Eighteen months ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed I would be ticking along the way; I am now. I had experienced a trauma, the effects of COVID had hit me hard, and between the isolation of being in my home more than I wanted to be and our two oldest daughters being 8000 miles away, I had begun to shut down. My world was growing smaller; I had an empty hole inside that I couldn’t fill, and I felt lost.
Last night a neighbor we’ve just begun to befriend invited us to their home. They said their impression of me was energetic and vibrant. They told us they look across the street and see the perfect family, so happy and active with our youngest daughter. They said, “wow, you all really have it together and are like a powerhouse.” I said, “yes! Thank you. We are at a beautiful point in our lives, but don’t be mistaken; we have our struggles and lows too.” I explained how I had gone through a rough patch, as mentioned above, and they told me I was blessed. Yes, I am blessed in the good and the bad, along with being blessed though I had to fight to find my light again. And in that fight things finally started coming together.
I began to move and my world started to expand. One by one, things started happening again, and I started blooming. I began a volunteer role for a mental health coalition, went to NZ to be with all 3 of our girls for five months, started my education journey and am completing a certificate course at the University of Miami, opened my digital marketing company; MKRT Communications (and gained my first client two weeks later), was hired part-time as the administrator for the Leadership Collier Foundation; a fantastic organization within our local chamber of commerce and finally; have been active with old and new friends that make me laugh and feel valued.
For a while, my most significant companion and healer was my written word and the words of others. With the newfound activities that fill my days, I haven’t been blogging as much, and my memoir is on hold. I may have a lot on my plate, but somehow my schedule is perfectly balanced. I’m genuinely content, and my life is coming together.
For anyone who has struggled through a lonely, dark, and painful lull in their life, I have this to say. Give in to the stillness that life has imposed on you for a time if you can; healing rest is necessary before the fight begins. Then fight to climb out of the void. Shout for help until someone, anyone throws you a rope, and then take it! Say yes to everything once you reach the surface and keep moving. Trust the process and be faithful, share all of your gifts with others and be thankful for waking up to another day. Love everyone, forget about the polarization of today’s politics and drop your grudges, take long walks daily and smile at everyone who crosses your path.
These actions have gotten me moving forward again. Sometimes we stall out in life, and that’s ok; as long as you remember your dreams, find the determination to capture them, and help others do the same once you have hit your stride.
It’s crazy to think about how long we have been in NZ. We had intended to stay six weeks and instead planted ourselves here for four and a half months. The thought of going home at this point feels strange. Our youngest girl and I have gotten into a rhythm here in our home away from home, and we can’t imagine being without my middle and oldest daughter. I’m in two minds over returning home to America. Not because I don’t want to go home to my lovely husband, extended family, dogs, and bed, but because it will be hard to leave Sabrina and Molly here. When our three girls are all together, they seem to complete each other and at the same time make each other crazy. It’s a family thing; most people get that. I keep picturing us packing our stuff, driving to the airport, and kissing them goodbye as we depart. It’s a depressing thought. I will, however, leave with the peace of mind that they are thriving in school, their friendships, and work. And they are surrounded by family that loves them in a beautiful, safe land across the water. The Pacific is calling Zoe and Me home, and it’s time to get my head around it and accept the fact that we are leaving.
This visit has given us so much as a family. Our youngest needed her sisters, and my heart needed to feel them close. I needed to heal my mind and recalibrate. The 18 months we were apart were gut-wrenching. The following separation won’t be for so long, and we know now that we need to make plans for the future where our complete family unit is involved. This trip has allowed me to formulate a clearer picture of how we will manage the logistics of our bi-continental family.
I am incredibly thankful that we have spent time with my father-in-law and the girls’ granddad. He is precious to us, and every memory we can make with him is priceless. I only wish I could have brought his son with me. Paul is dying to get over here to visit his father and extended family. He’s keenly aware of his dad’s age, and he is feeling the weight on his heart of not being able to get to him. He has been busy working while we have been having fun. I owe my man big!
Anyway, in the last 12 days here, I will be taking stock of the priceless friendships I have here and the memories I’ve made with the girls and limited extended family. We wish we could have seen more are of the people we love and miss but, well…COVID. In reality, the primary goal was to be with Sabrina and Molly, and thanks to the COVID isolation, we had their undivided attention. I can’t complain about that!
It’s been two weeks since my last post as a blogger; that’s a big gap between writings for me. It’s been a strange time. It is for everyone here in NZ and around the entire globe. The covid lockdown has left me in a mental fog and, at the same time, opened my eyes. I’m finding that the lack of stimulation from others in the world outside my family unit is stifling my creativity yet forcing me to think deeper and longer. I’m inspired to write by new conversations or activities; there has been little of that. Despite this, I have been amazingly fortunate to be with all 3 of our girls. Many of us cling to our birth or chosen families. And some have been torn apart. I’ve found the stillness and time to bond on a deeper level than ever with mine. We have watched movies, grabbed coffees, lounged around, celebrated, studied, laughed, cried, walked, and ran. We’ve been fortunate to hash out and begin healing lifelong issues that the chaos of the world’s continual stimulation masks. Forced to face the head-on problems that may have pulled us apart in the future, we have grown together.
Stillness forces us to look at ourselves with nowhere to run or hide. It allows us to check-in and acknowledge ourselves, run a physical, emotional, and mental diagnostic. I have been in a prolonged state of stillness on this visit to my home away from home between NZ and the US. A handful of scattered socially distanced outdoor encounters with those I love leave me feeling thankful and emotional. And though our interactions have been limited and short, the energy of being in their presence has been much needed. Just seeing the faces and hearing the voices of those outside our bubble offers rejuvenation and an opportunity to share and plug into someone else’s world and connect to their physical presence. I have had baking left at my doorstep by my ever-kind Airbnb hosts. And even the gift of an unexpected warm croissant, sourdough loaf, or pineapple cake gives me pause for gratitude and joy.
Stillness is healthy; yes, we need it to heal, understand, listen and grow. I would be kidding myself, though, if I said stillness was all I needed. Stillness is a portion of our existence. The same as socialization, touch, exercise, nourishment, and shelter, all of these are equally necessary for fulfillment, joy, and peace. At the moment, our world is complicated, and obtaining all things needed to feel whole and human is not easy to come by without restrictions or anxiety over what we lack. Humans need humans to survive and thrive. We bounce off of each other’s energy, take what we need, and pass it along. Everyone keeps saying, “when we go back to normal…” I don’t even fully remember normal, and to our youth, this is normal. We can view it as good or bad, yet it simply IS.
I have found solace in not dwelling on what was or what will be, how great things were, and how much better they’re going to be. I wrestle with the arms of our new reality, and I’m pinned to the mat. I try to tap out, surrender and give up; I think a lot of us have. I give in to my downtime and consider my next move into the unknown, trying to make choices that will allow me to hit the bullseye of a moving target. And while I’m aiming, I focus, draw in a deep breath, and find that right now, the living is in this single minute, hour, and day.
Today is my new normal. I sit still and silent and check-in with myself. I acknowledge my feelings. I am still here; I’m alive, loved, healthy, fed, sheltered, and safe. And that should be enough.
I stand outside my rented flat looking up at the stars shining in the clear sky as they float over Devonport. The Southern Cross hangs in the cool crisp air, and the streets are quiet. I’ve been writing all day. After walking 10 miles, I listen to jazz, sip wine and work on my book. I’ve gotten a lot done. I’m able to collect my thoughts and settle into the stillness that surrounds me. My youngest daughter sleeps on the pull-out sofa in the living room. A man walks past briskly, taking his Australian shepherd for its nighttime walk under the street lights. Dim light glows in the windows of the homes that surround us, and everything is still. The sound of music, conversations, and footsteps in the house above us fill the night air.
I am at peace knowing that I’m making progress on my memoir and want to continue but have to get some sleep because I have 2 Zoom meetings with the US in the wee hours of the morning. The COVID cases here looked terrible today, 45 in the community. I’m not sure whether we will go to level two or not when they re-evaluate this coming Tuesday. I walk up and down the hilly sidewalk along the empty street just outside the fence of our flat and wonder if I should ask my hosts to extend my booking for yet another week. The thought of living on top of my girls in their one-bedroom flat makes me anxious, and this peaceful place I have found would be hard to leave if we are all isolated together with no end in sight. This lockdown is an unusual situation and one everyone in Auckland has to accept and get through together for the greater good.
I make my way back inside and decide to shower and settle in for the night. I have found a calm place in all of this isolated stillness which is maddening. The long walks, runs, rented flat, volunteer online marketing for the mental health coalition and writing have been my saving grace. The icing on the cake is my visits with my girls. Just knowing they are a few blocks away and happy in their space makes me feel good. I want everyone to be comfortable during this stressful time. Mental health is hard to maintain in isolation. It’s hard to stay sane when you can no longer tell what day it is without checking the calendar, and there is no definitive light at the end of the tunnel. Still, I am blessed to be where I am, where I’m supposed to be at this moment. I am productive, healthy, and happy. I have gotten what I asked for, time with my girls, time to write. What more could anyone want.
After five weeks in level 4 lockdown, we have finally moved to level 3! We still have to stay in our homes going out to exercise and shop for essentials. But we can expand our bubble to close family or friends, keeping it “small and exclusive.” It’s incredible how a tiny bit of progress gives me fulfillment. The highlight of this level is that we can now order contact-free items for pickup and order from Uber Eats. Sushi! I want Asahi Sushi! I craved it at home in America, and I’ve craved it all lockdown. Oh, and Flying Rickshaw INDIAN, yummmm! There’s excitement and mixed emotions among the girls. They can return to work and are essential for contactless pickups of items at their place of business. I think they will be happy to have some breathing room and a change of scenery.
