Bad News/Good News

Hello, dear readers! I apologize for the late blog this week – the holiday at the beginning of the week threw me off a bit, and also I overslept this morning. Whoops.

Y’all, it’s been a WEEK. Last week’s blog happened right before things started getting exciting. There is bad news, and then there is good news.

So, first, the bad news.

My partner got a call Thursday morning from the museum where they’ve worked since we moved to Chicago almost eight years ago, with unfortunate news – they were laid off (they helped manage the team that handled field trips and tour groups coming to the museum, so not too surprising, but still).

This, of course, was sad and anxiety-inducing. Thankfully, with my new job, we’re still going to be in a reasonably-okay financial spot for the time being, but health insurance is a major concern (particularly during a pandemic). So, I pretty immediately emailed the HR team at my work and asked what we’d need to do to get them onto my health insurance.

HR got back to me pretty quickly with the list of “Qualifying Life Events” that allow a person to change their health insurance plans mid-year. I didn’t see any information regarding a domestic partner losing their insurance, though, so I emailed back to clarify. They replied with a question: “Do you have any legal documentation of your domestic partnership?”

I turned to my partner, and said, “So…it looks like we should maybe get married?”

Which, if you hadn’t figured out where this was going, brings us to the good news.

After nearly 10 years together, we’re getting married!

We’d talked about it off and on over the years but never felt like we needed to do it – when we started dating, gay marriage hadn’t been legalized yet, so we didn’t even have the option…it was never part of the framework of how we thought of our relationship. I had my own internal resistance to it, too – I felt like it might be the only way to make some of my family members see my relationship as “legitimate,” and that annoyed me. I didn’t want to do it for them. But we’re at the point where we really do want to do this for us. We’re both committed to making this work, and it’s going to make the legal bullshit so much more straightforward…it’s a win-win all around.

So here we are, unexpectedly planning a wedding in the middle of a pandemic. I can’t say I ever had super clear dreams about what getting married would look like, but I definitely never pictured it would be just us on our couch in front of a computer!

I hope you’re all staying safe and that our happy news can bring some light to what are definitely weird and frequently dark days. Keep hanging in there, friends.

Brief Ramblings

Hello, dear readers! It’s Thursday. I thought it was Thursday on Tuesday this week, so that was disappointing. But we’ve made it! It’s Thursday, which means it’s almost Friday, and then there’s a long weekend, which will be nice even if time is meaningless and I won’t really be doing anything different except not working on Monday.

I don’t have a lot to say this week. We appear to be getting into another round of allergies, because I am very sniffly and my eyes itch, so that’s unfortunate. But it’s great to see everything come back to life outside, even if it makes me sneeze.

Work has been a mixed bag this week – I’m still at the point where some days I feel really on top of things and other days I feel like I’m drowning. Currently I’m pretty on top of things, which is good. We’ll see how that continues.

I’m still anxious a lot of the time. My partner will sometimes ask what I’m anxious about, and all I can say is “the world.” There’s nothing super specific, but everything feels like a lot right now. I’m trying to hang onto the bright spots – I have a stable job that pays well; I’m not facing this alone/my partner is literally the only person I’d want to be stuck with 24/7; I have regular virtual social interaction with people I love, even if I’m not seeing them in person. These things are important and I don’t want to take them for granted. It’s all still a lot, though.

Learning is Hard

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to another Thursday – I don’t know about you, but I’m finding that keeping track of what day it is during this pandemic is not getting any easier over time.

It’s been a week. Last Friday I got totally overwhelmed by work – I just couldn’t get on top of my cases, and I felt like every time I figured out one thing, something else went wrong (or I turned out to be wrong about the earlier thing I had thought was taken care of). It made for a very frustrating end of the work week, and I was dreading getting back into it on Monday.

Monday was also hard. I continued to feel like I was drowning, and actually had an anxiety attack partway through the day. Thankfully, as the day went on, my team stepped in and helped me with a few things, and that made a big difference. I’m still learning that I can ask for help here.

The last couple of days have been a little better – I feel like I’m getting a better handle on things and doing a better job of asking for help when I need it.

Despite work being overwhelming, there have been some bright spots. Friday night was the second session of a D&D game that we decided to move from every other week to every week, and that was super fun. I’m looking forward to getting to know these characters and the world we’re exploring better.

