How Dare You Dismiss the Seriousness of the COVID-19 Pandemic!

I am LIVID upon learning that there are those who either don’t believe we’re experiencing a pandemic and/or do believe that we’re “overreacting” to it. Well, to those, I’d like to extend an invitation to go fuck themselves. And I have a right to say that because of what my husband and I have been through the last two years.

October 18, 2018, my husband Scott was diagnosed with colon cancer. Against our will, we were forced to join a club that day. A club that would claim the lives of 606,880 people the next year while my Sweetie was undergoing chemotherapy, hoping he would not be included in such a statistic himself.

It is in this emotional space that I craft a message to YOU, you self-important jerk who insists that this is all some sort of political game or hoax. COVID-19 has, in a mere five weeks, taken the lives of 55,000+ people in the U.S. alone. Indulge me in a little simple math here: 

If you multiply that five weeks by a nice round 10, you come up with 50 weeks which is just a few shy of the number of weeks in a year.

If you multiply the number of deaths in those five weeks by the same 10, you come up with 500,000. (And that’s with mitigation, in other words, responsible, mature people stepping up and making the personal sacrifices necessary to flatten the curve.)

Gee, that’s kind of close to the 600,000+ annual deaths from cancer, isn’t it? And still you claim the number of victims of COVID-19 is insignificant. That’s a conservative number of potential cases, by the way, considering how, because of its manner of contagion, the number of cases grows exponentially. 

Furthermore, you go on to say that taking precautions, like shutting down businesses, physical distancing, wearing face coverings and gloves… are unnecessarily inconvenient. Aww, ain’t your life rough? In fact, you may go so far as to say that imposing such precautionary measures infringes upon your rights as an American citizen.

Really. Measures to protect the lives of others, not to mention your own, are “inconvenient” and “un-American?” Do you realize that you are consciously choosing to put yourself and your personal desires ahead of your fellow citizens? Is that the kind of person you are? The kind of person who, when presented with a simple, painless (albeit slightly inconvenient) means to help save the lives of nearly half a million Americans this year chooses to bitch about your degree of inconvenience?

When precautionary measures ARE taken, this disease’s (unlike cancer, heart disease, diabetes…) occurrence CAN be impacted. WE can make a significant difference in how many people’s lives this virus impacts. It’s like a superpower we possess as humans; that we can take a measure of control over something that has potential to do us grave harm. All we have to do is act selflessly for just a little while, in the grand scheme of things. Doesn’t seem like a lot to do for our fellow humans.

I can’t stress strongly enough how I wished there had been something I – or anyone – could have done to prevent my Sweetie – or any patient – from having to go through a cancer ordeal. But there is no such action. But for those who may contract COVID-19, there is. I see, though; you can’t be bothered. YOU want to go out to eat. YOU want to get your nails done. YOU want to go to the movies. YOU want to stay in your comfortable bubble of privilege, denying that the world, in only a few short weeks, has changed profoundly. YOU don’t want YOUR life – you know, the one you deserve, to change an iota, even to help others.

How dare you, you selfish bastard.

Posted in Soapbox | 2 Comments

Listening to Trump is Like Living With My Emotionally Abusive Ex-Husband Again

In case you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live with an emotionally abusive husband, all you have to do is listen to Trump. I’ve been triggered by him every day of his presidency – and for a large portion of his candidacy. It’s infuriating, exhausting and so ignorantly condescending that it breaks my heart. I started to jot down a couple of the ways the president reminds me of “him” on Facebook and before I knew it, I’d written an entire blog post. I’ve written it all in one long paragraph not because my editing skills are lacking but because this endless bombardment of thing after thing after thing after thing is precisely how it feels when you’re living in the trenches with a narcissistic douchebag. This was written very much as a stream of consciousness; I’ll keep it as raw as possible to retain its sense of the reality in which I lived for 10+ years:

He always believes he always knows best and is always right. He believes he has total power and control over every single thing in the relationship (and often outside of it). If he says it, it is fact (“so live with it”). He will talk over you because he knows better what you’re going to say than you do. The only agenda that matters is his. You are only there for him to use at his whim. Disagree or be unavailable to do his bidding and there are very bad consequences. You will be discredited, undermined, embarrassed publicly – not to mention reminded of your place in private. Your emotions will frequently be tested and manipulated, just to prove “whose side you’re on.” When and if he changes his mind or course of action and you dare to question, he will deny that he has, even though you witnessed it. Should you press the issue, your sanity or ability to judge will be brought into question. His desires ALWAYS are more important than yours. There is no compromise because his are the most important needs/wants (duh!). He THRIVES on creating drama, then insists on praise and recognition as the “hero” when he “solves” the problems he has himself created. He believes himself to be the smartest person in any room, a natural born leader of people. He’s a boastful braggart with not even a shred of humility. He does not care about your accomplishments. If he can utilize your knowledge or talent to make himself look bigger, better, wiser, he will, but gives your input no acknowledgment whatsoever. He subscribes to “magical” thinking, convinced that, if he wants something to be true or false, happen, or not happen, he can “will” it into being. He believes that his actions are always correct, just, and appropriate. Even in the face of contradictory evidence, he will insist that he is right, YOU are lying or being dishonest. He, in fact will lie, cheat, steal and even admit to horrible acts while twisting his words and “motives” to make these atrocities seem inconsequential (because of the big “special” person he is, compared to others). He can never show or admit confusion, weakness or lack of knowledge, because he is an “alpha” male. Those who do not know are considered “stupid.” Those who do express emotions or any sort of what he considers “character flaws” are inherently lesser humans than he. But how easily awed he is by those powerful few he looks up to. It’s nothing short of hero worship and under their spell, he’s as gullible as can be. He feels he’s is entitled to better things because he is innately better than others. One of his favorite expressions, borrowed from an old friend, was, “Ya know why the poor are poor? Because they’re POOR at doing everything.” Oh, today “someone’s” awakened in a surly mood… Bet it won’t be 15 minutes before he’s making sure mine is just as shitty. He’ll find something to pick at or on or about and first, blame me; second, blow it out of proportion, times 10. Whatever fouls his mood surely couldn’t come from within himself, for he is perfectly fine. It is others and the world that is flawed and out to make him miserable. Oh, and the hissy-fit to full-on rage! That’s always a treat. He’s so fucking sensitive, you never know when his fragile ego will be riled. What will his reaction be this time. Griping and bitching, angry stomping, wild man punching walls and me? Who knows? I’m always be on the alert for the next wave reaction to something that displeases his royal highness. Most everything does. He very rarely experiences pleasure. Even less often demonstrates remorse or compassion. No lean, mean, fighting machine himself, he never misses an opportunity to comment negatively on someone else’s appearance. He frequently makes mention of my flaws, then expects gratitude when he generously offers to “overlook” them. The blame game is constant. His world sucks and it is all (fill-in-the-blank’s) fault! No one ever shows enough (or the right style of) gratitude for that which he does for them. He’s always “owed.” He’s crass and vulgar; he says simply awful things about people. A bigot, racist, misogynist… he can say something crude about anyone without ever entertaining the notion that it could be hurtful – or even incorrect. He never shies away from making a scene in public because he feels that expressing his feelings as they come up is more important than any kind of inner examination. He went to several therapists over the years, but once he was given certain prescriptions, he would be miraculously “cured.” When the medications stopped working, however, those professionals were soon dubbed “hacks.” Even as a grown woman, I get no acknowledgment of my own competency. He’s incapable of trusting that I can live without him making certain that every detail of my life is planned for me.

I soon proved him wrong on that count. My last straw came when he exercised a particularly devious manipulation on me, attempting to make me responsible for the consequences of a decision he’d made. Nope. I put my foot down. He didn’t like it but, as he ultimately always did, he ran to Mommy and Daddy to make it better, made me out to be the “bad guy” and limped away with his tail between his legs. That’s what bullies do when you finally stand up to their tyranny. They’re the ones who were running scared the whole time.