In my little universe today, we’ve proudly launched a CAREGIVERS webpage I have built for the Collier Coalition for Healthy Minds. I filmed testimonials and wrote content for this, created the social media accounts and all content and edits of photos. I spent my time in NZ isolation learning to develop this digital piece to deliver on my promise as a volunteer to contribute to this fantastic and vital cause. CCHM is a community response to mental illness and substance abuse. This page is a crucial resource spot for caregivers who need support as much, if not more at times, than those who are ill. I have first-hand experience here because I suffer from an acute panic disorder and depression, I have since my early 20’s. And though I have loving support from my husband and daughters, I often feel they need someone who can support them. My issues can be draining and, at times, scary. The CAREGIVER page we launched gives tips and schedules for support groups of all kinds! I am so proud to be a part of this and happy that the board has allowed me to participate. I needed this win.
There is peace and calm in the flat as Molly, and I bond over cookie baking, and the laidback quiet life of Covid lockdown continues on another level. There isn’t too much to report, no house fires, breakdowns, or medical issues. I’m getting ready to leave for my daily walk under the long white clouds. It’s drizzling, and I’m happy to have another day with our girls and another day in NZ.
I have got to stop endlessly scrolling on my phone. It’s chilly in the house, and the laundry is piling up. I haven’t gone for a walk for two days (at home 48 hr birthday celebration with our middle baby). My bottom is sore from sitting so long, eating white bread, chocolate, cheese, and drinking champagne. The celebrations are over, and it’s raining off and on. Sitting in the window seat, I aim to work on my book but end up looking for chemist shops that sell Tucks or Preparation H wipes in NZ. No one does. I’ll have to adapt. Eating a piece of Vogel’s toast with Nutella and bananas, I wonder what the fiber content is.
Man, I’m getting old. I just flashed back to me interrupting a conversation between my mom and her brother (they were in their early 60’s). I asked why they talked about their bowel movements and crap so often? Fast forward to right this moment; I get it. I am my mother’s ass (take that however you want). Yeah, we’ve been here for 20 days now. You know you’re getting cabin fever and tunnel vision when your world shrinks and your interests become limited to scrolling on your phone, your bathroom habits, and the apple supply on hand—still confused about what day it is between following the US/NZ calendars and waking up to the same morning over and over again with no clear view to anything that might vary my schedule with a bit of mood shifting excitement. The birthday was a good diversion. At this point, you start to wonder whether you even need to shower. I mean, who’s going to see you? You don’t need to change clothes and survive going back and forth from walking outfits to pajamas. I do have to force myself to be on top of my hygiene at this point, though. Others in the one-bedroom may find my smell offensive. I don’t want them to feel “yuck” about my presence.
We have days now where we go through waves of silence, false starts of activity, walking on eggshells around each other, walking in circles outside aimlessly (just to be outside), and celebrating and making the most out of the little things. Two items must be in the house and seem to keep everyone calm, apples and pasta (there’s more that I could add, but those are the staples). I’m planning on doing some online volunteer work today and will walk to the store after I wander around the hood searching for something new to see (all of the sites here are beautiful, so no complaints there).
I have learned while being here in the cold that I am genuinely HEAT INTOLERANT (we’ve had our suspicions, Paul and I). If it gets too warm in the flat for even a second, I have to stand out on the cold patio. It hits me with a sudden paralyzing weight, agitation, hot skin, sweating, and just an overall feeling of burning in the unforgiving fire of hell (can I say I am not looking forward to returning to the heat of Florida? Yes, yes, I can.) By the time we get out of lockdown in NZ, I may have built a transporter; yeah, I think I have time to learn how to do that.
Wouldn’t that be awesome? Then I could pop back and forth from my husband, sisters, dogs, and home in the US to my children in NZ at the flick of a switch. I could maybe benefit from having my DNA scrambled with each passage. A setting on my transporter could allow me to pick a gene rearranging feature on each trip with choices ranging from high metabolism, weight reduction and redistribution, best post-pubescent skin, hair texture (ooh, there could be a hair color feature to cut out transports to the salon). Heck, the transporter could be a cure-all for cancer, diabetes, mental illness, disorders, COVID (no face-masks on this flight), the common flu, and freakin hemorrhoids! The sky’s the limit. Let’s get real, though. I don’t need a transporter at the moment. I need to stop scrolling, put my phone down, shower, and get outside.
We’ve lasted pretty well so far. The one-bedroom apartment is cramped, of course, but the 4 of us are putting systems in place that work. We’ve been in our family bubble in lockdown since August 18th. And on Tuesday, August 31st, the NZ government will reevaluate the country’s isolation situation.
Zoe and I knew there was a possibility this would happen when we set out for NZ to be with Sabrina and Molly. Thank God we extended our stay, moving our flight from August 29th to December 1st! Our original departure date was August 23rd. We would have been back in the US by now with Paul. And though we all miss him terribly, I would not have been satisfied with the short time I had with our girls.
So here we are in intense togetherness—all 4 of us with our little quirks and tasks. Zoe has online school and gets very anxious before DBAs and tests. Molly and Sabrina are also studying online. Molly is used to her alone time, and Sabrina, like me, can’t settle her mind and body unless every item in the house is in its place. Almost all of us have issues with overstimulation which triggers, anger, tears, anxiety, and confusion. So the more I am helpful by endlessly tidying and cleaning, the more anxious it makes the people who seek solitary moments.
On the other hand, when we let things go and chill, let things lay around and pile up to minimize movement, more anxiety and feelings of fight or flight build up in those who seek absolute organization. We understand each other and the issues we each have. We talk through the tough stuff and make plans to minimize discomfort.
In our small space, we have decided to assign areas. Each person keeps their area clean. Molly has the couch, I have the window seat, Sabrina has her bed, and Zoë has Molly’s. We decided yesterday that from 10 am – 12 pm each day, we will go to our stations to have space inside the apartment, a quiet time we can look forward to while being together but separate, and much-needed study/work time. This sounds like a perfect plan; however, there’s one little mouse we can’t keep out of our pantry and in their space. That’s the one with the inability to stay still (ZOE! I admit that her mother has the same issue, but as I’ve aged, I’ve developed a bit more self-control, I said A BIT!).
There is no perfect solution to any situation, but we can try and do our best to respect each other’s space and reduce triggers.
The girls sit on the couch bunched together, laughing at the TikTok videos they’ve just made. I have done my typical Monica from friends thing and cleaned to the point of being unable to think of anything else to clean at the moment. We’ve been in a level 4 NZ lockdown since Wednesday the 18th. Today is day 4. Zoe and I escaped the red septic state of Florida, sat in Managed isolation for a fantastic $3575 for 14 days; were free as birds for two and a half weeks, and then, BAM DELTA in our backyard and SLAM lockdown.
The fact is, we don’t mind being locked down here in NZ. I rather be in Deltaport (Devonport) then the septic south of America. I watch people on our peaceful morning walks and think, no New Zealander knows how it truly feels to sit in the middle of the shit storm of covid and politics back in the good ole US of A. I sit here in this cooperative, compassionate country and look across the water towards my home. I see the madness that is my community. The “land of the free” has gun carrying, one-percenters, and right-wingers who say, “we will not vaccinate or mask! You weak people who are taking action, getting vaccinated, and wearing masks are Karens (and maybe Dicks too). We are out freely spreading and helping the mutation of COVID TO DELTA, and if you don’t like it, stay home!” It’s weird. Half of the nation is not free but being held captive in their homes by the diseased masses.
Covid has exposed the true colors of many of my capitalist neighbors, friends, and some family. People scream, “down with socialism,” and have never left their backyard to see the things that do work for more forward-thinking multicultural peaceful countries. My eyes have seen the glory of the growing of discord, and it ain’t pretty. Selfishness abounds where the masses are too vast to legislate to honestly and safely. Social media has scrambled good helpful information and poisoned minds on a deeper level than could have ever been reached in decades before. I used to be so proud to be an American. I trusted our politicians and hoped that they had their countrymen’s best interest at heart. I felt utter disgust for anyone who talked badly about Americans when I lived here among my NZ family and friends. Yet now, as I sit here cooperatively in complete isolation with them, with our daughters who have their feet on both continents by birth, I am ashamed. Now when someone says stupid Americans, I, without reservation, agree with them. What purpose does all of the discord and division over COVID/DELTA serve any of my fellow Americans? PEOPLE ARE DYING, HOSPITALS ARE AT 98 percent capacity, and now children and adults are deathly ill.
Shame on us! Our children have been sent back to school maskless by choice of their parents. If you’re reading this thinking, “well, if you’re so ashamed to be an American, stay in NZ,” shaking your head and cursing my words, then you may be part of the problem. There is always someone to blame in the US. Those who don’t feel accountable for the damage left in the wake of their boat weekends, parties, concerts, school events, unprotected travel, and family gatherings. I am sad that my husband couldn’t be with us for this extended visit. I pray every day that he protects himself and his environment.
I am so thankful to be in this small pocket of the world with sanity, compassion, and cooperation. Understandably NZ citizens will get mad about being in lockdown and closed businesses will suffer greatly. But they won’t implode and take hostages in their rage. The essentials are available; no one is marching on the capital with guns crying, “give me liberty or give me death!” or hanging nooses outside the Prime Ministers’ window and threatening to track her down and kill her! No, that’s what Americans do.
Here there is grumbling behind closed doors, because well shit, COVID and now DELTA. We will all be isolated until there are no community cases, and we will all slowly emerge from our homes. The businesses will fully open, students will go back into schools, people will party and gather free of disease, FREE to capitalize on the fact that EVERYONE can roam safely. And while COVID may be threatening to enter, there are guards at the gate protecting the masses. There is shortsightedness that my people in the US have that they don’t have here in NZ. They see the prize and forget who they trample to grab it. It’s sad and inevitable that there will be a collapse at some point because no one saw the big picture. God bless America; we need it. Anyway, yay NZ, doing Covid right.
I was holding my phone when the alert alarm went off. It scared the crap out of me. I was reading an online book, and out of sheer reaction, I almost threw my device across the room. Once the noise stopped, I started laughing at myself, and then I read the message that came with the alert and thought, “Bummer!” And also not a bummer. So now I will get to be really close to our girls for seven whole days. We won’t be entirely couped up in their one-bedroom apartment. We will take heaps of walks, I’m sure, and just imagine the organizing we could get done! In reality, we will take heaps of walks, and then all of us will come home and get on our devices. All three girls will now be doing school online, and I, of course, will be watching and writing as usual.