I love that we have a weekend routine of sorts that gets us out of bed now. On Saturdays we have virtual brunch with a friend in our old neighborhood, and it’s a really lovely way to set the tone for the rest of the weekend. We’ve also been rewatching the Star Wars films with some friends on the weekends (via conference call), and that’s been delightful. We started with the original trilogy, and then moved on to the prequels – we were going to watch Episode III this past weekend, but Episodes I and II were so much worse than we remembered, we gave up and skipped to Episode VII, which I think was the right choice.

I also talked with my parents over the weekend for the first time since…well, since we started staying home, so about two months. We’d be texting regularly, but historically I used to call them when I was commuting or walking between places, and since that’s not really happening right now, I’d lost my mental trigger to pick up the phone. It was good to catch up and I think we’re going to try to do that more regularly now.

And the second session of my mandolin class was last night, which was also delightful. I didn’t practice as much during the week as I intended, but I’m managing to keep up. As an extra fun little challenge, I’ve been transcribing any tablature our instructor sends out into standard notation so I can get better at reading sheet music.

Anyway, I hope you’re all hanging in there. What a weird time it is to be alive. I have a lot to be grateful for right now, and I’m trying not to take that for granted.

Victory in Uncertainty

Happy(?) Thursday, dear readers! How’s everybody holding up?

The week here has been a bit of a mixed bag. I’m still wrestling a bit with some leftover queasiness from last week, and the realization that we really don’t know what the future holds right now is steadily sinking in.

However, in the midst of all this uncertainty, I did have a major victory this week – I paid my credit card down to $0 for the first time since we moved to Chicago 7.5 years ago.

Some history on this: I had paid it all off before we moved, but when we got here, we we both very much underemployed, and, well…we had to eat. I leaned on the credit card because it was the option we had. Then our job situations improved, but I was in the habit of using the credit card, and…it got out of control. By August of 2017, I had accumulated nearly $16,000 in debt. So, I made a plan, and since September of 2017 I have been aggressively paying down my debt, dedicating about a third of my monthly income to credit card payments.

I had some setbacks, for sure (retail therapy is a hard habit to break). I originally thought I’d have it paid off in two years, then by the end of 2019, and finally it was clear it was going to take until June of 2020. However, I was able to sneak a couple extra payments in thanks to the pandemic stimulus check and my new job, and I am now debt free a month ahead of where I thought I’d be.

It’s a surreal feeling, but mostly, I feel like I can breathe again, and that’s a really great experience. I recognize that I am privileged beyond measure to be able to achieve something like this during such stressful and uncertain times, and I don’t want to take that for granted.

The other fun news from this week: I started playing the mandolin again, and am taking a class online at the Old Town School to get my playing back up-to-speed. I’m remembering all the reasons why I fell in love with the instrument almost 9 years ago, and am a little sorry I put it down for so long (I haven’t played much in probably 5 years now…been focusing much more on guitar). It’s the only instrument I can play where I can pick it up and just noodle around and make up melodies that sound nice.

I hope you’re all hanging in there and finding your own victories (big or small – they all count) to brighten up your days.

Whoops

Hey there, readers! I’m late with this week’s post – sorry about that. The week got away from me.

The week has been a mixed bag. I ate something Monday that disagreed with me (possibly lettuce I didn’t wash well enough?), which meant I didn’t have therapy that night, which was…yeah, not the greatest. Tuesday I still felt off, so I ended up signing off from work a couple hours early. Wednesday was pretty nondescript, and today I ended up working over an hour past when I usually sign off, because my advice to a customer triggered a bug right before I was about to sign off. Sigh.

It’s also just been an emotionally tender week. COVID keeps creeping closer, and it’s scary and sad.

But tonight I made quesadillas and we watched Dolly Parton read a bedtime story, so that was nice?

I hope you’re all hanging in there.

Bright Spots, Dark Days

Hello, dear readers! I’ve been procrastinating writing a blog post this week, because, frankly, it feels like there’s not much to write about. The days blend into each other, as you all know.

I realized in therapy on Monday (right at the end of the session, of course) that I’m showing some key signs that I’m in a depressive episode. This makes complete sense given everything that’s happening in the world, but it hadn’t really occurred to me that I was feeling particularly down, because I wasn’t so much down as just…numb. I’m having a hard time responding to things with appropriate emotion. For example: thanks to the stimulus check, I realized I’ll be able to pay off my credit card in May. I have a very small balance left on the card. I’ve been working my ass off for two and a half years to pay down my debt, and I should be over the moon. Instead, I’m just…like, I know it’s a big deal, and there’s a part of me that’s proud of myself, but mostly I just don’t feel much of anything about it.

