I Am Giving Myself This Day

I need it, my body told me so. My mind did too.

Photo by Madison Lavern via Unsplash

I woke up this morning shortly before I usually do to prepare for work. However, I could not move. It was as if my body laid claim to my bed and demanded to stay put. Any other day, I’d peel myself away from the comfort of a pillow-top mattress and will myself to get up and get going, but today . . . today, I listened to my body and succumbed to a day of rest. The tears lined themselves up accordingly right behind my eyes. I could feel it — it would be a day of dealing with extreme emotions — work would have to wait.

I’d felt off-kilter this past weekend leading into this week, and I ignored it. This was probably not the best thing to do given my current circumstance, but a day off is in play. I communicated with our center manager the need for a mental health day and received a prompt response regarding it and its approval. I want to save as much energy as I can for the days, weeks, and months ahead. I have a few writing projects coming up that will require research and getting into character to pull off these works.

Of late, I am drained both physically and mentally and after yesterday’s minor run-in with a patient who wanted to do what he wanted to do, but found out quickly — we follow the recommendations and guidelines issued to us and our entire medical organization, I am zapped. It takes so much out of me to get through an eight to sometimes ten-hour workday, adding privileged and irresponsible people to the mix regularly, is too much.

How kind are we to our minds, to our bodies when we need to be? Do we give ourselves the time off we need or are we pushing through, trying to get past the pull of a crying body and an aching mind?

When you feel like your stress levels have reached their peak, it might be time to take a quick break to reset.

— Elizabeth Scott, MS

I reserved a “mental health day“ to do exactly this — reset. Recharge. Regain some semblance of myself before taking on the world of screening and surveying patients for Coronavirus, COVID-19 symptoms again. I could feel myself fading, unraveling — if I’m being honest and I had to put a stop to it. I still need to get through the rest of this week.


To read the rest of this article, please see it in its entirety at Thrive Global. 

This War Rages On

We are the battlefield

Photo by The Creative Exchange via Unsplash

I don’t know the woman who walks past me in the grocery store at 07:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning. She’s wearing blue jeans, a cropped top, and sensible slides on her feet. She brushes against me lightly. I’ve forgotten what that feels like. Her hair is everywhere — neatly. It’s organized chaos — a private dancer for the wind.

She excuses herself.

She’s not wearing a mask and upon seeing that I have on mine, she panics. She cannot believe she stepped out of her car, walked into the store, brushed against another human being, and spoke to her — all without the proper face covering.

I deal with this sort of thing daily. I feel like a soldier, manning a station from a deadly enemy as his allies try to trickle in without one of the things combating it — a face mask. She has forgotten hers and I feel the need to reclaim safety for myself and those around me.

I calmly advise her that anyone can make this mistake, anyone. She is a fit of tears and apologetic to the point that I’ve now stepped closer to her with my hands slightly raised indicating that I mean no harm and I motion for her to follow me to the automatic doors.

We exit.

We locate her car. We locate her mask. She’s still apologizing — telling me all the ways she’s done stupid things in life but this is now the stupidest. I don’t think silence is the best response. That would mean, I agree. I don’t. There are a ton of things far more stupid than what we found ourselves rectifying and I tell her this.

The tears pool deeply in the beds of her eyes. She blinks and two tears plop to the ground with a loud thud. I wait with her while she covers her face. We walk back to the store and I spot my cart and the unattended bananas, apples, spinach, and yogurt. I retrieve it. I am eager to finish my shopping and get back home.

She’s still beside herself with intense emotion but there are no more tears — only the puffiness of her eyes and reddened cheeks. And freckles. Freckles I didn’t notice before. She tells me — sweet onions are on sale as well as all-purpose flour and at this early in the morning, pre-breakfast and coffee, I’m struggling not to morph into an Addams Family character and spook her.

I want to move on.

This is my war. The store is my battlefield. She has fought her battle in the middle of a war and I want to move on from it. I let her know the morning is incredibly young and she is in the store early enough to catch all the sales. I wish her well. I mean it.

These days, I always mean it.

She grips the handlebar of her cart, pops it twice, and removes two pieces of tissue from her handbag. She splashes hand sanitizer on the tissue and smooths it over the bar and the sides of the cart. I nod to her and move toward the “No Pulp” orange juice and mouth a goodbye (out of habit).

Her glasses fog up and I miss her freckles. I wonder, what will be on the menu if there are sweet onions and all-purpose flour, both on sale. She follows me. She is talking to my back, luring a conversation.

