Day 41, with 50 yrs of Earth Day

It’s weird that I can’t go out and enjoy the burgeoning spring on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, but I get that the weirdness is also poignant and poetic. I’m not the best steward and I should learn more skills in that area, and figure out how best to protest misuse given my physical limitations.

Protest only once the quarantine is over, of course.

Day 40, with Overwhelm

CW: Death toll, other associated numbers, general horror at the state of the world

Today is a rough one. A reeeeeally rough one.

I understand that anything that would make US governmental bodies shut down businesses would have to be bad. But today it hit me how bad it still is, vs my miniscule effort, vs all these days inside.

In the past two days, over 10K people have died globally. More people have died in the US between 4/20 and 4/21 than are, on average, killed by heart disease (the #1 killer in the US). The death rate right now in Spain is over 10%. The death rate in the US is 5% so far, and while New York’s curve is finally starting to flatten, as a country that curve is still climbing.

We’re doing incredibly badly at containing this monster, and I’m terrified for friends and family across the globe. If you’re reading me regularly you probably are already doing all you can, but if you stumble on me by accident? Please stay safe, don’t play chicken with this horrible thing.

Day 34, with Exhaustion

Yesterday morning my voice was ragged and low, what Jon calls my Kathleen Turner Overdrive voice. I sounded like a massive cold was in my throat and lungs, snot not there yet but oh-yeah incoming. And I was TIRED. Really darkdeep tired. I was seriously debating calling in a sick day. But people need, and work needs, and I’m doing (relatively) good work for a fine institution that serves people, and I wasn’t SICK sick.

So I got up, and started working.

And very quickly regretted it.

Not because anything went wrong, per se. Everything in my work-world is exciting and has the typical tech hitches, and the interpersonal dynamics are all familiar to me and everyone associated with my projects really means extremely well.

No, the problem was the tiredness. I haven’t been this kind of tired since the last time I had mono. Adding a LOT of video conferencing calls where I was called upon to be cheerful* was an effort and stress I wasn’t really up for. I ended the day with my head on my desk, my cheeks not just aching but burning from smiling too long, and all I wanted to do was sleep. I actually did go and lie down under the covers for a while, and if I’d had dinner I might have just passed out.

But I was angry at myself. I’m not doing that much; I’m not working up to my personal spec day by day. So there I was, head on desk, thinking “dammit Risa get the hell up and get [that other thing] done.”

If that sounds familiar to anyone, I want to extend a psychic hug. Sometimes gentleness with ourselves and each other is hard, because the world is not gentle and we’re keyed to respond fast and adapt soon after. But nothing about this is actually easy. Living with helplessness is not easy. So I want to remind you that not only is the world full of horror right now, but there was horror we were struggling with before this all happened, and your tiredness or anger or pain? It makes sense. Things are bad. We get tired. Struggling to not be tired only works short-term. In the end, we’ll be forced to admit to the existence of that goopy human who needs to cry or scream or maybe just space out for a little while.

That goopy human deserves all the care and love we can summon for it.

*because otherwise I get the worst resting bitch face.

Day 24, with Inspirations

CW: Coping or lack thereof, discussion of a death unrelated to COVID-19

It’s funny how many tiny inspirations a person can pull from their immediate surroundings when trying to cope with a mass trauma event. I’ve been through more than one, and normally I get my coping juice from being outside or with blooming thigs. This is the first time I’ve started trying to pull some ‘power’ from these intensely localized events and observations. But I figure talking about my little inspos might help others find their own. So here goes!

First inspiration is my wee hydroplants. I adore purple passion vines* and they root really well in water, so I have six different cuttings in water around my office, four of which come from the same plant. Well, yesterday I noticed that one of the plants has decided it wants to have purple roots. In my coupla decades of water-propagating purple passion vines, I have neeeever ever seen this. This one plant has three purpling roots, one long and two just starting the pass the coloring down the length of the already-flourishing root. I am so proud of this baby for pioneering a new way to be purple.

Second inspiration is our adaptability as humans. Today I “sat shiva” with a dear friend via Skype. It wasn’t an unexpected death, but my friend couldn’t go to the funeral without endangering the rest of his family. So he stayed home, and participated in the funeral via Skype, and oh I am so so proud of him for agreeing it was best and being willing to sacrifice his own bit of closure. Seeing my friend do all of this remotely, navigating his mourning, was a strong reminder of how quickly humans adapt to adversity and keep moving.

Third and finally, I made a mask for Jon yesterday. I’d been meaning to anyway, even before the “everyone wear masks outside” directives, but the fact that the sewing machine is both dusty and hard to access right now was a deterrent. However, I realized I had a few holey cotton yoga pants I could repurpose, and an idea struck me. I was able to make a no-sew mask – not the best quality but a better-than-bandanas mask nonetheless. I’m thinking of posting a video, because a lot of people don’t have the resources (or spoons) to sew.

I’m hoping that these kinds of things keep happening, because I’m anticipating at least another 4 months of this. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m preparing to be right.

