It’s All About Perspective


One of my greatest joys as a mother has been the way that I am constantly learning from my children.

As adults, my children have helped me to broaden my views in so many ways. They’ve challenged me to look beyond my own “echo chamber” and to recognize the validity of other viewpoints.

One of my sons, in particular, has been consistent in his gentle reminders to take other people’s perspectives into account when I form my many opinions. Whether the topic is politics or family dynamics, he has reminded me more than once that my idea of the facts is only my own personal perspective. The other person’s views are based on the way that they experienced the same events; their perspective is valid, so their opinions are valid.

While these ideas have made me uncomfortable more than once, and annoyed quite a few times, I treasure their honesty. I treasure the fact that they have helped me to keep my mind at least a little bit open as I move through this complex life.

Tonight I am thinking of that son. He is on my mind, and in my heart, because thirty years ago tonight, I was working very hard to bring him into this world.

I’m thinking about his birthday from the perspective of a mother. At the same time, I know that he is experiencing the same day from the perspective of a young man.

I think about the night of his birth. I think of my fear that I wouldn’t be able to deliver him safely. I think about my pain, and my hopes and the overwhelming love that I felt for him before he had ever drawn a breath.

For me, this night is a time to reflect on the sweet, careful, thoughtful little boy who filled my heart with his tenderness. I think back on his first smiles, his first steps, his raspy little voice and his wide green eyes. I remember, as if it had been only yesterday, how his absolute beauty took my breath away.

I remember the rigid and righteous boy who saw the world in black and white. The stubborn child who was the only one of my three with enough dug in determination to wait out any mother’s ultimatum.

For me, this birthday is a reminder of all of his birthdays; every party, every game, every sleepover with the boys in the backyard.

Mostly, this birthday is my celebration of the kind, smart, articulate man that grew out of that night of labor. This is my sending up of gratitude to the heavens for having put our son in our lives.

But perspective is everything.

I am well aware of the fact that while I remember the feeling of my baby in my arms, my son is looking back on the first part of his life. I am aware that this birthday is mostly likely a look back, an assessment, and a kind of measuring of where he has come in life thus far.

I suspect that this birthday is, for him, equal parts happy memory and sadness at lost opportunities. I suspect that it is a time to regroup and plan the next steps on his journey.

Perspective is everything.

Tonight I sit on my deck, looking at the darkening sky. I think about how much my love for my children has grown with every passing year. I wish that somehow I could show my son just how much I still love him, and how grateful I am for him.

Happy Birthday, honey.

I love you more than my next breath.

Gratitude in a Time of Crisis


“dragonfly” by davedehetre is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Like all of you, I am living in the strangest and most stressful of times. Like you, I am dealing with all of the sadness, worry and fear that has come with the Covid-19 global pandemic.

I am afraid of getting sick and dying. I am afraid of passing on this terrible sickness to my 90 year old mother, and to my newborn grandson.

I am worried about the collapsing economy, and about all of those I know and love who suddenly find themselves without jobs. I worry about the trauma of having done everything right, from completing college to getting a decent job, to paying back student loans, and yet having it all fall apart because of a microbe that none of us can see.

I am sad about the people I can’t hug. My sons, my siblings, my friends. I miss the contact. I miss the support. I miss the feeling of being loved.

But even in the midst of all of this, I know that I am incredibly blessed. I know it, and I am trying to hold on to that awareness.

In March, when the world shut down and all of us huddled in our respective nests, I was grateful to have a spouse whose company I treasure. I was grateful for our house, for the safety of our three kids, for the fact that his job could continue from home.

In April and May, I was grateful that my daughter and her family live only a half a mile away, and are part of our “quaranteam”. I was so thankful to be able to see them and hold them and be a part of their Covid life.

In June I was grateful for my big yard, and the chance to grow some food. I was grateful for the fact that I live in a place where farms and farmstands and local markets abound.

But July came around, and I found myself tired of the stress, worried about the worry, anxious about the future. My daughter is a teacher, and I am scared to death of her return to the classroom. My sons have jobs that have them interacting with the public, and I am so afraid of them getting sick.

