal creatures that belong to the dark, but they are driven toward the light for some reason.  And I can very much relate to this so I nodded and starting planning my moth tattoo.  Then I read that this specific moth (the sphinx moth) is sometimes considered an omen of death.  And that seemed not so great so I decided to ignore that part.  And then today my mom called to tell me that my grandfather has taken a bad turn and that it might not be long now.

So.

So now my parents are on the way to my house and my sister is flying in at midnight.  And tomorrow we’ll all drive together to Austin to be with my wonderful grandfather.  I don’t think we’ll be able to actually say goodbye.  I don’t believe he’ll regain consciousness.  But we say that we love each other every time because you don’t know when will be the last time so I know he knows he’s loved.

My grandfather is a truly wonderful man.  He’s the most religious person I’ve ever met, but also the least likely to press his beliefs on you or judge you.  He’s the quiet man making furniture for family in his workshop.  He’s the man wearing the “LITERALLY ANYONE ELSE 2020” shirt who is quietly giggling at the grumpy looks he may get from others in the retirement home.  He’s the guy who takes you out for ice cream every time and tells you the same stories over and over but with such love that you want to hear them.  He’s the man who sneaks too much food to the dog and whispers to the dog not to tell anyone.  The man who would never curse but will laugh at your dumb profanity-laced blog and love you unconditionally.  He is a light.  He’s the kind of person who makes you want to be the person he thinks you are.

He’s been struggling for a long time, in rehab after a terrible fall that he never quite recovered from.  He’s been on a vent and I know he’s had a really hard time of it.  So even though I’m sad I know that there will be relief for him in letting go.  And if there is a heaven I have no doubt at all he will end up there.  He makes me believe in heaven, and that is something.  So for now my family will gather will around until we have answers, and we will be there for him and for each other as we wait for the moment when my grandfather will fly away home and when – together – we will move through the darkness and look again for the light.