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I am trying to come to terms with the possibility that my stomach will feel this way all the way until Election Day and probably after that since we likely won’t know the results for sure on election night and maybe all the way through to Inauguration Day in January.

I am trying to come to terms with the idea that the days when I don’t want to get out of bed because the world is too dangerous and scary and mean may keep coming. Just because I have bursts of energy and get stuff done and I continue to feed and clothe my children and engage with the world a way that “normal” people seem to do doesn’t mean the dark clouds have dissipated.

I am trying to come to terms with the fact that I will never be a better person than I am now. Not that I won’t continue to grow and change and discern for the rest of my life, but just that I am who I am. I have to be content with good enough.


I have been text banking for Biden, sending messages to strangers encouraging them to volunteer or vote and providing information. Of those who respond to me, most have been polite. Many have been enthusiastic Democratic voters. One Biden supporter said they would love to volunteer except they were busy right now taking care of their neighbor’s potbellied big who required a particular high-protein (or was it low-protein?) diet.

Some in the #TrumpTrain camp have been angry and rude, sometimes vulgar. Someone said I was a communist and another person said they were sorry I was a tool of the machine and hoped one day I would learn to think for myself. Even when they tell me in no uncertain (and sometimes profane) terms that they would never vote for Biden, I always end the conversation with thank you and stay safe or thank you and take care or something to that effect. A handful of folks who said they were staunchly republican wrote back and said “you too.” Two said something like, “I’m not going to vote for Biden but thank you for reaching out.” One person said that the response was the first kind one they had received from a Democratic texter.

The 1500 messages I sent today were to Texans, so I suppose the fact that more responded positively than not is a good thing, as Texas is pretty firmly in the red state column. A lot of folks said they had already voted for Biden–a couple had hand delivered their ballots–or were committed to voting early. One man said he was taking off work one day next week to make sure he had plenty of time to stand in line.

Things could certainly be a lot better, but they could also be worse. I’ve been told that worrying about that which is out of your control is pointless. That’s never stopped me. In the meantime, I will keep finding reasons to get out of bed. I know there are some good ones.

I just had an epiphany, realizing it’s actually ok for me to spend a lot of time playing word games on my phone because I desperately need a distraction from real life, however fleeting. And yes, I’m reading books and meditating and taking walks and working and homeschooling and volunteering. But I also spent yesterday compulsively reading and rereading New York Times and Washington Post and NPR articles about Trump and coronavirus. So I decided that when I pick up my phone maybe it’s healthier to play Words With Friends or do a cross world than to constantly immerse myself in terrifying news.

Last night I dreamed that I missed a democracy-saving event (not sure what exactly that means) because I was helping my mom with a garage sale and I tried to walk away. A friend who had attended the democracy-saving event—and likely saved our democracy—followed me down the street in her car and kept asking if I was ok and then wondered if I was having “boy trouble.” Then in the dream I was at a hospital trying to give blood but it was totally chaotic and people were not wearing masks. They finally took me back to donate but wouldn’t let me bring my book to read. Instead they gave me a crossword puzzle sheet but said I couldn’t have a writing utensil and would just have to do it in my mind. It was the kind of dream where it took me several minutes after waking up to get my heart rate back to normal.

Yesterday I spent a marvelous hour snd a half outside on a friend’s deck, sipping tea (and then immediately putting my mask back on). She gave me several plants to take home. I am surrounding my new downstairs office space with green things and infusions of oxygen. This was my tonic after another unsuccessful attempt to give blood—this time not because of me but caused by logistical challenges at the donor center. It was lovely.

Then in the afternoon I participated in a text banking training for the Biden Harris campaign, and it turns out I loved it and sent messages to 1500 people and had fruitful conversations with almost 10% of them. So I did at least a little something to save democracy.

So it’s really ok for me to play word games on my phone. They keep the scary world at bay, however briefly.

