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Abigail B. Calkin

A Blog of Flashbacks

Living with the Pandemic

February 2021

Our lives change when we are living with the pandemic. Why am I busier today than before? I don’t think I’m unique when I say that I find too much going on—too many events, too much news, too many things to think about. I need to make bread for supper tonight with the couple in our bubble, edit this blog and read it many times to be sure it’s ready. I am a school psychologist and receive its bimonthly 30 to 40-page newsletter, Communiqué. The January-February 2021 issue has two main articles on why things feel different. They feel different because they are different. The example one article gives is buying a cup of coffee. I’m going to turn that into tea since that’s what I want at Starbucks, our local Fireweed Gallery, Coffee and Tea House, or any coffee/tea shop. I used to stop the car, go in, order, and then either drink it there or take it with me.

Now I have to put on my mask, open the door with something other than my bare hand, stay at least six feet behind the person in front of me, etc. We know the routine so I won’t continue. What happened? We have to change the habits and routines we’ve done for years without thinking about them. Further, it’s not just one habit, but many habits at once. Take a mask with you everywhere. Wear it and know it fits well. Wash your hands long and often. Follow the CDC guidelines. Trust the science that tells us what to do just as we trust the science that gives us electricity, cars, and automatic heat. Even though I’ve had my second vaccination, I don’t talk face-to-face with people outside my bubble who won’t wear a mask. Be safe. Protect others and myself.

Fortunately I live remotely enough that staying away from people is not difficult. I can walk or cross-country ski and see no one for a couple of hours or go with someone and stay many yards apart. I can go to the town’s one store or the post office and may see three people. Also fortunately, I have a husband who is social so we spend time talking, eat together, sleep together, go for walks, play cards, watch movies or the fire. We look out the window to see the spruce forest that surrounds us with all of its trees still flocked with snow. We comment to one another on the beauty of that. We are both very lucky to have those small but important interactions.

There are abnormal delays in life today, though. I told two colleagues who are friends, I’d edit some writing for them and give them feedback over the weekend. Unfortunately that was two weeks ago. Unfortunately I had to put both of them off again. Yesterday, I sat with my husband as we listened to Claude Steele on the radio. I called our local bookstore, 60 miles away, and ordered his book, Whistling Vivaldi. What an excellent title! I also edited a report I wrote yesterday. I am pleased I accomplished two things important to me. My desk is fairly organized. Too many things I put off these days. I need to finish Blind Spots by Kimberly Berens, a book about the continued failure of the US educational system. I want to put everything aside to edit a poetry collection for publication. Strangest of all my recent doings, though, was to give a virtual reading test to an elementary student. Glad I had read the article in Communiqué about testing students virtually with its added example of ordering a cup of coffee. It made giving the test a bit easier. Strange as it felt, it was comforting to know that I’m not the only one giving a test over FaceTime or Zoom.

Still, I feel behind.

Maybe I should go back to that process I used to do when I was a principal. The secretary put my mail in piles. A. Do this today. B. Good to do today, but you can put it off till tomorrow or later in the week, but it must be done this week. C. Interesting to do or read if you have time. At the end of the week, the C pile goes in the right bottom desk drawer. When full, throw out the contents. Try to have all three piles gone by the end of the day, but there were many days my secretary had tiered each of the three piles, which indicated how many days behind I was. The problem is that I have to be my own secretary and I have long known I’m terrible at that.

One evening my niece, then a high school student, who lived with us, demanded, “Where are the car keys/”

I responded, “You’re not going anywhere. It’s 10:00 at night!”

“No, we are. I’m driving you out to school because I‘m tired of hearing you complain about how much you have to do at your office.”

I don’t think I even gave her a “but….” She sat there for three hours and watched me work. When I walked in my office the next morning, I was astonished. I seldom went back in an evening and more often went in on a Saturday. With no interruptions, I can get nine hours of office work done in three. Walking in the next morning always brought astonishment. It felt like the elves had come during the night to clean and organize my desk and do the necessary work.

Where is my secretary? Where is my niece? Where are those elves? The elves don’t come uninvited; I have to do all the prep work. I’ve retired from being a principal. My secretary is no longer with us. Even my niece has retired and now lives a few plane rides away during this not-advisable-to-travel time. The only elf I have is my husband who does the dishes, laundry, cleans the house between when the housekeeper comes, puts gas in the vehicles, fills the wood box and keeps the stove going. We exchange lots of  lots of hugs, enjoy one another’s company, and I cook a few times a week—we both like leftovers a lot. But the elf I need now is an office elf and I can’t find one during the pandemic. It’s also hard to be my own elf when, since the epilepsy diagnosis (November 2018 blog posts) I sleep almost twice as much.  I have the same amount of work but less timeTherein lies part of the problem, but it’s a problem I still work to solve. Hopefully, I’ll come up with good solutions that work.

I will feel very glad when the pandemic is over. We all will. Meanwhile, I need to be kind to myself and to others. We all do. We need to be patient with ourselves and with others. Everyday each of us needs to do something for ourselves—ski, swim, stare out the window, read a book, meditate, clean a closet. Whatever it is, we need to do something enjoyable that will help us smile and relax.

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