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What is it called
when you’ve been
hiding inside
for so long
that when it’s safe
to emerge
you are reluctant
to embrace
your freedom
not quite
trusting
the invitation

What’s the word
for when you
can only
sit on a bench
watching people
who are probably
your friends
but whom you can’t
quite recognize
talk to each other
and laugh
you assume
they are smiling
too

What does it mean
when you’ve
forgotten
how to make
polite conversation
at a gathering of
more than
three people
when most
of the people
seem extraneous
and make you feel
awkward and
ill-equipped
for the world

How do you
follow the rules
when they are
constantly
being rewritten
how do you know
which ones to
obey and
which ones to
ignore

Where do you
find the strength
required
to survive
in the wild
when you’ve
become accustomed
to shuffling
back and forth
in your
designated
enclosure
littered with
all the evidence
of living

© Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso
April 2021

I feel like my brain is producing a constant stream of reminders of everything I’m doing wrong or failing to do at all. Even if I take a walk or meditate or try breathing techniques, it all comes rushing back at me in waves as soon as I stop. I am neglecting all these things I’m supposed to do for my health, and I’m overwhelmed by them. 

My kids want my undivided attention all the time. Zeke cries when I try to get him to do schoolwork he doesn’t want to do. Every day is a battle over what he’s willing to do. He is upstairs right now sobbing because I asked him to write something about a tv show we just watched about otters, which he loved, and which he was telling me all about. I just asked him to write down what he told me, but he refused.

I forget so many things. I don’t respond to emails. I completely space out on tasks I’m supposed to do. I write things down and don’t do them, or I forget to write them down. I can’t concentrate at all. 

I can’t keep up with my text conversations with friends because they always seem to be texting when I am in the middle of both teaching Zeke and trying to do a work task.

My sleep is total chaos. The medicine I’m taking for my sleep disorder doesn’t always work. I often end up wiped out by evening and fall asleep at 5 or 6 for an hour or two. Sometimes I am awake until 2 or 3 or 4 because I can’t get my mind to calm down. 

I am so tired of missing everything that we can’t do because of COVID. I am tired of being disappointed, and my kids being disappointed, because something we used to do, or we want to do isn’t possible. I am tired of not knowing when things will get better, or when my kids will be back in school every day. 

I am tired of everyone being on top of each other all the time and having to relocate a million times a day to work. I am tired of battles about screen time and video games and social media. 

I am tired of feeling like this. I know I am depressed, but I’m not so depressed that I can’t get out of bed or function. So maybe I’m not really depressed? Randy is being extra nice to me because he can see I’m struggling, which I appreciate. But I’m tired of struggling. Some days things go well, and I think I’m better, but then something doesn’t go well and I’m back to feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. 

I feel like I can’t accomplish simple things anymore, like figuring out what to make for dinner. 

I feel like since I’m trying to do everything at once, I am not doing anything well. 

I’m tired of being worried about the potential health consequences of all of our actions.

I’m tired of grief. 

I don’t want people to try to solve my problems or pity me. I know everyone is struggling and suffering. I wish I were more resilient. I’m tired of feeling pathetic. 

One of the only things that brings me joy right now is making art. Now I have stacks of paper and canvases piling up around my house that I don’t know what to do with. 

I just keep feeling like everything is too hard. I know my life is relatively easy, compared with many people around the world. We have a house, and enough food, and we can buy the things we need. None of us are sick and we haven’t lost anyone close to us from COVID. So why can’t I make myself feel better, do better, be better? It’s just too hard. And then I feel pathetic. 

But…here’s some of my art.

I give myself unlimited chances

and infinite wishes

That I can choose to grant

I cultivate curiosity

exchange skepticism for wonder

I create simply for creation’s sake

Offering the same opportunity to others

I draw with a thick black marker (chisel tip) the delineation between me and you

And I will shimmer and shine in my own space while you do as you wish in yours

At one point today I was lying in Zeke’s bottom bunk, still in my pajamas, reading sections of his graphic novel about plagues so I could help him sketch out the script for the video I asked him to make to demonstrate what he’d learned. When this book was written in 2017 the author and publisher probably had no idea we would actually be LIVING THROUGH A PLAGUE just a few years in the future.

I realized at the time that lying in bed was probably not the best place to be to teach, but I couldn’t seem to get myself together to get up. It was also pouring down rain and seemed to be just another day living in COVID world and waiting to find out if the current president would be staging a coup to stay in power or would admit that he’d lost the election.

So I was in a pretty bad mood for most of the day.

Then I stormed out of the house.

To go to T-Mobile.

It wasn’t particularly exciting or dramatic but I needed to get some paperwork sorted out and it was an excuse to leave the house.

Even though it’s been an oddly 75-degree November so far, I keep thinking about what we’re going to do over the winter when the weather is terrible and we are cooped up in the house and we can’t go to any indoor play spaces or movies or, um, ANYWHERE INSIDE THAT’S FUN AND DIVERTING AND WHERE KIDS CAN BLOW OFF STEAM.

But we’re not there yet, and perhaps thanks to climate change it will be 75 degrees all winter long!


Things got better this evening. I signed up for Home Chef–a new meal kit delivery service and the first box arrived today. Tonight I made Teriyaki Chicken Thigh Tacos and they were delicious and both of my children ate two tacos! It is so hard to find meals that I can cook and everyone can eat and that my kids actually like. So far two thumbs up for Home Chef.

