Life Wellbeing and Family

No COVID-19 Detected, or Reconciling Regret

This is the story of how I learned not to under-react and that there’s no such thing as overreacting to this pandemic. Or it’s the story of reconciled regrets. You decide.

I woke Sunday with a slight cough, sore throat, and aches. I mentioned it to my sister in an “I hate COVID times” sort of way. She said, be tested. We chatted a bit more before I realized she was serious. My sister is a doctor and one of the smartest women I know. She is the one who said, you cannot overreact with this.

So I scheduled a test for Monday afternoon, the first available. Then I sat masked on my bed and watched my masked husband transform our bedroom into an isolation chamber for me. He shut the door and I had a bed, a small fridge with ice and water, snacks, a bathroom, and a makeshift desk.

Under other circumstances I would have been gleeful for a couple days to myself. But on Sunday I felt crummy all over.

Monday I went for the test, which isn’t bad. Very quick. And then I returned to work at my makeshift desk in my bedroom.

I’ve gotten decent at compartmentalizing. There are certain thoughts I do not entertain. I do not dwell on worst case scenarios as I once did and I do not practice for the worst moments of a life that I may never have. Not any more. I simply disallow my brain from going into the dark.

I had one moment of morbid notion. It happened Sunday night. I was preparing for bed and it occurred to me that the thing I had to regret should I die was that I had spent so very much time chasing a dream. Without ever catching it.

No particular emotion accompanied that thought. But the thought itself has nested. Do I regret the last thirteen years since ShyJot became a thing? Do I regret the time before that when I wrote in the margins of life? No.

I regret not being better at being a creative. I regret not pursuing the payoff as if it never mattered. I regret not capturing the dream I harbored for a certain kind of creative life.

And I regret all the opportunities my family lost because I was dream-missing.

This afternoon I received the text message with a link to my results. I entered my information. Nervous at the thought of more days of isolation or worse, getting my loved ones sick, I wondered if it might be better not to know.

And I hit enter. No COVID-19 detected.

The result didn’t mean I was well; it meant I wasn’t in danger of falling more ill. It didn’t mean I could go anywhere and do anything; it meant I could rejoin my family beyond my bedroom door. It didn’t mean I overreacted; it meant I followed a path.

Tonight a sore head and throat keep me awake. I shake loose all this debris and look for patterns. Here’s what I see.

Sometimes you have to call “It”. You have to chase down a possibility that’s too risky not to, like with COVID-19. You have to chase down answers to problems like how to isolate one of a family of five. You have to claim as your own the responsibility of being it — the actor, the do-er, the instigator and continue-er, the change agent, the conduit, the one to make things happen.

The same is true of anything in life that matters. Parenting, spousing, relationshipping of any kind. Career and culture and cause. The fact remains that if I never called myself “It” and chased a creative live, then I never would have become who I am today. It’s not better not to know.

There is not a life without regret if you’re doing it right. I’m convinced of this. Because living is making choices and choices beget beauty and chaos and ruin and triumph and mediocrity and life and regret.

How do I reconcile regretting spending the last twenty some odd years chasing a creative life with my choice to continue the chase? I accept that regret is a byproduct of any choice and I prefer these regrets to others. I still call “It.”

Life Wellbeing and Family

My Deconstructed Thanksgiving

There’s been nothing like 2020 to make me really appreciate the things I have, or still have. It was always my intention to give thanks for the people and things in my life that are good, but I wasn’t always entirely sure how that would look.

My family at large decided weeks ago that we would celebrate separately. While it was a painful decision, it actually made the holiday more pleasant not less. I didn’t feel like I was losing something so much as actively making a different choice.

We had our turkey and cranberry sauce. On November 11th. I purposely bought an early turkey and just baked it one Wednesday. It was amazing. The potatoes were soup, basically, but all else was a delicious meal. And then I made broth with the bones.

Work has been busy of late. Busier indeed than it has been for me to this point. My husband and I have been limping for a little while. We said we were limping into last weekend. Then we were limping to the holiday. Then the oddest thing happened.

I made a list. Well, no, that’s not the oddest thing. It’s not odd in the least. The oddest thing is waking up Thursday morning, having forgotten to prepare the annual bubble bread Wednesday night, and working on anything that wasn’t from my workplace. I transferred photos to our NAS, I updated Google Classroom for Book Camp 2021, I downloaded bank statements that my husband turned into beautiful ShyJot Fine Arts financials, I backed up my hard drive, made my next two-week menu and grocery list, and balanced my checkbook. And I felt GREAT! It was exactly the thing I wanted to do with the day. My kids played on devices all day, on the phone with a friend part of the day. My husband helped me out. And we managed a couple of naps, Frito chili pies, chicken pot pies, and the apple pie my boys co-baked. My husband baked the last of the fall pie pumpkins.

We’ve seen my parents half faces (above masks only) twice this weekend. Once to take them an apple pie and once to lend them space heaters. I didn’t expect to see them at all, and the brief encounters felt like an unusual luxury.

On Friday, my husband pulled down all the Christmas decorations from the attic. We put up shrubbery lights for the first time every and a few other front-porch decorations my father made. We got the inside of the house completely decorated, save for the tree(s), which I suppose is a pretty big part. But we also trimmed the hedges and raked pine needles and dusted the books and got the dining table to baseline zero.

Now it’s Saturday. I woke early. We still haven’t had bubble bread so I decided to make it this morning. I suppose we’ll eat it tonight. That pie pumpkin is being put to use today, too.

There’s still so much to do. Always. And there’s still a lingering sadness about being apart from the ones I love. Always.

But I am thankful. Most of what I’m thankful for is purely circumstance, right? What if I didn’t have a warm home. What if I didn’t have enough to eat. What if my loved ones were actively dying or newly gone. And on. And on. I fervently hope I’d still find thankfulness in some corner of my soul. And I just as fervently hope I don’t ever have to test that hope.

I’m not here to judge how anybody feels this holiday season. I’m not here to tell you that getting stuff off your to-do list will magically make life better. I’m certainly not here to tell you not to miss your loved ones, not to mourn with those who mourn, not to rejoice with those who rejoice. I’m not here to tell you to be thankful or how to be thankful.

I am here to say this: I’m thankful you’re in this whole wide world with me. You make it richer and more vibrant. You make me want to be and do better every day. Thank you for being.

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