Tell me about despair, 
yours, and 
I will tell you 
mine

Meanwhile, we will 
laugh and cry and scream
and threaten to 
run away from home
and lose ourselves in 
games and stories 
and less wholesome vices
and make ourselves get out of bed 
again 
every morning
though sometimes 
we will wear pajamas 
all day

Meanwhile, we will 
check on each other
more than usual 
because we know 
what it feels like
to be teetering 
on the edge of sanity
(and to fall 
over the precipice, 
sometimes)

Does this get any easier?
I don’t believe so
Only more familiar

Meanwhile, we offer 
absolution to 
ourselves
as often as possible
because we tend to forget things 
(and people, 
sometimes)
because our brains 
and our hearts 
are overfull 
and our bodies 
are exhausted

We are making 
more messes
and letting them linger
but we are
doing the best
we can

even when it’s not 
enough

We are sitting with 
our feelings
or under our feelings
(when they become oppressive and heavy)
or eating
our feelings
or telling those damn feelings to
get the hell our of our house
when we have had
ENOUGH

We are listening
to each other
that’s got to be 
enough

© Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso (with gratitude to Mary Oliver)
October, 2020

On Saturday they wouldn’t let me give blood because my pulse was too high. I had no idea why my pulse was so high, as I have never experienced that particular problem before when trying to give blood. Later it occurred to me that the venti chai Frappuccino I’d consumed earlier might have been the culprit. But at that moment I had no idea and I was incredibly disappointed that I couldn’t donate. I have been taking supplements to increase my hemoglobin levels for several weeks, as suggested by the phlebotomist at the American Red Cross last time I donated, because I was only allowed to give whole blood instead of the double red blood cells I was hoping to donate. This is way too much detail, but all of this is to say that after they told me I couldn’t donate, I went out into the parking lot and got in my car and sobbed.

Of course I wasn’t just crying because I left with the same amount of blood I had come with. That was just the moment that the floodgates opened. Oddly, I have hardly been able to cry in recent months, even when I wanted to. I think some part of me feels like if I start crying now, I may never stop because there is so much to cry about. But on this particular day I was weeping for the loss of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, because of her humanity, her intelligence, her determination, her fierceness, and everything she did for women and other humans over the course of her legal career. And I was weeping because I know she must have been trying so hard to live through the election (hopefully) of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris so that her seat on the court would not be filled by a Trump nominee who doesn’t believe in reality, or humanity, or science. And I was weeping because the thought of the confirmation of such a justice during this already extraordinarily dangerous time for our democracy is terrifying.

All of this emotion may have contributed to my elevated pulse as well. Who knows? 2020 has proven reliable only in its ability to break my heart again and again.


Sunday I rallied. Perhaps the car cry was cathartic. Zeke and I made challah french toast in the morning, which was delicious. Then we went to the park by our house with the brand new basketball I bought this week, and a pink rubber ball like the ones I played with as a kid, and a tennis ball. Amazingly, the basketball court was empty except for a shirtless guy doing push-ups and jumping rope. So Zeke and I practiced some dribbling and passing. So far so good. Then I took some shots. I made a bunch of them. I tried to show Zeke how to hold the ball up and push it up in the air toward the basket. Although Zeke is tall for his age, he’s still quite a bit shorter than the net, and his shots mostly went straight ahead of him rather than up or anywhere near the net. After a few minutes, he got discouraged and shuffled over to the side of the court to pout. I tried everything I could think of to cajole him back onto the court to try some more, but nothing worked.

So we went to the next court–although I don’t know if it’s actually a court–it’s that area by the tennis courts where you can practice throwing or hitting a ball against the wall and catching it when it flies back to you. Maybe there’s a technical name for it, but I call it the ball wall. By this time Randy had joined Zeke and me, and he suggested we take turns throwing a ball against the wall and the other person has to catch the rebound. Randy and I alternated playing this with Zeke while the other person retrieved errant balls. It took Zeke a few tries to get the hang of this, but once he did he was excited. He started counting to see how many balls in a row he could catch. He figured out how to position himself in front of instead of off to the side of the incoming balls, and his throws got more powerful. Later that evening he said that playing at the ball wall had been “unbelievably fun.” I wasn’t quite as giddy as that, but I was definitely pleased we found something new he liked to do that involved moving and being outside. And we will absolutely try again with the basketball. Randy suggested going to an elementary school that might have lower baskets. We will investigate.


As soon as we got home from the park, Zeke’s long-awaited new desk from IKEA was delivered. Since we planned to start our home school curriculum the following day, I wanted to build the desk immediately. Zeke and I tore into the boxes and got all the pieces out. We studied the instructions together and assembled a drawer and part of the cabinet. Zeke hammered and screwed and refreshed his knowledge of the different kinds of screwdrivers. I estimate that he worked alongside me for a good hour before he became completely restless and wandered away. I soldiered on. Bob Marley kept me company. After another hour or so, Randy had finished his mandolin lesson and came up to assist. At that point we discovered we were short two screws, so Randy was dispatched to the hardware store to find replacements–which he did! For only 27 cents each! While he was gone, I built the hutch that goes on top of the desk. All by myself! When Randy returned, he helped me finish the desk, taking on the challenge of installing the hinges on the cabinet door. Then we attached the hutch to the desk and slid it into place. The whole process took about four hours. Zeke is going to use this desk for the rest of his life.

