My Quarantine Life: Week 64

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It has now been over a year that I have been in isolation. Since losing my job in April, I have switched my grocery orders from delivery to curbside pickup to save money on delivery tip fees. I drive to the grocery store, park in a special parking space, and someone brings my groceries out and puts them in the trunk of my car all contact free.

As long as delivery and/or pickup options are available, I do not see myself ever going into a grocery store again. I am okay with that. With my disability, it has actually been a huge positive for me to use these services. I no longer have to worry about falling in the store (it’s happened before). I also do not have grocery store trips zapping all of my limited energy. I can use my energy for other things like work, the cats, and running.

I am scheduled for an in-person doctor appointment in July, as they have to do bloodwork. It will be my first in-person doctor appointment in a year. They have done all of my other doctor appointments this past year virtually. 

My life has changed dramatically as the result of the pandemic. The changes are all permanent. You can draw a line in the sand of the timeline of my life: before the pandemic and now. I do not foresee anything ever going back to how it was before.

I am extremely grateful that I was able to obtain the professional set of clippers last year. (If you remember there was a huge shortage of hair clippers early in the pandemic.) I have now been cutting my own hair for well over a year. I am not sure that I will ever feel comfortable or safe going back to a salon. There is no point, really. I am saving myself at least $50, if not more, by cutting it myself. 

Sure, it might be nice to have someone else cut it once or twice a year as a treat. It is challenging to cut the back of my head and neck. However, I am perfectly fine and self-sufficient taking care of my own hair now. I am keeping the buzz cut. It has helped me tremendously with my heat-induced MS symptoms. There are many other positives to this cut as well, which I have blogged about before.

Due to pandemic shortages, I have stopped using almost all disposable paper products and have changed everything over to cloth. Of course, that means my washing machine needs to be a workhorse. But I am also saving money by not needing disposable products. I am using cloth cleaning rags, cloth feminine hygiene pads, and cloth baby wipes for pee to cut down on toilet paper use (hard to get and expensive).

My dryer recently died. I am now going without a dryer as it is not a necessity and I do not have the money to replace it being unemployed. I am hanging clothes to dry indoors. We are not allowed to hang clothes outside to dry here. While lack of a dryer makes my life more challenging, it will hopefully also decrease my electric bill since it is no longer running and being used. In fact, I completely unplugged it.

I am okay wearing a mask 100% every single place I go. 

Yesterday, I had to have two workers in the basement to replace my hot water heater. They were surprised I was wearing a mask. One worker was fully vaccinated and the other worker stated he had COVID previously. I wore my mask and kept my distance out of their way. All of the doors and windows were open to allow ventilation. The work took just over two hours. 

I feel better wearing a mask. This pandemic is not over yet. It is reckless and premature to stop wearing a mask now. 

I am okay with not going anywhere. First, I didn’t go out much before the pandemic due to my multiple food allergies. It seems like I was always coming into contact with something and getting the skin allergic reaction. The only places I really went pre-pandemic were the coffee shop, the library, and the gym.

There is no point in going to the coffee shop when I can make coffee at home cheaper. Most of my friends have died in the pandemic, so there is no one to meet anyway.

As far as the library, I can use curbside pickup if I really need something. I have actually been listening to podcasts and audiobooks more instead.

There is no need for a treadmill at the gym. I run outside. When the weather does not cooperate to run outside, I either run in circles on my front porch or do my yoga DVD. I can get by without the gym. 

Other than that, there is no place I need to go.

I have a yard and a firepit. I can put my tent in my yard and roast marshmallows if I want.

I saw a neighbor outside last week who asked me if I get lonely? The answer is yes, I get lonely. However, most of my friends have died of COVID, so what am I going to do? I don’t really have anyone left to visit or socialize with. My socialization is now online. Online is the only way I have to meet new people. I have met some pretty amazing people online these past six months.

I am remote working as long as I can. The only place I really need to go is work. The two part-time jobs I found since I lost my full-time job in April are both remote jobs. I do not start working until later this month. However, I highly value the opportunity to work remotely, so you can be sure that I will work hard at both jobs. I want to retain the privilege to work from home as long as I possibly can.

The pandemic is not over. No one should be risking their life for their job. It’s not worth it. I’m even willing to take less pay to be able to work from home. My life is worth more than any job.

Yes, I am lonely still being in quarantine. However, I am so very happy. I get to be with the cats. I am alive and healthy.

When I get lonely and crave human connection, I can find it online. It’s a new world.

15 months into the pandemic and nothing has changed for me. I have still not been indoors with other humans except for when I have had to have service people in my house. My only goal is to survive the pandemic and be able to take care of the cats. 

I’m still here. I’m alive and well.

My Best Life Now

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There is a country song that talks about living like you are dying. Often, I think that only people with terminal illnesses fully appreciate this song. We do not tend to think about death in everyday life. We are too busy living to think about death.

This past year, I have not been able to avoid death. It has been front and center in my face for the past 15 months. I have lost so many people to COVID. If bad luck comes in 3’s, I have reached it. COVID deaths, job loss, and identity theft. The pandemic has been life changing.

A few months ago, I started a photo project to curate my photos into a collection of the greatest hits of my life. I now have one photo album of 200 photos of my happiest memories. Curating the collection was an amazing experience. I made the book in case I end up in a nursing home or for when I die, I can lay there and look at my happiest moments.

While that may sound sad, in reality, it is making me very happy. I am enjoying the book now. It beings me such joy to remember and relive happy times in my life. My photo album reminds me to be grateful of all the wonderful things that have happened to me in life. Even though this past year has been downright horrid, I have had a lot of positives in my life up until this point.

