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I woke up this morning, and everything was fine. The pain I’ve been feeling for the last couple of days was there, but it was dull. I could still do my morning things: making coffee, caring for the pets, watering the plants. Then, suddenly, the pain got very bad, very bad! I was doubled over, crying, sweating, nauseous, and dizzy. Something was very wrong, but I tried to lay down and wait for it to pass. I called the GI nurse, but she told me all I could do was go into urgent care. So I did.

Of course with the coronavirus spreading I was reluctant to go but I know my body and this pain was some of the most severe I have ever felt, but it wasn’t new. A few years ago I went through this too. Usually ulcerative colitis pain is on this left side, but this is on the right and only on the right. It’s low and makes me think my appendix is about to burst, or maybe I have a hernia, or perhaps a tear in the bowel. Last time I was scheduled for a colonoscopy and they found nothing and eventually the pain went away but even when it was at its worst it was nothing like this.

When I arrived at the urgent care center, they gave me morphine for the pain, ran some blood tests, and gave me a CT scan and…found nothing. Or nothing much, anyway. Nothing that would warrant their time, attention, or care. I was quickly unplugged from the I.V. and sent on my way with instructions to drink more water, eat more fiber, and feel better soon.

I feel deeply embarrassed. I feel as though I wasted everyone’s time. At the same time, I’m worried there is something they missed. I was in so much pain something has to have been wrong and, honestly, it’s not like they haven’t missed a diagnosis before. I’m trying not to be too hard on myself. I’m focusing on feeling better, both emotionally and physically, and I’m searching for answers on my own.

Goals // Week 13: Loose Expectations and Broad Guidelines

This week marks the beginning of my “extended Spring break” and the second week of social isolation. The days are very much running together and I am finding it hard to establish a schedule or settle into a routine. How can I when I don’t know from day to day how things may change? How can I when there’s nothing to do but worry about yourself, about your loved ones, about every damned thing in the world? Still, I have to try. I have to put together some loose expectations or some broad guidelines on how I should spend these days away from the rest of the world and my work. I have to do something to stay sane.

This week I will:

Spend at least an hour a day in the “creativity room”. While a month of binge-watching whatever Netflix keeps trying to get me to watch while scrolling through a rotation of social media apps sounds great, I would really like to make better use of my time even if I’m not sure yet what it is I want to do or accomplish. I’m not putting too much pressure on myself for output I know that nothing good—nothing at all—will come from spending my days on the couch. I have to get up, get ready, and get to a place where I can find the work I want to do.

Update: I tried to stay motivated and productive, but I underestimated how much staying at home all day every day would affect me. There were many days when I hardly left the couch, hardly ate, and hardly took care of myself. So, I did get in the “creativity room” for a little while there were many more days where I simply couldn’t fight my way out of anxiety or melancholy to make any progress. It’s surprising how much it turns out that I need other people to cheer and focus me.

 Set alarms for daily activities. I didn’t realize how much of my days were decided by my day job. I didn’t realize that all my prompt, my cravings, my wants, needs, and thoughts were all decided around the hours I worked. Now that I have no hours I can’t for the life of me remember what I am supposed to do and when. I used to have alarms on my phone for things like meals, medicine, even water and walking breaks because I would get so caught up in what I was doing. I think it’s time I go back to that.

Update: The alarms have been set to remind me to wake, to take medication, and to go to sleep. I’d like to add more, to utilize reminders for other regular chores and to-do items, and to start setting timers to help me move through reading, writing, and cleaning, to remind me to work through one task at a time, and to keep track of what tasks are next. Habits are hard to establish, and there is no shame in seeking help.

 Complete one small house project. The laundry room is in desperate need of a deep clean. The basement storage area needs purging. The water heater needs to be drained for the season, and the roof over the back deck needs repairs. Those are just a few off the top of my head projects I could do around the house to pass the time, keep my mind occupied, and achieve a feeling of accomplishment and usefulness. More than writing, or reading, or finishing a course, this would be the best use of my time stuck at home.

Update: Again, it’s been hard to find the motivation, but the energy has eluded me too. I did have my infusion this week, and perhaps I was asking too much of myself after being pumped full of medication. I’m always a little fatigued after these things, and I failed to remember that. Luckily the feeling fades quickly and I should feel a little more myself in the coming days.

