Monday, March 08, 2021

Letter from California

Here is the next post from a regular reader of the blog who lives outside the UK. 

Today's guest is my friend Karen Fine, a real life aging hippie (who lived in Haight-Ashbury in the late 1960s) and whom I first met at a Peace Vigil in San Francisco in 2006. Karen lives in Redwood City, just south of San Francisco.

She has featured on the blog before (but not as a guest) - here, and here, and here  and in many other of my blog posts.

Karen in Cuba

Take it away, Karen...

"Before I whine on and on about the pandemic year, I want everyone to know that I know how fortunate I am.  I have a cozy home, an adequate pension, good health for an Aging Hippie 75-year-old, savings, nearby family, caring friends (in-person and on Zoom), an electric/hybrid car, satisfying volunteer work.  And's been a very difficult and anxious year.

If the pandemic is a blanket that has fallen heavily over all of us on this planet, underneath that blanket a lot has been going on.

Under that heavy blanket in the U.S.A., there was a depressingly long 2-year election season with many of us hoping that DJT would be done, over, finished, through.  We wrote millions of letters and postcards to try to get out the vote to defeat him and his cruel and stupid lying cronies. That occupied us a bit during the various lockdowns.  It was a huge relief when Biden won, despite Trump's ongoing lies that he was the winner.   

What saved me during this long year, when my Airbnb business ceased, my dance classes stopped, all meetings went virtual, when Zoom fatigue set in, when I couldn't have visitors in my home, when I couldn't travel, when I was in several lockdowns and afraid and lonely and bored and without motivation?

*  The cat!  

CHLOE  THE CAT!  In January of 2020, right before the pandemic, I adopted a beautiful 10-year-old calico cat.    She has been my savior!  She needs me to feed her and clean up her litter box!  I can hug her!  I sleep with her!  I talk to her!  She sits on my lap and purrs.  She is IN my house.  

*  Volunteer work

After 3 months of being home alone, going out only for daily walks and grocery store visits, I had had it!  I began volunteer work again at the Food Bank office.  When that ended, I began working at Meals on Wheels, helping to pack food (600-800 meals/day) for delivery by other volunteers.  I'm still there, 5 mornings a week, and I am grateful to have a reason to get out of bed early in the morning, regular good work to do, and a chance to meet some new acquaintances.  I also plant and prune street trees with my local non-profit organization. 


* Being in a pod with my family

After months of only rarely seeing my son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter in the backyard, wearing masks, they proposed that I join their (too large) pod.  It really meant that we could be together without masks, hug, eat, and of course, I said yes, despite some obvious risks.   


* Walks and talks with friends

It helped to rejoin my long-standing walking group, wearing masks, and talk and walk almost every weekend.  The 4-6 miles go by quickly as we share and laugh and discuss. We also meet online Saturday mornings to talk.   I'm also in a "Retired Teachers" social group that meets twice a week online for talking and sharing and cooking together apart.   

* Political activities   

Climate change group meetings went online but now we're also picketing with Climate Change signs once a week for an hour on a busy thoroughfare, 6 feet apart, wearing masks. 

For me, the pandemic enhanced feelings of isolation and envy that were already permeating my psyche.  I envy the couples who get to be together.  I envy families who are living near and in a pod.  I envy people who have a job, something meaningful to do.   I envy artists and writers who have time and ideas and inclination to produce their art.  Some days, I can barely hold it together and feel sorry for myself.  I can't even stick to my personal goals of diet and exercise let alone produce great art or a novel or a crocheted blanket!    Sometimes I can't even read a book!  I watch too much TV and Netflix.  The time has passed.  I finished one painting.  

The pandemic produced a new level of anxiety:  isolation; fear; stress; a shrinking social network.  Do I have it?  Did I pass it to anyone?  Will I get it? How can I stay safe?  What is safe?  What isn't safe?   The layers of stress created a new kind of PTSD:  politics, Covid, fires in the west, a heat wave, no visitors.  I'm wondering how long it will take to lower the anxiety levels.   Almost all in-person meetings were replaced by Zoom meetings; now there is Zoom fatigue.  Now I am wondering if I even know how to have a conversation!

In December, 2020, my son and I both tested positive for Covid 19 and fortunately, had NO symptoms.  We quarantined (separately) for two weeks and went back to our quiet lives.   I had an antibody test and had no antibodies.  My doctor thinks it could have been a false positive.  Neither of us know where we might have gotten it.  In February, I had my first dose of the vaccine and am scheduled for dose number 2 on March 8.   It is a measure of relief but life hasn't changed much because I'm vaccinated.  It will change when many people are vaccinated!   

And now, it is springtime in California.  The flowers are blooming, the hillsides are green, and many days are warm.  My backyard is so beautiful in the spring!   

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How wonderful to have a missive from Karen's Californian life!

I followed her SA blog with great interest, and admiration, throughout the time she was teaching there - and have wondered how things moved on since then. In retiring from teaching she seems to be busier than ever! A ball of energy, and a true inspiration.

Please thank her for such a colourful telling of the year from hell - the thought of having to contend with the stress of DJT potentially being returned for a second term, on top of everything else, is just too much!

Thea x