Looking back on my greatest hits photo collection, I also realize that I have a lot to look forward to. There have been a lot of huge changes in my life as the result of the pandemic. You don’t grow and change without a little pain.

As difficult as things may be right now, with no job and no unemployment due to identity theft, I realize that I am actually living my best life right now.

I am secure in who I am as a person. I have goals in life. My goals are simple – to keep my family together and to keep us all safe. When I do die, what I will remember and think about is my family. It won’t matter what jobs I had or what I did for a living.

Work is what you do to pay the bills so that you can live your best life.

My best life is being home with the cats and running. In order to meet both those goals, I have to keep us all housed and together. I have to keep us all COVID-free in a reckless world that mistakenly thinks the pandemic is over. (Far from it – in fact, this is the most dangerous phase of the pandemic yet.)

My future goals are to continue to work remote permanently. I want to be home with my cats so we are together and safe. As long as I am doing respectable work that pays the bills, it doesn’t really matter what I do. All that matters is that we are together.

I recently found two part-time jobs that both allow me to work remotely. I have started one job, and I love it! I have returned to teaching, which is truly my passion. The other part-time job is a remote office position that does not start until late June. I am confident that I can make it work, as it is a prestigious and professional company. They value my skills and my life by allowing me to work from home. In return, I will work very hard for them. I value the privilege that remote work bring in allowing me to realize my goals and dreams.

Losing my job was the biggest threat to my life, family, health and safety I have ever faced. However, it has resulted in great opportunity. I now have the opportunity to live my best life. 

Being able to keep the cats together and outlive them is my only goal. It’s pretty easy to be happy in life when you are happy about what you have and don’t want much. I just want to keep the cats and I together and take care of them.

I am doing my best to pick up the pieces of the worst situation and move on. 

No matter what the future may bring, I can confidently say that I am reaching for my dreams and achieving them. I am truly living my best life now.

The Gorges

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Disclaimer: This post discusses the very sensitive topic of suicide and mental illness and may not be suitable for all readers. If you are having thoughts of suicide, please call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

The bells went off at 1:38 am. This was an outside alarm, not an inside one. That means instead of just heading down the hall in cartoon slippers to listen to someone’s dilusions, I actually had to leave the building for action. I was the counseling member of the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (CPEP) team. It was time to be mobile.

Awoken from a dead sleep, I was disoriented at finding myself in the on-call room of the hospital. It was hard to believe I had only been passed out on my cot for 15 minutes. As I raced down the hall, the other three members of the team were with me.

We quickly loaded into two vehicles. I rode shotgun in a plain sedan driven by a plainclothes police officer. The officer was just there for my protection in case the person had a weapon. In over 90% of cases, the person had a weapon. Granted they were usually using it on themselves, but occasionally, it was pointed at me. I’m just a therapist who weighs 100 pounds soaking wet.

They plainclothes police officer often just watched. The other two members of the team were EMTs. The both went in the ambulance. We raced through the city streets with lights flashing, but sirens silent. We never used sirens on these calls. It may spook someone into doing something rash. Besides, what they were doing wasn’t a crime. They just needed help. 

Over half of our calls took us to the gorges. The gorges were where people went to jump. We were averaging four jumpers a month. The city is home to a popular ivy league university that is well known for it’s high suicide rate. It has one of the highest suicide rates of all colleges and universities in the entire country. 

We make it to the gorges in record time. The 911 call came from a bystander. Someone had gone beyond the safety fence to stand dangerously close to the top of the gorge. They were threatening to jump.

I opened the door and was out of the car before we even stopped. I hit the ground running to the spot that was mentioned to us by the bystander. I could just see the person at the top of the gorge through the foliage. 

Almost at the exact moment I came within speaking distance of the person, I watched them fall. I didn’t get the chance to say anything to them.

It was silent. One moment they were there, the next moment they were gone. You always see in movies or imagine someone screaming when they fall. There was no scream, just silence. There was no slow-motion like the movies either. Bodies drop hard and fast. 

Our suicide prevention mission just changed to body recovery. We put a call into the fire department to let them know they would need to bring the helicopter and the propelling team. They were now looking for a body at the bottom of the gorge. No one has ever jumped and come out alive. 

I walked back to the three other members of my team stunned. It was not often that we witnessed the loss of life. We had saved literally thousands of lives over the past few years. In debriefing, we talked about how we did everything we could. We got there as fast as was humanly possible. You just can’t stop a person who truly wants to die. They didn’t even reach out for help – the call had come in from a bystander. 

Oh yes, you can do a psychological autopsy and find the signs of suicide the person exhibited before their death. You can go through all the coulda, shoulda, wouldas. The person is gone. There is no way to bring them back. The only thing we can do is to talk about suicide to remove the stigma. Let people know the signs of suicide so that they are comfortable asking others if they are having thoughts of taking their own life. It is all about normalizing the thoughts, talking about it, and educating others about suicide. 

The other members of the CPEP Team and I returned to the hospital. It was still the early hours of the morning. I returned to the on-call room to go back to sleep. I was exhausted, but needed to be prepared for the next call. 

It felt like only 15 minutes since I laid down when the bells went off again. This was an internal call. It was one brief bell followed by a page. I was being summoned to talk to one of the residents in wing 1-B. This was the locked in-patient psychiatric ward of the hospital. When the bells go off, I never know if I will be paged to someone who is in-patient or someone who just came through the emergency room and is on their way to being admitted for in-patient. If it’s an external call, we could be going into the field.

This call is internal. The technician had me paged because they cannot get the patient to calm down. They need to calm down before they wake up everyone else on the unit.

