CoVid 19 Re-Makes our Lives (Part 5)

Are you a procrastinator? I’m not, and I’ve struggled to understand the phenomenon, each time in my life that I’ve had to deal with people who are. But I’m beginning to understand it a little better these days….

For 13 years, marathons, half’s and lots of other races have been part of my life. I’ve run from many of life’s disasters, and it has helped keep me sane — much like my piano has done all my life. And I trained hard, for months, to scale El Capitan. Definitely no procrastinating.

Right now, while we all stay home to flatten the curve of this Corona virus, there’s lots of available time. We should all be getting out there every day.

And yet…

I’ve gone running only 3 times since last week. Not much, not long. I know exercise is necessary, especially now. I know I always feel much better all day when I’ve gone for a run. And still I can’t talk myself into changing my clothes and getting out the door…

I think a pandemic is just too much for me to process. It will end; we know that. People will continue. Not all of them. But most. I know the history of other epidemics and pandemics — I lived through the tail end of the polio epidemic with a polio victim, my mother. I know the numbers. But that doesn’t seem to make it any easier to absorb.

How are you absorbing it all?

I watch (online) in amazement as a friend builds a climbing gym in his basement. Another trains daily for a foreign marathon. What energizes them every day, that I’m missing? Is he not watching the news? Has she not seen images of the rows and rows of caskets lined up awaiting cremation? How does one turn that off and just get on with life, with enthusiasm?

Tinges of energy do sneak into my daily life, here and there. I go running (not often enough), and enjoy the spring flowers and flocks of turkeys. I go walking…but while I walk, I wish I were walking to my favorite coffee shop to meet friends or to work, instead of just my CoVid home-to-home loop.

Most evenings, I sit at my piano, at least a little, and some beautiful music does happen…but instead of the consolation it usually brings me, now it just makes me sadder. The world I lived in while I learned all that music no longer exists. And may never be back. At least, not like it was before.

As I said in my last blog, I hate good-byes.

But I have to believe that after all the sudden, final good-byes are done, vigor and color will return to my life. To our lives.

In the meantime, storms and tornados are raging across the midwest. Hospital ships sail into New York Harbor. Life goes on.

But not for everyone.

CoVid 19 Re-Makes our Lives (Part 4)

I’ve always hated good-byes. Saying good-bye hurts. No matter the reason for the departure, that word signifies an ending, and endings are always hard.

We’ve been forced to say good-bye to our pre-virus lifestyle, whatever that was. Whether we and our families are directly affected by this virus, confronting death or illness, or we’re just staying home, healthy and impatient, our lives are definitely changed.

What to do? What not to do?

Advice abounds, online, in newspapers (does anyone out there get a real newspaper?), on the radio, TV, all the media. We’re bombarded with it…which seems right, since this is a war.

Confusion seems to be winning. Today from the internet:

“Sleeping badly while social distancing?” (Spoiler: I’m sleeping like a baby.)
“Is going to the beach OK?” (Spoiler: it’s not.)
“Economic devastation.” At least they’ll get my taxes.

Today’s worst stopped me in my reading tracks:

“Funerals go online.”

The article (from CNN) called this an “unthinkable new normal.” What will be the rest of our ‘new normal,’ I can’t help but wonder. This isn’t going to be over tomorrow. We’ll have lots of time to slide slowly, our heels dug in, toward our new normal.

And the best news I’ve heard (for the worst reason) in a long time:

“Satellite images show less pollution as corona virus shuts down public places.”

Yes! The canals of Venice have fish in them again! Dolphins are coming closer to the coast of Italy. Our rivers are cleaner. The planet is healing. All it took was for the planet’s deadliest virus — humans — to go away for a while.

Will we learn from that, going forward. Or will we slip back into our destructive, polluting ways?

Our choice.

CoVid 19 Re-Makes our Lives (Part 3)

Taxes are done. The world might be falling apart, but the government will get my money on April 15 (or at least will know it’s coming). I’m doing my bit to jumpstart the economy again, once this virus is history. Is there consolation in that tiny bit of normalcy?

I put away all the tax stuff and walked from my office, at the far end of the house, down the long hallway toward the kitchen, where I’d left my cell phone. As I approached, I heard its faint music, above the music from the radio.

My heart stirred! I quickened my pace. Broke into a run. Someone was calling! Calling me! For a minute, maybe a few, I wouldn’t be alone.

Being alone is our new normal, at least for a while. Shelter in place. Self-quarantine. Safe distance. 6 feet. 2 meters. No gatherings of more than 2 people.

I’ve lived alone for a long time. I’m single, I travel a lot, and most of my friends are at a distance. My kids live 600 miles away, my brother & cousins even farther. It’s a big world. I know alone. I do it well.

This is different.

Normally, when it’s business as usual, I get lots of calls every day. Book business. Cold calls. Requests for money, in one form or other. Occasionally, one of my kids, or a friend. I don’t run for any of them. So why did my pulse, and my pace, quicken when I heard my phone this afternoon?

This kind of alone is different. We all feel it. This one implies that it might be forever, maybe not for us, but for some of us. And that things will be different, after.

And we all have to make our peace with that.

My piano has gotten lots of use this week! As have my running shoes and the hang-board in the garage.

And my keyboard!

