Nothing new is going on! I’ve been going on walks, seeing Jim and some neighbors, sleeping okay-not-great. Doing a little work. Looking to do more work. Waiting for the snow to leave Massachusetts so we can get the septic put in and SELL THE MAGIC CASTLE. I got a nice hoodie with Snoopy on it (thanks Jim!) and had to wrestle it away from a 96-year old lady who thought it was for her because she couldn’t read the label. My house is cleaner than usual, but still not that clean. I’m getting slow-motion audited and slow-motion doing my taxes. I walked eighty miles in January and never left town. I was on the radio and was interviewed for another radio show. I’ve been reading a lot of books at night and have a few animal crackers before bed so I don’t have middle-of-the-night blood sugar crashes (my sleep hygiene is a whole thing). I stare at them a lot. Now you can too!
This is maybe getting a little in the weeds but I like to start the new year by wrapping up the last one, even in this ridiculous Groundhog Day of a global pandemic I am living through. The plant I took home a few years ago got a new pot that it seems to like. I am now a person who mists my plants on the regular.
- libraries visited – list just keeps getting shorter
- books read – it was an exceptional year for reading
- places stayed – I am still dreaming about going places, but at least I went a few places this past year.
- other events — I am starting to really dislike Medium’s formatting options so maybe I do this on my blog next year, but it’s here for now.
There’s snow on the ground here and Jim is on his way home from a shortish New Year’s visit (compared to an extended Xmastime visit, pix) and I’m back from a walk and regrouping and thinking what makes sense for this year. I did a lot of walking last year, 650 miles, and I think it helped. Working on my compassion for myself and others. Pulling out a few Wikipedia projects that are enjoyable–mainly uploading images of recently-deceased people, contemplating a blog post called “How You, Too, Can See Dead People”–and marveling that after all this time and MANY home improvement projects completed, I still don’t seem to be able to mop my kitchen floor. We managed to clean out the Magic Castle but still need to replace its septic. If you think you might know someone who wants to buy it before then, there’s a little FYI website here. Hoping to be able to continue to stay the course this year, wishing everyone luck and courage in dealing with adversity and the unknown.
This is not a post talking about how I am not happy, things are actually pretty much fine. I’ve been walking a lot, went down to MA a few times for Thanksgiving and JIMSMAS, and have managed some doctor and dentist appointments that always flip me out a little beforehand. Jim is good, Kate is good, other folks seem mostly good. I remember when I wrote that original post on this topic and we were thinking vaccinations might be the wrap-up to this pandemic thing and now that’s not seeming like the case so much. I got my booster. I still mostly don’t go anywhere. It’s not bad. I enjoy my walks around the neighborhood because I run into a lot of people I know and get little updates on what’s going on. When I was walking out by the post office, I met a new-to-me woman who asked me a question and this is a post about that. If you follow me on Twitter, you may have heard this one.
She said “Can I ask you something? You always look so cheery when I see you walking around. What’s your secret?” I’ve heard this from a lot of people and it surprises me somewhat because my internal monologue is… not great. But that’s a terrible reply and this woman was clearly friendly and legit curious so I thought about it. I decided it was three things.
- I work in libraries. It’s good to have a vaguely pleasant and not too-busy-looking resting face so people feel okay approaching you.
- My actual resting face is a little dour, my eyes turn down a little and so do the corners of my mouth. This was a thing when I was a kid, people constantly hassling me to… I don’t know, look better? Not be sad? My childhood was fine, but not always great, so having people tell you to smile was a thing when I was little as it is for many women of any age. Also, my eyes drip a lot when I am out walking in the cold, or the pollen or… just the air. I got tired of people asking me “What’s wrong?” or making “Why are you crying?” jokes, so I try to look pleasant.
- Lastly, I live with a lot of anxiety. My brain is frequently telling me stories I don’t like that much. So, I am so happy to be in the now and not in my certainly-doomed future that it shows on my face. Listen to a podcast, put one foot in front of the other. Release some endorphins. I can say that with a bit of humor but it’s also true, it’s good to be in an intermediate space where something’s going on.
We had a nice chat after that and I got to know her a little and I hope she got to know me. She had a really interesting tattoo that I’d like to know more about (on her forehead) and maybe I’ll feel okay asking about it next time I see her.
Me and Jim on the 4th
Skipped June here. Nothing was much going on. The trees filled up with leaves. I saw Jim a bunch of times and enjoyed just picking up where we left off; it made the past year’s worth of uncertainty and stress compress into something much smaller in my memory. I took down the squirrel ladder because it became, for one scary night, a bear ladder and let me tell you that story in person, it’s a good one. But really the last month for me has been a combination of some shifts in my world of work and some shifts in how I’ve been doing things since the Pandamnit Times began.
For starters, since seeing Jim is now a safe possibility, I’ve stopped working at MetaFilter on Sundays and Mondays. This was a great thing to get to be able to do during a dreary year and it was good to be back among the team there. At the same time, the same old problems are the same old problems and I was eager to get my weekends back. So I’m now just there answering questions and being my usual superfan self. At the same time, I’ve picked up some library shifts in Chelsea while they work on hiring a replacement. It’s a one-room public library, serving a community of about 1200 people and you’re the only person working when you work. It’s fun, interesting, busy, and a little frustrating all at the same time. I’ve been liking getting to do library work again.