I am worried about my 90 year old Mom, and about my siblings who help to care for her. I am worried about my little granddaughter, who won’t be going to kindergarten in September after all.

It is getting harder every day to stay grateful.

But sometimes there is a moment of grace, and we are forced to see how lucky we are.

At 64 years old, it isn’t surprising that I have developed a set of cataracts. My eye doctor told me a year ago that I should think about having them removed “in a year”.

But in early February I realized that I couldn’t see to drive at night. I realized that my vision was getting more and more murky, and so I made an appointment to go back to the doctor.

He checked my vision and told me with a bit of surprise that my vision was deteriorating much faster than he’d anticipated. We made an appointment to have my cataracts removed in late March.

But, alas, Covid arrived and elective surgery went away.

So I waited. My vision grew foggier and grayer, and driving even in the light of day became a challenge.

And here is my moment of gratitude.

Last week, at last, I had my right eye repaired. The cataract was removed and a new lens was put in place. The vision in my right eye went from 20/80 to 20/25 in an hour.

Last night I sat on our deck, watching the sun set and feeling the breeze. I laid my head back against the deck chair, and looked up.

Far overhead, whizzing along like a rocket, I saw a dragonfly. He swooped and dove and sped off over my rooftop.

And I could see him.

I held my breath, and let the tears flow down.

“I can see you,” I whispered. Another dragonfly sped past, and then another.

We are still living in a time of danger and sadness. But I am suddenly so grateful.

I can look up. I can see a dragonfly.

I am more than blessed, and I am determined to remember that.

Self-Care in the US, July 2020


It is so hot today. The air is dense and wet. Sweat is dripping down my spine, making me feel achy and tired.

Paul and I decide in the mid-afternoon to give ourselves a break. We drive across town to our local state park, stopping in the nearly empty lot, leaving our glasses and our wallets in the car.

There are two families swimming in the tiny roped off “safe area” of the pond. The air smells of pine resin and wood smoke, drifting from the little campground across the pond.

I drop my towel on the gritty sand. I shed my shorts and sweaty tee-shirt. My glasses land on the pile. I draw in one deep resonant breath.

I am in the water, well past the ropes. I am on my back, my arms and legs loose and boneless around me. The water surrounds my face like the cowl of a nun.

With water in my ears, I can’t hear the world. I can’t hear the angry yells or the complaints or the demands. I am deaf to everything except the beating of my own heart. I listen to the silence. My body relaxes.

I lie with my vision limited to a circle right above me. Smooth blue sky. Silky blue. Two small puffed clouds. Nothing else. I let my eyes relax, I let them stop trying to focus.

I drift.

Afloat on the gentlest of currents, my arms are floating at my sides. The top of the water is warm. Liquid sunlight fills my palms. An inch lower, and that same current brings water so cold that my bone marrows thickens.

I swirl my hands and my arms through the green water of the pond. Warm, cold, sunlight and ice. I cannot hear the world, I cannot see the world.

But I feel the earth around me. I smell the trees and the mud and the tiny green frogs that jump out of the grass. A dragonfly lands on my forehead, decides that I am neither flower nor insect, and bursts away across the top of the water.

I float. The sun hits my skin.

I am carried by the water, and for the first time in weeks, I feel no pain. My joints are loose, my muscles free. No part of me catches or clutches or aches.

I float. The breeze brushes my lashes.

Here in this tiny pond, in this small American town, I am free. I am neither too much nor too little. I am none of the things that pull on my mind and my heart. I am not needed, or depended upon, or subject to anybody’s judgment.

Here in this cool/warm sunkissed water, I am only one more floating organism, drifting on the current, touched by the sky, held up by mother nature for no particular reason.

Here in this silken green water, I don’t have to think about the left or the right or the virus or the stock market. Here in the arms of this water spirit, I am not fighting or struggling or arguing or trying to change the world.

Right now, in this small pond, in this small town, I am only a woman taking a break from the heat and the worry and the world.

This is self care. This is how I can take care of me.