Imagination can be a terrible thing! Before I started climbing, I used to wonder what my son was up to, ‘out there,’ when he went on a climbing expedition somewhere in the world. What was his world like? What kind of risks was he taking? But doing it myself has calmed that overactive beast in my head. Knowing helps. Knowing keeps the fear at bay. But right now, we don’t know. That’s the hard part. We don’t know.

What have you been doing to cope? What gets you through living at home? Not being able to hug your kids, who are far away? Who are you hunkering down with? What tips can you share about how to tame the worry beast, the fear, the imagination.

Sharing, here, is almost like being together. And together, we’ll do just fine.

(Please share this site with anyone you know who might need or want to share with us, or us with them.)

CoVid 19 Re-Makes our Lives (Part 2)

Five doctors in Italy have died from CoVid 19, the Corona virus. Five doctors. The people we need the most, right now.

Tonight I played the piano. Really played. Attentive to every nuance, every note, each phrase, the placement of my fingers, the feel of each key. The way I used to. Today, I needed it. To block out virus, and politics, danger and desperation. Everything. At the last note of each piece — mostly Chopin and Mendelssohn this evening — I waited, remembering.

When you, Stasia and Alex, would go to bed, usually on a school night — can it really be that many years ago? — I would play the piano. The only time of day that was mine. The only time of any day when I could do something that just spoke to me, only to me, in the language I so needed to hear.

And at the end of each piece, as the last note or chord lingered, reminding us of what had just transpired, if the music had also spoken to you, Stasia, out of the darkened hallway I would hear a tiny, timid voice:


Our favorite word, sculpted from the sudden silence. Your favorite, because I always gave you what you wanted, “encore.” More. And mine, because music is a story that I gave to you both, my story, from my soul to yours, and your one perfect word said all that I needed to hear.

I hope that, after this tenuous, tumultuous time of pandemic and uncertainty, life always gives you ‘encore.’

CoVid 19 Re-Makes our Lives (Part I)

I’ve been struggling to write something new here for weeks. Nothing sounded right, nothing struck the right note. Today, I finally figured out why.

As my son puts it in the latest news about the Honnold Foundation, “I’ve been struggling to write anything that doesn’t sound inconsequential in the face of a global pandemic.”

He’s right: we are inconsequential. Humans could disappear from the planet and the planet would keep on turning. It doesn’t need us. The converse is not true.

Have you been struggling to stay calm? To not break into tears at surprising moments during your day? To force yourself not to think about next month, or three months from now?

You’re not alone.

A little over a week ago, I put the finishing touches on my plans for the climbing trip of a lifetime — two and a half weeks, guides, partners, lodging, in some of the most beautiful climbing destinations in the western US. I’d tried for 10 years to make it happen, and finally, this year, it all came together.

And the Corona virus — CoVid 19 — made it all fall apart.

So I’m home instead, ‘sheltering in place’ as everyone should be doing, doing my best to flatten out the curve of this growing pandemic. Before it kills even more of us. Instead of climbing at the gym or on a crag in the Sierra, I walk my neighborhood. I run (or rather, I jog & walk; my new foot doesn’t like running yet). This is my new climbing gym:

This new life of mine, sequestered at home, alone, is not much different from my life of the past year. Fourteen months ago, my foot was taken apart and put back together, a massive surgery involving the sawing of several bones, fusing of bones, pins, plates, screws. Lots of horrible insults to the natural body.

For 4 months post-op, I was prisoner of my house, limited to what I could do while holding handlebars (knee scooter) or crutches. You can’t hold or carry anything that way. Couldn’t cook. If I managed to heat something in the microwave, I couldn’t carry it to the table. I was always hungry.

The books I’d stockpiled to read during recovery sat there, mocking my drug-addled brain. Couldn’t read, or email, or concentrate on anything screen-like. (Each time I tried to wean myself off the drugs, I discovered why I needed them!) My kids live 600 miles away. And apparently my local ‘friends’ were all waiting to hear from me on FB. One friend came, twice, and cooked me a meal. Those 2 days, I ate well, and gratefully.

I thought that this current ‘sheltering in place’ would be similar. I was wrong.

No matter how grim, hard or lonely my recovery from surgery was, I knew it would end. I’d be back on my feet, able once again to cook. To do laundry. To shop, read, check my e-mail or FB messages. To take out the garbage. By myself.

We don’t know how this pandemic is going to end. Or when. Or how many people will not live to see the end of it. It’s hard to not let those thoughts take over our minds, as we run through the empty streets or drive past stores that have nothing to sell.

When I was little, I used to laugh at my mother, who always wore white gloves when we left the house to go ‘into the city’ (from Queens into Manhattan, via the subway). I thought it was silly. She hated to touch the railings, the token machines, anything in the train cars. She’d had polio, as a child during that epidemic; she knew what we should all have been afraid of.

And now, here we are again. I don’t laugh about germs anymore. I wear my own gloves.

But our particular adaptability, as humans, is to rise above. To control those thoughts, and be happy anyway. So I’ll leave you with some of the happy things I saw on my run today, only 2 blocks from my house. I hope they bring a smile, and beat down the worrisome thoughts that seem to grow every time we turn on the TV or call up the news. And if that doesn’t work, just turn it all off and go outside and take a walk — guaranteed to lift your spirits.