I told my therapist, after coming to this realization on Monday, that I was going to approach this numbness with some curiosity. I’m learning to observe what my brain and body are doing without getting lost in them. So far, I’ve realized that it’s more pervasive than I had initially realized, and I’m a little surprised that it snuck up on me so easily. I think, when I was hit with overwhelming grief a few weeks ago and then felt that pass, I thought I’d somehow avoided or bounced back from depression, but…I think I was wrong.

Despite all of this, I am still trying to find the bright spots. Here are some things that are making me smile, even as I wish I could feel more enthusiasm:

  • The trees outside of our apartment are starting to green. The one that’s closest to our sunroom window, in particular, which has given me so much trouble with my allergies but that I love anyway, has gone from bare (save its little pollen bombs) to buds to the first tender leaves in the last week or so, and it is comforting to see that nature is getting on with spring despite what’s happening with humanity.
  • I may not be responding with the appropriate enthusiasm to the idea, but I am genuinely relieved that my credit card is about to be paid off. There was a long time when I didn’t believe it was possible and thought I’d be saddled with this debt forever. It hasn’t been a smooth path – I had some setbacks and definitely made mistakes along the way. But I made a plan and worked really hard at it and now I’ve managed to actually do the thing, which feels really great.
  • I’m starting a new D&D game with some friends tomorrow night, and I am so excited! I’ve been quietly trying out voices for my character while I work (I don’t always do voices in games, but some characters demand a little something extra), and I think I’m landing somewhere between Giles (from Buffy) and C3PO, and it’s entertaining. Whether I’ll be able to keep it up in game, I don’t know, but I’m having fun with it.
  • While it’s unfortunate that it took a pandemic to get us there, I’m really glad to be connecting more with friends and family. There are people I feel closer to now that we’re socially distancing than I ever have.
  • My partner and I haven’t really left our apartment in about three weeks, and we’re still getting along. We were both a little worried going into this, as two introverts in a one-bedroom apartment, but I have to say, we lucked out. I don’t know how I’d be functioning if I was living alone right now, but I also wouldn’t be able to do this with roommates. I am determined not to take any of this for granted.

Resting

Today, I am trying to listen to my body.

I have spring allergies, and they’ve been pretty bad this week. I woke up this morning with a headache for the third day in a row. I decided it was time to rest.

So I’m taking a sick day.

I am going to knit, and rest, and try to listen to what my body needs, and then give it what I can.

Hopefully, since the sun is out today, I will go for a short walk later. At the very least, I’ll take some time to soak in the vitamin D through our sunroom windows.

Maybe I’ll pull out my mandolin and dust off some of those skills, since I signed up for a mandolin class for May/June last night.

Right now, I’m going to go take some vitamins, drink coffee, and figure out something to eat for breakfast.

Be gentle with yourselves, friends.

It’s the Little Things

Hello, dear readers. Life continues to be weird. Time continues to feel more ethereal than normal. I still rarely remember what day it is. This pandemic continues to creep closer and closer to hitting home with me; I know for some of you, it’s already there. It’s a scary time.

I am trying desperately to hold onto what glimpses of light I can in the midst of all the uncertainty. Here are a few things that have been bright spots in my week:

  • It has been so bright in my “office” (our sunroom) when I start working in the mornings that several times I have needed to pull out my sunglasses. The sunlight, even filtered through our windows, is a welcome and wonderful thing.
  • There are trees immediately outside of our sunroom windows (we’re up on the 3rd floor). I have multiple times now experienced the joy of watching a squirrel take a nap on a branch. I think it may be building a nest in the tree, as I saw it gnaw off a twig or two yesterday.
  • I’m so enjoying watching nature from my sunroom. In addition to napping squirrels, I’ve seen house finches, mourning doves, robins, sparrows, and a woodpecker.
  • The trees are starting to bud. Before we know it, there will be fresh, vibrantly green leaves coming out, and it will feel like we live in a tree fort.
  • I’m getting ready to play a D&D campaign with some friends and family that I am incredibly excited about. I am so glad to have the distraction of play in the midst of all of this.