After I showered and we got dinner, I worked on the finishing touches for Zeke’s room, putting books and notebooks and pencils in their proper places on the desk, and putting the books that had been piled everywhere into the bookshelf that had been serving as his desk for the past few weeks. I created a little nook for him between the bookshelves. I cleared off all the junk from the dresser. I put some stuff under the bed. And I only ended up with one plastic bin of stuff that I have no idea what to do with. It’s in the hallway right now because I didn’t want to spoil the effect. We still need to put some art and photos up on the walls, but the room looks good. Zeke is excited to have a real big-kid desk. That he helped build!

It’s the kind of morning where you drop your second-grader off at a three-hour outdoor, socially distanced theater camp where a staff member comes up to your car wearing a mask and a face shield and asks–literally–how everyone in our family is feeling and takes your kid’s temperature twice.

You think about how ironic it is that all these years when you’ve dropped off kids at camps you wished you could just let them jump out of the car and walk themselves in, but usually you have to park the car and go in with them and sign them in and show ID and whisper the secret password. Now because of Covid, the counselors come to the car and don’t want you to get out.

After you and your kid kiss goodbye through your masks, and you’re pulling out of the church parking lot, your eighth-grader says she’s glad she doesn’t go to day camps anymore where you get there and you don’t know anyone but it seems like everyone else knows each other. You hope that you weren’t just imagining another kid saying hello to yours so he might have a built-in friend there.

Then your stomach drops as you flash back to the many, many mornings that each of your kids screamed and cried when you dropped them off at preschool or at a day camp that just moments or hours or days before they were really excited about and not indicating that they were going to have a full-on meltdown at the door of the classroom. Even though those days are long past, that brick in your stomach feeling doesn’t go away. Just like when you attend a wedding and you think of your own, or when you go to a funeral and get sad for everyone else you’ve ever lost, that sensation feels fresh and intense even though it’s been dredged up from a memory.

On the way home you go through the drive-thru at Dunkin’ (they dropped the Donuts name but still sell the donuts) so your teenager can buy a coffee drink that is cryptically named “The Charli” after a famous TikTokker. When we pull up to the menu you point out that “The Charli” is not listed anywhere. She says you have to ask for it. You are skeptical, but you say to the invisible person on the other side of the intercom, “Do you have a drink called The Charli?” And she says yes, though you detect a hint of derision in her tone. So you order the drink and drive up to the window and collect it and your teenager takes photos and maybe even videos of herself trying the drink. She says she doesn’t know what’s in it, but since the TikTokker likes it, she is sure she will as well. Fortunately, she does! Otherwise you would be really irritated at having spent $4.02 on an off-menu coffee drink named for a minor celebrity, instead of just mildly bewildered at yourself and your child for both your life choices.

The second day was so much better. Thank God.

I would still give anything to have the kids back in regular in-person school right now, in a Covid-free world, but I no longer think the school year will be a complete disaster. (I may have been a little dramatic yesterday. It was a little rough.)

Today both kids were able to log into their classes with no problem, and I think only Zeke got kicked out a couple times but easily logged back in. They came downstairs on their lunch breaks and ate healthy food. Meanwhile, I was in a three-hour meeting, which luckily I didn’t have to leave to intervene. Also fortunately Randy was working from home again since he assembled his fancy new desk yesterday so he was on hand to clean up some spills.

Both kids were exhausted after their school days ended. We made a quick smoothie run as a reward. They had martial arts tonight for the first time after school instead of during the day when it was all summer. Zeke was acting so out of it that his instructor called me after class to see if he was ok. After a summer of relatively little exertion, he needs to figure out a new routine. Inertia is strong with that one. Zoe, as a black belt, remains motivated and really loves the community her class provides, even when it’s virtual. When this thing is finally over, I’m going to be so excited to go back to EvolveAll and to church.