Are you falling in love with this sweetheart of a guy yet? Before knowing Trump, you would have thought I was making this character up out of thin air, wouldn’t you? Are you going to vote for this fine, upstanding individual? Yeah, I didn’t think you would.

Posted in Memories, Observations a la Gina, Survivor of abuse | 1 Comment

In My Room

Or,… 

Finding Inner Peace at Home While the World’s in Turmoil

This COVID-19 quarantine, I’ve decided, is going to change me. And I’m not only going to let it change me, I’m going to encourage it to do so. In some ways, it already has. I find myself striving – even more than usual – to find meaning and satisfaction in the “simple” things. To find a sense of profound, inner “enoughness” and peace. And that means approaching the minutes and hours of my days with mindfulness. I’m hoping to nurture a new relationship with time and how I spend it.

Today I woke up and, instead of going directly to my laptop to check news and email, I took two glorious hours for myself. No media – not even music – just me. I spent the time in “my” room – one of the spare rooms upstairs where I keep my favorite things: memorabilia, keepsakes, photos… I guess you could call it my “she shed.” It’s currently in shambles – more like a huge walk-in closet than a room – so I don’t spend as much time in there as I would love to. 

But today I did spend some quality time there. I pushed aside boxes and bags of stuff to clear a pathway into the room. My gaze fell upon the view outside the window. I’d forgotten that we were expecting a dusting of snow last night and I noticed how it had settled in the crotch of the big ‘ol oak tree in the front yard. The sky was cloudy but bright and the street quiet, but for an occasional passing car. From out the window, my eyes moved to the sill, lined with Beanie Babies – cute and meaningful reminders of the years I spent as a daycare provider. Then to inside the room, to the rocking chair (another remnant from daycare days). It was piled high with random…stuff: Games, photos in frames, books, a couple old purses, the jar from a long-ago burned Yankee Candle containing little random bits from around the house.

This room also contains my altar, which I spent a generous chunk of time regarding this day. The altar was the one part of the room that’s been arranged and maintained for a long time. It’s comprised of shelves in a nook on which I’ve arranged some of my life’s treasures. Childhood books, dolls, stuffed animals, photos, items that evoke memories and, in many ways, represent me like no others. I’ve only referred to it as my altar since last year, however, when I began Kelly Carlin’s Women on the Verge course. Early in the lessons, she encourages us to claim a sacred space for yourself and assemble that which is precious and centers you. I didn’t need to start from scratch; I just refined my shelves and I had my altar!

I decided to follow my whims as I began this day in this new way. I sat on the beautiful oak floor – a lovely surprise that, in an attempt to set up the room as a special place of reflection several years ago, I’d discovered beneath the carpet. I moved a few things from here to there, organizing like items, consciously trying to avoid having a plan and follow my heart. This was the mission: to play with my stuff, like I did as a child, without agenda or any purpose other than to be in the experience. I did decide that, while the floor was good, the chair would be more comfortable. I moved the mess onto the floor, took a seat and rocked a while. From that vantage point, I sipped my tea and wondered what treasures were contained in that jar. So I investigated, and discovered:

  • Two tiny keys, maybe from luggage?
  • LOTS of paper clips (Why do we have so many paper clips? We are not an office!)
  • Crystals from a pair of Mom’s candle sticks that I’ve always wanted to repurpose
  • More key rings than two people need
  • Some sort of electronics adapter
  • A pair of earrings I’d forgotten I’d lost (and two earring backs)
  • Two tiny incense holders
  • A nylon strap for…something
  • Three buttons
  • A zipper pull that I wanted to put back on a favorite hoodie
  • An adorable little sun dangle that “someday” I’ll incorporate into a craft project
  • And to prove Mom was with me, two safety pins. Backstory: After Mom passed away in 2010, my sisters and I cleaned out her bedroom. When we got to her drawer of slips, we noticed every one of them had several safety pins attached to the straps. They weren’t holding anything together, she just always had safety pins on her person, should the need arise. I took a safety pin and strung seven more of them on it – representing her seven children. At her wake, I pinned it to her slip, in case she should need one, we’d be there.)

