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This, too.

The grief caught up with me, today.

Sara Lobkovich
Sara Lobkovich
7 min read

It’s day nobody knows of #stayhome — actually, a quick search for “how many days since 3/13/2020 yields the answer: 70.

But today is a Blursday — it’s my “bonus Saturday” since it’s an extra day off for a little R&R over the long weekend

and as I said on Twitter earlier today:

And Chris keeps asking what I need, or whether he can do anything, and I don’t know how to answer, so what I know how to do is putter in the garden and take the dog for a walk, then turn to the serendipity of two suggestions in as many weeks

(thank you, sober book club and brunch ladies, and Deidre ❤️)

to revisit Radical Acceptance, by Tara Brach (shop local in Seattle or support my local tiny bookshop by ordering online at this link) and sob through the first few chapters that are so familiar to me I can recite entire sentences but somehow I still haven’t internalized these lessons

so I figured it’s as good a day as any to stop postponing my daily reminder that I’ve missed several issues according to my pre-pandemic commitment to myself to publish every other Tuesday by 11am. Pandemic-self says: cut yourself some slack. So here we are.

Because of my (well-controlled, gratefully) autoimmune disease we’ve been on the risk-minimizing side of isolation: staying home, physically distancing, wearing masks, hand hygiene, and avoiding non-essential trips. We’ve been riding our bicycles close to home (which has been a godsend) for both of our well-being. We have yet to get the motorcycles out but that’s coming soon (carefully) — the bikes are Chris’s livelihood, so some other time maybe I’ll share more about the adventure that is starting a new service business during a global pandemic.

And a few weeks ago we made the call (after consulting with my primary care doctor and my counselor) to resume our visitation with Chris’s girls, which has been necessary and good. So with that decision to “break quarantine” and with the phase 1 guidelines applying here in our part of Washington, we’re figuring out what our next new normal looks like as we come out of isolation.

For us that looks like mostly staying home, with only our girls (and their mom’s household as a result) being added to our “germ circle.” It means doing some of our own grocery shopping — our favorite international markets aren’t covered by the delivery services — although we’re still using Dumpling for routine grocery deliveries too, since now that we have a regular shopper the experience is much better (for her, and for us). It means resuming my routine medical appointments as providers reopen. It means — based on consultation with my docs — putting plans in place to mitigate the risks of the things we do instead of not doing anything. So we’re working on de-risking our planned summer vacation for a few days at the track in June

which feels so strange to me given that I don’t really remember how to ride a motorcycle at the moment

but Chris tells me I’ll remember.

It means masks and hygiene and avoiding public restrooms per medical advice unless it’s unavoidable, and in that case, following a germophobic public restroom hygiene plan.

And for us, it means placing money into human hands whenever possible and supporting the people, businesses and organizations that we want to survive this whenever and however possible.

This morning our plan was to get out early for a trip to Uwajimaya. Our grocery shopper doesn’t routinely go there and we didn’t want her to have to make a separate trip, plus our staples aren’t things that are easy for the average shopper to spot. One of Chris’s super powers is finding delicious, funky (as in fermented) condiments and staples that also happen to be celiac-safe, which is no small task in an Asian market.

It’s my first day off since — maybe — starting my new job in February? I can’t remember. I love my work, I love my job. It’s a refuge of normalcy in a totally abnormal world, so I spend most of my time fully immersed in work and then resting. I’m in the deep focus zone of work from the moment I wake up (most days) until the time Chris pries me away from the office desk for dinner or a bike ride in the evening or the dog insists on a walk. And then my evenings and weekends are “rest” — playing games with Chris and the kids, going for walks and bike rides, watching too much television, gardening. It’s a cadence of so much work that’s so engaging and immersive I don’t really notice the outside world and then flat-out rest — that I haven’t had to spend much time feeling.