Read to page 900 of It by Stephen King. I’m making a lot of progress through tis book so far, and if I keep up the pace, I could very easily finish this massive novel by the end of next week. The trick is to give up some social media time and devote it to reading time, which hasn’t been so hard now that I’m limiting my access to the news. I’ve moved my news check time to 5:00 PM and around 7:00 I put my phone away and take out my book until it’s time for bed. Bonus: Finish two books from my Little Black Classics set and choose an ebook to download and read from my old iPad.

Update: I’ve been spending time reading almost every evening and a couple of days I made sure to read away from the TV and from my phone in order to avoid any distraction. The effort paid off, and I was able to make it all the way to page 1,045 and have just over 100 left to go. I decided to focus fully on reading It since it’s such a long book and skip the catching up on my Penguin Little Black Classics. Going forward I am going to keep my reading goals much more narrowed and focused until I can finally move on from this tome.

Keep in touch with my family and friends. Last Friday, I checked in on my friends. Yesterday my dad called and last night my wife and I joined a “family day” call on Snapchat. My cousin calls regularly to check in on us, and I’ve been texting my mom every other day or so. I miss everyone so much and I am so worried all the time for them, but it helps to call, connect, and vent. It helps to hear they are fine, they are hopeful, they are getting through it the same as me. For my mental health, and for their’s too, it’s important not to forget to reach out.

Update: Time simply got away from me and I didn’t get to make all the calls I wanted to. Most of the checking in I did was after others had called me which was good but if I’m honest was not what I meant when I set this goal. I am happy to report that as of right now all my close friends and family are still feeling well and many were able to begin working from home and others who were without work found temporary work.

Stay well, emotionally and physically. I haven’t been feeling great these past few days and I’m really worried about either contracting the virus or falling back into an ulcerative colitis flare because I am worried about the virus. I’ve already been washing my hands more, using hand sanitizer, and drastically limiting my exposure to the general public, but there’s more I need to do for me too. I have to take all of my medications and my supplements on time. I have to eat regularly and eat healthy. I have to limit my access to the news, and I may even start meditating again. I should get out and walk around the block more, see the sun, forget the crisis all around me.

Update: I haven’t been great at taking all of my medications or eating meals on time but progress was definitely made. I made it to my infusion appointment, ordered all of my medications that were getting low, and took every precaution when I had to leave the house. My wife and I are both feeling well and avoiding leaving the house as much as possible. I’m still very worried that in a week or so one or both of us will come down with symptoms but all I can do is take it day by day and today we are as well physically and emotionally and anyone can expect.

This week I will not feel guilty for enjoying this time. I have flashes of happiness and contentment over my spontaneous staycation away from work, and I almost always feel bad for it. People are suffering and dying, losing money and losing their homes, and I’m not, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get to be happy either. Who knows what hardships are in my future too and the truth is any shred of joy or even peace that I can find now may be just the kind of memory I will need to hold on to later when times turn rougher and more uncertain.


P.S. For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 12.

Photo by kyler trautner on Unsplash

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I’m back in the creativity room again and it feels really good. The couch is nice but the T.V. is distracting and to be honest as much as my wife and I love each other it isn’t good for us to be in the same room too many days in a row. I’m grateful not to have to go through this social isolation alone, but it does require an adjustment period and a lot of sensitivity and flexibility when you are married. We’re working out how much time together is too much and how to express thoughtfully and sensitively whenever either of us needs space.

I’m glad it is a given that both of us would have different schedules and projects around the house throughout the day, just as if we were at work. We’re still working out how which part of the day should be spent together, but I think the answer is easy, the evenings and weekends as it’s always been.

So far we are coping with the shut in okay. I’m more worried about my loved ones, some of which are still being expected to work and others who have found themselves temporarily unemployed and without pay. I worry they will get sick and I worry they will lose their homes or have their utilities shut off.

And the worry is taking a toll, too. My stomach has been hurting for a couple of days now and only getting worse. I’m worried about another ulcerative colitis flare. That’s the last thing I need to deal with right now. (Although on second thought if I had to go into a flare this would be the best time. Well, if it weren’t for the shortage of toilet paper, that is.) I know the healthcare system has bigger worries and I am sure my doctors are otherwise occupied. I don’t think I would have the usual support if I flared right now.

It seems there is no part of life this pandemic isn’t touching.