“What’s going on?” I ask the agitated person. Their shoulders relax. They’ve seen me and spoken with me before. They know I will listen to them and help them work through what they are experiencing. That’s what I am here for. This particular person has had a schizophrenic diagnosis for over 20 years. Every once in awhile, they need a hospital stay, like now. That’s why we are here. I’m here to listen and talk you through this moment.

It’s going to be a long night.

I finish with the person who is in the in-patient unit. I return to the on-call room to go to sleep once again. I barely lay down when the bells go off. It is now 5:24 am. This is an external call. The CPEP Team springs into action once again. 

This call comes from the person themself. They called 911 on themself because they were sitting in their garage with a loaded gun in their mouth. They were going to pull the trigger. But, they called 911. They obviously wanted to live.

We pulled up to the house and I jumped out of the car. I walked towards the garage, the person, and the loaded gun. The rest of the team stayed back. They took their queue off me. 

I walked over to the person while maintaining a respectable distance. I did not want them to get antsy or trigger happy if I got too close. I was surprised to see that I knew this person. It was someone I had grown up with as a child. I don’t mention that fact. I blatantly ignore our prior association. I’m here to try to save their life, not to make small talk.

We do talk. In fact, we spend about an hour talking. We do all of this with the rest of the team hanging back and watching to see what we need. We talk about why this person wants to die. We talk about why they want to live. Eventually, I get the person to take the bullets out of the gun.

The person sits there with the gun in one hand. The other hand is massaging the bullets. I listen to the sound of metal clanking. We keep talking about why this person wants to live and how important it is. There is a future. We should not make a permanent action based on a temporary situation. I get the person to put the gun down. 

The EMTs move in and assist the person onto the stretcher. We are transporting the person to the hospital for advanced psychiatric care. 

When we arrive at the hospital, I will not be doing the intake. I will be handing the person off to other staff in the psychiatric unit. My job is only to respond to the immediate crisis, defuse the crisis, and transfer the person to more advanced care. 

It was the last call of the shift, and I have a lot of paperwork to do. There will be no more sleep tonight. I have to fill out paperwork on every case I work and every person to whom I respond. 

Since over 50% of our external CPEP calls were to the gorges, we did a lot of advocacy around those gorges. How do we prevent people from jumping? We can talk about suicide, we can post the Lifeline number, 1-800-273-TALK. We installed fencing to try to block access to the gorges. People simply climb the fences. If you truly want to die, you will find a way. 

Many people jump from the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco too. They put up netting under the bridge to catch people who jump so they have a better chance of saving their life. We decided to try to do the same with the gorges. We kicked off this massive fundraising effort to try to raise money to purchase nets for the gorges. 

We wanted to be able to prevent people from reaching the bottom of the gorges. The fall was always lethal.

The nets were installed. There was actually a lot of technology involved with them. The tension was set so that if a body landed in the nets, it would set off the alarm for the CPEP team. We knew we needed to respond to a live person in the net. The person was in need of emergency psychiatric care. 

When the nets were first installed, the tension settings were too sensitive. We had squirrels that would land in the net and set off the sensors. Personally, I didn’t mind. I was happy to respond to a confused squirrel caught in the net. At least it wasn’t a person trying to take their own life.

Eventually, we got a handle on the technology so that now the nets only react if there is an actual human there. 

I performed my duties as a mental health first responder for about four years before I stopped. As you can probably imagine, burnout is extremely high in the field of suicide prevention. I needed a break. Self-care is important in any psychiatric profession. If you do not take care of yourself, you cannot take care of others. You cannot pour water from an empty pitcher.

Last month I lost my job. I have been applying for new jobs. I reached out to my former employers to let them know I was job searching and to confirm that they were still able to give me a reference.

In this process, I reached out to the agency I worked with when I was providing suicide prevention services. They asked me if I would want to pick up a shift.

Even though I really need the money, and I KNOW I am not supposed to “turn down work,” I said no. I have had over 10 friends and family members die of COVID this past year. I have been on the phone with some of them as they died. There is no way I can go back to working with people who are actively trying to take their own life ON PURPOSE right now. I have lost so much to COVID. Life is so precious. I don’t think I can handle working in the field of suicide prevention right now. 

If I were to go back out into the field to do this work, and break down, that would be horrible. It wouldn’t be fair to the person whose life I am trying to save and it would not be fair to me. I just can’t do it right now.

I’m sure I’m going to get a lot of backlash for turning down work when I’m unemployed, but after what I have experienced in the pandemic this past year, I just can’t anymore. I have nothing more to give.

Please remember that if you are having thoughts of suicide to call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. There are trained counselors on the line able to talk to you 24/7. They will not respond in-person like I did on the CPEP team. You can talk to them by phone. I also answered the suicide prevention lifeline when I was not actively responding to CPEP calls. 

Someone is there to listen. Always. Call 1-800-273-8255

Through a Bus Window

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Note: The following is the true account of how I experienced graduate school starting back in 2011. I worked three jobs and battled homelessness. Many people will ask, “well why didn’t you move?” 

It’s not that simple. First, rents in Boston at the time were 5x what I was paying in Upstate New York. In Upstate New York, I lived in a 2-bedroom apartment with two cats. For 5x what I was paying in rural New York, in Boston I would have had: a single one-room the size of a closet in a house shared with 9 other people. I would not have been able to take my cats. I will not live without my cats. Not to mention, in order to afford the 5x rent, I would have had to take on a job that was paying me $2 less per hour. Even if you are not good at math, you should be able to figure out that living in Boston was not affordable. It is one of the top 3 most expensive cities to live in the United States. 

So, this is the story of my graduate school commute and what I did to receive an education.

