notquiteold

Nancy Roman

The Horribles

I haven’t written lately.

I don’t even know what to say during these horrible days.

But I’ll take a few minutes to ramble. Maybe it will help.

Is it possible to be bored and terrified at the same time?

The hardest thing this past month has been not seeing my mother. She’s 96 and I can’t put her at risk. On the other hand, I need to see her. I spoke to her often on the phone these past few weeks, and afterwords I would cry a bit. After four weeks though, I just had to look at her face. So two days ago I went and picked up her laundry (which she left on the porch) and spoke to her through the partially opened door. And yesterday I brought it back, and looked at her face again. It’s not much, but it comforted me.

Is your patience at the breaking point? I find myself powering through, priding myself on my self-control. And then – over nothing much – I snap. The other day I made a nice roast, and I had just taken it out of the oven to let it “rest,” and I asked my husband to make a salad. This is our normal routine. But I left the kitchen for a moment and when I returned, he was not making a salad. He was carving the too-hot roast. And I cried.

I understand crying because I miss my mother. But crying because the roast was carved too early?

And my poor pets. One minute I am cuddling with them or playing tug of war. The next minute I am yelling at them to stop the very behavior I found so adorable five minutes before. They have a fruitcake for a mom.

I think we (because it cannot be just me) are balanced so precariously at this moment. We are holding it together, but on our very tiptoes at the edge of the precipice. It doesn’t take much to tip us over.

Then there is the balance between knowledge and obsession. I feel this overpowering urge to know every moment the latest statistics, the latest projections, the latest efforts, the latest outrage. But I also know this isn’t doing me any good. I need to understand what is happening in the world, but I only have control over my own actions. I have to force myself to take even one hour off from the problems of the world.

I am at heart a happy person. But I worry.

Once, years ago, my brother, who was perhaps four year old, went missing for a short time at a lakeside party. Even sixty years later, I can clearly see my mother’s panic-stricken face. And all through these many years since, I cannot “just relax” at the water’s edge. When my husband and I go to the beach, I spend most of my time counting heads. I watch every child. Where is the girl in the pink bathing suit? Where is that little chubby boy? I watch the teenagers too. I watch for the adults if they swim alone. They are not my responsibility, but I take them all on. No one can drown on my watch.

And similarly, I worry for everyone. Now more than ever.

And not just for the many stricken physically by this pandemic.

Are there children at the border still in cages?

Are there folks who cannot pay their bills?

Are there women in abusive situations who are more in danger than ever?

Are the elderly getting enough to eat?

Will cancer patients be neglected?

I worry for people I cannot see. I worry for people I cannot help.

And I worry about people who do not seem to care. How can they ignore so much suffering?

A friend said to me recently, “This is a very difficult time for empaths.”

She told me to take respite – at least a little – every day. To protect my heart and my soul from this punishing worry.

So I paint.

I am painting human portraits right now instead of dogs and cats.

I paint portraits of people who inspire me. Of people graced with faith in the goodness of humanity.

So far I have painted Malala Yousafzai, Jane Goodall, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. These people nourish my soul. Painting their lovely faces calms my soul. There will be more to come.

I have also picked up the manuscript I abandoned last year. I’m giving this new story another try. It may not be any good. But at least I will figure out what happens. I can give it a happy ending.

And I try to forgive myself for my temper. I hope my husband forgives me. And the pets. My husband knows why I am a basket-case. My poor dogs and cats have no idea why their mom is bonkers.

The dogs don’t judge me.

The cats, I’m not so sure about.

31 Comments

  1. You are very talented! Unfortunately there are a lot of us feeling this way. I have no answer except to tell you that yes, your cats are judging you. Poco loco as they say in my house.

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  2. I’ve given up watching the news. The only thing I want to know is when this will be over. Soon, I hope! Your animals will forget your tantrums. They probably know something is up. I also didn’t post in forever until today. I’ve learned a lot in the last month. It’s not all useful stuff. Take care, be safe. ~Elle

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  3. Helen

    Your feelings about missing your mom certainly struck a cord with me and probably a lot of others. I won’t get to see my newborn granddaughter at Easter. There’s no way I can imagine my husband and I are carrying the virus; we’ve not gone anywhere, done anything nor talked to anyone but from across the street. But we just can’t take the chance.