Day 14, With Spring

It’s the time of year I love the most*. This morning I looked out my office window and the sun was shining juuust right on the magnolia tree and forsythia bush across the street, and I felt…

Well. Back in my early days I’d have felt overflowing, like a cup fuller than full, in the good way. I’m slowly getting back to that emotion, but now it’s simply a wee swell in the heart, an ease in the lungs, a sense of both return and newness.

It’s a BIG conflict when compared to the sorrow and devastation this global illness has wrought, and it changes how I respond to the feeling. My immediate inclination, almost a compulsion, is to go outside and bury my face in the flowers like I’m a nectar-hunter. I can’t, though, because I’m still within the “might be a carrier” zone. So I’m staying in. No biggie, right? But when you’re contemplating your mortality, these things loom larger. I’m glad we’ve got a lilac bush really close to the front door; it’s not due to bloom for another week but if the CDC/WHO determine people can be carriers for longer than 21 days, I’d be in agony. It would be a hell of a struggle for me to not huff a lilac when there was one within walking distance. While I was in Texas, I missed lilacs more than I ever expected.

In the meantime, I feel simultaneously lucky and helpless. We’re doing reasonably well in this crisis but others I know and love are not. My stepfather has a health crisis unrelated to the virus wracking the world right now, and I think of him hourly – alongside everything else. And I think of my mother, who can’t go visit him. Alongside everything else.

And there’s nothing I can do for anyone except stay home.

I understand why people break quarantine. I’m not sympathetic, but I understand. We’re not used to accepting helplessness. We’re always told we can do something, we can change it, we can fix it, if only we did x or y or z.

I think it’s time to revisit what helplessness means. Because gods know, as individuals we’re helpless to stop the spring from coming. So I’m practicing imagining the discomfort of helplessness as a bud, enclosed in the chill of the wind…

about to turn into a flower, if it can just. hold. on.

* …allergies notwithstanding.

Day 7 (Or 8, Depending)

CW health issues, pandemic


It’s not yet 9 pm where I am and I’m in bed, exhausted either due to side effects of Bactrim or the stress of the past week. I have not been out of the apt except to walk Kizu since last Saturday midday, when I went to urgent care due to a nasty-looking lump on my left shoulder. It was obviously infected; that’s what the Bactrim is for. Interestingly enough, I wasn’t prescribed that by urgent care but by my PCP three days later via secure teleconference, when the redness had turned dark.

Good news – two days of Bactrim and it’s not even warm anymore. 👍🏼

I’m doing much better than a lot of folks. I was in NYC on Thursday the 12th but work closed all physical locations on Friday and warned us to take our personal stuff home, just in case. I’m working remotely and, due to the nature of my job, I am *swamped.* Everyone is trying hard and we’re helping each other generously, though. It’s nice.

Even if AOC mentioned us in an IG story and slashdotted the back end of our app. Oops.

The thing that bothers me most right now – that is if you subtract the horror show that is my government – is that I can’t help in any significant way. Particularly having been in NYC, working at a public institution. I can’t visit people, I can’t sew masks, I can’t deliver stuff for older folks. Not yet, anyway. It’s my upstairs neighbor’s 80th birthday tomorrow and I can’t make her anything. It’s a much different world than visiting neighbors with gifts of cornbread during 9/11.

I know isolating myself for another week or two is critical, and it’s the best thing I can do. And I don’t mind isolating with Jon – it’s kinda nice, actually. But it still doesn’t feel like helping, no matter how much I try to logic myself into believing it.

I’ll be fine. I’m just hoping talking about this a bit will ease the weird “you could do something” guilt.


A bit worn out physically from attending two days of a conference when it hurts to stand too long or walk too far. Circulating the exhibit floor was a bad choice.

A lot worn out emotionally from a lot of loved ones going through a variety of health/life/work struggles and then being inconsiderate enough to engage in a political conversation when depleted. :headdesk: I should know better. I should also do better.

That said, I’m delighted with my job. The conference, as much of a struggle-bus as it was physically, really revved my mental engines and I’m excited about my projects. I got to connect with some of my co-workers and community members in a more personal way than I had before, and after my job history it really meant a lot to me to be able to do so.

And as much as it hurts for people I love to be struggling, so many across a lot of communities, I’ve been able to be present with most of them without too much trouble.

I’m promising myself to focus hard on the good in my own life so I can be there for those close to me. Job happiness, writing happiness, animal snuggles, and a wonderfully supportive spouse.

…. oh, hm – maybe I should write a protection spell for those, given the trend I’m seeing :x Anyone else want one?


It’s too warm.

I’ll say it again: It’s too freaking warm. It’s SIXTY FOUR degrees here. It’s more than that in NYC.

In the meantime, where my family is it’s below freezing, and in Toronto it’s harsher.

My back surgery site aches like hell because the temp is changing so rapidly.

This climate change thing is not only horrific in the macro, it’s rough in the micro. Time for me to start supporting tree-planting services. *sigh*