I stayed home all day today and cleaned so we could enjoy being out and about for the rest of the week. So now I can say I did an extra courtesy day of quarantine to make up for all of the uncooperative anti-masking, anti vaccinating of my fellow countrymen (and women) in Florida, USA, which by the way, is now the epicenter of the delta variant! Yes, good old Florida, the sunshine state and the home of the fountain of youth. My home town Naples, Florida, declared by Forbes to be 2019’s “happiest, healthiest city in America to live in.” They are so healthy and happy and resistant to protect each other (like they do in NZ) that 75% of our hospital is housing covid patients again and only scheduling emergency surgeries. (I could be off by a small percentage but not by much, I’m sure).
Poor Paul, I hope he is protected and safe. He’s a Kiwi (New Zealander) that is pretty chill. In times like this, his “she’ll be right mate” attitude doesn’t always serve him well. My dear hubby is surrounded by many of “those” people I talked about in the previous paragraph. So, let’s all pray for him (and my sister, she works with him).
After hanging my last load of wet laundry on the drying rack in the living room, I stepped outside to get some fresh air. Cars, buses, and grocery delivery trucks whiz past. Molly and Zoe have run to the store to grab items from a list I gave them. Molly said, “mom, l may no be able to get wine. It may all be gone.” Adding, “Devonport moms ya know.” I didn’t even think to ask her to get toilet paper. I had to limit my order, we are without a car now, and they are carrying the bags up “Hell Hill” on foot.
Yahoo, I get to experience my first absolute level 4 lockdown Kiwi style!
We’re here—the final day. Isolation seemed like it would feel like forever yet passed by in a blink. All of our days started running into each other, and with little variety in our activity, every morning felt like groundhog day. We’ve driven by car, flown two flights, taken one bus, and stayed in two hotels over 16 days to get to where we are now, and still, our NZ adventure is only just about to begin. We have eaten, slept, eaten, played games, slept, read, written, and binge-watched. We have laughed, thought deeply, jumped on beds, stared for hours out the window, and snuggled in front of the TV. We had repeated Covid tests and daily health checks. And dreaded the ringing of our phone in fear of that call, saying, “surprise, you’ve come back positive, and we’re moving you out of this hotel to Jet Park for an extended stay!” Our tests have all come back negative every time. We were aware that Covid could be lurking anywhere. And as it happened, a woman on our exact flight and in our hotel tested positive for Covid. They moved her on day two of our time here. We wish her well.
At 7 am Monday 26 July Zoe, and I will walk out the doors of our safe, friendly, quiet waiting place to the open and loving arms of family. All we will leave behind at Rydges MIQ is the essence of our presence. Every nook and cranny will be washed, scrubbed, sprayed, and ultraviolet light sterilized. And our organic and inorganic rubbish disposed of carefully.
We thank all the staff at #NZMIQ #RYDGES #AUCKLAND who have been so kind, careful, and patient. Thank you, #NZ for looking out for each other and having the smarts to make your country a safe, healthy place to roam freely. Thank you for welcoming us home with protection. We were more than willing to sacrifice 14 days of our lives in quiet reflection so that we can jump back into Kiwi culture and protect our friends and family.
We are packed and ready to head out. And we are looking forward to experiencing and embracing everything in our down under home to the fullest, freely and fearlessly. 14 hours to go.
There’s something to be said for spending two weeks in isolation with a 15 yr old who doesn’t often initiate conversation or can’t hear you when you start one (thanks, Apple AirPods). I don’t watch TV, and we’ve had ours on over the last 11 days for maybe a total of 2 hours. Zoë watches stuff on her phone or our laptop and snaps her friends and sisters for entertainment. I tidy, tinker, read and write (and now do my 5-minute on-the-hour alarm exercises as of two days ago). We are as different as chalk and cheese, but it works. We have had about 3 minutes of friction through our stay, and that is an accomplishment! You would think placing a 15 yr old girl and 53 yr old menopausal woman in a box together for two weeks would be a cat-scratching, bitch (female dog) howling, disaster. When in fact, It has been a delight to be penned up with my baby G.
The long periods of silence in any given space force me to reflect on my external and internal life. While I’m excited about walking out the doors of #NZMIQ on Monday morning with 100 other people (socially distanced and a single file line, of course), I am also thankful for the time I’ve had to be in this environment where I’ve had the chance to focus and reflect. There have been no distractions of daily life. No dogs to feed and walk, groceries to buy, meals to prepare, gardens to water and weed, no pressure to socialize, worry about what I look like, and no guilt over being an unpaid writer (at the moment). I’ve been here being all that I am in one tiny bubble.
Since we arrived at #NZMIQ, my mind has run a gamut of emotions:
• 😃ahhhh, we’re finally in NZ!
• 😃AHHHHH This room has the softest bed and best view.
• 😃Spoiled for choice with Indian and Asian food, yum!!
• 😃Let’s jump on the bed for exercise!
• 😃We’re having a blast playing cards and mancala!
• 😃I’m super stoked to blog about our daily happenings.
• 🙂Wow, the meals in here are pretty nice.
• 🙂Awesome, we can sleep as long as we want!
• 🙂I’m so excited that we’ve booked to go outside for a walk!
• 🙂The healthcare and military workers here are very upbeat and friendly.
• 🙂It was nice to see my babies through 2 fences and mesh after not seeing them for 18 months.
• 😌We’ve got our exercise routine down to a science; we’ll be so fit when we leave.
• 😏Ugh! We’re in NZ, and it seems like we will never get out there to enjoy it.
• 😒I don’t want to know what day or time it is.
• 😒This room smells musty, and the carpet reeks of damp dust.
• ☹️I’ve been in bed so long I’m sore! I can’t stand sitting or lying on the bed anymore.
• ☹️I don’t even want to touch the bed!
• 😳Everything out the window looks surreal, and it’s hard to believe we’re going out there.
• 😐I can’t be bothered to go outside and walk in a 40 x 60 oval for 30 minutes (or more if we want, but we don’t want).
• 😐Sabrina and Molly shouldn’t bother coming to visit us through the fences and mesh. We can see them better on FaceTime, and they don’t get rained on that way.
• 😐What’s the point of exercising? I’m sleeping until our release day!
• 😠”Zoë, I will end you if you use the chair on my side of the room!”
• 😠”No, I don’t want to play cards or mancala Zoë! You keep kicking my ass at everything.”
• 😠I don’t want one more plate of curry or pad thai! And please, no more breakfast in bed.
• 🤔Yes, my blog is reaching into some deep personal territory at this point. My inner space is all there is to explore!
• 😵💫I feel manic and can’t stand sitting still anymore.
• 😵💫I have no idea how I will handle the simulation of the world beyond these doors. Maybe I should ask to be institutionalized?
Despite my progression of thoughts, I have begun learning how to put into place the outline for the novel I have been planning and am to the point where I can define my characters and settings and the premise of my tale. This stillness has gifted me that, and I realize now that to finish, I’ll need more isolation. Honestly, positive and enjoyable things have come from this experience.
We are looking forward to the unknown of the days to come.
⚠️Caution this story contains information about mental illness issues and could be disturbing to some readers.
I never imagined I would grow tired of breakfast in bed, someone else making my food, and getting to lay around every day, until now (wha wha privileged rant). I spent the latter part of yesterday popping up and marching or doing some lifts and crunches every hour after my exercise alarm went off. I have decided if I have the alarm set 7 times a day and I do 5-minute workouts each time, and I will have gotten 35 minutes of exercise in for the day. I think this habit could carry over to post quarantine life. All I need to do is throw a walk or two in there (outside of my alarm workouts), and I’ll be fit all over. Eureka, I’ve done it! I’ve cracked the isolation or writer sitting at home writing all the time fitness code!!!
Sabrina (our journalism and film daughter) came up with an idea for a short film and a very excellent article due to our stay here in #NZMIQ. She’s so talented, and I can’t wait to see what she creates. She wants to cover some services that help people get through #NZMIQ in a healthy, comfortable manner (and they do, the healthcare workers are very attentive). She got me thinking about the mental health aspect of being in here and the effects of long-term isolation as it applies to me.
Mental health and illness are something I think about daily as I am constantly aware of my battle with an acute panic disorder, coupled with intermittent bouts of anxiety and depression. It became apparent that once we leave the relatively small space of #NZMIQ I will need to be conscious of overstimulation on the outside. If you’ve never dealt with a panic disorder, overstimulation can occur due to being in a room with too many people who are talking and moving around or walking down a street where crosswalk signs are telling you to walk. At the same time, the sound of rushing traffic zooms by, a busker is blaring their guitar over against a wall on the sidewalk, and a group of people walks by laughing loudly! These two scenes are regular everyday occurrences, but my brain (sometimes, not often) has a hard time keeping up with and categorizing all of this activity and sound at one time. As a result, my brain and body start shutting down. My legs feel heavy, and it feels like I’m dragging my body behind me; my eyes track in slow movie frames (as my brain can’t keep up), and I begin to shake first in my hands and then if I can’t get a handle on things, all over (similar to a mini seizure). My saving grace is that I have been taking my medication FAITHFULLY, and my Dr and I anticipated everything that could trigger an attack on this trip. He prescribed me a little safety net in a little brown bottle just in case, on top of my daily meds.
If you know me at all, you know that I’m personally opposed to prescription medication, so my Dr and I worked together as I attempted to stop taking the drug that has helped me for over 30 years. I was free of my prescription from September 2020 till March 2021. I got my medical marijuana license, and with my Drs help, we tried the natural route. NO! That is what my body and brain said to that experiment. I had suicidal visions, my body became paralyzed, and on my back, randomly unable to move or speak (it wasn’t because of the THC because my dose was only .4ml at bedtime). A couple of times, I was going through my day and suddenly appeared to be drunker than a skunk, and man, my head hurt so bad on occasion. I was disoriented daily, unaware of time, and worst of all, any suppressed memories I had all came flooding back in tsunami-sized waves that were powerful enough to kill me. NO! Medical Marijuana is not for everyone, and as much as I wanted it to work for me, it was driving me down a very dark rabbit hole that I may not have escaped with my life had it not been for the love and lifeline my family and friends threw to save me.