    Your feelings about worrying about others related to me as well and it’s hard to turn off. I rely on my quilting to turn my mind elsewhere. Your paintings are professional quality. Did you take lessons or is this a natural talent? Either way, I’m envious. Beautiful work!

    Helen

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  4. I love your paintings. Good therapy, as I find with my cards.
    You’re not alone Nancy. I worry about everyone too especially as we live in an elderly community and many have serious health issues. We stood out on the drive and applauded our NHS and frontline services and it made me realise just how many vulnerable people there are around us.
    Hubby and I have had more disagreements these past two months than in 29 years of marriage. I’ve lost it and had to go for a walk on my own with the dog (I was out for an hour and felt much better), he lost it today and went for a walk on his own for about half an hour. It’s testing times, confusion everywhere, and our pets are in the firing line for our frustrations. Maggie gets fussed and then shouted at, and is confused at not having so many walks every day.
    There will be an end to it, but how long that will take is more than our leaders are thinking.
    Take care and keep safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As your friend said, just take some time to take care of you. This is all uncharted territory for everyone. I find clinging to things I’m looking forward to once this is all over helps me put it aside for a while.

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  6. your portraits are lovely, and don’t worry, we are all worried and acting a bit off, you fit right in. do things that make you feel calm and happy, it will go a long way

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  7. Kathy Zurcher

    You described me to a T. Every worry. Every emotion. Every word. Thank you. I am 72. I worry about dying. Your words help me remember that I am not the only one.

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  8. Deb

    You’re not alone Nancy. Be gentle and forgiving with yourself and take care.

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  9. Doug Landeen

    You have said what many of us are feeling, Thank You!

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  10. Christine Cooper

    Yes please give that book a happy ending. We need happy endings. And turn off the news – remember what happened to me after the impeachment? I didn’t realize what it was doing to me, then I turned it off – Thank Goodness! I too watch for “the latest” and take extra care, probably more than necessary. And a little James Taylor or Cat Stevens wouldn’t hurt either.

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  11. I speak to my mum daily but have not seen her in a month and I miss my mum.
    On Saturday we had a 5 way video chat between Tim & I and our daughters, one of which we have not seen in a month

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  12. Great paintings and it gives you a bit of peace keep it up.

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  13. So much here that I relate. First of all, not being able to see your mother and she’s 96..I would worry each day I didn’t see her is a day lost never to be retrieved…because she’s 96 though I know this is true for anyone. It would feel unfair that in these, her very elder years, you can’t visit her every single day, in person, for a long hug. I know during these days I have been quietly glad that I don’t have to worry about my parents during this. I’m so sorry that you are so worried about so many. I worry, not to the extent you do, too. I have limited my news watching to a few minutes in the morning when I get up and one set of evening news at supper time. I can’t take more than that. And I, too, have taken up painting. Nothing so wonderful as your portraits! Those are amazing! But I’m messing with watercolors, painting little postcards and I mail one a day to someone I know, with a note written on the back. I’ve enjoyed it so much, I can understand that you are enjoying your painting too! Hang tough, but I think it’s OK to cry, even over something like a roast.

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  14. Nancy, I’ve missed you. I am so sorry that you can’t spend close-up time with your mother. It must be terribly sad for her as well as for you. My parents are both gone, and I’m staying in touch with other family members–scattered world-wide–by various electronic means. We are hunkered in our little town with high-risk husband (Parkinsons, asthma); 13-year-old granddaughter (also with asthma), who is doing school online; her bearded dragon Henry (thank heavens she took the hissing Madagascar cockroaches back to the pet store! It’s bad enough having a Sterilite container of “superworms” to feed Henry); and our sweet Blue Heeler Junior, who just joined me in a little YouTube Zumba on the patio, probably driving the neighbors batty. Stay safe, keep writing, and keep painting! Your paintings are amazing. (Hope the dragon and cockroaches gave you a smile.)