So as we drove through Seattle looking at boarded up storefronts and seeing the mix of masked and unmasked people out in the world waiting for buses and walking down the city sidewalks and standing in socially distanced lines outside of establishments

and then got to Uwajimaya where — due to construction only the basics are currently available, in a much smaller footprint than usual

the grocery checkouts now behind plexiglass panels

my daily ignorance of it all fell away in favor of waves of grief

grief for all of the suffering and lives lost

grief that I used to find comfort in my friend Atina’s updates from our future — she lives in Taiwan, so in the early days of this, along with care packages of masks she was sending us messages from a few weeks in our future to help us acclimatize to the new normal that was headed our way. Now, she’s living in a country that’s a relative success story in its handling of COVID-19 and we’re still here. We’re lucky to live in a state and county with leadership that’s doing the best they can to balance all of the complicated interests involved with navigating this pandemic; and that my work can be done from home and the company I work for and our clients are all going above and beyond to help us all work from home healthfully and safely during the pandemic. But our federal government has squandered precious time during the last nearly six months and shows no sign of getting with the program in any coordinated or organized way

so I feel grief for the decline of many of the public institutions that I’ve worked for and believed in

and selfishly and on a smaller and more personal scale, I feel grief at having to navigate another round of identity theft mitigation since I was one of the Washington residents to get swept up by the unemployment claim fraud that’s affecting so many in our state.

And I feel grief for not being able to help one of my dearests with her new baby in the way I’d imagined … although I did suggest today that perhaps, if he continues his fussing, we just all sit down together properly distanced in one of our backyards to cry, together.

And I feel grief for the loss of someone dear to me, who passed recently after a short, sudden, unexpected illness.

Years ago, I had a perfect storm of a few months where I planned to move, gave notice on my apartment, my mom got (seriously) sick and our family spent most of a month reorganizing ourselves around her physical survival (she did, and she’s doing great now, all things considered). With two days left on my notice period, I moved everything I owned into a tiny storage unit and then headed out on six weeks straight of work travel by car, ping-ponging all over the Western US and British Columbia. The plan was to sofa-surf at a boyfriend’s place when I returned until I could figure out a living arrangement but during my six weeks on the road, for a variety of reasons, that became Not An Option.

So after my travel bender I drove into Seattle without a plan, without a place to stay, and without much means to address the situation. I started looking for a room to rent, but it’s not a fast process here, so I spent a few nights camped out in my car just trying to get my bearings, which proved difficult anywhere in the city — and even outside of it — where it was hard to find open and available campgrounds. I became a regular at a KOA in Kent, but if I wasn’t there in time to get a site, I was out of luck. I’d exhausted my welcome with friends and family, my feral animal-ness a little too close to the surface to be polite company, especially since most of my close people had babies at home and their hands absolutely full without welcoming a wild animal vagabond into their homes.

And one night, too tired to drive out of the city to find camping, too overwhelmed by polite “no, I’m sorry, we don’t have room for you tonight”s from friends and family I made one last phone call.

“I know this is out of the blue, but I need a place to sleep tonight. Is there any chance your sofa is available?” I asked, feeling my near-brokenness as the words passed my lips and I braced myself for another kind “no.”

“Of course,” she surprised me. “I only have one question: red, or white?”

She meant wine, and I don’t recall how I answered, but her “of course” and that question changed me for literally ever.

I drove to her apartment and she met me at the door with a glass of wine. We sat and talked about I don’t remember what, but I knew I was safe and loved and somehow my “everything will be ok” tank felt topped off, and it wasn’t long before I was curled up asleep for a fitful few hours before sneaking quietly out during the wee hours of the morning to drive to an overlook in West Seattle where I’d find myself spending the sunrise hours whenever I couldn’t sleep, gazing lazily over the city that wasn’t yet my home.

Since then, I can’t tell you how many times a friend’s phone call has been answered with “Of course, red or white?” — and even though we don’t drink these days, we keep a stash of the good stuff for just such an occasion. And every living situation I’ve been in since has come with the disclaimer that if you live with me, you live with our door open to those we love who need it. Chris has proven an especially compatible companion on that front, living by a similar code himself: “Of course, have you eaten?”

So as we say our strange goodbyes to someone so special to my family without being able to physically comfort each other; as we figure out how to gather to mourn our grief and loss, and to support her surviving family who has been through so very much without the ability to be physically present together

my grief, and my empathy for the suffering all over the world today, is overwhelming.

So now I’ll stop typing and change into my riding clothes and get out for a bike ride and then tomorrow I think I’ll try getting back on the motorcycle to see if I remember how to ride it. But now that I’ve started crying I’m not sure how to stop.

This, too.



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