The gods must dislike me this morning because my energy was zapped the night before at work and as much as I love to empathize, listen, and give my all to someone in need, my body nor mind can take it this morning.

“You like the ‘no pulp’ kind too, huh?”

Oh, this is about the orange juice. While I would love to skip meaningless chit chat, I do love talking about interests with another person. “Yes, I prefer it.”

She smiles. I can’t see her beautiful mouth anymore — her full lips, but I notice the eyes — they light up. She remains six feet away from me but leans in toward my cart and slaps an orange juice in her hands. It lands across her cropped top. I move along to the dairy section. I need cheese and milk. She comes along as well.

*What is going on here? Why does she keep following me*

“I have to get cheese, milk, biscuits, and creamer. They’re on my list.”

“Oh. I need cheese and milk as well. Please, after you.” I move to the side, allowing her to brisk by, and I walk slowly behind her. She glides — it’s not a stutter-step. She is floating toward the dairy section and her everywhere hair bounces as she moves.

*Am I smiling? I am. I am smiling. Why?*

I wait until it is my turn to retrieve cheese and milk. She stands idly by — watching as I retrieve said items, patting her feet while coating her hands with sanitizer. “I’m sorry. Is there a reason you keep waiting for me? Is there anything you need?”

I didn’t want to seem crass, but I am not used to people accompanying me as I shop. It’s a self-sufficiency thing. I’d much rather get in, get what I need, get out, and keep it moving. But this woman, the one whose eyes pool tears quicker than I keep breaths . . . the one with the organized chaos for hair . . . the one with freckles right under her eyes, just above her cheeks — freckles that come alive when she smiles — wants something from me and I have to know. What is it?

“Oh. Um. Well. I like your shirt. I also like your mask. I don’t know what half of your face looks like, but I’m willing to bet it’s likable too. I’m Rain.”

She extends her hand, and immediately, I tense up. Am I supposed to touch her? This is my battlefield. This is a war. A war between doing what I would normally do in the past without hesitation versus not doing it because it could well, kill me . . . And of course, her name is ‘Rain,’ of course, it is.

“Oh. um. Is it okay for me to shake your hand? You are okay with this?”

“Sure. You’ve already seen me without a mask. You helped me get it. I doubt my shaking your hand would do us any harm. But if you’re opposed, that’s okay too. Is it all right for me to give you my number? I don’t have many friends here — moved three weeks ago from Van Nuys, in Cali.”

“Get out! As in Los Angeles? A good friend of mine lived there for years before moving back east. What are the odds?”

Her eyes light up again. Her freckles dance. I watch her patting feet. I don’t know what this is, but I welcome it for a few moments. It feels nice — something I remember doing before — communicating with others outside of work and in person.

“So, is that a yes, me giving you my number. What’s your name?”

“Oh, okay. Sure. That’d be cool. It’s Tremaine, Tre for short. That’s ‘Tree-Maine.” I pull out my phone, hit contacts, and add her name, then her number.

“You live on this side of town, ‘That’s Tree-Maine.?’”

“Haha. You got jokes. Nice. Yeah, I’m about three miles away, right off the highway.” She smiles again. I smile. I give her my number and watch her sway back and forth on the balls of her feet. That’s odd. She must’ve danced in the past or maybe she still does.

“I know it ain’t the right time to be dating. Social distancing is a motherfucker, but I’ve been holed up in my new apartment for the last three weeks and you’re the first person to make me smile since I moved here. You wanna grab dinner one day next week — my treat?”

“Dating? Oh. Is this a date? Are you asking me out? You’ll have to excuse me, I am out of practice on this bit.”

She smiles again and I find myself loving the sight of dancing freckles and everywhere hair.

“Let’s just call it a thing until it becomes whatever it needs to be. But for now, it’s dinner, my treat.”

“Okay. Bet.”

I tell her I must finish shopping. I have work waiting for me at home and a dog who likes to boss me around. She laughs and a few customers look at us. I shrink into myself — hating to be stared at, but okay with it too. That’s odd. Everything is odd around this woman — this Rain whose eyes pool tears and freckles that dance, and hair that does its own thing without any regard for the goings-on around it. I look back, she’s watching me. Eyes curved — lit up. She’s smiling.

This is my battlefield. The war rages on.


*Author’s Note: This is part fiction/nonfiction/fantasy. Originally published on Medium.