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  15. Pat

    Nancy, I think you’ve described how everyone is feeling but you’ve described it so much more eloquently! Your paintings are wonderful! There’s no end to your talent! Stay safe!❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  16. lydiaschoch

    Those paintings are gorgeous. Thank you for sharing them with us.

    I hope this epidemic ends soon and you can hug your mom again. 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Your paintings are fabulous! You really do have a talent (and I think you just discovered it recently, right?). I can understand crying about the roast. Our feelings are very raw and close to the surface. My husband and I have been extra careful to be tender with each other as well as to quickly apologize if we mess up.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. It’s hard, even for a person who has preached “Faith not Fear” most of my adult life… it’s hard not to worry in today’s world. But, it helps to remember worry doesn’t solve the problem, nor does it add a minute to my life. Instead it actually makes matters worse. So, cry if you must. Rant, if it helps. Paint to your heart’s content (you’re really good, you know), and yes, finish that book! And come back here again soon. I am among your followers who has missed you! Bee well!! ❤

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  19. Painting is a very wise way to cope with this stress, I think, because creativity is so good for our souls. And let yourself feel the emotions when you need it…it doesn’t mean you aren’t strong, it just means you’re acknowledging just how very hard these times are. Personally, I limit my exposure to the news to the bare minimum to stay informed, because so much of it is designed to inspire fear and outrage, which just makes things worse on an individual level and on the community level as well. And I know what you mean about your mom…mine is 89, and I can’t visit her in her senior home either. As of tomorrow they all have to stay in their apartments, so of course that is worrying, as isolation isn’t good for the elderly. But right now, it’s the only way to keep her and the others in her building safe. She is being strong about it, so I take my example from her.

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  20. Pam

    It’s good to hear from you! It’s been so long that I have been worried that YOU might be sick! I think we all share your concerns in these times. Thanks for sharing your feelings and your beautiful paintings. Also, I love what you said about your painting subjects – that they were all people whom you admire for their faith in the goodness of humanity. Beautifully said! I admire the same kind of people.

    I’ve been gardening and taking walks to keep my mind off things. It helps. I’m dying to go to the garden center to buy bedding plants, but it’s risky.

    Stay well, sweet lady! We’ll get through this together!

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  21. liz2218

    Hi. Just came across your blog. Have you considered creative ways of seeing your mom? Wanted to share this comment in case these ideas may be helpful for you!

    (1) Do you have any glass door you can see through? A window could work as a possible alternative. Each of you set up a chair, hers inside her door, yours outside her door. You can both get on the phone (headphones makes it easier) and talk to each other as if you are having a regular conversation :-). Bonus, to play a boardgame together or something across the door. This depends on what kind of technology you have available to you. But if you each have ipads. You have your phone on in your earbuds so you have normal audio; you have glass separating you so near-normal visual; and then you each play scrabble or game on the ipad in front of you it’s basically 99% of being in-person but zero risk :-)/ ((If it’s cold outside bring a space heater or bundle up…. at least she’s inside and only you’re outside… something like that…))((Alternate if you’re in a cold climate: you each do this from within a car… can see each other thru the car windows…

    (2) This one is even more dependent on the climate you are in being nice out, and it is not zero risk but it’s low risk. You both wear masks (mask protects both the wearer and the companion, but it is more protective of the other person, and not 100% protective of either; if you have a N-95 mask it is even better if worn properly it has to get a snug seal over your face; but N-95 is a bit uncomfortable anyway so just lookup the best kind of fabric mask is fine). You can both sit on the porch together or outside but stay 10+ feet apart. There is new evidence a sneeze can travel 27 ft but if you feel the urge to sneeze hold it in and quickly run away from her. Mostly you’re just breathing it is not going 27 feet. Also aerosolized particles that are formed from just normal breathing an speaking are much less than from sneezing and coughing. When you’re in open air not a confined space, these few aerosolized particles will dissipate before they reach 10 feet to the other person. That is why it’s a really low risk but not zero-risk option.