I hope that you have all found a similar way to turn off this human mess and embrace the real world around us.

The Passing Years, and How to Count Them


My family is enormously lucky because we live in a place that is green, and beautiful. Our house is surrounded by trees.

We’ve been in this house for 30 years. That seems so hard to believe. My husband Paul and I raised our three kids here. We’ve had two cats and five dogs at different times in this house.

Parts of the yard have been, at various times over the years, a baseball diamond, a hockey rink, a vegetable garden, a flower bed, a strawberry patch and a place to put the swings.

Now the kids are all grown up and on their own, and it’s time for us to start looking forward. In another ten or so years, we plan to sell this house and move someplace with less upkeep. It’s time.

With that thought in mind, we’re hiring someone to help clean up this huge yard and make things look neater and less overgrown. I have mixed feelings about it, isn’t that weird?

I walk around and I look at what is now a big rock buried in raspberry and blackberry vines. I remember thirty years ago, when that was the site of my first little garden. I planted “hens and chicks” and other succulents, thinking it would be a rock garden. I didn’t anticipate the encroachment of the woods. It didn’t occur to me that Mother Nature had her own plans.

The arborist is going to take down a tall, slender oak tree near our driveway. It is competing with other trees for sunlight and is now leaning toward our deck. It shades an entire section of lawn. Everything will look more open, more sunny, when it is gone.

But I remember one warm summer morning when that oak was about my height. I laid on the grass with our new puppy in my arms and looked at the sky through its leaves. That puppy is long gone now, crossed over the rainbow bridge in his old age. I look at that oak tree, and I remember his soft ears and his puppy smell. I don’t really want the tree to go. But it’s time.

There is a little grove of baby white pines that need to be taken out, too. They stand together, like a little family that has silently stepped out of the forest and into our yard. They silently watch the grass where my kids used to play “desert land.” They need to come down, but I will miss them.

I can count the passage of our family’s years by looking at the tree stumps that now stand in the yard. There’s the stump of a tree that once held a toddler’s swing. There is the stump of a pine that used to guard a squirrel nest.

Time passes, and we know we are aging. My mirror and my bones tell me that!

But I forget sometimes that this house and this yard are aging, too. It will be good to have it cleaned up, and to have the woods retreat back to where they belong.

Still, there is a little piece of me that wishes for something else. Perhaps it would be magic, I think, if we simply moved away and let the forest gently and slowly enfold the house where our children grew up. Let her cover it up and keep it safe, like a tender memory that can only be revisited in dreams.

Image: “Pine Tree and others” by scottc320 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Oh, Poor, Poor Me


Well, jeez.

I am so tired.

I haven’t been this tired since I was 17 years old and had to endure the horror of working for SEVEN HOURS on a Saturday. I did that every week for months on end. And at the end of every single “all day” shift, I dragged my exhausted butt home where I collapsed in a heap until Mom served dinner and I could replenish my health before heading out for a night of fun with my friends.

Yeah, the COVID lockdown has reminded me of one fascinating fact of life:

No matter how much work you do in a day, it will always feel like it’s too much.

Consider this: when I was a high school student, I went to school for six hours a day. I did a little bit of homework every night. (cough, cough…well, it felt like more at the time).

Because I came from a hard working family, my parents had “encouraged me” to get an after school job. I was forced to spend a full TWELVE HOURS a week slaving at the local grocery store.

I didn’t hate the job (#cuteboys) but I did feel unbelievably tired every Sunday. Phew, poor me. School, plus friends, plus job….I was just wiped out.

Then I went to college. Hahahahah. I still didn’t study very much ( I majored in Russian studies, so I happily avoided any classes that would have taxed either my interest or my brain.) I had a couple of part time jobs to help me pay tuition, but none were particularly difficult. Still, I was so often just plain TIRED. Wow. College classes, a commute, a job? I was sure that I would expire at any moment.

Then I graduated, attended grad school and got my MS degree. Now I had a REAL job. An actual professional, bring-the-paperwork-home job. Wow. So much stress! So much work!

This went on for a couple of years before I had my first child. And then I had a couple more.