Other people will ask, “well why go to school in Boston? Why not go to school in New York?” I had that idea too. The problem is that no schools in New York State accepted me for admission to graduate school. All of the schools that accepted me were in Boston.

It was my dream at the time to return to Boston. I left in 1997 and regretted that decision. Leaving Boston in the 90s was my only regret. I was trying to rectify it. So here is what one of my weeks looked like and how I came to live my life through a bus window.

Monday

It’s 8 pm on Monday night and I am driving home from work in the pouring rain. It will take roughly an hour to get home. I am exhausted, as I have been going all day. I will be so happy when I get home just before 9 pm to see the cats. They need to be fed and Kip needs his medication.

It’s 9 pm. The cats are fed and I have set up the automatic pet feeder to provide them with their next 2 meals. I take as much time as I can to play with them, love them, cuddle them. At 10 pm, it’s time to pick up my back pack and lunch box and head out the door.

At 10 pm, I start the hour long drive to the city of Binghamton, NY. In Binghamton, I arrive at a friend’s house. I park the car without going inside. The friend is someone who I went to undergrad school with at Binghamton University while finishing my bachelors degree. She has given me permission to park my car in her driveway so that I can avoid parking lot fees in Binghamton.

At 11 pm, I leave the car in my friend’s driveway. I put on my backpack, pick up my lunch box, and start walking 3 miles to the bus station. It’s late at night and I am walking through a not very nice part of the city. I am alert. I have to keep moving no matter what the weather is doing. I have to arrive at the bus station before midnight or I will miss my chariot.

At midnight Monday into Tuesday morning, I board a Greyhound bus. I had purchased my ticket more than 2 weeks in advance to get a discounted rate. It was only about $10. My graduate school financial aid was paying for my transportation. 

I decided to ride the bus instead of drive for two reasons. First, I did not want to kill my car with mileage. I was living paycheck to paycheck and did not have money to afford a new car. Second, I was exhausted. I had officially been awake for going on 24 hours. I needed a nap. The one hour drive to Binghamton was hard enough. I did not have it in me to safely drive any further.

At midnight, I board the very crowded Greyhound bus. I hoped for a window seat to rest my head. I tried to sleep as best I could sitting straight up on a crowded bus. I was so exhausted, I was out like a light. My lunch box was under my seat. My backpack was nesteled between my legs to deter theft. My backpack held my laptop and school materials.

Tuesday

It’s 5 am and the sun is rising. I’m awake. I was fortunate enough to get a window seat, so looking out I see the skyline of New York City. For the “city that never sleeps,” it sure looks groggy. Anyone who is out and about is up to no good. I’m being generous with my assessment.

Between 5 am and 6 am, the Greyhound rolls into Times Square. We arrive at the bus station. I have to fight through the crowds to try to go from one bus terminal to another. I have to be sure that no one is pick pocketing me or touching me inappropriately. 

I have my knife in my pocket. I had to use it once to stab a would-be rapist so that I could get away. It was the only time in my life I had ever caused bodily harm to another person, but I did not want to be raped. The unknown assailant had come up and pinned me against a wall in Times Square between terminals. No one in NYC cares what happens around them, so screams are meaningless. I used my knife and ran.

I digress. It is between 5 am and 6 am. I navigate NYC on foot to go between terminals. 

At 6 am, I am on another bus. At least, I hope I’m on another bus at 6 am. It is often late, and I have to take the “next” bus at 7 am. I am going on 5 hours of fitful sleep on a very full bus and almost asleep on my feet.

By 7 am, I am on a bus, even if it wasn’t the one I was supposed to be on. However, it’s going to the right place, so all is well. 

I attempt to sleep on this bus as well. It is full, and the sun is out full force. I am sitting up. I’m so exhausted, I sleep any way. I get about an hour of sleep.

Many people think that I should have been doing my school work on this bus. The problem is that any time I try to read in a moving vehicle, I get motion sickness and vomit. It only happens when I try to read in a vehicle. If I am simply riding, or engaging in almost any other activity that is not reading, I do not get motion sickness. I sleep on the bus as much as I can.

Sometime between 8:30 – 9 am, the bus arrives at South Station in Boston. The city is bustling with the morning commute. I leave the bus terminal and go on foot to the T station. This is the subway system in Boston. I plan to grab a train to campus so I have some time to study before my first class of the day.

I pull my Charlie Card out. The Charlie Card is what holds the fares for the T. I scan my Charlie Card and it says “denied.” I have 80 cents on my Charlie Card. It costs $1.10 to ride the T to campus. I am 30 cents short. I can’t put more money on my Charlie Card. My financial aid for graduate school has not arrived yet. My checking account only has 5 cents left in it. I have no cash.

It’s pouring rain and I walk outside to start the 3 mile walk to campus. I have an umbrella, but it does no good. This was the year it rained so hard in Boston that the baseball field at Fenway Park was flooded under 4 inches of water. I arrive to campus with my feet completely soaked, as well as both legs. The water traveled up my jeans and I was completely wet as if I had no umbrella at all. 

I arrive on campus just in time for my first class. I don’t have time to study. 

I sit in the very back of class hoping no one will notice my rain-soaked state. No one realizes what I just went through to get there. I remove my socks and shoes hoping no one will notice. I try putting them by the heater to dry them out. 

I go through my classes for the day. I eat the food in my lunchbox. My lunchbox has now provided me with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I don’t have money for food. I didn’t even have money for the train. 

I have a reusable coffee mug in my bag, a spoon, and a packet of oatmeal. I go into a convenience store and use the hot water at the coffee station to make my oatmeal. I don’t buy anything. I don’t have any money. I leave as quickly as I can after having taken some hot water in my coffee mug for the oatmeal.