    Hope that helps!!! 🙂 🙂 Don’t forget to be disinfecting all groceries with a CDC approved cleaner (many of these require 10 minutes of contact time, check the label) or with regular soap and water if the packaging can handle soap and water. Another option is to wait 3 days before using groceries. The virus generally can survive only 3 days on surfaces. However, be careful, that is at room temperature. At cold temperature like refrigerator i’m not sure, I believe it’s more like a week or two, and I know that frozen it is up to 2 years.

    Wishing you guys best hope my creative tips can be useful to you this is what we are doing in my family 🙂

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    • liz2218

      Note: I recently found out despite assurances from our leaders that the PPE problem was solved, I have about 6 personal accounts from nurses who tell me they are reusing the same N-95 mask 7 days in a row. This is very dangerous because studies show the virus is still on the outside face of the mask and depending how its’ stored it will easily rub off onto the inner side of the mask which faces their mouth and they easily breathe it in.

      If you find any N-95’s or even dust masks used for construction, or painting , you can see to donate these at your local hospital. I thought it was just my one friend who’s hospital had a temporary shortage, now I realize it is across the nation….

      If you do keep them for yourself or donate them, make sure they know you can re-use mask by sterilizing it by waiting 3-5 days then it is safe because the virus does not live so long on surfaces. Alternately, CDC recommended several other disinfectant methods of the masks (don’t use a spray, use heat or hydrogen peroxide vapor) https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/ppe-strategy/decontamination-reuse-respirators.html

      The shortage right now is so great, no one, regular people, nor medical, should be using these as single use anymore. Making sure everyone knows the safe protocol to reuse them cause most hospitals are reusing them for 7 days straight but I found out they are not following these protocols and not sanitizing them which is very dangerous

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  22. Linda

    Balance between knowledge and obsession – now there’s the challenge, eh? As is often the case with your writing and observations, I read this and think – “how does she know what’s going on in my head?!” Good luck with the next manuscript. Your paintings are wonderful!

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  23. Silvana Dereski

    You have expressed what many of us are feeling and thinking. I admire your creative outlet for your worries. I agree, not so sure the cat forgives you. 🙂 Your paintings are absolutely wonderful.

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  24. This is beautiful and very real. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

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  25. Kiki

    This too Shall Pass!!!

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  26. peter Johnson

    love your paintings too. Malala is phenomenal and a new person like her can be found in Greta Thunberg who also dares to speak truth to power even though both of these wonderful young people are women. I love her statement about the older generation not listening, and never listening, in fact, maybe until its too late.

    One the virus is over, we will have to do something to convince our ship of fools in Washington to just buckle down and solve some problems, such as climate change. Doubters keep scoffing about how if we give up production of oil and other carbon products we will wreck the economy. What they never mention is that, no one has got to abolish all oil and gas for all time–all we need to do is cut emissions to lower levels and augment them with renewable like winds and solar. There will always be carbon products around, but if we cut emissions enough to let renewables replace some of our energy needs that will be enough. And even though companies like Exxon Mobil say their way of life is being threatened, there are affordable ways they could cut emissions. And after all, as big energy companies, they can always invest in green technologies from the bottom floor up, and can still be very large and profitable companies that are investing in a greener future.

    All the balking is really a cop-out that justifies oil companies and politicians to ignore the inconvenient truth that something will have to be done. It is indeed hard not to worry these days, but we should just do whatever we can and hope that taking different actions will make a difference that benefits our children and grandchildren. Thanks for sharing your own worries. Even though we know worrying incessantly will not help us, it’s only natural to feel these things as parts of the human race.

    Greta says if the old business models do not work, then create new business models! I love the bravery and optimism of youth that we older people seem to surrender as the age.

    Take care of yourself Nancy, as the saying goes, “It ain’t over until it’s over!”

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  27. Hi,am new say something to my site.

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