By the time I was in my mid-thirties, I had a full time job, a long commute, three kids, a house to manage and seven dinners a week to produce on command.

THAT was tired. THAT was a hard row to hoe. At that point in my life, you could have shaken me awake at 3 Am and asked me about the contents of our cabinets. I’d have been able to tell you exactly which foods, meds, clothes and supplies were there and which were on the “list”.

Those were the years when I’d dream of cooking a pot of pasta sauce. In my dream, I would look over my shoulder and see that in addition to my three kids and a couple of their friends, two of my students had appeared. In the dream, I’d open another can of tomatoes and add some spices, and just keep stirring. Then I’d look back and see four more students and a couple of their parents at my table. I’d add more to the pot, and keep on stirring.

Those were my really hard working days.

And they are far behind me now. Now I’m retired. My kids are grown and gone. Most days find me without enough to fill the hours.

So here’s my question:
Why do I still feel like some days are just such hard work?

For example, today I woke up at 8, showered and dressed, had my breakfast and read the news. Then I wrote a short article for Medium. At 10 I had a half hour Zoom violin lesson with my lovely and supportive teacher. I practiced for another half hour.

Then I paid the bills (on line. Both bills). I did a load of laundry. My Instacart order of groceries was delivered, and I put all four bags of food away.

At 2, I went to the bank, and then to our local farmer’s market where I bought a few things. I came home, planted my new thyme, and did a little weeding.

So.

By 4, I hadn’t actually done any real work. Why did my day feel so…..full? Why did I feel as if I’d done a bunch of hard work?

I don’t know.

All I can tell you is that I suddenly understand my 17 year old self, and I recognize the feeling of having done SO. MUCH. WORK.

It’s kind of funny.

Anyway, it’s almost 8 PM. Time for me to head in for a good night’s sleep.

Dad Made Things


My Dad was a pretty typical father of the 50s, 60s and beyond. He went to work while Mom stayed at home with the six kids. He earned the money. He was the provider.

Dad came home every evening right around 6pm. Dinner was just about ready, and we were around the table. A drink was made, Dad took a sip, then settled down for dinner with the brood.

He was a good provider. He was a breadwinner.

But that isn’t what I remember tonight, as I think about Father’s Day and what my Dad meant to me.

What I remember about my Dad was that he made things.

Just for fun, just for a sense of creativity, my Dad made things.

When I was a very little girl, he made pancakes. He did it every Saturday morning while encouraging my Mom to sleep in a bit. Dad would get up with all of us, and he’d make batch after batch of pancakes. We’d eat them up while watching “The Little Rascals” on tv.

As I got older, Dad made things like shelves, and picture frames and other small wooden items. On the weekend, Dad would go down to his workshop in the garage, where he’d make step-stools and Confirmation Crosses and bookshelves.

After his retirement, Dad made more decorative items, just for fun. My parents had a beautiful in-ground pool, and Dad made planters for the flowers that Mom placed around the patio.

When my family was young, and settling into our first and only home, Dad helped my husband to build a shed to store the garden tools.

Dad isn’t here with us anymore. He went on to the next step back in 2008.

But tonight, as we prepare to celebrate Father’s Day without being able to hug our kids, I am thinking of my Dad and of his legacy of creation.

I’m thinking a lot about the fact that although I am his daughter, I don’t really take after my Dad. I don’t know how to hammer a nail or saw a board or make a shed. I’m not good at math, the way that he was. I don’t have Dad’s sense of detail and his ability to create logical, sequential plans. That skill is shared by my sister, but not by me.

That thought made me a little bit sad today.

Then I took a walk around my garden. And I thought a bit.

Maybe I’m stretching it, maybe I’m making it up, but it seems to me that in a different sense, I do share Dad’s ability to “make things.”

I have made a garden out of a yard that was once completely wild. Slowly, step by step, blossom by blossom, I have turned my wild property into a pretty, fragrant, welcoming space.

Making something out of nothing is perhaps a skill, or a desire, that I do share with my Dad.

Maybe the bread that I make from my own sourdough starter is a way for me to create something, too.

