Sunday, March 22, 2020

Choices in Uncertain Times

These are uncertain times. I've been fine up till now. No major freak outs. Calm, cool, pragmatic and cautious. I had a panic attack last night which made it so hard to fall asleep. Then I slept for about 4 hours and now I'm up before the sun to try and get through these deep emotions that are rattling me. We're all rattled. We can say we're not, call this a hoax or brush it off and say "if I follow all the rules, nothing is gonna happen to me or my loved ones." Still, grocery store shelves are bare, people are losing their businesses and thousands around the world have lost their lives to this thing. This thing that has so many conspiracy theories around it that it has a back story of its own. Someone else can write that blog. 

We're here now, this is our new reality. However it came to be doesn't change the fact that we are going to have to overcome this. How to overcome it still lingers in the grey area. A different expert, each day, says something different. We know that if we shelter in place, we can "flatten the curve," but that doesn't mean that we can beat it. It is essentially a flu bug that we as humans need to contract to gain immunity. Flattening the curve just means prolonging the inevitable so that hospitals can keep up with those who truly need supportive care. At least that's one take I've heard on it. We currently have 21 cases in San Luis Obispo County and 20 of those people are home battling it out. 1 person needed hospital care. There is no medicine to take at home. You ride it out like the flu. Tylenol, soup and rest. It's pretty much what we all do, yearly, when the flu comes calling. So, why did so many people have to die? 

We hear numbers. As painful as it would be, I prefer to see faces. We get so desensitized to the fact that those 13,000+ people each had a family, a dream, a life. "13,000 and counting" is just one line of data. There are so many strands of data around each one. We are sheltered from information like where they grew up, what their passions were, who they fell in love with, how they made a living, who they called family and how they impacted the world around them. It's just so very heartbreaking and in these modern times, it's just a number on a screen. Not for those communities, not for those countries, but on the nightly news, we hear the number and go "wow," but do we really grasp that heartache? Do we want to? Of course not. Who wants to go down that rabbit hole of despair? Stay positive. Smile. Everything will be all right. It's not all right. I feel it all. I've been trying to push through and get out of feeling this one, but whenever I do that, it eventually comes rushing at me like a tidal wave out of nowhere. That wave drenched me last night. 

My Mom is Immune Compromised. My Grandma is 84 years old. These women are my lifeline. Their kind of love and support has saved me 3 separate times when I thought my world was ending. My story may have ended if not for them and my Mister Paul. There is no judgement, just unconditional love. So, as I sat there last night, the little asshole in my head whispered: "What if you lose them?" We all have that voice in our head that floats in and pretends to be our own voice and stirs up chaos in our brain. I tried to silence it and the tears just came. I sobbed for a good 40 minutes. Then, I just laid there in a state of shock and bliss. I let it out. I finally let myself feel the fear that I told myself I wasn't going to feel. Covering it up with FINE is not the way to go. Nothing is fine. This is unprecedented. Still, I spoke to fear and said "I live in the moment and everyone's here. Everyone's being mindful and careful." That is the information that is most true and real. We are all doing our best in these chaotic times. That is the current status. Beyond this is fear binoculars that only see the worst possibilities. I will NOT look through those lenses. We only have right now. This moment.  

Right now. Well, on Friday the 13th (of all days), Paul and I realized the virus (that shall not be named) was actually something that would be affecting our day to day lives. After he got off work, we ran over to Ralph's to stock up on essentials and the shelves were still healthy. Lots of supplies to choose from. We got a few extra cans of beans and corn and such, but we didn't hoard. We didn't even buy toilet paper. That was not on our radar. To us, toilet Paper isn't essential. So many other ways to clean your bootay. Anyhow, after that shopping trip I went out to dinner with my Mom and Gma for a girl's night to our favorite Mexican restaurant. I didn't know that when I said "goodbye" that night, I wouldn't get to hug them again or see them in person for quite sometime. We are going on day 9. Doesn't seem that long when you type it out like that. We've certainly gone this long without seeing each other in the past, but there's just a heavy cloud over these days. Each day feels like a year. Time moves so slowly. It's the knowing that we CAN'T go see them that is hard. 

On Sunday, March 15th, we heard these words: Those who are immune compromised or over 65 are urged to stay indoors. Just like that, our worlds officially changed. Mom had to stay home from work and her and Gma had to stay inside. I had recently become a Shipt shopper (delivery person mainly for Target, but occasionally  Ralphs, Vons and Smart & Final too). I had always planned to start shopping as a career around the 10th. After a thorough background check and two hours of online training, I started this gig on Saturday, March 14th.  By the time the news hit for everyone with compromised systems to stay inside and have no contact with anyone who could potentially be carrying the virus, I had done a few shopping trips. This meant I couldn't even go visit my Mom or Gma.  When I shop, I am so very cautious: use hand sanitizer, stay ample feet away from people and I get in and get out fairly quickly.  Still, I could have no symptoms and be a carrier for the virus and so I need protect the ones I love. Our new normal is that we can talk and walk separately and we will leave them food on their doorstep when they need something or when I bake a fresh batch of bread. I'm not scared for me. I am scared for them. Well, when I typed that, I called bull because I am scared for them, but it has to do with me. I'm scared of losing my people. Those two ladies are such pillars of my life. I know someday, it's inevitable that we will be separated by galaxies, but I think everyone would agree that this ain't the way to go... 