It was like finding a mini time capsule from a previous attempt to clean/organize clutter. And sorting through these tiny things occupied me for minutes on end. Where did they come from? Why did we keep them? My focus was steady on these tiny objects for a while. I wasn’t raging at the news. I wasn’t anxious about the uncertainties we and so many others are facing. I was, for a little while, at the beginning of my day, giving myself the gift of feeling free, unburdened and truly alive.

I’m already looking forward to spending a couple more hours in my room tomorrow, playing amongst my stuff and rediscovering myself. I wonder what I’ll find – and feel – when I look in other places and find more long-forgotten physical memories. I’m also looking forward to the resulting calm that ran through the tapestry of the remainder of my day. I’m amazed how profoundly an affect a couple hours of respite had upon my spirit. I felt nourished and revitalized.

With this crisis, the world is offering us a huge opportunity to reset our lives; to reassess what we value and how we spend our psychic and emotional energy. It’s calling for us to just be still and notice our lives as they are, right here and now. I’m heeding its call by looking inward more deeply. I hope you can take some time while the world is on “pause” to find something that helps you recreate and check in with yourself at a slower, more centered pace. I believe that’s the silver lining of all this; it may be saving us from ourselves. If we listen and stop resenting and resisting it can change us all for the better. Sometimes even nature has to use her outside voice to get our attention.

Bonus because you deserve to hear one of the most beautiful songs ever written.

Posted in Inspiration, Life, Memories, Observations a la Gina, The personal development of Gina | 4 Comments

How the Past Two Years Have Prepared Me to More Calmly Cope With COVAD-19 (Part III)

(The short version…our life’s been like this for us for over two years – falling headlong from one frightening personal disaster to the next.) 

This is the third installment of several chronicling the most difficult two years of our life. (Read all posts in this series.) The purpose is not to whine about our misfortune but rather to offer some perspective and hope to those to whom life-changing, Earth-shattering events haven’t installed themselves (seemingly permanently) into their everyday existence. We were once rookies to the stress. Now, it’s, sadly, we’re old pros at handling disappointment and uncertainty.

Cancer. What the fuck? How can Scott have cancer? He feels fine. He’s perfectly healthy. He’s got no symptoms. How the fuck can he have cancer? We were stunned. Completely blindsided. It didn’t seem like our life anymore. A deep heaviness descended. It was everywhere. In every thought, every breath. At the same time, it was surreal. It couldn’t  be real. Other people, those people were affected by cancer. Not Scott. Not us.

We were starting to feel like life was picking on us… Photo by Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

But yeah. He did indeed. The biopsy confirmed it. A CT scan was scheduled so the doctor could assess the tumor (oh god that word!) to see how contained/widespread it was. My Sweetie had cancer. Fuck. We felt deflated, powerless, crushed by an invisible weight, smothered by an omnipresent fear. After several days of living with the knowledge without much conversation on the subject, we began talking about it. The first thing we realized is that he was hesitant to talk about it for fear of upsetting me and I was avoiding the subject for the same reason. So even in our misery, we were taking care of one another. That’s a tendency that will continue to serve us well.

We started a list one night sitting in bed, unable to sleep for all the unanswered questions swirling around and leading us into endless (and pointless, unfounded) panic. We took stock of the reality and tried not to let it overwhelm us. Let’s not spiral into conjecture, we decided. What do we know? What do we need to know? The list documented everything we knew, everything we thought, every fear, every question we could brainstorm at that point in time. Next steps? Treatment? How the hell did this come about? Was it related to his perforated diverticulitis or it to the cancer? What was his prognosis? Would he need surgery? Chemotherapy? Radiation? What was the timeframe of treatment? When would Scott be cancer free? How soon could we put this all behind us and return to “normal” life?

We sure were learning a lot about insides!