What I know is that I miss my Dad. I miss his smile, his humor, his hugs. I even miss his rigid sense of right and wrong. I miss his love. I miss the things that he made out of nothing.

So tomorrow morning I will walk in my garden. I’ll salute my Dad as I admire the coreopsis growing in the goose planter that he built. I’ll take a lawn chair out of the shed that he built in our yard.

And I’ll water the wild roses and irises and herbs that I have planted here in what was once a piece of woodland.

I’ll think of my Dad and I’ll treasure the small ways in which I am like him.

Tonight I Feel Safe


This is a silly comment, really. I live in a rural community. I am at home, in my nice house with my dear husband of 42 years. There’s barely any crime here. The COVID rate is very low.

But still.

I live in this world. I live in this crazy, out of control world. I am aware that going grocery shopping or getting a haircut can put me and those I love at risk. I try to stay safe. I order online and I wear my mask when the FedEx comes to the door with my case of wine.

We wash our hands. We disinfect. We are secure.

But I’m still afraid.

And I watch the news. I see the outbreaks of racial violence and the riots in the streets. Even though I live pretty much in the wilderness, I am worried about the wide world around me.

But a funny thing happened today. Something that has really caught me off guard and gotten me to thinking.

Here in North Central Massachusetts, the weather has been very dry, and pretty warm. Today, though, the warm jumped itself right up to hotter-than-hell.

I played outside with my two grandkids this morning, running through the sprinkler, jumping into the tiny blow-up pool, watering the herbs and flowers. We came in and had lunch, and the little guy went down for a well deserved nap.

As I sat in my living room with my granddaughter, the temperature really started to rise. The heat got worse, the humidity rose, the sweat popped up on both of our heads.

It was…..gross. We didn’t like it. Little Ellie and I were NOT HAPPY. So we did what happens pretty rarely in this part of the world.

We turned on the window AC unit in the living room.

We closed the living room and dining room windows, shut the skylight and let the machine do it’s magic.

Within an hour, the house was cool, we had stopped sweating, and Nonni’s three months of ignored hair growth had dried out a bit.

By dinner time, the kids had gone home with Mom and Dad and Papa and I made our dinner. In an unusual homage to the heat, I made the whole dinner indoors, instead of out on the grill. I saluted our AC unit as I did it.

We had dinner. We watched the news. We chatted about our day and did the dishes and got settled down to read our respective books.

All the while, that AC unit kept chugging. And we did not sweat or curse the heat.

Which brings me to this moment, tonight, as the sun sets on a gloriously beautiful summer day in New England.

I do not want to shut off my AC unit, even though the air outside has cooled. I do not want to open my windows, in spite of the sweet smells of wild rose and honeysuckle and peony that I know would come wafting in.

I do not want to touch the world outside of these four walls tonight. Instead, I want to stay safely wrapped in my faux safe air flow, pretending that the world of deadly viruses and deadly hatred cannot reach me while I sleep.

I know that I am only pretending.

Even so, I will go to bed tonight with the window units running.

Lily of the Valley


When I was about 8 years old, I discovered the huge swath of lily-of-the-valley. They were growing all along the driveway at my grandparent’s house.

The house was in a relatively urban town just outside of Boston. As I look back at it now, from the vantage point of my current rural life, it seems like a house in a big city.

But it was the home that my grandparents bought after leaving the inner city life of Boston during the Great Depression and the Second World War. For them, as immigrants from Sicily in the days of the Industrial Revolution, this house was like paradise. It had a porch, a yard, and even a garage.

I remember that the right side of the house, the side away from the driveway, had a fence to separate it from the neighbor’s. I remember that fence because it was lined with a row of lovely roses, each one carefully pruned and shaped, each a different shade of red or pink. They were gorgeous, all of them, and my grandfather was so proud of them. His bride, my Nana, was named Rose, and he grew them to show her his love.