So I go back on my medication, and poof! I function like a normal human being again. I look at that tiny pill every morning before I pop it in my mouth and am amazed that my life hangs in the balance of that little 20 mg clump of chemistry. Here’s something I learned about Medical Marijuana and mental illness: 1. It is nothing to play around with without the guidance of your Dr. and a sound support system of counseling and love. 2. If you have ANY schizophrenia or bipolar disorder in your genetics (and our family does), it will exacerbate existing symptoms or trigger them if you didn’t have them before. So while I enjoyed dropping 22 pounds while off my medication (because it
suppresses your metabolism), I didn’t enjoy falling further and further away from my loved ones and desire to live into deep dark space floating into insanity or, worse, death. Everyone I loved begged me to retake my medication for months. Some were genuinely worried about how close I was to falling off the edge of
life, and some were unaware but knew something was a bit off. I’m thankful for my Dr, my daughter Zoë and my husband Paul, my sisters, and my friend Mindy for retrieving me from that scary place. I’m not happy that the minute my meds kicked in, the weight packed back on with a vengeance, but who cares? I’d rather be fat and happy than a skinny psycho, possibly dead bitch (I was pretty bitchy without my meds due to being in constant fight or flight mode).
So, back to day 10 of isolation in #NZMIQ. When the healthcare workers come by for our health check, they ask about our mental well-being daily. And they’re not just asking out of curiosity; they’re asking because they have staff here on hand who are ready to help if you are struggling. I wonder how many people out there in NZ know how hard the healthcare teams and military are working to make travelers transition into COVID-free NZ an easy and safe one.
So while I’m excited to be back home in New Zealand, I am aware that in 3 days, I will be going from virtual silence, stillness, and the safety of isolation to the hustle of the city, family asking a million questions with excitement, the close quarters of our one-bedroom accommodations with Sabrina and Molly and the stimulation of being alive. Wish me luck.
Zoe sits across the room, learning songs on her Ukulele. I’m in my chair, feet up, bed made, the last book I read finished, laying facedown dead on the table next to me. Outside the picture window, through the grey of the day, window cleaners repel from the building across from us, motor vehicles crawl like tiny ants across the harbour bridge. At the same time, boats skim across the icy Waitemata. Damp clothes hang on racks on the balconies to our left, stacked 16 stories high. Rain pats and splatters against the window, and the wind whistles through the window left cracked just a sliver to create an even balance between dry heat and fresh air. There’s a chill in the room I can’t seem to shake, no matter what I set the heat on. It’s not that cold outside; my body just isn’t acclimated to this hemisphere yet.
Aotearoa – the land of the “long white cloud.” Clouds that hang heavy in the air, unbudging this time of year. Sometimes a solemn silver hue and others a cotton candy sunset you could stare at for hours, complete with rainbows and fantasies of unicorns (ok, maybe just the rainbows).
Day 8 was a wash. We’ve given in to our isolation and have chosen to have pajama days, sing along to karaoke and Zoes ukulele playing, read, write, talk with friends and family back home or across the harbour on facetime, and sleep. We’ve lost the desire to jump on the bed, follow our exercise routine or even book to walk in the 40 x 60 oval of the forecourt. Sleep has taken over. We are on the downside of our isolation, and as we wait to be released, we talk, eat and play less and grow softer by the minute.
But all is not lost. I’ve had a new idea. I’ve just set my alarm for every hour to remind me to get up and do some leg lifts or march in place. Come on! I can’t simply give up, or I will be jelly when we leave here and have to slowly work up to all of those great hiking treks I hope to hit. So I’m on my feet in my blue-grey tie-dyed sweatshirt and cropped sweats, knees up, toes pointed (remembering my high school marching band days), and doing circles around the room as my teen lays there fit and cozy watching yet another blockbuster movie.
It was a bit heartbreaking to write my blog post about day seven yesterday, and then I lost it before I posted it. I’ve had over 234 compromised passwords on my international travels. UGH! So I reset all of them, including the monster of all passwords, my apple account, and BAM! Stuff disappeared, never to be seen again (Yes, I did a backup to the cloud before signing out). After hours of damage control, I found that all I really lost was yesterday’s blog writing. This situation is funny in a way because I not only lost the story, titled “NZ MIQ Day 7,” but we found out we also lost a whole day!
Funny story: (unless you’re in isolation in one room where you have to get permission to go walk in an oval outside, which you can’t stand for more than 30 minutes because, let’s face it, you’re walking in a 40×60 oval with others behind you in hot pursuit and the whole time your walking to the left you want to yell “ok everybody switch” but I don’t want to make any waves so I dont). So as I was saying, funny story, Zoe and I answered the door yesterday to be greeted by our perky healthcare professional clad in insipid yellow PPE and round pillbox hat and, of course, their face mask. They were rolling door to door to take temperatures and survey how people cope with their intense one-room isolation. Our visitor asked how we are getting along, and in all actuality, we cohabitate exceptionally well together. Zoe is 15 but pretty laid back. I am too (just saying). You could see our visitors smile through their eyes, and they had a happy disposition (seeing they are the only visitor we get daily, you would hope they would be at least slightly entertaining). Zoe and I shared with them our excitement over the fact that we are halfway to our release date; yaaaaay, it’s day seven. They laughed, “No! Ha, Ha, Ha, it’s only day 6! We don’t count day 1!” Wait, what?
You know that’s not funny. I replied, “I’m sorry I’m trying to get my head around what you just said.” I suffered a tiny invisible seizure felt only in my little universe (Zoes too, I’m sure). Zoe and I stopped smiling and laughing and started having them fact check our release date and time, and sure enough, we were well and for true life only on DAY 6!!!! (Ground Hog Day, 50 First Dates, lather rinse repeat, lather rinse repeat…) anything repetitive that could exist ran through my head (oh, and the fact that we are in real-life Hotel California). And then I had to let it go; we’re powerless (safe, comfy, well-fed, warm, and only 5 miles from Sabrina and Molly). Just deal with it.
Fun fact: I got outside for an evening walk, and Zoe and I decided to take some space from each other, so she hung in the room (the space was nice for both of us I’m sure). How small is NZ? Well, I’ll tell you. I have now met two people here in isolation that is either a family member of one of my dearest friends or works directly for one of my family members. It’s a known fact that there are only 2 degrees of separation between people here in NZ (well, It used to be a fact, maybe it still is).
While I was walking in my oval (on day seven which was really day 6), I had a friendly chat with two young NZ Air Force guards. They watch the gate and observe all of us walking to make sure we DON’T TOUCH THE FENCE or move to an authorized area (which I’ve done several times because I am not non-compliant; I am just too lazy to read the signs they’ve posted EVERYWHERE, five inches apart from each other). Some signs say, no photos, social distance, designated smoking area only, please don’t touch the fence. Hanging on the barrier gate are pictures of people, dogs, cities, art, and thank you notes from people who have stayed here in isolation . I like the thank you notes. The letters are from people humbled by the experience and thankful for the steps taken to keep NZ Covid Free. I’m sure they’ve gotten some pretty nasty notes too.
I noticed yesterday that there is no lock on the bathroom door. I think the staff has taken them out for safety reasons. What if someone is in their room isolating alone and has a heart attack or stroke or worse, can’t handle the isolation, and takes their life? I suppose they need to be able to get to people quickly. I also thought about the people here who chain smoke, are alcoholics or drug addicts returning home to NZ and realized that while Zoe and I are having an almost enjoyable time here, this could be hell for someone else. There are limits on the amount of alcohol sent to a given room and trust me, they check delivery bags. If you chain smoke, you have to book to go down for a smoke (back in the day, when my oldest sister chain-smoked, she would have killed someone if they got between her and a cigarette, well, that and food). So yes, being here could be very heavy for some and a good rest and time to write for others. No two human universes are the same or experiencing the same things.
Food was delivered, we ate, played online games with Paul and Molly, I stretched and jogged in place. Food was delivered, we ate again, I tidied our tiny box and read some of my books. Exciting right? I haven’t thought about going outside today, but I am longing to move. So Zoe said, “mom get on your bed!” to which I cringed, saying, “no, please, I don’t want to touch my bed till it’s time to sleep!” Zoe replied with excitement, “no, get on the bed and do this with me!” It was bed workouts with Emi Wong! Here’s her link: https://youtube.com/c/EmiWong Normally, in bed, it’s comfy, but Emi has a way of making you burn in bed and not in the way most of us dream of burning in bed. Zoe laughed hysterically at my half moves and inability to crunch and lift like the beasts she and Emi are. It was pretty comical. I’m going to come out of MIQ saying, “I feel like veal! I’m soft and dough-like due to being locked in a box and force-fed awesome food!”
When the reality is I was already pretty blobby and weak before my current situation. Oh BTW! Our luggage was delivered last night! YAAAAAY! So I SHOWERED. I’m sure I’ve lost at least a couple of pounds of globe-trotting dirt after that. The shower here rocks! It water blasts you with the force of a fire hose. You know, the exhilarating kind of blast that hurts and feels amazing at the same time. Mentioning the fire hose actually reminded me of hot firefighters (which I usually have no interest in and still don’t, but my oldest sister and oldest daughter do). One Christmas, my husband gave me a hot firemen calendar as a gag gift. The minute I opened it, I screamed and threw it across the room in total horror. I think I passed it on to another keen female in the family. Does that man even know me? Well, since it was a gag, he obviously does. He just wanted to have a reason to laugh at me. I don’t know why I’m the way I am. I’m sure I would have loved that calendar had I found it in an empty house with no other humans or animals present, for that matter, closer than a 50-mile radius.