I am in classes all day long. All of my classes are scheduled into Tuesdays and Thursdays. I am a full time graduate student. I am taking 4 classes.

At 8 pm on Tuesday, my classes are done for the day. I head over to the library to work on my reading and class work.

I set an alarm for when I need to leave the library to head back to South Station. I’m lucky I do. I fall asleep in the library. The alarm awakens me. The librarian has a concerned look on her face over the obviously homeless person who looks rumpled after not having slept in a bed or had a real shower in over 24 hours. 

I quickly put all my school materials back in my bag and head towards the door. I have to make it to South Station before 10 pm. 

At 10 pm, South Station is locked for the night. You cannot enter South Station after 10 pm until it is unlocked in the morning. My bus did not leave until 1 am. However, the only way to catch that 1 am bus was to be inside South Station before 10 pm when it was locked.

I walk through the City of Boston from campus to South Station. It is late, but I feel safe. Walking alone at night in Boston is much safer than both NYC and Binghamton, NY. I still have my knife in my pocket. But I know I won’t have to use it here.

I arrive in South Station before 10 pm. Some nights I cut it close. I get in before they lock the doors and head to my terminal. I get in line. I sit in line for my bus for 3 hours. Sometimes I work on school, sometimes I sleep. I try not to sleep. There are pick pockets every where.

Wednesday

At 1 am Wednesday, I board a bus in South Station in Boston. The bus is heading for NYC. I blissfully fall sleep sitting up on a completely full bus.

I transfer busses in NYC to head back to Upstate New York. I am doing the entire trip in reverse. I arrive in Binghamton. I walk 3 miles to my car. I drive an hour home.

I walk in my house so happy to see the cats. I feed them, love them, play with them. I take a shower and repack bag. I have to go to work. But I will see my cats tonight.

I work from noon on Wednesday until 8pm on Wednesday.

At 8 pm on Wednesday, I go through the exact same process I went through on Monday night. I drive an hour home from work. I spend time with the cats. T repack my bag. I drive an hour to Binghamton. I park the car. I walk 3 miles to the bus station. 

At midnight on Wednesday, I am back on a bus again after having worked a full day. I am going back to Boston for my Thursday classes.

Thursday

It’s Thursday. Thursday looks just like my Tuesday. I arrive in Boston. I go to class. I travel back to work through the night.

It is now Thursday night and I have not slept in a bed all week. Every single night I have slept on a bus – Monday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night, Thursday night.

I arrive back home late Friday morning.

Friday 

I am so happy to see the cats. I feed them, spend time with them, love them. I take a shower to wash off the grime and dirt of the city. It is my first shower in two days.

I have to go to work. I repack my bag and set up the automatic pet feeder for the cats yet again.

It’s Friday, and I work at one job from noon to 8 pm.

At 8 pm on Friday, I leave work. I can’t go home this time. I have to go to my next job.

My next job is an overnight. It starts at 10 pm. I have roughly 2 hours between jobs. I sit in a cafe downtown and work on my school work.

I start my second job doing an overnight shift at 10 pm. The good news is that if it is not busy, I am allowed to sleep. It is an on-call overnight job. As long as I wake up when the bells go off, I can sleep when things are quiet.

I work from 10 pm Friday night until 8 am Saturday morning.

Saturday

It is 8 am Saturday morning. I just finished my shift at my overnight job. I may have gotten one hour of sleep. I may have gotten 6 hours of sleep. It all depends on how busy the work was that night.

The next shift comes in at 8 am. I take the opportunity to take a shower at work. I can’t go home yet. I have to work to make money to pay my bills. I have another job to go to.

I work at my third job on Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm. When 4 pm on Saturday comes, I am exhausted, but also excited.

Once I get home on Saturday night, I will be able to be home for 24 hours. It is also the ONLY night of the entire week that I get to sleep in a bed. I get to be with the cats and I get to sleep in my own bed.

Saturday night I get home and I am so happy to see the cats. I can’t just relax, though. I’m in graduate school. I have a lot of school work to do. My Saturday nights were always spent writing 20 page papers for class. This was the time when I got all my school work done for the week.

On Saturday night, I get to sleep in my own bed.

Sunday

On Sunday morning, I wake up in my own bed with the cats. This is bliss. I still can’t relax. I have to keep going. 

It’s Sunday morning and I have to do my long run. I am training for another marathon. I use the three mile “walks” during the week commuting as training runs. Sundays are for long, slow distance. Each week miy mileage increases until I top out at 22 miles a few weeks before my marathon. 

I get up Sunday morning. It’s time to run 18 miles. I have a race for which I am training.

I get home from my run and have lunch. I do everything I am supposed to do to recover from my long run including icing my legs. The cats are so happy to see me and have me home.

Sunday afternoon, I spend the entire afternoon cooking and preparing food. I have to prep all of my meals for the week so that I have food to throw in the lunchbox when I come home to repack my bags. 

At 8:30 pm on Sunday night, I leave the house. I have to go to work at my over night job.

At 10 pm on Sunday night, I start my overnight shift. This is the job where I can try to sleep if it’s not busy. I work until 8 am on Monday.

Monday

I finish my overnight shift at 8 am on Monday. I shower at work. I have to go to my next job. 

Today is Monday. I have another job I have to work from 9 am to 4 pm.

I work.

It’s Monday. My third job ends at 4 pm. I still can’t go home. I have to work my second job.

I go to my second job Monday night from 5 pm to 8 pm.

Once I get off work at 8 pm, I get to go home.

But now, I have to start the communte to Boston for school.