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And Then, Death Comes

Pixabay

And we watch it as it leaves

As much as I believe I am prepared for death, I never am. I could have a head-start, running miles around it — fearless of losing, but — in rare and unadulterated form, it proves to me, I don’t know what I’m doing. I spent the last three months with my friend of twenty years, waiting while his father was dying. This, a man who has fought various forms of cancer and survived, had now succumbed to prostate cancer. My friend — the loving, kind, generous, and soft-spoken man he is — is calm. This is something for which he’s been waiting.

Waiting . . .
Waiting . . .

I’ve found myself grieving with him on so many levels, but I know my pain cannot match his. I knew his father from afar — applauded his love for his son and looked up to a man who had an undying passion and loyalty to his wife before she passed away. My friend, now a parentless child — has buried both of his parents within a few years. I asked him the other day, “Have you cried?” There was a pause — a few moments passed for the air to settle in the question and he said, “Not yet. It’s strange. I feel so calm.”

I find myself praying for his storm, that it doesn’t come when he doesn’t have the time to sit through it — to get wet from the downpour. But when you’ve waited and waited and waited for a death predicted to come sooner than it did, maybe there’s no storm? Maybe the storm was in the waiting.

“It’s strange, I feel so calm.”

He is a one-man show, my friend. He handled everything effortlessly, even communicating with his job about the leave he’d need to take and why. He found himself swatting down a few family members who want to tell him what to do, yet, they had no earthly idea of what he’d have to do — the pressure of it all, the pain. I can only be his sounding board. I have listened willingly.

We have waited for death and when he communicated his father’s passing to me, I still felt the ache — I still flinched from the pain. I wasn’t ready. He wasn’t either.


My mother’s childhood friend died on the morning of Friday, July 31, 2020, a few days after my friend’s father’s death. I was driving and called her to share how my dog’s vet visit went after not being able to take her this past April due to the Coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic. I had good news and she had bad news. At sixty-three, just four years older than my mother, her childhood friend died from the very thing we’ve been combating for nearly five months. She worked in a nursing home and contracted it from someone there.

She knew of the torture — how this strong and healthy woman failed over a short span of time, and she cried in a way I had not heard her do in what feels like years. “I’m glad I saw her when I did — glad I got the chance to see her smiling and happy before all of this.”

I mentioned I was driving — thankful for the Bluetooth syncing, I acknowledged the fact that I was going to need a moment. This was a woman whose mother kept me when I was young. I spent many days parading around Frazier Homes in Savannah, GA with my friends — her nieces and nephews — her family. I shook my head in disbelief. This is close to home, again. This is so close to home and as much as I wanted to listen to my mother as she cried about the loss of her friend, I didn’t want it to be true.

Had she told me of this a few months ago and it was some other God-awful way of dying, I would have found a way to soldier on through the drive, but an overpowering ache of sadness consumed me. Death doesn’t give us a time or date. It doesn’t make itself known in fancy little dresses or frilly patterns. It swoops in, ready to consume every fiber of our being and if we are not able to sustain throughout its reign, we will falter.

“I’m glad I saw her when I did — glad I got the chance to see her smiling and happy before all of this.”

My childhood friend, my mother’s childhood friend’s niece was who I needed to contact. We never have been the “sit-on-the-phone-and-talk” kind of friends, but we text each other regularly, making sure we’re both still braving this thing called life. I sent a text message to her, then I called before the weekend disappeared. I had to. It wouldn’t have felt right if I didn’t, not within me. I had to hear her voice, if only for her to say, “Girl, I can’t believe it” as I’ve read many times about those we know and have lost.

I had to leave a message.

I hate those text messages that come a few days before the phone call, but sometimes, as I am learning, they’re actually preferred. My friend’s response to the text message, “Girl, it’s all just too much right now. I love you” hit me in the gut. “It’s all just too much right now.” Her family is a tower. I told her this. I have never seen a more close-knit family ever in my life and they will all get together and whoop someone’s ass if they needed to. I was happy to have grown up around such strength, loyalty, and camaraderie — especially in the face of evil.

My mother’s side of the family is like this as well, but aside from her mother and sister and a few of my cousins, I didn’t spend much time around them. Something about not wanting us to see too much violence, but for various other reasons, we still witnessed it within and outside our home.