I brought the list to the followup appointment with the doctor who had performed the colonoscopy. He gave us the official findings of the CT scan. And all things considered, he had good news for us. He said that the tumor was contained within the colon; it had not grown through or spread anywhere else. Such a relief! His recommendation was to schedule surgery to have the mass removed and it would be over and done with. No specialist necessary because it was a fairly simple, straightforward procedure that could be performed laparoscopically. He even said that there would be no need for further treatment once the mass had been removed. We left that appointment in higher spirits than we’d felt in weeks! The list was summarily discarded and an appointment with a surgeon was scheduled for November 7. The appointment was brief; he outlined the procedure and surgery was scheduled for early December.

Strike 5

Over the next few weeks, we settled into the awkward reality of having cancer as part of our life. “It’s only a few weeks, then it will be all over,” we reassured ourselves. Thanksgiving was coming up and we’d have a little bit of distraction. We’d focus on the positives of this situation – and on all we had in our life to be grateful for in general – and the time would pass quickly.

But Scott’s colon had a different scenario in mind. Saturday evening, November 17… Scott experienced a familiar feeling: That same abdominal/intestinal pain he’d felt last October when he’d had the perforated diverticulitis. We took this pain very seriously, especially considering last year’s development and the recent cancer diagnosis. At that time, I was uncomfortable driving at night so his mom picked us up and took us to the hospital. A very long, tense wait ensued throughout the night and into the morning.

Sadly, this was becoming an all-too-familiar scene

Hours and hours of passed in the examination room. His temperature had started rising and the pain was increasing. I kept his mom apprised of his condition walking back and forth from the exam room to the waiting room. Finally, another CT scan revealed – son of a bitch – perforated diverticulitisagain! And we were looking at emergency surgery this time. By 7:00 AM the surgical team had arrived and it was time for things to happen very quickly. I shook hands with the man in whose hands my Sweetie’s life would soon be, tearfully kissed Scott and was escorted to the surgical waiting room. The next five hours passed in a slow, heavy fog. I felt helpless, frightened, confused, sad and overwhelmed by all that had transpired since the evening before. It was the Sunday before Thanksgiving and any plans we’d had to celebrate the holiday had changed in a dramatic, profound way.

As I mentioned in my preface, this is third in a series of pieces about life as we’ve lived it lo these past two years plus change. I hope that, combined, they tell a story of how, first and foremost, adversity sucks. It drags you down into the depths of your being; makes you assess your priorities, question your ability to cope and lays bare your vulnerability. Beyond that, I hope they tell the story of how, getting through the adversity – and on the other side of it – you discover a myriad of revelations, truths and perspectives you can only imagine. If we didn’t learn this fully yet, we would certainly have more opportunities coming in the nearer-than-we-could-believe future.

Stay tuned for Parts 4,5,6…

Posted in Coping With COVID-19, Life, Memories, Observations a la Gina | 1 Comment

How the Past Two Years Have Prepared Me to More Calmly Cope With COVAD-19 (Part II)

(The short version…our life’s been like this for us for over two years – falling headlong from one frightening personal disaster to the next.) 

This is the second installment of several chronicling the most difficult two years of our life. (Read all posts in this series.) The purpose is not to whine about our misfortune but rather to offer some perspective and hope to those to whom life-changing, Earth-shattering events haven’t installed themselves (seemingly permanently) into their everyday existence. We were once rookies to the stress. Now, it’s, sadly, we’re old pros at handling disappointment and uncertainty.