Conclusion

This is where we started when I began writing this piece. We started with 8 pm on Monday night. 

I’ve seen the world through a bus windshield. This is the sacrifice I made to receive an education. I did not get accepted at any schools in New York. I could not afford to move to Boston. Yet, I wanted to learn. It was important to me to get an education and get a degree.

When I bought my house a few years ago, I decided to be a “responsible adult” and do some funeral planning. One of the things I planned is that I want a celebration of life party with a playlist of songs that I have curated. One of the songs on my list of 26.2 is “Old Blue Chair” by Kenny Chesney. I have literally lived every word of that song. I have seen the world through a bus windshield.

This year marks 10 years since I started the Boston commute to pursue my graduate degree. To this day, I’m not sure how I ever survived the experience. However, I must say I do not regret it for one moment. I am very proud to have a graduate degree.

Dare To Dream

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Last fall, as COVID number spiraled out of control, I realized that the pandemic is here to stay. Schools have been open for in-person instruction here since September 2020 with no mask requirements. The COVID positivity rate in my area right now is 19% and no one cares.

I do not have a death wish. I care.

Despite all the people claiming the pandemic is “over” as the death rate continues to climb, we are actually in this for the long haul. 

I started to evaluate my life with the pandemic in mind. This is no temporary thing. Masks, social distancing, and death will be with us for quite awhile. It is getting even worse now as everyone throws caution to the wind with the vaccines.

Given the deadly normal, I decided that working from home needs to stay. 

I am able to safely obtain groceries either by delivery or contact-free pickup. The only other reasons I have to put myself at risk of death are for medical purposes and for work. 

No job is worth your life. <tweet that>

There is this absolutely disgusting and cruel LIE going around that people do not want to work because they are making more money on unemployment. That is untrue. Many people are unemployed and not receiving any income because they cannot get through to unemployment to file a claim. 

The real reason – in fact, the ONLY reason – why employers cannot find people to work is because no job is worth your life. My life is worth more than $15, thank you very much. 

Unfortunately, in America, the economy is worth more than human life. The USA has to be first in everything, so they are doing the best they can to reach a million COVID deaths by opening everything up and telling people to stop wearing a mask.

I digress. However, this is the reality in which we live.

Last fall I decided I wanted to find a part-time work from home sidegig for extra income. Prices on everything have increased substantially, yet my income did not. Hey, I just paid $35 for a quart of milk a few weeks ago. That’s a huge increase from $4 for a quart of milk.

So, last fall I began investigating the possibility of making remote work permanent. 

It was a lengthy process of trial and error, learning new technologies and trying to trouble shoot. I figured if I could just find a part-time remote job it would give me extra income. The plan was to ask my full-time employer at the time to make remote work a permanent option. I knew this request would be a long shot. Indeed, I lost that job in April 2021.

With life in a global pandemic that is not getting any better, my dream has been to make remote work permanent. This way the cats and I can be safe. I have to figure out how to live another 15-20 years to be able to take care of them.

Losing my job in April 2021 was the worst thing to ever happen to me. It was my only source of income. It was a direct threat to my very life. If I am forced to go back to an in-person workplace, I will not survive the pandemic. Losing my job threatened my ability to keep the cats and I together and to take care of them. It was a greater threat to my family than when I needed to exit my apartment a few years ago.

Making my dream of permanent remote work a reality now became a need and not a want. It is the only way for me to save my life so I do not die. This is not an exaggeration.

This past month I have been unemployed, I have no income. I have not been able to get through to unemployment to file an initial claim. At this point in time, NYS has no clue I am unemployed. Their website crashes. Their phone system says high call volume and hangs up.

Finding a new job and finding one quickly needs to be done so that the cats and I do not end up separated and homeless. Yet I cannot just do any job. If I don’t want to die, I need to be able to work remotely.

My initial dream last fall was to be able to make remote work permanent so that I could focus on being home with the cats, running, and (someday maybe) travel. Travel will have to wait at least a decade for the pandemic to end.

With remote work, I will be able to be more in control of my life and human interactions. I do not, after all, have a death wish.

In between the over 100 phone calls a day I make to unemployment these past few weeks, I have been job searching for remote work.

Another goal I have is to go back to working 2-3 jobs instead of just one. 

I know, I know. In my bio for this blog, Rewind Live Slow, I state that I stopped working multiple jobs to try to slow down my life. 

The reality is that you should not put all your eggs in one basket. Only working one job and then losing that job means I now have no income. This is the worst situation ever. To prevent this situation from happening in the future, I need to be sure I have multiple income streams. So I need to either work one “main” full-time job and find something part-time to supplement or work multiple part-time jobs. 

I’ve done it before. I spent 20 years working multiple part-time jobs while putting myself through school. 

There is a difference this time.

Those 20 years I spent working multiple jobs putting myself through school, I was working 60-80 hours a week to make ends meet. This was before I started on my minimalist journey. This is when I was going 110% all the time.

This time, I am not going to work 60-80 hours a week. I can’t do it anymore physically. Not to mention, I want time to be with my cats. Life is short and precious. I want time to be with the ones I love.

So my goal is to work multiple jobs, but not to work more than 50 hours a week to make ends meet. By having multiple income streams, I will hopefully not ever be in this situation ever again of not having any income at all. I am making sacrifices in my life to reduce my expenses so that I can get by on less income.

I am proud to announce that it appears I have realized my dream.

I was recently offered and accepted two different part-time jobs that are both remote. With the two jobs together, I should be working about 35-40 hours per week. The income should hopefully be just enough to make ends meet (barely).

I’m realizing my dream.