After dinner Zoe asked to go on a walk with me. The rain had more or less stopped and we walked two and a half miles and had a good conversation. Teenagers aren’t always forthcoming with their time or talk.

I felt so energized by our walk and so frustrated by the lethargy and anxiety that have characterized the past nine months that I decided to start Noom, a wellness app that uses behavioral therapy to help you eat healthier and take better care of your body. I subscribed to EvolveAll.tv so I’ll have some workouts to do at home. Man, I really miss playing soccer. But that’s not an option right now.

I will be the first to admit that I am not always good with follow through. But I am hopeful that Noom will stick and some people will do the EvolveAll workouts in solidarity with me and maybe I won’t fall into the abyss this winter. None of this will make teaching homeschool while working any easier. But maybe I’ll have something to hold onto so I’m less tempted to stay in bed while I ride out the plague.

I have heard that the cracks are where the light comes in

And in the places we were broken we are stronger

That’s what the poets say

But someone has to sweep up the pieces, to find every last one, and set to work with toothpicks and superglue

Because we the people are shattered, scattered, smashed to bits

According to the sages

our scars make us who we are

But to have a scar we must stop the bleeding and heal the wound.

For now the blood still flows

the wounds are open

the battle continues

Never before
have I been asked
by so many people
to pray

This moment
must require
immense
energy
from all
of us

We understand
(at last)
how much
we are bound
up in each
other

Prayer
(to me)
is intention
not
transaction

So I breathe in
(deeply)
and breathe out
fully

and send
prayers

for

strength

courage

peace

relief

patience

healing

grace

calm

presence

Take what you need
and share
the rest
with
others

I feel so much lighter now.

I just delivered a bag of fabric scraps and a bag of scarves, both of which were FG’s, to members of my neighborhood Buy Nothing Group who understand how special FG was and promised to put her things to good use. Both of these women are without cars, so they were particularly grateful that I offered to deliver the bags, even though people usually pick up your Buy Nothing items when you post them on Facebook. I have been carrying these bags around in the trunk of my car for months. They are the last of many more bags of fabric, craft supplies, and assorted other treasures that FG sent home with me from her house over the past year.

Although FG was not a particularly sophisticated social media user (beyond lurking on Facebook and being aware at all times of what I was up to), I know she would have liked Buy Nothing. She and my mom inherited their parents’ habit of saving anything that might ever prove useful, as well as their generosity in sharing what they had with others. FG and my mom–and FG’s daughter, my cousin Melissa–have exemplified the adage, “one person’s trash in another person’s treasure.” Although none of them quite approached the collection and transformation of trash in the same way, all of them have always been creative.

I am usually trying to get rid of things and declutter our house, especially since there’s a steady flow of incoming items. And it is so much fun to see that the Buy Nothing community is thrilled to find new and creative uses for my unwanted stuff. I don’t personally know most of the people in the group, but I’ve gotten to know some of them simply through the exchange of goods and the stories behind them. And I have learned that these people are unfailingly kind and generous. One of my favorites–who I have actually had the pleasure of meeting in person–is a kindness activist who consistently goes above and beyond to help others. She had a kindness yard sale this summer–people (including me of course) donated all kinds of crazy junk and she “sold” it to customers for whatever price they wanted to pay. She raised $8000+ and she’s using every penny to spread kindness to others in our community. She and lots of other folks in our neighborhood helped this family build a rainbow schoolhouse for their daughter. How cool is that?


Last night my church held an (online) Remembrance Vespers service. You might not realize that you need a good opportunity to sit and cry about the people you love who are gone, but sometimes you do. So many people have told me to “take time to grieve” the loss of FG. Honestly I don’t know how that works. I think about her all the time. I struggle with impulses to do or make things that remind me of her, but of course I’m reminded of her anyway whether I do them or not. I really want to make chicken salad, but I always called her when I made it for a reminder of the family recipe or maybe just for moral support. I think I am afraid I will cry in the chicken salad and then everyone who eats it will cry, like in Like Water for Chocolate.


My lightness also comes from getting a haircut and highlights this afternoon. Why anxiety makes me want to get rid of all my hair, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s related to the idea of “I want to tear my hair out.” Which I don’t want to do, because that would hurt. Whereas getting a haircut feels wonderful. There was a new shampooer at my salon who gifted me with a fabulous head massage. I haven’t had highlights in ages because it’s expensive to maintain and just seems cumbersome. But I decided the world is such a disaster right now that I needed a lift that brightening my curls could offer.

While I was getting my shampoo, I did not think about politics for one second. I only thought about how that woman’s hands felt on my head and how lovely the shampoo smelled. While I was getting my highlights I started a novel that my minister recommended.

I did talk about the election with Adil, my stylist, because we always talk about what’s going on. We commiserated and tried to reassure each other that we’ll get through this and that our country has had enough madness and we’re going to turn things around. Right?


I can sense how everyone around me is holding their breath. Even though I wanted to turn over and go back to sleep when my alarm went off this morning, I turned on zoom and logged into my yoga class. And of course I was glad I did. Why as humans do we need to be reminded so often to take a deep breath? And another? And another? Or is that just me? Anyway I am thankful for the reminder. My friends and I remind each other that it’s perfectly fine to have a really low bar right now for what we can accomplish or deal with. We are all operating at considerably less than 100%. But that’s ok. We will ramp back up again someday. For now we can be satisfied with simply surviving and remembering to take another deep breath.

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

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