So yesterday morning started off pretty rocky, but by the evening I was proud of us for surviving the day, and especially proud of myself for successfully advocating for Zoe. In addition to all the technical glitches, Zoe had been placed in an elective class she did not want. The teacher of one of the classes she did want said she was welcome to transfer into his class, but her counselor said that wasn’t allowed because of…reasons. But I persisted and the counselor said she asked the counseling gods to make an exception and they agreed! I am usually disinclined to make waves but I felt strongly that in the midst of all this chaos and uncertainty I wanted Zoe to have something to look forward to at school and not dread. Happily, she has reported that she really likes her other teachers and the classes seem promising, so I’m glad about all that.


My mood is lighter today than it has been in a while. There have been other days when I’ve felt like this, like when we went to the alpaca farm with friends. How can you feel sad around a bunch of adorable alpacas? But then something happens and it seems like one step forward two steps back, or 10 steps back. Because, you know, the world is still a freaking disaster right now. But I’ll take what I can get. And a good day is something to be thankful for.

There are no new outfits laid out for tomorrow. No backpacks filled with fresh school supplies, no lunches prepared in the fridge. We haven’t met any of Zoe’s teachers. We sort of met Zeke’s teacher online for a few minutes but she was preoccupied providing tech support to everyone. Usually the night before the first day of school is exciting, if also nerve-wracking. But this year—-the year of Covid—we are mostly filled with dread.

Ok maybe I’m just speaking for me. But I do know my kids are not looking forward to tomorrow. Based on the track record with school technology, we have extremely low expectations for how smoothly anything will go. And what are we supposed to say to motivate them? How can you make new friends in second grade when you can’t see any of your classmates or talk to them at lunch or play with them at recess? And friends are the only thing that makes middle school bearable but once again, how can you find them when the only activity you have in common is sitting in your room watching your teacher on a screen?

To be clear, I don’t blame teachers for this. I love teachers. I know teachers work their butts off and I know they hate this situation as much as we do. They didn’t sign up for this. And I assume that the principals and administrators are all doing the best they can. Certainly I wouldn’t want to be working for a school district and trying to figure this mess out. I guess I could blame Trump for his ineptitude at handling the country’s response to the virus. But that doesn’t really help us tonight.

I heard on NPR that a quarter of Americans report having symptoms of depression during the pandemic. And that probably doesn’t count kids, whose feelings often manifest in a million different ways that can be hard to identify. I’ve witnessed a wide variety of these behaviors this summer. And what’s going to change now? The kids will have something they have to do during the day, but will they be engaged in it? Will any of it be fun? Will they be able to develop any real relationships? Is there anything to look forward to? I’m generally an optimistic person, but sustaining a positive outlook these days is hard. I can only manage it for a few minutes at a time.

I have thought a lot about homeschooling Zeke but ultimately I don’t feel like I could devote the attention to teaching him that he deserves and also do my job. And I want him to have friends. More recently I thought about taking Zoe out of her middle school and enrolling her in a virtual homeschool program that is more established and seems more well run than her school which is currently making everything up as they go along. But she wanted to stick with what she knows, even if it’s not exactly what she’s used to. I thought about arguing about it more but I honestly don’t know what the right thing to do is.

I want my kids to be good people, and be kind and curious and creative. I want them to want to learn new things and meet new people. I want them to learn how to get along in the world while still being true to themselves. I want them to have fun. Can they do all that in virtual school? Is it up to us to teach them these things and not rely on school for anything? Is the time they’re going to spend staring at their iPads going to be worthwhile or a waste? I do not know.

In any case, I’m setting my alarm for earlier than usual, so I can make sure everyone is awake and dressed and fed before school starts. The school district tech support number is written on a post it note on my desk.

If your kid is starting school tomorrow, good luck. May the force be with you. Here goes…

I have no idea why my hair grows out instead of down. I have left the realm of Bob Ross hair and have entered Malcolm Gladwell territory, and that’s not somewhere my hair wants to be.

But like every other seemingly small decision in our current circumstances, I have to evaluate the relative risk and safety of getting my hair cut. I’ve gone to see my stylist once since the pandemic started, and the salon was practically deserted and we were both masked. But every day is a new chance for some coronavirus bits to float in through the front door, right?

School starts a week from tomorrow and our house is in chaos. We are rearranging most of the rooms in order to give the kids their own rooms. This was a shift we had first discussed in the spring before the pandemic, which we planned to implement when summer started. Then we canceled that plan because my office, which was to become Zeke’s bedroom, was suddenly occupied by my husband, who was working from home. Because my work is more flexible and sporadic, my office became wherever in the house I was sitting.