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Today is a do nothing day. I’ve spent it in the bright and roomy corner of the couch reading while the cat and dog alternate turns cuddling with me. My wife is at the other end playing all the Divergent movies back to back. Her foot taps mine every once in a while to reassure us both, and between movies we alternate fetching snacks. It’s a true Saturday, not just a day cooped up at home. It helps if you feel like you chose it; you know?

I’m not in love with the book I’m reading but I’ve put in so much time and tried so hard that I have to see the nearly 1,200 page tome through to the end. I would have finished It by now if it weren’t for the sheer size of the thing and I’m rethinking my aversion to ebooks again because of it. I recently had a chat with an old fan of the blog and his questions reminded me that I have an old iPad lying around that could serve as an e-reader once I delete every other app installed.

When I’m done with It I’ll give e-books a real try. I have enough money in gift cards to try some contemporary reads without investing too much.

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It’s getting harder and harder to find a routine. My instinct is to treat every day like it’s Saturday until the Sunday before I must return to work finally comes along, but Saturday’s have always been about escape. They are about anything but work and routine. Every weekend was all fun, and rest, and fulfillment, until finally, they had to be for preparation, but they were never the work or the routine.

A month or more of Saturday’s sounds like fun, but time spent only in rest and escape is just as off-balance and unhealthy as life too devoted to work and productivity.

Before this age of social distancing, I spent my free time trying to work out how to include leisure in my life. Now I’m trying to find time for work. What is my work now that my day job is closed? What can I do now that I must do it alone and from home? How can my days be structured, so that something is being accomplished and a healthy balance is being achieved?

These are the kinds of questions I am trying to answer now and my worry is that by the time I answer them it will be time to return to the old balance and routine and I will have wasted time overthinking my role in this pandemic.

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After many long months of winter the first day of spring is finally here and in true Colorado fashion it is also the first day of snow we’ve had for nearly a month. Rain was falling softly when I woke up, but within a couple of hours the flakes were falling and the snow was beginning to stick. The wind is blowing hard now, and it’s clear we will stuck inside for at least the next few days.

My wife woke early and figured with the virus spreading and now a snow storm hitting it might be a good idea to head to the grocery store and pick up a few things, or whatever we can find. We’re growing increasingly worried about a “shelter in place” order and increased panic buying from the public. We’re worried the supply chain being disrupted and being our one-two week store of food running out before society stabilizes.

Since it was early, she was able to bring home toilet paper, cereal, and a little meat to freeze in case, but she said there wasn’t much and the trip was somewhat nerve-wracking. I’m hoping we won’t have to go back out again until sometime next week. 

Other than that, we are doing fine. We’re bored. We’re eating too much. We’re sleeping too much. Our nerves are growing a little frayed, but we’re fine. I think as soon as the weather turns around we’re going to go hiking. I’d like to go hiking as much as possible during this time of social isolation. Immersing myself in nature feels like the only salve for this never ending anxiety and fear I feel now. 

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I got up a bit earlier than yesterday. I’m trying hard to keep to some kind of schedule and to make sure when I do get up that I am not just watching T.V. (especially the news) and I’m not just scrolling social media. I am losing the battle to limit myself, but it’s so hard now that life as we know it is changing by the hour.

The weather was gorgeous today and, knowing tomorrow would be quite the opposite, my wife and I opted to unplug and get out for a long walk with the dog. It felt good to move my body, to fun and laugh and to pretend for a while that everything was back to normal again.

The relief didn’t last long. As soon as we got back home, I started seeing reports and rumors about another extension of the already extended Spring break. The Governor announced today that it’s becoming increasingly unlikely that schools across the city will reopen before summer break. My mind is struggled to wrap around the idea of two weeks away from work, two months or more away is unimaginable. It already hard enough to stay busy and to keep our minds occupied as it is, I’m not sure how we will make it through another month.

Or, I know we will make it, but I’m not sure what we will have to do to make it or how we will have changed when we do. I suppose that applies to each of us, no matter what our location or circumstance is. I suppose this applies to us all as a collective city, state, country, and species.


News just came in that all Colorado school districts will be closed for the next month. We will not return until April 20th, at least. It’s nerve-wracking, but at the same time I am so grateful. I know I am one of the lucky ones by far. I will be getting paid for this time off and I’m not even being asked to work from home. I know that, financially, I will make it through this just fine and all I have to worry about now is keeping the food and essentials in the house.