Strike 2

So 2017 had turned to 2018… barely. A low-key holiday season passed; we were anxious to put the frightening perforated diverticulitis ordeal in November/December behind us and begin a new year on an optimistic note. That, however, was not in the cards. One of our two cats, Cooper, a spunky, loving, personable feline if ever there was one, began having serious breathing issues. His poor little body struggling to take in breath broke our hearts. Multiple, frustrating visits to our vet throughout the month of January  yielded differing opinions on what was wrong and no viable treatment. When his breathing became dangerously labored and the vets were out of ideas about how to help him, they referred us to an emergency pet clinic in Chicago as his his only chance. There they put him in an oxygen tent and the highly trained doctors ran more tests and tried to help him but to no avail. Without a definitive diagnosis, we had to say a final farewell to our little buddy on February 1. I’ve never cried so hard in my whole life as I did that evening. I felt helpless and cheated to lose him at only 11 years old; we deserved more time with him in our lives. Devastated, heartbroken, crushed don’t even begin to express the depth of our grief at losing this bright light from our life. 

Cooper being hugged by his brother Eggs Benedict

Instead of ringing in a fresh, happy new year, we were dealt this gut punch. A dark sadness descended over us. In the span of just two months, two enormous, life-altering events had happened to us. Life had become so scary, so unsettled, so uncertain. We were beginning to feel an underlying unsettledness, like we were standing on a steep slope that threatened, at any moment, to give way, sending us hurtling down, down, down into an unescapable chasm of despair.

Strike 3

The next several months of 2018 went by in a blur of sadness, missing our Cooper. His absence made our lives seem lonely and joyless. Slowly the grief felt less acute but we certainly felt the void he’d left every day still. We needed desperately to distract ourselves from the emptiness we felt. We decided to delve into a gratitude project that had been percolating in us since the previous summer: Thank You Token. The idea behind it was, simply, to manifest a system to “reward” people for their acts of kindness with physical “tokens” that they could then pass along to others upon witnessing acts of kindness. We created a comprehensive website for the initiative. We even enlisted the help of a graphic designer friend to create a simple logo and requested sample tokens from a manufacturer we researched online. We established a Kickstarter campaign to generate funds to have the tokens made and distributed. It was an exciting, all-consuming and, perhaps most importantly, distracting, undertaking. We were fueled by our desire to make a difference in the world by promoting kindness. We put our hearts and minds into this project and it represented a ray of hope streaming into a very dark several months.  We ran the Kickstarter for two months, from late March to early May, 2018. 

Our logo and sample tokens

Unfortunately, we did not reach our goal on Kickstarter and the project did not get funded…

Another blow. We’d been so excited and optimistic – but it wasn’t to be. By this time, we were feeling like we couldn’t catch a break, even when we took initiative and worked up some enthusiasm. We just couldn’t pull ourselves out of this negative spiral. The next few months were melancholy, to say the least.

Strike 4 

The doctors who cared for Scott during his perforated diverticulitis ordeal back in December advised that once he’d had several months to heal, he should have a colonoscopy to make certain everything was looking good. It would be right on time, as he was turning 50 – the age that it is recommended to have your baseline colonoscopy – in June. After getting past a hiccup with insurance, his colonoscopy was scheduled for October 18. The result? Everything was not looking good. The colonoscopy discovered a malignant tumor in Scott’s sigmoid colon (the lower part of the intestine). We were stunned, scared and overwhelmed by the sudden, unexpected news. You can read all about learning of Scott’s cancer in my blog post entitled, How Our Live Completely Changed in Two Hours. And it really did change dramatically. This information is not easily digested. Suddenly, on top of what we’d already endured in less than a year, now cancer was a part of our life. But you know what? That still wouldn’t be the whole of it. Nope. Stay tuned for the continuing adventures of our Two Years in Hell…

As I mentioned in my preface, this is second in a series of pieces about life as we’ve lived it lo these past two years plus change. I hope that, combined, they tell a story of how, first and foremost, adversity sucks. It drags you down into the depths of your being; makes you assess your priorities, question your ability to cope and lays bare your vulnerability. Beyond that, I hope they tell the story of how, getting through the adversity – and on the other side of it – you discover a myriad of revelations, truths and perspectives you can only imagine. If we didn’t learn this fully yet, we would certainly have more opportunities coming in the nearer-than-we-could-believe future.

Stay tuned for Parts 3. 4, 5…

Posted in Coping With COVID-19, Life, Memories, Observations a la Gina | Leave a comment