Going Home

Life feels flat these days. Too little to do in too small a space. Yes, I’ve been reading a lot, and writing some, but I can’t wait to get back home to Michigan. I love Florida and want to move here permanently as soon as possible, but we have unfinished business in Michigan, which is the least evil thing the murderous pandemic has halted for now.

We could fit this entire Florida condo into our basement at home. And that basement in Michigan is full of furniture and everything I ever thought I needed and then after awhile decided I didn’t. Al’s going to finish the basement, something he’s talked about since we moved in. “When I retire…” he always said. Okay, that’s now. But first we need to clean out and box up what will go into the eventual estate sale. Organizing the basement is the one part of the plan we CAN take action on now. And it will help deplete our pent up energy.

Funny that a chore I have avoided for years seems almost like something I want to do. I’m editing my book, too, but all other choices are limited, no matter where we live. Driving home will be a possibly dangerous adventure. I have heard from others that the highway rest stops are spotlessly clean and read numerous articles that swear hotel chains are stepping up their high-touch area cleaning game. As added protection, we have our masks and gloves and a very large jar of hand sanitizer.

Living with Uncertainty

It’s almost comical, the way Al and I made a two-year plan for when he retired. He really had it nailed–or most of it. Then came coronavirus. Is there any area of our lives have not been affected by this disease? No. There is not. It is the same for you. The “stay home” part of the plan to beat this virus is not difficult for me. Writers already know how to spend long periods of time in isolation. Time collapses when we write.

I’m not writing now. Well, yes, I blog and scribble morning pages, but I’m not starting my next novel. I’m not yet editing the novel to be published this year. I WILL do the edits and all the other book actions when they come. Writers are the original work-from-home people. We’re used to it and we like it. Except it’s all different now, isn’t it?

My anxiety about a loved one catching the virus is not unique. That every one of my soothing and pleasurable routines in the world has been minimized to what I can do inside this little condo is the same for everyone the world over. I’ve almost adjusted my anxiety to going with whatever comes next. The parts of life where I can’t make any plans with certainty. Still we talk about our retirement, how we can reconfigure it this way and that. We both know none of it is up to us. It is all up to the virus.

The only control anyone really has is over their mind, their speech, and their actions. My mind can feel wild as a jungle. My speech, well, I could do better sometimes. Some of my actions are questionable at best. The Buddha says “First, do no harm.” So I stay home, wear a mask when I must go out, wash my hands when I return. Those are all right actions. I try hard to do no harm.

But what about my the harm I do my own self? I have been an emotional eater since I quit smoking 35 years ago. I’ve made many attempts at controlling this behavior that feels so good but has done a fair amount of harm to my body. Also, I often choose to read rather than go on a walk with Al. Even though there are 23 other hours in the day when I can read to my heart’s content. Reading comforts me, but I go too far. My body needs fresh air and a walk every day weather permits. I feel guilty about how I have overlooked it.

This morning I cued up “Here Comes the Sun” and did a series of sun salutations. That’s treating my body right.

Al has been so patient and kind with me. He also painted the kitchen. My words to him are kind…most of the time. But my actions reject his attempts to help me help myself. And my anxious mind is so out of control even daily meditation doesn’t remove the need for medication. I bet walking would help. And eating more vegetables. Some scientists recently discovered eating vegetables make you happy. They kick up the endorphins. They feed the mind and the body.

So, when it feels like everything is out of control, take a breath. Are your thoughts, speech and actions in alignment with what you know in your soul is right? When you can’t control anything else, remember, you can, with practice and patience, control your speech, thoughts, and actions. Take an internal inventory. For example, I’m not buying any more dairy free ice cream. I thought I needed and deserved sugar in these impossible times. But I didn’t. I just wanted a quick fix. Better to work on the best action, which is helping my body turn away from diabetes and to take that daily walk.

No Sugar Coating

Trying to load a photo (been trying all day) is not working. Lots of things are not working. For me, for you, for just about everybody in the world. I may not have Clorox wipes, but I still feel lucky. We have a home, we have food, we are able to pay our bills. So many can’t.

Still, lucky as I am, life is difficult now. I’d like to just Stay Home, but my dad is ill, though not with coronavirus, and needs my help. I’m driving him to another doctor appointment tomorrow. I hope we don’t have to go to the drugstore again. I need to find the courage to tell him I can’t take him anywhere else. Doctor or pharmacy. That’s it.

My dad lives alone. He has masks and a grocery store next to his condo, so he’ll be okay for food. We think we have a medication problem under control. Al and I don’t know what will happen when we leave in May if Dad refuses to come with us. Mom is in Michigan, our home is in Michigan, and so far, Dad is refusing to leave Florida. Mom says there is no way she is coming to Florida.

My heart is breaking, but not literally. It’s beating. I’m not sick. My children, grandchildren, and parents are all well. We have a month or so to try to convince Dad to leave Florida with us. If he gets the virus, there is no family here for him. Here’s how I’m coping: eating sugar (but not wheat). So ice cream and potato chips but no cookies. Drinking wine. But not too much. Taking my anxiety meds. Also, reading Regency romance novels.

I try not to watch too much television news but I read the Washington Post every day. We watch the local news for Covid updates. We watch national news and sometimes my favorite cable news show. Deadline White House with Nicole Wallace. We just binged Ozark.