Since we are so lucky we’ll be looking for ways to help those less fortunate than us get through this confusing and terrifying time whether that means volunteering (unlikely due to both of us having chronic conditions) or through donations in the form of cash or goods. We’ll be ordering food through take out or delivery and buying gift cards to help keep local businesses afloat.

We’re all in this together and my hope is that by the end, whenever that is and whatever that looks like, the world will have changed in every way for the better. My hope is that this will be a reminder that humans cannot survive or thrive without other humans, and we learn to care a little more for one another for the good of us all. I don’t want all of this to have been in vain.

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I’m up a little later than I wanted to be (the story of my life) but not later than I need to be. I have time for a few words here and to prepare for my CPR Instructors course at a leisurely pace. My anxiety is sky high. This is very far outside of my comfort zone and my usual schedule and to my body and many parts of my mind that means danger. I’m trying to stay calm, to breathe, to be confident, but I’m battling myself and those battles are the easiest to lose.

Still, I am somewhat excited too. I’m excited about what comes after today (and after the world begins to recover and life returns to some semblance of normalcy and safety). I’m excited to be able to teach people how to save lives. Like, how awesome is that? I get to teach people to save lives! So, even though my body is indicating otherwise, this is far from bad or dangerous. This is actually really exciting.


I’m done! I made it through almost 7 hours of CPR instructor class and passed with flying colors. I demonstrated my skills, passed the written test, and learned how to help people perform the same skills more effectively. The class as a whole was easier than I anticipated, but longer. It was also a little strange to take this course in the midst of a global pandemic.

Precautions were taken to avoid any close contact between my classmates and I. We sat 6 feet apart and did not share any equipment, and after leaving or entering the room we had to wash our hands and use hand sanitizer and the entire room was disinfected while we went to lunch.

All the restaurants in the city are either closed or offering take out or delivery only. It’s hard to know which is which though until you get there. It took a few stops, but we finally found a burger place who’s drive through was still open. It’s strange to think about how much and how rapidly the world has changed in just the past few weeks. It’s disorienting, upsetting, and somehow, freeing.

Everything can change whenever we want it too. For better or worse, the world can be anything we want it to be, and it doesn’t have to take lifetimes. We’ve proven that much.

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Everything is changing so fast and in ways I couldn’t have imagined a week or two ago. I feel as though I’m living in shock, in limbo, and always on the edge of something worse and more frightening. Very little is within my control anymore, and life is becoming less and less predictable every day.

It’s hard not to be so aware. I’m trying to limit how much news and social media I consume, but not knowing what is happening every minute is hard to cope with. Watching my favorite movies helps, and finding tasks to complete. I did our taxes, made some phone calls, finished the laundry and worked on my to-do/logbook system and schedule. I still planned our meals for the week and I’ll prep our breakfasts for the next 4 or 5 days too. I’m trying to keep to some semblance of my old schedule.

Tomorrow I have a CPR Instructors class. I called the center today to confirm it hadn’t been cancelled and when he told me it was still on, I felt disappointed and a little afraid. Even with all the precautions, I’m still weary of going out. I know that for many the virus presents with mild symptoms, but not for all. I’m worried about catching the virus, of being hospitalized, of not being able to breathe. At the same time, I have every intention of attending my movie party tomorrow night, so I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective and priorities.


Update: My movie party has been canceled. The theater chain announced tonight that nearly all of their locations across country were closing down and even if they hadn’t the Governor called for all restaurants, bars, movie theaters, gyms, and coffeehouses closed for 30 days, anyway. I know why it had to happen, but I’m heartbroken. It was the one bright spot in the next two+ weeks of dystopian hell.

Goals // Week 12: Peace and Productivity

This week, despite all the bad news and the spreading novel coronavirus outbreak, will be a good week. Spring has arrived, the weather is sunny and warm, and I don’t have to work at all. I’m still riding the high of my promotion being made official and I have at least two events I’ve been looking forward to coming up, including a St. Patrick’s Day movie party at my favorite theater. I know I am supposed to be practicing social distancing and isolation, but I promise you I am taking all proper precautions. I’m looking forward to peace and productivity.

This week I will:

Read for one hour every day. I’ve fallen behind in my reading goals for the past couple of weeks or more, but now that I’m home for an extended Spring break I will have plenty of time to catch up. I had hoped to be finished or nearly finished with It by now but the book is so long and Stephen King is so long-winded in this one that I am finding it hard to keep up any pace at all. I’m over halfway through though and I cannot allow too much time to pass or for the time I’ve invested to be wasted.