I get way too embarrassed if caught red-handed (that’s funny, red-handed, never mind). Anyway, I’m clean and happy with clothes to wear and NOWHERE TO GO! Zoe rotted her teeth out as a toddler eating a particular brand of rice crackers in NZ and has been romancing the idea of securing cases of them upon her return to her birthplace. Well, we got her 14 packs, and she has binge eaten 6 in 3 DAYS!!! Why????? Everyone has their thing, I suppose. Zoe sits there, headphones on, laid back against the headboard of her hotel bed, toes wiggling, watching Disney (yes, she’s 15, so it’s kinda cute), eating one round cracker after another, examining it as if she found gold before she places each one in her mouth. I’ve run out of things to do for the moment here in the box, so I’m laying in the sun on my side of the room dozing off on my bed (which I was trying to avoid touching until bedtime but, well…no).
Well, I’ve now rearranged some of our room; all I really did was move a chair from the corner over into the cubby kitchen so I could put a wall between Zoe and me whenever I wanted. I ended up back on my bed after reading in my new kitchen cave for only 5 minutes because Molly and Zoe were on Facetime talking about music, and I couldn’t resist jumping into the conversation. Time moved slower today than the two days prior. We have heard nothing about booking a walk outside since the announcement last night that someone in our building has covid, and they have to contact trace. So now I feel like we’re just rolling around the room like toddlers in a playpen. Rolling on the mattress, floor, mattress, and maybe not the floor again because it smells pretty rank. I was thinking about how inmates in prison have it pretty good compared to us today. They get to take walks in the yard, play basketball (at least they do in all of the movies), and do fun stuff like making license plates and bread. We aren’t allowed to crack our door open to put our trash out (without stepping out the door) without our facemask on. I’m not complaining. PLEASE DON’T GET ME WRONG! We knew we were headed for this waiting place (I tried to block out what it would be like when we got to NZ isolation, and here we are). We’ve resorted to foot and back massages (note to self, getting a massage from my youngest child is like being tenderized with tiny sharp chicken knuckles). My child laughed every time I yelped in pain. Now that’s entertainment. And finally, we sit and wait for dinner to arrive and then have plans to do a post-meal 10-minute workout (well, skip the work out I just had a glass of wine) and watch a movie. Never a dull moment, and we are spoiled for variety in our box (hmmm, I just realized I forgot to brush my teeth today)!
We did bed bounce exercises (something we made up) after breakfast (which was pretty yummy); it was delivered in paper bags and served in environmentally friendly packaging with a lid of plastic that is compostable. All cutlery and food packaging is wood and cardboard!!! NZ seems to avoid petroleum-based plastics! Good on em!
We were given our blue wrist bands, which mean our COVID tests were negative, so Zoe and I got to go for a 30-minute walk in the 40×60 forecourt.
Back up in our room, Zoe jumped back in bed, and I made a coffee and sat by our window getting fresh air. It opens about 6 Inches. Desperate people have climbed down balconies and used sheets to repel to the ground from open windows, so expansive opening windows and balconies aren’t an option. Last night I got a call from the facility nurse asking me health questions. She wanted to know if I have enough medication for my acute Panic Disorder while in isolation and if I had someone close by I can talk to if the isolation gets to be too much. Then this morning, a nurse came to our door to perform our daily health check, taking our temperature, asking how we’re feeling, and seeing if we had any symptoms.
Here’s something gross I still haven’t showered since I left the US! I have nothing to change into. I’m still waiting for our luggage to arrive. Zoe had her carry-on, but mine is still sitting in Washinton, DC. AirNZ called me today and assured me our two large suitcases would be picked up by the courier at 3:00 pm today and delivered to our room (watch this space). I CAN’T WAIT TO CLEAN UP!!! YUCK!
The hours tick by, and we’ve eaten lunch. I move from the chair to the bed to the chair to standing and looking out the window. It’s a beautiful day today. I can’t wait to be out there. We lay on the bed and do leg lifts, play Mancala, and I contemplate taking a nap but try not to. It’s 10:30 pm back in Naples, Florida, so my body wants to sleep. It’s only 2:30 pm here, though, and if I don’t stay awake, I’ll never sleep tonight.
It’s 3:20 pm, and they announced over our room loudspeaker that someone on our flight, and now in our hotel has Covid and now we can’t leave our room to go for a walk. It’s sad. My girls were on their way into the City to see us outside of the gate. We had to call them and tell them not to come. NZ is diligent and keeping everyone safe. We get it, but boy, what a letdown. We were so excited to see them, even if it was from two meters away through the green mesh and two fences.
I’ve ordered water, wine, and rice crackers from the grocery store and can’t wait till it’s delivered. I ordered water with my lunch but got coke (I don’t drink sugary sodas), and now I’m parched. Zoe and I are each lying in our beds playing game pigeon games on our phones (8 ball, mancala, darts, etc.); it doesn’t matter what we play, I usually lose. The late afternoon sun is shining in on us. I’ve forgotten how much the sun warms the room as it beats through the glass.
Zoe and I jump up with excitement when Sabrina and Molly call us on the phone from the corner below our window. We talk on speakerphone and jump up and down, making sure to be seen. They don’t stay long and head off to meet friends for the evening. I joke in the text on the family strand that it will look like they’re working that corner every night if they keep visiting us this way. After they disappear, I contemplate jumping on the bed again but pace around the room instead, sip a decaf and oat milk coffee, and watch the sun sink behind the Harbour Bridge.
All there is to do now is wait for another meal, eat, read and pace. We would watch movies on TV, but they’re $15 each! We would love to watch them on our own devices, but the hotel wifi sucks. I’m very concerned about this as Zoe starts online school any day now. Oh well, “tomorrow’s another day.”
We arrived in Auckland, NZ, on Monday the 12th of July. Landing at 5:38 am, we went through a maze of customs checkpoints, were cleared to get on the bus, and headed to Auckland CBD. We sat (in the bus) with no toilet, water, etc., for what seemed like forever. Processing us at the airport was at the most an hour so let’s say we left there at 6:45 am or 7:00 am. By 10:08 am, there was still no sign of getting off of the bus, which had been sitting still in the road comically for hours in front of a giant neon sign that read, “WHATEVER”!
Omg, WE FINALLY MOVED!!! 10:10 am. (3 hours on the bus). We made it into our room by 11:00 am. It’s tiny and tidy. The beds are super comfortable. I wish there were drawers to put our clothes in (whenever we get our luggage, that is, it still hadn’t been brought up to us by 7:00 pm). No worries on the food front though, it’s terrific. Within 30 minutes of getting into our room, we were delivered cereal with yogurt, milk, and fruit. And at 12:30 pm, they sent up a beautiful stir-fried prawn dish with cake and coconut water. YUM!!
We were called on the phone and told to come out of our room, face masks on. Yellow PPE gown wearing military personnel with face masks and plastic face shields ushered us to the covid testing room. They administered the brain stabbing PCR test; the first time I’ve had that one, it didn’t hurt at all but yuck, what a gross feeling.
And for the grand finale of our day, Sabrina and Molly, my two sweet babies, delivered coffee and chocolates to our hotel. They left it at the front desk for us. We couldn’t see them yet, so they dropped and ran. We could see them standing 12 floors down on the street corner. We all waved as we talked to each other on the phone. We are so close yet still so far. I can’t wait to hug them. Almost there.
Wow! We have gotten off to a crazy start. We woke up at 4 am and slowly headed to the Miami International airport (it was only 6 minutes from the Hilton Garden Inn). We were checked in for our flight and breathed a sigh of relief, knowing all of the paperwork required for our travel was “A” ok! Paul walked us to the security gate, and we all exchanged kisses and hugs. He walked away, waving to us as we disappeared through the scanners. I watched him as long as I could. Before we got sucked into the crowd, Paul smiled at us with a smile that masked a small amount of sadness. Man, I wish he could have come me with us. I will really miss him (and the dogs). Zoe and I excitedly settled on our flight set to depart at 7:15 am. We quietly waited, blinking the remnants of sleep out of our eyes. We needed to take off on time. Once we reached the second flight of our trip, we were only going to have 40 minutes to go from Gate Z to D!!! (we are not strangers to hoofing it from one gate to the next, so we planned to move at superhuman speed to get there).
The pilot announced something was wrong with the flaps on one of the wings, and we couldn’t depart. Our 7:15 am departure, now a 7:30 am departure, left us 25 minutes to get to our next flight. Then the flight attendant came and told us that the toilets were full to the brim (what the heck?). A neon yellow-vested mechanic got on and off of the plane repeatedly while I, Zoe, and the rest of the passengers waited in anxious anticipation. I looked at my watch and realized that we had missed our connection. Making our flights on time to get to our final New Zealand flight was crucial because we have to arrive there on the flight that matches the flight number given when we booked our managed isolation. If we don’t, they could send us back to the US.
The flight attendants and one of the airline scheduling managers were standing at the plane’s entry discussing our situation as I approached them with concern. They knew we had to make our connecting flights on time, and the manager said he was already searching for new flights for us before I had even said anything. The scheduling manager asked me to follow him off the plane and back into the terminal, so I did. Zoe sat tight on the plane in confusion. There were very few options on any airline. Getting to LA in the time frame we needed was proving to be a considerable challenge. I did my best to be quiet and patient. At one point, I turned my back on the scheduling manager as he searched the screen. Hot tears ran down my face and soaked the edge of my face mask. I didn’t want him to see me crying. All I could think about were Sabrina and Molly and how badly I wanted to hug them in my arms and look into their eyes. It’s been a year and a half. My heart hurt at the thought of not reaching my babies. The scheduling manager was doing the best he could. After many phone calls and deep digging, he found two seats on a totally different airline. I texted Zoe and told her to get off the plane and meet me in the terminal.
We now wait for our new connection. And while doing this, a man with an Indian accent called my cell phone and attempted to steal my checking account information. He had hacked my debit card and gotten the number, but that’s all he got. I was wise to him, and pretty quickly, he hung up on me when I refused to answer his questions. So now the bank is investigating that, and we continue our journey. Ahhhh, day two is shaping up the be a right ripper!!! (pray for us)!
When we arrived at the Hilton Garden Inn, we were confused about where the entrance to the hotel was. All we wanted to do was check-in. We entered the pool area, and it was taped off; we tried the front entrance, and the doors were locked with construction tape all around and workers completing the new lobby floor. We finally found our way, and at that point, I was frustrated. I thought, my God, when will we see an elevator to go to our room. I was dissatisfied with the front desk person and then realized they were doing the best they could, working with what they had to work with.