It is definitely a dark and scary time right now. I am rotating regularly from fear to anger to sadness to numbness and back again, and I know that’s a perfectly reasonable response to what we’re going through. It’s also why I think it’s so important to find those little moments of comfort and light.

I’d love to hear from you – what are the things that have lifted your spirits lately, however briefly? How are you holding up?

Dazed and Confused

Hello, dear readers! I apologize for the later-than-usual post – I only just realized that it’s Thursday, despite the fact that I had my usual Thursday check-in with my boss an hour ago. Whoops.

Working from home/sheltering in place continues, and I am really glad I’m still working, because that’s the only thing giving me much of a connection to the passage of time. As it is, I am still frequently confused about what day it is. Monday and Tuesday this week I kept thinking it was Friday, and I’m still half-convinced that today is Wednesday, and I don’t know where actual Wednesday went.

We went to the grocery store yesterday for the first time in over two weeks, and stocked up on enough things that I think we’ll be able to avoid another trip for at least a few more. It was…stressful. Some people were doing a great job of social distancing and maintaining space between themselves and other shoppers. But some people just…weren’t. Like, there were people (mostly middle-aged or older men, but not exclusively) who just had ZERO awareness of the existence of other people or the fact that we were all trying to respect the CDC guidelines. Which was disheartening, and again, stressful. I did manage to make it through the trip without touching my face, though, so that was an accomplishment (my allergies are so bad right now, y’all…I just constantly look like I’m crying).

This continues to be a weird time, but I’m also coming to terms with the fact that this is the new normal, and we need to figure out how to survive within it.

I’d love to hear from you all! How are you coping? What strategies are you finding helpful for maintaining a sense of groundedness and routine in your lives? Or how are you not coping? (After getting home from grocery shopping, I had a dinner of cereal and Cheetos, because that’s what I wanted in the moment, and I have no regrets.) Please, let’s keep reaching out and looking out for each other as much as we can (while staying in our own homes).

What Day Is It?

Greetings, readers, from my home to yours. (I really hope you’re all at home. This is what we need to do to keep each other safe right now.)

It’s a weird time. The fact that I am working helps give me a bit of structure, but I’ll be honest, I’m having a hard time keeping track of my days. Everything’s sort of blending together. I missed my usual 9am deadline for posting this morning because I kind of forgot it was Thursday.

I’ve gotten my first two support tickets at my new job, so I’m actually doing work now instead of just reading about how to do work, which is a nice change of pace. I’m learning a lot and ending pretty much every day exhausted from the amount of information I’m taking in.

Yesterday was a beautiful day here in Chicago, so after work I ordered a pizza for pickup. As I walked to the restaurant, I was…alarmed by how many people do not seem to be taking the social distancing thing seriously. It was a toss up – some people that I passed were considerate and moved to the opposite side of the sidewalk or the grass so we could maintain 6ft of distance…a lot of people did not. I went pretty quickly from enjoying the beautiful weather to just being really anxious.

There’s a musician acquaintance of mine who lives in northern Italy. He’s been posting about some of his experiences in English for his American friends. The posts are incredibly sobering. I worry about him every day…and I worry about us, here in America, because we’re just not responding well to this crisis.

I’m worried a lot of the time right now. I worry about my nephew, who has asthma. I worry about my mom, who’s a nurse and at an age where she’s probably more vulnerable to this thing. I worry about my friends and family members who are out of work right now, or who are still having to go to work rather than working from home. I try not to worry too much about myself, but I’m allergic to many things outside right now, and every time I cough or sniffle I have to suppress the urge to panic.

But I’m also trying to find the light in all of this. We’re connecting with a lot of people virtually. Last weekend we had virtual brunch with a friend that we have regular brunch with every couple of weeks via Google Hangouts. I played Monsterhearts 2 with friends on a Discord server. We had a little song circle with Song School friends in California via Zoom. We’re in frequent contact with family and friends and I feel really held by the communities I’m a part of, even as I do my best to hold them. If anything good comes of this mess, I think it’s going to be a greater sense of connection. I am so grateful to live in this time where physical isolation doesn’t have to be social/emotional isolation. While it is hard to balance not being glued to a screen reading the news and using that screen to stay connected, I think it’s worth it.

I hope you’re all hanging in there (and staying at home). Take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. If we’re going to get through this, it’ll be together (from our own places of residence) or not at all.