One part-time job starts now, and the other starts next month. The jobs only pay once a month, so I won’t see any real income until July. That means I am going three months – April, May, June – with no income. It’s hard and it hurts. It would help if I could get unemployment, but they are too busy to answer their phone. I will not give up trying to contact unemployment. When I am finally able to file a claim, they owe me for these three months I am unemployed. 

The good news is that I have a month to get used to the one part-time job before I have to start the other one. The part-time job I am starting right now is only 3-5 hours per week so far, but at least it is something.

My new dream that I am daring to dream is to take control of my life, my interactions and my schedule by working remotely 100% of the time.

I am making that dream a reality.

Dare to dream. I am so blessed. As long as I can keep this house to keep the cats and I together, everything is fine. All I need to do is outlive the cats so I can give them the best life possible. If I can do that, then I will have lived a good life. 

That’s what rewind live slow is all about.

It Takes An (Online) Village

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It’s been three weeks now since I’ve lost my job. This is the worst thing that has ever happened to me. After working for 28 years, this is the first time I have ever been unemployed. It is a direct threat to my life, health, safety and ability to care for my cats and keep my family together.

I have no income. I have not been able to get through to NYS unemployment to file a claim. Their web site continuously crashes. Their phone has an automated message saying “high call volume” that hangs up on you. I call unemployment over 100 times a day. I put the phone on speaker and keep hitting redial while I try to look for and apply for jobs.

I am not eligible for any pandemic mortgage relief due to my student loans. I am also not eligible for any help from social services because I am a single adult with no human children. I am not eligible for social security or disability because I am not “disabled enough” to qualify for any of those services either. I am one of those people who just fall through the cracks and is 100% screwed in this pandemic. Thousands of people like me have died already, and who knows when I will be next.

Losing my job was the absolute worst thing to ever happen to me in my life. It is very possible that I will lose the house, the cats and I will be separated, and I will die this year. I honestly don’t expect to live to see age 43 if something does not improve soon.

I even reached out to local legislators about being able to reach unemployment to file a claim. There is nothing they can do to help. I am one of the “great unwashed” who is either going homeless or dead in this pandemic. I am just another number. 

This past year, I have lost many of my friends and my family to COVID. I can count on one hand the people I knew before the pandemic who are still alive now. 

This past Tuesday, when I opened my local newspaper, I knew every single person in the obituary section. Every single person. There are some days when the obituaries take up an entire page. It should not be this way when I am in my 40s.

As you all know and I have blogged about many times, I loathe social media, especially Facebook. I canceled my Facebook about 5 years ago now and never looked back. I have no regrets about deleting Facebook.

However, I have been extremely isolated in this pandemic. I have lost so many people. So last fall, I decided to try Twitter as a form of social media. I refuse to use Facebook. 

On Twitter, we have been warmly welcomed into the Pet Twitter family. I see happy photos of dogs, cats, fish, bunnies, chincillas and other pets. There are two people on Twitter who I know in real life.

One of those real life people is my best friend from childhood. When I tweeted that I lost my job, this friend sprang into action and set up a GoFundMe for me.

I have a basic idea of what GoFundMe is. I have donated to them a few times before. Twenty dollars here or there to help people who I knew were in genuine need. I never would have thought of setting one up for myself. That first week after losing my job, I was in shock and was stunned.

My friend was able to use our social networks to fully fund my GoFundMe. The GoFundMe paid my mortgage and utilities for the month of May while I look for jobs and try to unsuccessfully file an initial claim for unemployment.

I was also just contacted by GoFundMe itself. Not only was my campaign for May fully funded, but the GoFundMe organization chose me for a micro-grant from their Basic Necessities Fund. I will be putting that money towards June expenses.

I have been lucky in that I have interviewed for two jobs so far. However, the job market is extremely competitive right now because so many people are out of work and searching for jobs. Even though I have interviewed, the chances of being hired are very slim due to the competition. 

Even if I was hired now, I would not see any income from a new job until probably July. In the meantime, I have heard that it can take 4-6 months to actually get through to unemployment to file an initial claim. It can then take another few months after that before you actually receive any money. A lot of people have ended up homeless because they have gone 4-6 months with no income before they are able to file an unemployment claim. 

I hope I am not one of them.

I am very grateful to the online community and to everyone who contributed to my GoFundMe to pay my mortgage and utilities for the month of May. As much as I truly appreciate the help, this is not sustainable. I cannot have a GoFundMe pay all of my bills for the 6 months it takes to get through to unemployment to file an initial claim. 

I really need to find a job and I know that. I update people everyday about how many jobs I have applied for and how many times I have tried to reach unemployment. I am averaging 10-20 job applications a week and over 600 phone calls a week to unemployment.

Anyone who says that people are sitting at home on unemployment and don’t want to work should be shot. I’m not joking. First, many people are not receiving unemployment because we can’t get through to them to file. Second, no job is worth your life. I can tell you right now, after losing now over TEN people to COVID this past year, I am not going to take a job that puts me at risk of COVID. 

My cats are the only family I have left. I am the only family they have. Without me, they will be homeless and separated. I have to keep this house to keep us together. I have to be able to outlive them to take care of them.

Someone suggested I sell the house. Well, then I would be homeless. Rent here is over $400 a month more than my mortgage. That is if I rent a small room in a house with 8 or 9 other people. Plus, no rentals here take pets. I cannot be separated from the cats. 

I cannot buy another house. First, I am unemployed. With no income, I cannot afford the one I have. Second, I will never get approved for another mortgage in my life. I can’t even refinance the one I have to get a lower interest rate. I almost did not get my mortgage due to my student loans. It took a Regional Manager to approve my mortgage and they only did so because I was in a student loan forgiveness program. Now that I am no longer working for a non-profit, I am no longer in the student loan forgiveness program. 