Once we finally deposited our stuff to our room and understood what was happening (the entire hotel was under renovation), I apologized to the sweet lady at the front desk (which was a card table at the back entrance), and we went across the way for drinks. I came back, and while my husband and daughter lay in the comfort of our room, I went back downstairs under the entrance awning seeking a light (yes, a light, I had three glasses of wine, and that is my tipping point for needing a cigarette). I sat under the back awning and watched about 30 people try to find the entrance. They drove back and forth past the door, wondering if they should go in or not. There was signage at the front of the hotel sending them around back but nothing that said: “CHECK-IN HERE!”
I borrowed lights from several different kinds of pilots who said that since Covid, this is normal. One man, Patrick, had just ended a day of retraining and gaining flight hours to work for UPS or FEDEX. I also met two working pilots who came out of Mexico and were on a layover from Estafeta Carga Aérea S.A. de C.V. , a cargo airline based in Mexico City, Mexico. It operates domestic cargo charters in Mexico and the United States and has over 25 interline agreements providing connecting services to the rest of the Americas, Europe, and Asia. They said that when they reach their accommodations, confusion, similar to what we experienced, is expected. I borrowed a light from them, and we had a smoke. They told me about their passion for their work and told me why flying for a cargo company was essential to them.
Meanwhile, the staff inside the Hilton Garden Inn was doing their best to be welcoming. They put on a good face and made the best of a bad situation. As I lay my head down to sleep tonight, I think about all the people working on the ground and flying above the clouds. They are dedicated to keeping the world moving and following guidelines that keep all of us safe in this crazy time. I salute them.
We’re getting ready to leave for NZ. Zoë and I will be in managed isolation when we arrive there for 14 days. We just saw a story yesterday where a woman had 12 hours left of her managed isolation, and her Covid test results came back positive (they test you in NZ isolation every three days). They slipped an envelope under her door telling her she could not leave. Can you imagine! One hundred people in the detained woman’s isolation group also had to stay longer. We don’t know how this will go, but It’s all a part of the adventure.
The airlines have canceled our return flight to the US. So I am rebooking our new return flight for sometime in September, extending our stay. Our original return date was August 23rd. The airlines warned us there would be a 70% chance they will cancel our new return flight. The thing is, they can’t fill enough seats on the jumbo jets to justify the cost of returning to the US, so they wait until they can guarantee a full flight. Because of our uncertain return date, we’ve modified Zoe’s schooling for the first semester of her sophomore year. She is unenrolled from NHS and now a Florida Virtual School flex student. She only has to take three honors classes, and her guidance counselor has assured us she will be able to slot her right back into her regular schedule upon return without missing a beat. She is a well-seasoned counselor and feels that there is more to a teen’s well-being than reading, writing, and arithmetic. She says mental health is critical, and if our stay in NZ with her sisters and extended family gives us peace and fulfillment, that is more important than school structure. I love her. She’s right; life is short and not always black and white. Sometimes we have to live outside the lines to achieve our goals. So today, on day 12 of the count down to our departure, I am rebooking our return flights and beginning to get very excited.
(This story is a time capsule of words and thoughts shared from my diary. Written one year ago today, June 5, 2020.)
The mood of the day, gray, rainy, calm, quiet, hopeful yet frightening, motivated, loved, and slightly bored.
My feelings are all over the place this week as the world erupts with bubbling issues of racism, isolation, fear, and depression. The deaths of George Floyd over a counterfeit $20 bill and Ahmaud Arbery shot by a retired police officer and friends while he was running; have sparked peaceful protests and riots not just in America but around the entire world. In Auckland, NZ, there was a peace march of 9000 people to support #blacklivesmatter. Our two oldest daughters were there, marching with the others, demanding a global end to systemic racism. I am so proud of them. While proud of them, I’m dying to get out there and peacefully protest myself. Our youngest daughter fears for my safety and begs me not to; she is scared. Business owners are frightened. Businesses of every kind in towns around the US, broken into, looted, and burned. A Target was destroyed, along with CVS and Walmart, who had to close over 100 stores until there is order. Angry groups don’t care if you are rich, poor, white, black, Asian, Hispanic; they are fed up and are destroying people’s businesses and lives to make a loud screaming statement.
#nolivesmatteruntilblacklivesmatter I get it. I don’t blame them. I am ashamed to be white at times. I can’t express enough how I long to be united with black brothers and sisters (united with all races actually), and no matter how much I try, I will never feel the pain of the scorn heaped upon their backs repeatedly, heartlessly. We are one race, the human race. We all love, bleed, rejoice and grieve the same. We are one people. I am confused and angry, even sad and again ashamed of the way some (many) in my country, entitled Americans, still embrace racism and, on top of that, have responded to COVID-19 with anti-masking and misleading lies stating that it’s all a hoax. Over 500,000 people with families, spouses, and children, parents and friends who loved them, were killed by a hoax. Yes, Information is misleading or confusing. Politicians are worried about money over lives; Americans have lost jobs in the 10’s of millions. People are dying, starving, committing suicide (because it’s all too much). The world is riddled with rising mental illness cases, and many of us are hanging on by a thread. It’s a crazy time.
It’s hurricane season now, and we’ve had homes destroyed in our Florida brush fires. I thank God for today’s rain as it slows the flames. Yet someone in another community is praying for the rain to stop because landslides have washed their homes into the sea, taking more lives. Global warming, I say. Today people and parties do not respect each other, and our leaders are greatly divided. Some deplore Mr. Trump and his cronies, saying he is the “worst president in the history of all presidents.” He has been referred to as ignorant, a coward, and at times evil. The world feels as if it’s going mad. The chaos reminds me of scenes flashed on the news when I was a child, during the ’60s and ’70s.
I was laid-off from my job on March 20th and forced to get a lawyer and threaten litigation to get my last paycheck for three weeks of work. What is wrong with people? I don’t understand. I’m gun shy at the thought of working for anyone again. I don’t want to sell ice to Eskimos, and I don’t want to be an easy to replace cog in another machine. My husband and God have provided well for us through all of this, and I am thankful. Today, in the stillness of this very moment, I love my life, but there are people lost in depression who are in the process of ending theirs.
Beyond my front door, the world around me is in chaos. In my home, there is safety, love, and contentment. Privileged folks make home repairs and renovations in isolation while others walk that fine line of living paycheck to paycheck while tipping over the edge into homeless obscurity. There are rich who can’t fathom what it’s like to go hungry as they lay their heads down at night on a mountain of soft Down pillows. Then there are the devastatingly poor who are struggling to fill the stomachs of their fearful starving children and provide them an isolated online education while sleeping in cars, under bridges, in bug-infested woods, and abandoned houses. Now is a time when there is much to do. We must find common ground rise from our complacency and plan for a better tomorrow as we isolate. We need peace across the aisle and over the back fence. “There’s a change a comin” it’s time, we’ve been “woke” and what we’ve seen can’t and shouldn’t be unseen.
(Looking back on last year’s writing, I think we are changing with each tiny step forward. We have changed political leadership. We remember the lives of those we’ve lost. While #blacklivesmatter isn’t speaking as loud today, I haven’t forgotten, and those with a conscience, bravery, heart, and voice are still talking, protesting, and will fight till their last breath (hopefully peacefully) until we have evolved into an actual accepting, loving, multicultural society. With vaccinations administered to half of us, we are coming out of our homes and returning to the office maskless in some places here in the US. I have the privileged opportunity to write my blog and memoir. Brush fires in FL are minimal this year, and hurricane season is approaching. We don’t know what storms we will weather yet; we can get through them better together if we learn from our past, allow ourselves to grow, fight against morally wrong behavior and actions and unite as one people, a beautiful blend of colors. The colors that God chose to paint the world we live in on a planet we must equally share in love.)
One hundred thirty-six million Americans were fully vaccinated as of May 31st; according to “Our World in Data,” that’s 41.4% of us; so we are slowly opening back up. I watch as people begin to shop, dine and socialize again and in my head, hear, “Please notice that the seatbelt sign is off, and you are now free to roam around the cabin” (that’s airplane talk, seems I’ve taken one too many flights in my lifetime). I’m getting out there tentatively and still wear a facemask even though my husband and I have chosen to vaccinate fully, and our 15 yr old at this point is 1/2 vaxed. I’m anxious and gun shy. I do Shipt shopping for a couple of hours a day, a few days a week, to offset the cost of my smoothie bowl addiction. When I’m out there in the stores walking around shopping, I feel traces of the paranoia that had set in at the swell of the Covid 19 pandemic run through every fiber of my being. I’m sure a lot of people are still feeling uneasy. Pre vaccination, I was anxious and downright angry about antimaskers rubbing past me while I shopped, and sometimes I would comment to those who wore their masks only over their mouths, saying, “ Hey, you know that mask only works if you cover your mouth and nose.” I admit I was sometimes downright shitty and would glare at people who came too close without protecting the people around them like I was, and I would think, “what an asshole, what a selfish human being!” I would get upset because I was in the store working. Though I was sweating bullets due to 53-year-old menopausal hot flashes behind my mask, I still found it monumentally critical to protect others, myself, and prevent the spread of this crappy disease that some had the nerve to call a hoax. What became most apparent to me due to the pandemic and how people reacted to our new normal was that the narcissistic, entitled “give me liberty or give me death” monster is real. It took over the most unsuspecting of friends and family, tread on you like a pack of wild kids running over ants on a crowded playground, and got stronger the more you objected to it! It’s been hard not to judge through the Covid days.