I’ve slacked off on meditation and yoga since Dad has needed so much help this past week. It depletes me. I know I’m not taking great care of myself, but I’m being safe, and I’m doing the best I can. I’m writing this post. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to this week.

Where I'm Writing From

This is a new writing spot in the same tiny winter condo I share with my newly retired husband, Al. Well, he retired January 1, 2020. Since then, it’s been a journey. We came almost immediately south to our winter home in St. Petersburg, Florida. Since we bought this place, this is the longest Al has been here. Since we’ve been married, this is the longest time the two of us have been together all day every day.

At first, Al had lots of activities and so I was able to comfortably keep most of my beloved habits and routines. I could write in my notebook every morning, spend a good part of Monday writing a blog post, go to dance class, yoga class and writer’s group. Al golfed, went to the gym, and took up shuffleboard. He was thinking of joining a poker group that meets at the clubhouse. Those were good times.

You know what happened next. COVID-19. Al and I have been mostly at home without much interaction with others for one week. My mother back in Michigan has been isolated for two weeks. It took us a little longer to get the memo that staying home is what we should do. Al stopped golfing. The gym closed. All my activities here on the Bayou closed, as did Al’s shuffleboard. We’ve heard people are still using the pool, but I’ve never been one for pools. I prefer beaches.

All our 35 miles of lovely white sand beaches have closed. Our Michigan family has canceled a trip down. That was wise, the right thing to do. You want to be in your home state where your doctors are when a pandemic hits. Our doctors are in Michigan and we are just moving in the Medicare so we really hope we don’t have to visit any doctor here. Most people who get this evil disease won’t have to see a doctor. We are older, but we’re healthy, so we’re optimistic. Speaking of healthy, I taught Al yoga. I miss my yoga teacher, though. She was really, really good. I just do the basics, like the series of poses called Sun Salutation to “Here Comes the Sun.”

We had a dance party, just the two of us, one night, with the help of Alexa, our non-human helper. Mostly she plays songs for us and tells us the weather in Michigan. We used to feel smug about that…now we just ask so we won’t pack up the car and head north too soon. For one thing, my dad is here. I hope to talk him into coming home with us (not working so far). The other part is our house there is much bigger, although really I finally have Al where I’ve always secretly wanted him, close by my side all day every day. Except when I want to read or write.

We watched the new ZZ Top rock doc on Netflix (I’m not a fan of their music but I love a good story about creative people making their dreams come true and this one was excellent). Also on Netflix, we’re watching The Stranger. It’s good, too. I see that the new Emma is coming to video straight from the mostly-closed movie theaters. I’m torn. $14.95 seems way too much to pay. Maybe for my birthday. Until then, we’ll just go on as we have and hope the sky doesn’t fall.

Things are quiet. We see walkers and people playing tennis, but we prefer to keep our social distance. At first I didn’t even want to take walks, but since Al did yoga, I have to now. Other than walking along the bayou nature trail, we have been to the grocery store, and my dad visited last Tuesday. That’s the extent of our activities outside staying in this little condo together. Which is why I moved my desk into the bedroom. The bedroom has become my refuge for reading and writing as Al pretty much watches CNBC (or as I call it “the money channel”) from opening bell until close of market. It keeps him (mostly) calm and busy, so I’m not complaining.

We live in Pinellas County, where there are currently 38 known cases of coronavirus, the virus that causes the disease of COVID-19. That’s low and we’re lucky. Most people in Florida (70%) are retired and don’t work anymore. We’ve saved all our lives for a little slice of year-round sunshine. Our lives have been upended, sure, but we don’t have many of the problems the rest of the country struggle with. Not yet.

It’s those people here and elsewhere on the globe, who have been on my mind. I’m worried for small businesses, for the service industry, for the paycheck-to-paycheck folks. There’s a great tradition in St Pete for small businesses. Downtown is mostly run by entrepreneurs. We love that. I see I am speaking for Al now. It was bound to happen. I’m surprised at how good we get along in this small space. I’m surprised how little I watch the second television that everyone said was essential when a spouse retires. But then, I am a reader and a writer.

I am also about to turn 65, the magic number for people who want to get into grocery stores early, when everything is freshly sanitized and shelves are fully stocked. You can see how that really won’t matter to us here where almost everyone is 65 and older. It will be a mob scene, but at least a clean one.

I had big plans for my birthday. A new business in St Pete, Book + Bottle was supposed to open last week. They sell books and wine. I love the whole concept. So I was going there, dragging Dad and Al because it’s my birthday and I get to say where we go and what we do. I also planned on visiting Frida’s bakery and cafe, another wonderful local business, for my dinner out, because I never cook on my birthday. Also, they have flourless chocolate cake and great food. I went there with writer friends before the enemy virus hit, and thought Al and Dad would like it there, too.

Just like almost everywhere in America, those two places have mostly closed for business. I hope our local small businesses can keep it together until the crisis is over and we get back to normal. It feels sometimes like things will never be normal again. Or there will be a new normal. Both Book + Bottle and Frida’s have curbside service, so we may just hop in the car and go out to support those businesses from afar. I’ve never ordered a book or a bottle of wine as a carry-out before. Since it’s my birthday, I can insist!

It’s a whole new world out there. I hope you are doing well. Until next week…