Well that got dark. On a positive note Shipt shopping is so much fun. It's like a scavenger hunt. The App you use is awesome and had it been any other time, there wouldn't be so much added stress. Having to substitute someone's entire shopping list with what is left is a hard feat, but I honestly find it fascinating and fun. That being said the first few days of shopping, I got some side eye and I even had one lady say some unkind words to me. This girl keeps coming to the store to stock up and hoard is how their face looked or literally what came out of that one lady's mouth to me. I would either open my jacket so they could read the SHIPT across my t shirt or I would explain, (like I did to that elderly woman) that I am shopping for those who cannot go out right now. She was combative and said something about how it "must be nice to be able to afford such a service." Her tone elevated in such a way that I continued on down the aisle. I have things to do and negativity is overflowing enough already. I made a choice to press on. In my life, I have had to press on so often. Career has been a tricky beast for me and I really excel in my passions and personal life when I have a part-time job. My creative passions need to be part of my life. They keep me breathing. I am so excited to have finally found a gig that will potentially afford all that. I love shopping for people. I just didn't expect to being doing it during a pandemic. 

The shelves are empty people. They truly are. Most fresh meats are gone so I have to text the customer that I can substitute for a frozen variety? Or "I'm sorry to report that there are no eggs in the store." It's more time consuming than it will ever have to be, once we get through this pandemic. Right now it is far more rewarding. I'm helping people. Yes, I started this as a means to pay some bills, but now the cards and texts I receive about our helpful service during this crisis is uplifting. Those kind souls cancel out the judges who either think I'm exploiting elders or that I am purposely running around the store to spread germs. I was always going to do this work. It is affording me more income because of the demand, but anyone who REALLY KNOWS ME knows that income has never been the carrot in front of me. I need it to pay bills, but beyond that, I don't care what is resting safely in the confines of my bank account. It's money. It is to be spent to enjoy this life now. Can't take it with you and sure as hell ain't doing any good if it's sitting in the bank and I die tomorrow... That's just my philosophy and honestly please keep your own philosophy. We don't have to match. Just don't force your views on me. I would never do that to you.

Choices. How we live our lives. I've been thinking a lot about it lately. Those kiddos who went to spring break during a pandemic or the family of 4 kids running around Target while Mom and Dad buy groceries just after we were told to shelter in place. It is easy to judge. So easy. I initially judged. What are they thinking? Silly kids not taking anything seriously. So selfish. Why does an entire family have to come to the grocery store the day after there was an official shelter in place order put in place? We don't know what is going on inside those people's minds or hearts. Their fear could whisper to them "rebel, go to the beach anyway" and instead of having the skill set to realize that voice in their head isn't always their own, they listen and own that thought. The family in the store could be so fearful of being apart that they just brought everyone not trying to be selfish or meaning to put anyone else in danger. They may have another skill set, another tool box. 

Recently, I heard someone writing off another for their lack of ability to get something done. It got me thinking of how easy it is for us to sideline commentate. We all do it. Some people just don't catch themselves before letting it all come out of their mouth, potentially hurting someone on the field. Each player has different skills. This is why they have different positions. "You're good with your hands, you be the goalie. You're good at getting right in there, you be a forward." We all have a toolbox. As we go through life we grab more tools, but each tool is specific to the life that is being lived. We cannot expect that everyone has the same set of tools. This comes up a lot when people try and compare traumas. "Well, my life was so much more traumatic than yours" or "I've been through so much more than her, why is she so broken?" Well, not everyone has a supportive family or a chance to go to therapy or the ability to see that internal work is needed. Not everyone has the tools you have in your toolbox. We are all doing the best we can with what we have. The choices we make aren't meant to hurt anyone. Honestly, the majority of people are good. Lend them some tools if you will, but never look down on anyone for not rising to challenges the way you would  (or hope you would). 

There have been deliveries I've made where people were concerned that I was still out there in this pandemic world. They would ask the question as I handed over their grocery bags. They needed their groceries delivered. Who else is gonna do it? I felt that they didn't expect me to be the one delivering the groceries. Once they saw a face to go with the name of their Shipt delivery person, they saw me as human again. They appreciated me for helping them, but they wanted me to be okay. There is an underlying fear. Understandably. I have it myself. Yet, you cannot expect groceries to be delivered and then think the person who delivered said groceries is crazy for going out there.  I don't agree with the fact that she's out there in harm's way because she needs to earn a living. She should have set up her life differently. Some savings or something?!?!?!?  I can see it in some of these faces. I'm an empath. I KNOW. Would this person like to take care of my responsibilities for me? If you're so scared of my being out there in it, then I need an income in order to stay at home. Will you afford me one? I didn't think so... I'm not asking for one. I'm earning one. It's a catch 22 that nobody wants anyone out there, but they need groceries. The reality is that the majority of people don't have a savings account to bail them out. 

I stand by my choices. I support everyone's choices. I only ever have a hard time when others attack my choices because I'm not attacking theirs. It is my life to live and right now I feel of service and I feel so grateful that I have a way to earn money in such uncertain times. This time indoors should be a time we all focus internally. What is so threatened inside of you by not being accepting of the way another lives? Dig into that nugget and you'll most likely discover that you fear that your stance will change. You don't want the way you've done something for 10, 20, 30 years to change. You hold tight to your beliefs and they cannot come undone. Ever. If that is how you feel then why would you ever ask someone else to be more like you? They would have to give up their beliefs and the way they've operated for 10, 20, 30 years. Why them and not you? Why you and not them? We all need to realize we are one human species that are not meant to combat each other, but move together to create a space (a seat at the table) for everyone. The war of words needs to end. It will not make you less of a person to understand another human's way of thinking. If we can focus on anything while holed up inside, focus on this: We all have different tools in our toolbox, we cannot judge anyone who simply is not equipped with the tools we have. Why not lend them the tool they need? Why not be accepting? Choices... 

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