Update: To be honest I did not read every day but instead I’m marking it done by counting my time through averages. There were days when all I did was read, and there were days when I didn’t read at all. I made a lot of progress and even though I’ve fallen “two books behind schedule” I know it’s only because this particular one is so long. I fully expect to start catching up in the next week are two.

 Write two blog posts. One for my personal blog here and for my other blog, Zen and Pi. I’ve been wanting to both write more substantial pieces here and to turn Z+P into a proper publication, but since I have been working my ass off to earn this promotion, I simply haven’t had the time. Well, I finally earned that promotion and now it’s time to find a proper balance between my day job and my personal pursuits. It’s time to pick a direction and do the work for me.

Update: This goal and all writing goals I have set for my blogs have been too big and too broad. Going forward I am going to start breaking them down into steps like: Choose 2 prompts or concepts to explore. Free write for one hour around these topics. Find key concepts and organize them. Find supporting quotes, ect. This week I chose a couple of prompts and I have spent time free writing on both. This will get easier!

 Walk at least three days this week. It’s going to be hard to practice social distancing and isolation and to cope with all the time away from work. To keep from going stir crazy, it might help to get out in the sun and around the neighborhood for a few minutes every afternoon. The extended forecast predicts warm temperatures through Thursday, and after that we’re looking at drizzle through Sunday. Better take advantage of the good days while you can so the cold and lonely ones won’t be so bad.

Update: I only managed to get out and around the neighborhood for one day and although there were a few days of frigid and snowy weather I could have done much better. I have to find a time that works for me. The mornings are preferable, but they are still too cold. The afternoons are warmer, but I am too tired by then. The closer we get to summer the easier this will be, but for now I still have to force it.

Get through my CPR Instructor’s course. I had thought that my class would be canceled but according to their website all classes are still on but extra precautions are being taken. I’ll be expected to wash my hands as soon as I enter the building and then to use hand sanitizer, alcohol, and gloves, and to keep my own personal mask and one-way valve. I was already nervous about the class itself, but now I’m worried about the virus too, but I can’t let my anxiety get to me. I can’t panic or let opportunities slip by.

Update: I really had nothing to worry about. The class was easy and enjoyable and getting through it really boosted my confidence in both my skills and my ability to teach those skills to others. I’m really excited to return to work and to start practicing the process of certifying others to help save lives.

Finish my taxes. I was supposed to have the forms filled out and sent off a month ago, but I’ve been doing that thing I always do when I’m afraid. I’ve been avoiding it, putting it off, forgetting it, and telling myself there is plenty of time, that there are more important things, that it can wait, wait, wait. Well, I can’t wait anymore. There are new goals and bigger milestones I want to meet financially and I cannot move forward with those goals until I get this done, taken care of, and paid.

Update: I got as far as I could for now, and I am happy to report that the damage is not any worse than I expected it to be. I was happy to hear the IRS has relieved some pressure on all of us and extended the deadline, though I still have every intention of finishing before April 15th. I feel better knowing where we stand and knowing that next year will be so much better for us both.

Limit access to the news. Yes, there is a pandemic happening and every day there is new information, guidelines, and closings I need to be aware of but staying connected 24/7 has really taken a toll on my mental health and I need to step away if I’m going to be able to make it through these difficult, confusing, and terrifying times. I have to unplug, step away, and redirect for more of my day. I have to focus inward, on the immediate, on what is close and what is under my control.

Update: This has been a lot easier to do than I thought it would be. I went from running CBS News all day and obsessively refreshing local news Twitter accounts to listening for one hour in the morning tops and checking those Twitter accounts only after 4 or 5 in the evening. It helps when you accept that between those times not much is happening or being reported anyway, and all you are hearing is either redundant or speculation.

This week I will not panic. Life as we know it is changing every day. More and more people are testing positive for the virus and more and more are undiagnosed cases are suspected. The stores are out of the essentials we all need and everyday social restriction grow tighter and tighter. This week, I will not let despair and worry get the better of me. I will not let listlessness and loneliness keep me from using this time wisely. I will not lose patience with myself. I will not try to control what I can’t. I will not forget that we will all get through this together, if separately. I will not forget there is light at the end of this tunnel, somewhere.


P.S. For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 11.

Photo by kyler trautner on Unsplash