I know of death. I smell its stench whenever it is near. I know of the way it sneaks in greedily and eager to devour the souls of the dying. I sat with it as I watched my great-grandmother lose her mind, then her life. All the waiting, all the preparing and getting things “just right” are not enough for you to be ready when you need to be.

Death comes and the only thing you can do is watch it when it leaves.


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The Power of Touch

I am grateful to the editors of such a fine online media outlet such as Thrive Global for publishing another article of mine, entitled The Power of Touch. Working where I work and doing what I do–I’ve made it a point to continue to write about my experiences during this pandemic. Having Thrive Global as another source to host my work is beefing up my “writer’s resume'” and I am incredibly excited about this fact.


Of all the things Coronavirus, COVID-19 has stripped away from us, touch is what I miss most. Being an affectionate person has its downsides, especially during a global pandemic. If you’re a single person and live alone as I do, the comfort of your home and all that’s within it is what you have—it’s all you have. I am grateful to have a small dog who allows me to pour my love into her and returns every ounce of affection I need. All I have to do is beckon her to me and my requests for kisses, loving paw-taps, and lap naps are eagerly given without protest.

While I appreciate my precious little four-legged fur-baby and her ability to connect with me on this level, she cannot replace the power of a human’s touch. As living—breathing sentient beings, we need touch. It is important for our overall health and well-being, and being forced to not take part in something that can sustain us is a hard blow to the heart and mind.

According to Maria Cohut, Ph.D., “Touching, and being touched, activate particular areas of our brain, thus influencing our thought processes, reactions, and even physiological responses.”

Medical News Today, September 2018.

As a healthcare worker, a few things that allowed me to connect with our patients was to shake a hand, offer a hug, or lightly pat someone on the back if they were afraid, grieving, in pain, or simply needed someone to recognize that void and seal it up with a small dose of affection. Now, within my six feet of social distance, while wearing a face mask, gloves, goggles, and sometimes other forms of PPE, I cannot offer the one thing I grew accustomed to providing—human touch.

I have not seen my mother since March of this year. I have endured none of her long hugs, cheek kisses, or hand-holding in moments of being uplifted. I do, however, call her every day after my shift. I do this to give her the gift of my voice—to let her know I am okay, that I made it through another day. I appreciate having this mode of connection with her—that she can hear me, but it does not come close to what we established between mother and daughter: a bond that grew because of touch, because of affection. There is something about being able to lean into the comfort of one’s mother and gain a sense of relief from having done so.


To read the article in its entirety, please click here.

Article Published in Thrive Global

I recently had an article published in Thrive Global and to say that I am excited about this is a serious understatement. I am grateful to the editors of such a fine online media outlet and will continue to submit work to them in hopes of those essays also being accepted and published. I will share a snippet of the article, This Is My Life Now with you here, then link you directly to it in its published form.


“As a healthcare worker, I know what lies before me prior to entering our doors for work. I know that my day could be a roller coaster ride, a pleasant happening, or an overall chaotic batch of insanity. The problem is, I never know which one will greet me and when. Since the brunt of the global pandemic of 2020 in March of this year, North Carolina has seen its share of turmoil and devastation. According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), our total number of active cases is 95,477 as of July 17, 2020, and these numbers are rising steadily.

My official title is Patient Access Specialist and prior to the pandemic, I registered patients for their imaging and invasive procedures at a prominent imaging center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. My role has shifted in the last few months and I am now the primary screener for our facility. What does this mean? I am the person who surveys patients by asking them pertinent questions linked to COVID-19 symptoms and checking their temperatures before they enter our waiting areas.

What I’ve found out in the last few months: No one tells you how to grieve when you’re a healthcare worker. They do not prepare you for the many emotions you may experience while doing your job. Since the middle of April, I’ve felt the following emotions: anger, sadness, happiness, fear, and disgust. I encounter a wide range of patients throughout my day. Some are oblivious to the severity of this virus, some are flat out stubborn and cannot believe it exists, and others are terrified of even the slightest communication from someone trying to ensure their safety. I have my work cut out for me for at least eight to ten hours each day.

There is no tiny bubble to where I can retreat and my feelings matter not when communicating with and screening a patient. What most of them see is someone before them intervening and disturbing their day when all they want to do is come in, have their services rendered, pay for them, and leave. Things have changed. Our lives will never be the same. Coronavirus, COVID-19 has stuck its toes in the everlasting waters of life and is here with a powerful force and for how long, we do not know.”


You can read the article in its entirety here. Thank you.