Frankly, the last year and a bit have been exhausting. I got to a point where I didn’t have energy left to follow the news, CDC guidelines, my friends opinions and beliefs on social media, the trumped-up election commentary for or against it, look for a new job, worry about being separated 9000 miles from my two daughters, wonder when I would be able to hug them again, think about when we would be able to start paying ALL of our bills again, poor health I was experiencing and the body numbing feeling that my world was closing in on me; so I hit my wall. Mental health was a struggle well before all of this. I have battled an acute panic disorder, anxiety, and depression since I was 13. It came on as my hormones changed while going through puberty. The tween years is an expected time of onset for this kind of hereditary disorder. Covid was exceptionally challenging for me and has changed my thought pattern somewhat. Because everything had gotten so heavy and so hard in the world outside my home, I had taken to isolating and staying inside when I could. The CDC had suggested we stay home when possible, and I had no problem with it. Our 15 yr old was also home and doing school online; plus, we have our two dogs, who, by the way, were highly thankful for Covid isolation because they got to snuggle us every day.
I got too comfortable in my bubble, and Isolation for me over a long period is not good (it’s not really good for anyone). In my mid 20’s I suffered from Agoraphobia which, according to Wikipedia (for those of you who don’t know), “is an anxiety disorder characterized by symptoms of anxiety in situations where the person perceives their environment to be unsafe with no easy way to escape. These situations can include open spaces, public transit, shopping centers, or simply being outside their home. (in my case large crowd of people). Being in these situations may result in a panic attack. The symptoms occur nearly every time the situation is encountered and last for more than six months. Those affected will go to great lengths to avoid these situations. In severe cases, people may become completely unable to leave their homes.”
When I experienced Agoraphobia, I was one of the lead singers of a top 40 band that performed 5-6 nights a week in Naples. People would say, “wow, you must be having a blast!” But in reality, 50% of the time, it was terrifying. I would spend my mornings and afternoons in the safety of my home or rollerblading and running alone, and when I wasn’t doing that, I was sleeping; in fact, I became addicted to sleeping during the day (it’s an escape, it’s a thing). If our phone rang, I refused to pick it up. The thought of talking to anyone made me panic and feel nauseous. It was extremely hard for me to grocery shop at that time; it seemed like everyone in town knew me even if I didn’t know them, and they would stop and talk to me every few aisles. After a while, I started leaving my cart in the middle of the store and hiding in my car where I would go numb with panic, become disoriented, and have to call my then fiancé to save me in the parking lot because I couldn’t move my limbs to drive my car. I viewed the world in single slow frames because my visual tracking was off due to overstimulation in my brain. On one occasion, my husband Paul and I went car shopping at a huge open-air car market in NZ. It was shoulder to shoulder with people. Somehow I lost hold of Paul’s hand, and when we got separated, I went into fight or flight mode. I tried to hold it together, but as my anxiety began to surge, I started shaking uncontrollably and crying so hard I could barely see through the tears. My limbs began to lose feeling just as Paul found me, and when he grabbed my hand again, I furiously yelled at him, “why did you leave me like that? I was scared, and you just left me!” My poor husband, if he had no mental health issues before we married, I’m sure he does now; please pray for him.
The act of panicking and running into triggers became a vicious cycle. The more I isolated or felt abandoned, the more those triggers flicked on, causing my issues to accumulate like onion layers building up into a more complex series of disorders. Peeling back those layers to find some semblance of normal Jeri inside has taken years, long sessions with several kinds of therapists and doctors, and begrudgingly but very necessary, medication. It’s been hard, and even though I have long periods where everything is running smoothly, the fact remains that there are still a few fried circuits inside me that, if tapped the wrong way, set the cycle in motion again. So fast forward to today, I am finding it hard to move outside of my head and my house, to fight the urge to continue to isolate even though the reason to do so is diminishing. I don’t talk as much daily as I did pre isolation, and when I do, I verbally puke out any and every thought that hits my lips because I don’t know when I’m going to have the chance to do it again, and I can’t help myself.
We planted some Clusia hedges in front of our house during our home improvement stage of Covid isolation, and I have been excited about how lush and green our new landscaping looks as it grows. But I found myself looking at them this morning as I was pulling out of the driveway to go Shipt shop (which I make myself do, so I have to leave the house for something), and for a second, I caught myself thinking, “I can’t wait till those grow so tall no one can see our house. Then I will be able to step out on my patio and sit there in comfort, and no one will see me hiding behind the hedges.” It’s not an irrational thought; everyone wants privacy, but I am mindful of these thoughts of wanting to hide and putting them in check while taking baby steps to break out of my bubble and roam freely around the cabin in an attempt to get back to a life that feels free and somewhat normal.
I don’t work a 9-5 job. I lost my admin position in March of 2020 when COVID 19 hit the world. I spent a great deal of time over the last year reevaluating myself and what I wanted for my future. I wasn’t sure when the world would heal from the effects of the pandemic, and I needed to make some decisions for myself that gave me peace and lifted me out of a long bout of depression I had been in and couldn’t seem to shake. I had been looking for another job as an admin assistant for upper management. However, that position was never one that made me happy and left me feeling empty. I dreaded working for another power-tripping company owner or organization leader. What I wanted to do was follow my passion and dreams, not help someone else with theirs. I’m sure many people have rethought their goals and aspirations since the onset of covid, and after my isolation-induced struggle with my emotions, I decided to look out for myself first for a change.
My best friend and husband had been encouraging me to go public with my writing for years. I considered the idea for several months while I stayed still and watched how people had changed their approach to life; as a result of covid, I decided to follow suit. So again, I don’t work a 9-5 job. I don’t work, I write. I write when I’m inspired, no matter what day it is. To help supplement income, I take odd jobs shopping for people or delivering packages to them from a platform that allows me to make my own schedule. I make what I need each week in my own time with no boss, and I take a break or knock off for the day when I get the urge to jot down another story. It doesn’t matter to me if I write on the weekend or during the week. In fact, I’m lying in bed right now at 10:30 pm on a Saturday, writing this while my husband snores next to me.
My life has changed since March 2020, for the better. My goals and focus aren’t about what title I can have or how much money I make annually. Those things look so superficial to me now. Don’t get me wrong. I respect those who have found a title, money, and happiness in the corporate world (as long as it’s true happiness); it’s just not for me. I feel free, and my life has balance and meaning. I am fortunate that my husband supports me in my efforts financially. I know not everyone with a dream has someone like him in their corner. I am a writer, and I write because it is my voice. It’s what gives me authenticity. I hope everyone can carve out enough time to find that deep within themselves.
Lately, I’ve felt like the whole world has opened up. Not because I won the lottery or found out that secretly I’m the air to a small country in the middle of nowhere. No, not because of that. I feel this way because I have finally found myself. I have found my voice and that one true purpose. Making this statement is colossal, right?! I know that every human being out there at some point in their life has wondered why the hell they are here. I have for years. It didn’t click for me until recently at the age of 53. It was an accident that I found my purpose. I had hit my lowest point in life and thrown my hands in the air in defeat, swore never to leave my bed again, and then my purpose found me.
The life I’ve lived has shaped my purpose. I am the youngest of five kids, and by nature and according to Alfred Adler’s Birth Order Theory, I am a textbook 5th or last child. I’m a risk-taker, outgoing, creative, self-centered (but come on, who isn’t), competitive, bored easily, like to be pampered, like to be pampered, like to be pampered, (oh yeah, I like to be pampered), and have a sense of humor, did I say I like to be pampered? There is also a bit about being financially irresponsible, but that’s not me. I am that person who was journaling paper budgets six months in advance in those black-bound school journals before you could use digital budgeting tools like PocketGuard or Mint. I am the organizer in our house, the cleaner, fixer, mover, shaker, and disciplinarian. At the beginning of my relationship with Paul, we had a sleepover at my mom’s place (if that’s what you want to call it); I walked past the bathroom door as he had just opened it on his way out. I stood back and watched him silently go through my bathroom drawers. I would say that was creepy, but It was entertaining to watch the horror on his face over finding my hair ties, bobby pins, hair clips, and barrettes all separated and placed neatly into individual little Tupperware containers. I held my laughter in as he lifted one of the containers from the drawer, examined my severe organization, and let out an audible “holy shit!” Yeah, no, I think the creepy one in that scenario was me. Paul is still with me after 28 years and brings in the cash while I write, mother, obsessively rearrange our kitchen cabinet contents, wage war against plastic, and manage our finances and the house. He enriches our lives by sharing silly antics with our daughters, drumming up raucous play sessions, imposing his cool dude presence, and cleaning up the kitchen after I cook nightly. We are a well-suited match. He doesn’t worry much. There was a time when that was detrimental to our relationship because I obsessively stress enough for all 5 of us and got frustrated that his head was empty while mine was racing with thoughts (that green-eyed monster, jealousy is ugly).
Being a worrier, I find it hard to let go of things. Worrying less gets better as I get older because I don’t have the energy anymore. Worrying involves digging up a lot of information stored in our being. Humans process thoughts over and over again deep into their subconscious, where conclusions are formulated in a REM state; which I can never achieve because I’m too busy laying awake worrying and counting the number of popcorn bubbles on our stucco ceiling or naming all of the shapes I can see in the little bumpy plaster splatters. So worry is not really my only actual problem; there’s also insomnia; I’ve had that for as long as I could remember. I’m like Buffy the Vampire slayer, only older, puffier, and brunettish, only in the sense that she was a vampire, and they come out at night. I am a night dweller too, and I’m in no way scared of the light of the sun, but I do like to sleep in, so don’t ever invite me to catch a sunrise, please. If you wake me up anywhere before 7:30 or 11:30 am, I just can’t. Oh, I’m exaggerating, 9:30 am. If I didn’t take citalopram and journal, relieving myself with a brain dump, I would never close my eyes (hey, if I do a plug for Citalopram, do I get a kickback like my Dr’s? Come on, big Pharma, throw me a bone!). I usually fall asleep at about 2 am and then wake up late. I lay in bed reading, talking to our girls in NZ on FaceTime, or writing in the notes on my iPhone. At one point in time, I traced our entire family tree back to the 1400s, hiding under my covers. It’s a wonder my poor husband doesn’t have sleep issues because there is always a little glow of phone light coming from my side of the bed. I hold off on looking at social media until the early hours of the morning, 8:00 am. You early risers probably think I’m pathetic; I know, I can feel the way you’re eyeing the page, all judgie like. Just because Ben Franklin said, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” doesn’t mean me and those like me are doomed to be broken, starving artists with limited intelligence and foolish banter till the day we die.