But even more than the roses, I remember the blossoms that grew along the neglected driveway on the other side of the house. It was a long, narrow path, marking the border between the houses on that suburban street. My grandparents’ side of the drive was line with huge, towering, pines. They were spaced about 20 feet apart, and each had a strong, straight trunk. I thought of them as guardians when I was a child. I felt that each one watched over our Nana and Grampa and the home that held our family’s heart.

I loved those big trees.

And then one day, when I was about 9 or 10 years old, I wandered out to where the trees grew. It must have been early May. I found thousands and thousands of tiny, perfect, beautiful white blossoms, each one dangling along a thin green thread.

The smell of them was intoxicating. I had never in my life seen or smelled or even imagined anything so perfect. I remember that I picked one delicate stem, so carefully, and ran inside to my Nana.

“Nana! What is this? Where did it come from??”

She told me that it was called “Lily-of-the-valley” and that someone had planted a few of them at the edge of the driveway before she and Grampa had bought the house. She explained that they were a kind of “wild flower” and that they’d spread along the entire length of the drive, making a sweet carpet under those huge pines.

I was amazed, enchanted, captivated. “Lily-of-the-valley” was such a magical name! But where was the valley? I could only see the thin strip of land along the driveway. I saw no valley.

But I imagined one.

I created an imaginary valley full of grass and wildflowers and those gloriously fragrant bells of lilly.

For the next decade, at least, I went back to revel in the glorious magic of those little blossoms. I played along the drive when I was a girl. I imagined tiny fairies, dressed in silver gossamer, dancing under the lilies. As I got older, I’d pick a bouquet of those fragrant blooms, knowing that their magic was fleeting.

I remember holding my baby girl, my first born child, and showing her the rows and rows of beautiful lily-of-the-valley.

And when my Nana died, at the accomplished age of 99, I went to her house and I dug up some of those tender flowers. I brought them to my house, in a more rural part of Massachusetts, and I put those ten little shoots into the ground.

Flowers can be a legacy. These are surely a reminder and a marker of my Nana and her life.

My garden is now full of lily-of-the-valley. They burst into bloom at the same time as our lilacs, filling the air around our house with pure heaven.

And every time I walk along my walkway, I think of Nana. I think of those big pines, and of the fairies that I imagined making tiny houses under the arching stems of those lily-of-the-valley.

Yesterday I brought some shoots of those glorious flowers to my daughter, in the new home that she has made for her young family.

I love knowing that my Nana’s love, and her grace, and her natural strength and beauty, will pass through me to my daughter, and hopefully then to hers.

I lie in my bed tonight, breathing deeply, taking in the perfume of those magical blooms.

Life goes on, and on and never stops.

The lily-of-the-valley is my proof.

My Name is Karen. I’m Sorry.


I always used to describe myself as a warm, friendly teacher lady. I always thought I was “nice”. My students used to tell me that all the time! “You’re a nice teacher,” they’d say.

I believed them.

For years, my favorite things in life have involved cooking, sharing and eating good food and growing pretty flowers. I don’t like to make a fuss, or complain. If something is amiss with a restaurant order, I don’t send it back; I eat it and pretend it was fine.

I swear, I’ve always thought of myself as pretty likeable.

Welp, I’ve finally been set straight about my many character flaws, thanks to the miracle of social media.

In the past couple of months, Facebook has informed me that I, and all who share my unfortunate first name, are a bunch of nasty bitches. There’s even a Facebook Group dedicated to dissing us!

We are just AWFUL.

According to multiple posts, I’ve learned that Karens drive SUVs all over town. They are overly critical of their kids’ teachers, coaches and therapists. They believe they are entitled to all the good things in the world just because they are universally white, upper middle class, educated and suburban.

Karen’s complain. A lot. They complain on Snapchat and Instagram, which they apparently love. They post pictures of their expensive breeder-raised dogs when the groomer fails to get the face fluff just right. They post outraged images of their left pinky nail when the salon leaves a tiny ding.

They seem to enjoy being outraged.

Twitter has a hashtag called #KarenStrikesAgain. Holy horrifying!!

Twitter told me that, as a Karen, I’m a racist! I had no idea….I can’t think of a time when I did anything racist, but what do I know? I’m only a Karen. I don’t have any ability for self reflection.