I started working there only a week or two after the library re-opened to the public (they had window service only during COVID) so we went from masks-required to no-masks-required within about a week. Since kids come in to the library, my personal policy is I wear a mask if any patrons are wearing them. Orange County has low COVID rates even among Vermont counties (second-lowest rate in the state), so I am comfortable with this as a plan. And I went inside to a restaurant for the first time since March 2020. I might do it again. I went to an outdoor cookout. I hugged people indiscriminately. I stayed out past dark. I watched the town parade in the rain–in my bathrobe since I had spaced the actual parade starting time, it runs right by my house!–and performed a very brief wedding on the actual 4th of July.
Jim’s at home playing disc golf this weekend and I am here mulling over what to do with my first two-day Saturday-Sunday weekend since February 2020. I remember how it used to be, kind of, but also feel the possibilities of being able to do things a little differently.
It’s been a weird downside to this pandamnit time that my house–usually set up well for feeding and observing birds–had seen a huge drop off of bird visitors for no reason I was totally sure of. Could have been the ladder leaning up against the side of the house, leading to more squirrel activity (I could watch squirrels climb ladders all day). Could have been a nearby predator. Could have been that my feeders were ganky. Or maybe it was more neighbors being home and setting up their own feeders. Who knows? But this winter there just wasn’t a lot of bird activity here, though definitely lots elsewhere. So little that I didn’t even participate in Feederwatch this year because it was too depressing. But as the buds on the trees have turned into leaves, and I got some new feeders and cleaned the old ones, there’s been a little bit more feathered activity going on outside. I counted seven species one day–red breasted nuthatch (pictured), white breasted nuthatch, hairy woodpecker, downy woodpecker, chickadee, tufted titmouse, mourning doves–a high water mark for 2021. I’m fortunate to live above the bears, so I can keep the feeders out even as they come out of the woods and terrorize the local garbage cans.
Jim and I are both counting down the days til we’re fully vaccinated, they’re in the single digits. I don’t expect my life will change terribly much when I’ve hit that date except my life will have a lot more Jim in it. And I’ll start there.
I’ve never understood it, but I sleep well in March. Something about winter being over, the weather still being cold, the days getting longer, my allergies not quite kicking in just yet. This March, a weird March, is no different. Even though I’ve still got a pretty elaborate sleep hygiene ritual, it reliably works this month and I haven’t had an “up til 4 am” sleep fail in a while.
This may be partly because my teeth have mostly stopped hurting, my gallbladder hasn’t been heard from, and I’ve walked 62 miles this month. Just circles around and around the neighborhood mostly. Sometimes with friends and sometimes just me and my thoughts and my camera. This picture is one of those things that live on the top of fire hydrants so you can find them in the snow. And the snow only really exists in little shadow areas right now, so I went out for a walk in my sneakers today, the first time since… I don’t know when. Which is good because my hiking boots are starting to really show the wear. I haven’t been treating them any differently, but I’ve been wearing them a LOT more and, surprise surprise, that matters!
Today was the “Hey 50+ year old people, get your vaccination appointment!” day. So I did. Fortunately, bad web interfaces don’t faze me much but oy! I made a mini-tweet thread about it this morning (yep, I got up early) and I don’t have much more to say except I’m sad for all of us that this is the path to safety and it’s worse than it needs to be. My year hasn’t been terrible, it could have been much better. Many peoples’ were worse. Mine has mostly been literally and figuratively walking around in little circles, getting some sunshine, and waiting for brighter and better days.
Really trying to at least get an update a month in here, but the news is still basically “No real news.” Kate got vaccinated. Ronni got her first shot. I’ve been going on walks every day that I’m not at home working all day (so out and about maybe six days a week, not bad). Sleep’s been okay. Teeth have been less okay. Gallbladder has been okay so far and I’ve been pretty happy to be able to postpone surgery until a time that is more convenient. My Scrabble game is okay. Jim’s been doing well. I’ve found a bunch of new YouTube stuff–Taskmaster and No More Jockeys–to give me some teevee to watch when I’ve got some extra time in the day. I found my sweaters that I somehow thought I’d gotten rid of. I’ll worry about my memory after there’s some herd immunity.
I read elsewhere about someone discussing how they’ve been coping with all of this. Someone told them they seemed happy all the time. They responded that while they were far from happy–happiness can be elusive during times of great upheaval and restriction and trouble–they were able to mostly be cheerful, put on a decent face when interacting with other people. I’ve been working on the same thing. Obviously I’ve got folks in my life to whom I can just say “This aspect of this whole thing sucks!” However, in a general sense, my public face is mostly not the “This sucks!” face. Now that I’ve thought about the differences between happy and cheerful, and how they can each appear externally, I feel better about saying “Not bad, and you?” to people who ask me how I’m doing, without feeling like I am lying or faking it.
I’ve got nothing but time to think about this stuff when I’m not purposefully hurling myself into time-consuming hobbies like creating a navigation box for State Libraries or Stadium Organists on Wikipedia. Looking forward to warmer weather when it’s easier to walk in the woods and hug some trees, and later months when it’s easier to walk to other houses, hug some friends.