Of course none of that has changed—we are still both working from home—but the realization that the pandemic is nowhere near over and the kids may be doing school from home from now through June has become undeniable. So we have been selling furniture and giving away furniture and buying new furniture and rearranging furniture to accommodate everyone in the hopes that we will each have a modicum of privacy and quiet. Randy will carve out a corner of our bedroom for his office and I will try to create an oasis for myself on one wall of the family room. In the meantime, our stuff is in bins and boxes and piled in the hall while we try to assemble all the pieces of the puzzle.

Hopefully a positive side effect of this undertaking will be the purging of many toys and books and who knows what else that’s lurking in our closets. I have no idea what to do with all the upcycled art I’ve made. It feels like it would be counterproductive to throw it in the trash from whence it was once rescued. I am trying to calmly remind myself that this whole thing will take a while. Of course we want the kids’ rooms mostly in place by Tuesday, but getting all the details right and inevitably buying accessories and giving things away in order to maintain the proper balance of stuff takes time.

Zoe is the most excited of all of us about this transition. She has thoughtfully researched design concepts on Pinterest and noted cool lighting and decor she’s seen on TikTok. I asked her if she could help Zeke with his decorating, so she asked him what kind of vibe he was going for. I don’t think vibe means a lot to a seven-year-old, even one as sophisticated as Zeke. He has said he wants to put up some of his drawings on the walls. I suggested getting a white board so he could write down things he needs to do or when certain activities are happening. He said, “maybe YOU need to remember when things are happening, but I don’t.” Perhaps he’s right.

So we’ve been spending a lot of furniture but it’s probably fine because we saved so much on school supplies this year. No need for new backpacks or lunchboxes or pencils or crayons or erasers or glue sticks. Or all those supplies that are communally used in elementary school—tissues, ziploc bags, wipes. We did go to Target and buy some notebooks and folders and post-it notes for each kid. Otherwise we have enough crayons, markers, pencils, and paper for a whole class of kids. We stopped by Zeke’s school today to pick up his new iPad, and we received instructions from Zoe’s school about how to reset hers for the new year.

The thrill of a new school year is tarnished by the fact that the kids aren’t actually going to school. I’ve seen so many first day photos on Facebook of kids at their desks, or in bed with a laptop. Zoe dyed some of her hair pink this afternoon for the occasion. We’ve gotta figure out something to get us excited.

Looking for a way
out
of the chaos

or a way
through the mess
but I can’t find either

My new progressive
lenses
won’t arrive
’til Tuesday

What I hoped
would be easy
turns out
impossible

What I needed
to be simple
ends up in
a tangle of thorns
mixed with the
sickening scent
of flowers on their journey
to decay

My patience
has shriveled to
a granular level
because I am trapped
inside
far from the coast
with no means
of replenishment

There is nowhere to go
to collect my
thoughts
or renew my
soul
because
everything
is
canceled
closed
cut off
thanks (no thanks)
to Covid

Don’t remind me
that my bad habits
have gotten worse
those seven
deadly sins
squared to 49
at least

How can I
solve your problems
when I can’t even
stay awake
long enough
to understand
my own

Even my
conversations
with myself
are getting
old

Seems we’re at a tipping point where more things are broken than not. This is metaphorical and real.

Yes, we have indoor plumbing and three bathrooms, but at any given time two of our toilets are out of order. Restrooms available for paying customers only.

Tripping over piles of dirty laundry and bags of recyclables and items waiting to be repaired or repacked or repurposed, looking for the space to create two classrooms and two offices for the four of us.

Mold is creeping in behind the sink and chunks of the kitchen tile are breaking off (since we had to tear up the floor on top because the kitchen sink leak was worse than we thought) while we procrastinate, waiting for the kitchen fairy godmother to appear and find affordable and aesthetically pleasing countertops and flooring and cabinetry for us that both matches and increases our resale value and she will wave her magic wand and make our kitchen beautiful.

Now every breakdown is weighted down with symbolism. Our country and our world are crumbling as we watch, why should I be any different, says our house in an Eeyore voice.

Of course I know how lucky we are. You need not remind me. But at this moment we are trapped by dark clouds that are not just threatening but delivering on their promised storms and that bright side is just out of reach.

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