Or so I’m told.

Look:

Yeesh. I cried for days after Tamir Rice was murdered. He was just about the age of my students. I wrote letters, I wrote blog posts, I was horrified.

I’m so sorry!

I didn’t know that as a Karen, I’m partially responsible for all of this racist violence.

I don’t want to waste my time trying to defend myself. I mean, I think we’ve all had enough of the hyper defensive reactions of the snowflake in the White House.

So I’ll just say this.

I apologize from the bottom of my heart for my self-centered privileged self. Even I don’t like Karens now that I know about us.

But look at this picture. Does this woman look like a person who would complain about a salon? Or a dog groomer? Does this look like the face of someone who thinks she’s better than you?

I think not!

She looks, if you ask me, a little ridiculous. (Although I did always like that sweater.) She looks like a person who would eat the cupcake after her grandson licked off the frosting. She looks like the owner of two mixed -breed mutts who she tosses in the bathtub when they get too grimy.

She looks, to me, like a nice lady who laughs at herself a lot.

So. I am herby announcing that I am changing my name. I think I look a lot like an Annie. I’ve always loved that name. No more Karen for me. I reject the entire persona!

Annie.

Annie Shiebler.

Nonni Annie.

It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

How the Virus Has Altered My Soul


“Morning Light on the Books” by cogdogblog is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

Here I sit, on Day 50 of my personal lockdown….quarantine….social isolation. It’s raining outside. Again. It’s nearly May, but it’s still very cold outside my window. The thermometer hasn’t touched 40 degrees yet.

I’m cooking.

I’ve been cooking for 50 days. Baking bread, desserts, bagels and high energy bars for my daughter, who is nursing a 10 pound newborn. Working on my vegetarian recipes in the face of some food shortages and in anticipation of more.

I’m OK. The initial feeling of terror has receded into the dull ache of constant worry. I’m not lonely because I’m with my husband of 43 years and I am able to see my daughter and her children who are part of my isolation crew. My children are healthy. My siblings and my Mom are OK at the moment.

It’s OK. Right now, its OK.

But I feel like someone other than the me I’ve known for 64 years. The sense of the surreal is no longer only about the world around me; now I feel surreal myself.

I can’t read.

I always been an avid reader. I love to read. I was the second grader who got into trouble for sneaking a book into the girl’s bathroom and forgetting to come back to class. I was the young woman who read every day on the subway, relying on an internal sense of time to help me recognize my stops. I was the woman who read a book while I was in labor, and read while I was nursing my kids. I have been known to read while making dinner, stirring the pasta, reading a paragraph, adding some salt, reading another paragraph.

I used to read National Geographic and professional journals while making middle-of-the-night bathroom visits.

I’m a reader.

So why can’t I read now?

I have started three different novels and have abandoned them all. When this all began, I was in the middle of a non-fiction book on American politics. I’ve barely turned a page since then. I have two magazines that I haven’t even opened.

It feels as if my mind has become a dragonfly. I drift across the surface of the lake, touching down briefly here and there, then flitting back into the air.

I can’t concentrate on the characters in my book, because my thoughts are flitting around too fast. Did I feed the dogs? I should start the marinade for the chicken. I hope my sons are holding up, working from home. Do they need anything? Is the baby sleeping better? And I can’t forget to turn the compost.

I’m also a writer. I process everything, usually, through writing. My many political rants, my deep feelings about my family, my days as an elementary school teacher. I write about it all, when the world is in its usual state.

But now that inner flitting dragonfly is keeping me from completing a thought. I have short stories started and set aside. I have articles on politics, history, food, family, all sitting silently in my Google Drive folder.

I don’t feel like me.

Some day, in a future that’s getting harder to imagine, life will feel normal again. We’ll go back to shopping, meeting friends for dinner, going to the beach and the mountains. When that happens, I hope that I can morph back into myself.

The woman who reads and writes and can hold an idea in her head for longer than a minute.

Until then, I think I’ll go online and make a bulk order for black beans and look up some Mexican food recipes.