I make sense of my world by putting it into words and taking photos. I am creative. Most creatives have some quirky issues and are sometimes highly intelligent (I’m not saying I’m a genius or anything, but I am smarter than the average bear). People like me aren’t savvy in the conventional; you test well on national standards tests way, but in a more creative thinking outside of the box way. I wasn’t a standard student, and I wasn’t academically gifted. My teachers recognized my gift as a singer early on, and they tailored my school schedule to nurture my talents. I had voice and dance lessons after school, and by the end of high school, I had four music classes out of 7 a day. I would even get pulled out of academic courses to work on creative projects. I was fortunate to have a middle school and high school in tune and sympathetic to my needs. Big shout out to Gulfview Middle School and Naples High School. Best schools ever! 💙💛🦅
Even though I was encouraged to sing and be the captain of the majorette squad, I missed out in the English lit area. All of the brainy kids were in the classes that would have nurtured my desire to be a writer. I was fortunate to be put in Mr. Glancy’s class my senior year, he taught the advanced English lit classes, and he inspired me to read and love it. He had the cool factor and was skilled at getting inside the student’s heads. He could see I was a bit of an oddball but didn’t dismiss me. No, he sat me at the front of the room to sleep with my head on my backpack and made me wake up and engage. I’m thankful for that.
As I look back at all of the journaling I have done in my stack of notebooks and online, I realize that I have been a natural-born writer all along. I worked so hard at my singing career, but my silent true passion was always right at my fingertips. When I gave up hope during the isolation of covid, the only safe place to turn was inward, and that spilled out of my fingers onto paper and up to the cloud. I have been feverishly writing since that morning in March 2021 when I woke up and frantically searched the house for every one of my old journals and online diaries. I was desperate to speak my mind and didn’t want to burden others with my issues, beliefs, and ideas. I did what came naturally to me and wrote about the pain and confusion I felt. Over the weeks that followed, my dear husband noticed a calmness in me. My writing was healing me, lifting me, and giving me purpose. He has been so happy for me, and I have felt such relief and been much easier to be around (I’ve even started laughing at myself again). My lost feeling hadn’t started during COVID; in fact, the more I dive into my memories and document my journey, I find that I was wandering longer than I or anyone else knew. I know who and what I am now; I have a voice that I am not afraid to use. I’ve found a space I can be my authentic self in, and while doing it, I can share my words and help others find themselves hopefully (or I may just confuse you even further than you are now).
The world has indeed opened up as my mind has opened, as I’ve let go of my fear of failing and worry over being perfect. I’ve learned to take care of myself first now. I understand that taking care of Jeri gives me the strength to be there for others and still know when I need to back off. Yes, I am a writer, blogger, wordsmith, and expert through my life experiences. I am excited to be alive again and looking forward to seeing how my words touch others and continue to heal me. I am at peace knowing that one true purpose has finally found me.
Hey God. How’s it going? That’s a loaded question. You’re probably pulling your hair out these days between COVID 19, Global Warming, racial and identity issues, mass shootings, and politics. All though some of that stuff is the same old same old. I don’t know how you do it; I really have trouble wrapping my head around all of it at once. Like, who’s idea was it to have snow in Texas this winter? Sorry, yours, totally your call, of course. I get it you probably have heaps on your mind and a lot to unload; I’m here if you need an ear. Man! (Or woman, not sure), you’ve got to be frustrated with us. If you do decide you want to talk, please send me a word or come to me in a dream though, I’m not sure if I can handle something on a grandiose scale at the moment. Yeah, if you want to send me a sign, can you hold back on the stigmata, trial through fire, and natural disasters for just a tick? Have you noticed the communication between you and me has been chaotic and sporadic lately? Me too; I have to apologize for my part in that. So again, I’m open whenever you can fit me in for a face-to-face. Oooo no, maybe not a face-to-face that would take a great deal of arranging on my part, and I’m not sure I’m ready for that. I mean, what would I wear? You know that’s not something I usually worry about, but I’ve gotten used to dressing for this Covid lifestyle, which is basically not getting dressed at all. I’m sure you saw that I’ve just cut my bangs/fringe in the middle of the night, so I’m not presentable enough for such a committed undertaking with THE GREAT I AM. I would also have to take a leave of absence from my family, and just like traveling to NZ from the US, I’ll have to mask and shield my face for a perpetually long trip, and that may be more than I can bear at the moment. Anyway, let’s just schedule an impromptu conversation if you don’t mind?
So yes, our communication has been strained. I’ve been saying my prayers regularly and daily like now I’m talking to you, so that’s promising. I’ve just felt like we’ve been growing apart. I know you reach out to me, and believe me, I am uber thankful that you took the time to send that yellow and black butterfly that kept following me around the other day while I was gardening. Those little reminders that you’re there mean a lot to me. And I’m sure we can PrayerTime, and I can pick up your book and read it any time of day, all day long, but something is missing.
I know, I know, I asked you how you are, and now I’m making it all about me, typical. I have to get this off my chest, though, if you don’t mind me going first. Just gently and painlessly stop me when you’ve heard enough. I want to say this separation anxiety has come on and has been getting stronger since the start of COVID; because we’ve been blaming everything else on that, but it started well before COVID. I’m sure you remember when you gave me that job as the admin to the pastor and middle school youth leader at a local church. Right? Anyway, truth be told, that place scarred me. I mean brutally wounded my faith. Not my faith in you; nothing could ever do that. I may get pissed off at you at times or frustrated because you keep giving me what I need in your time, not when I wish for it (as if your some genie in a bottle passing out ponies, Porsches, and worry-free lives), but besides that, we’re tight! On my soul, you’re stuck with me for eternity, I hope (maybe I shouldn’t say on my soul I’m sure its totally inappropriate to say that to you because if you even detect a hint of deceit in this story, you can take it, can I get an Amen?!).
Don’t get me wrong, you did the right thing by placing me at the church (I know I don’t have to tell you right from wrong), and I’m thankful for the experience and lessons I took from being in that space for three years. But geez, my faith in people was almost shattered. People I thought were good faithful ones with a holy mission really let me down. I asked to work in that very environment, and you answered my prayer (thank you). I know I don’t always hear you with a discerning ear, but I’m sure you’ve told me repeatedly not to put my faith in man but in you alone, and I did work hard to abide by that. I genuinely believe that given the benefit of the doubt, most fellow humans have redeeming qualities. I knew going into that job that churches embrace broken people (I’m one myself), and let’s face it, if you are sick, you go to a hospital for a cure; and if you are broken, you go to a church for healing. I totally understood what I was working with, but I was out of my depth; even a few church leaders kept telling me they thought we were under spiritual warfare. I didn’t believe in that kind of religious hocus pocus, but after what I witnessed, I wonder. Your book warns that the dark one will use the most unsuspecting people to do his bidding, and you could see him at work there. I felt like a scout leader among a crowd of kids who were working feverishly to earn their seven deadly sin badges. The gossip, judging, and manipulation were mind-boggling. Hey, you know better than anybody that I am far from perfect and on that journey of self-discovery, and we both know that no one gets it right 100% of the time.
I faithfully tried to serve you and my community; you probably hear that from everyone because it’s all relative to an individual’s understanding of faith, right? And ex-church admins that I’ve met over the years have all had similar stories saying they’ve come out of their roles with a few spiritual and social wounds, so I shouldn’t feel too terrible. Now, this is where you and I start to become distanced from each other. I know you are a forgiving God, and so we too are supposed to forgive others. It’s hard, though, because I’m human. Those people we put our trust in to lead us faithfully, pastors, priests, church boards, and bishops, high profile faithful and broken people, supporting other faithful and broken people can annihilate a whole congregation of believers with their actions and words when left unchecked. It has become abundantly clear to me that politics and religion are not a good combination; however, at the heart of any faith organization, those two elements are the very lifeblood that keeps it running. One can’t exist without the other. I had to leave your house, though, because (again not because of you) because I don’t understand why with all of the true believers that did have good intentions in that church, your sacred temple felt so out of control and appeared to be one big bipolar cluster flock? There were so many people praying for the church’s mission and for you to swoop in and save us, all of us. Maybe it’s because anything you put in our human hands is bound to get screwed up; just look at what we’re doing to your planet, and oh my God, (yes, you) look what we did to your son. I have had a lot to reconcile since I left my job at the church, and I know you are still walking beside me, always inspiring me. I’m not sure how to deal with my lack of desire to attend a brick-and-mortar church or get too close to a congregation of people again. I’m sure there are plenty of your followers that feel this way. I’ve got my bible and my constant conversation with you, and for now, that’s all I think I need. You will be the judge of that, though.
Anyway, I know this is a long letter, please be patient with me. You know Zoe, our 15 yr old daughter; well, It seems you’ve been working on her heart because we haven’t been to church since Christmas, and we had also skipped Easter Sunday. She literally asked us if we would take her to church this weekend, out of the blue, while I was typing this letter to you! I don’t know why I am even slightly amazed at that. I’m trying to listen to what you want for my family and me with my ears, eyes, and gut. I’m trying to be faithful to you and serve (probably not enough; it’s been hard to connect during COVID) while being broken, hurt, and still gun shy. I know you know my heart; you made it. I know you hear my prayers, even if I am not sure what to pray, and don’t pray out loud. I know that your door is always open to me, and likewise, you are always welcome in my home. I am evolving, learning, praying, watching, and hoping this uneasy feeling I have been feeling about us growing apart will subside. But at the moment, I can’t go back to church; I hope you’ll forgive me. So, like I said when I started this letter to you, I’m waiting for a time when we can reconnect, and you’ll send me a word on how we should do that. I’m hoping that you and your good book are enough until you lead me to a place where I will meet like-minded people (yes, I know, like me, they will be broken. But maybe we can be that way together in a healthy way). Just let me know when you’re ready to talk; I’ll keep an ear out for you. And since you’re everywhere (not just in a church) and know all things, I know you will find me and pray you will reassure me that this strange new path I’m exploring is ok.