If I lose this house, the cats will be separated and have to live somewhere else. I will die.

That is how dire our situation. I am not exaggerating.

Even though I reach out to unemployment over 100 times a day (167 phone calls on Thursday alone), I am not hopeful I will get through. I honestly do not think I will see any money at all from unemployment. I think I have a better chance of getting a job first. Honestly, I think I have a better chance of getting COVID and dying than I do getting any help from unemployment.

It has taken an online village to get me through the month of May.

As I said, asking people to help me each month is not sustainable and I know that. It is only a matter of time how long we can hold out until we end up homeless and dead.

I am really hoping to find a job soon. Even if I find one this month, I won’t see any real income (a full month’s income) until July.

To the online village that has been helping me, I cannot thank you enough for all you have done. I hope I have been able to express how truly dire our situation is right now. Thank you for giving us another month together alive. I’m not sure how long we will be able to hang on or what will happen.

I am grateful for every single day I get with the cats. They are all I have and I am all that they have.

Thank you to our online village for giving us this time together. 

Hopefully things come together soon. 

Maybe NYS unemployment should hire me to answer their phone. I definitely do not have the expertise to fix their website. 

My Quarantine Life: Week 59

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It has now been over one year that I have been in quarantine. I had one in person doctor appointment where they took blood work. All of my other doctor appointments have been virtual, by their choosing.

I am still alive and well. The cats and I are together. The cats are what matter most. I am the only human they have. I need to be able to outlive them so that I can take care of them and keep them all together. They are all so bonded to each other.

The worst possible thing happened this month. I lost my job.

I have been working for 28 years. This is the first time I have ever lost my job and been unemployed. I have been at an employer that closed and we were all given notice of the imepnding closing. However, in that situation, I was lucky enough to be able to find new employment before the official closing date of the business.

Losing my job is the greatest threat to my health, safety, and ability to care for my cats that I have ever faced.

I try every single day to get through to unemployment to no avail. I hear that it can take months before you see any payment from them. In the meantime, I have no income.

I desperately need to find a new job. At the same time, no job is worth risking your life.

Being in quarantine for the pandemic this past year really makes you evaluate your life. Especially since I have lost seven friends and family members to COVID, it makes you think about what you are doing in life and if you are truly happy. 

To that end, I have had the thought that I want to work remotely for the next 15 years. My doctors have all said that this past year of working remotely has been excellent for my disability. I am currently at my highest level of functioning that has not been seen for five or six years. It is all because I am working remotely. I am so highly functioning that I am not disabled enough to receive any type of disability payments or financial assistance. I am fully able to work.

I want to work. I am now being forced to find a way to make my dream of working 100% remote for the next 15 years come true.

The biggest challenge to this goal is lack of internet service. There is no broadband internet available here. Up until a few weeks ago, I lived in a complete dead zone. There is no cell service here either.

The dead zone bit has literally just ended this past week. A new cell tower was installed in my area this month. So that’s something, but still not enough.

I have been quiet lately because I am struggling to survive. 

At this point, I do not know if I will survive the pandemic. I do not know if I will be able to keep my house, which is the main thing that keeps the cats and I together. My entire life revolves around my cats. I need to be able to keep them together.

One of my friends started a GoFundMe for me to help me try to pay my bills since I have no income. I split my days between trying to get through to unemployment and trying to job search.

I am not sure if we are going to survive this, but I am not going down without a fight. My cats are the only family I have. 

I will still try to keep up with my goal of blogging at least twice a month, as this blog and my Twitter have been the greatest helps to me in this pandemic.

If you are a praying person, please pray for the cats and me. Thanks.

Sophie’s Story

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Sophie is a green Toyota Corolla. She is my second Toyota Corolla. I liked the first one I had so much that I decided I wanted to have another one when the first one died. My car is my most prized possession aside from my Boston medal.

It has now been over 20 years that I have been driving a Toyota Corolla. Sophie came into my life at a very bad time. I knew that my first Toyota Corolla, Cool, was on it’s last legs during the winter of 2012-2013. I was trying to push that car through one last winter and had planned on looking for a new Corolla in the spring. Life had other plans, and Cool died in January 2013 – right in the middle of winter.

Finding a used Toyota Corolla is extremely difficult. People tend to love this car and drive them into the ground. I am one of them. When I killed Cool, he had 283,000 miles. So when Cool died, I actually spent a few days without a vehicle because I just could not find a used Toyota Corolla.

Then I found Sophie. Sophie was a necessity. I needed a vehicle. It was too difficult to be happy about a new car when I was mourning my first one. You see, my first Toyota was more than a car. At times, it was also housing for Kitty, Kip and I when we were homeless. I had driven 250,000 of the 283,000 miles that were on that car.

So Sophie entered my life. Within the first 6 months of owning the car, I hit my first deer. A few months later, I hit a second deer. Two deer hits in the first year of owning the car was not a good start. 

Sophie went to Philly with me when I ran one of my marathons. She has been to Cape Cod, Boston, and my favorite camping place. When I bought Sophie, I was at a different point in my life. I vowed that this car would be a car and not used as housing.

What makes Sophie so special is that she is the only thing that joins me to all five of my cats. Kip rode in Sophie to his vet office visits the last year of his life. Kip passed away in December 2013, the first year I owned the car.

Kitty rode in Sophie to his doctor appointments. First, for well visits, then for his cancer check-ups. Kitty passed away in April 2017.

When I adopted Jude, I drove Sophie to the shelter to meet him. Jude rode home in Sophie. Simon and Jolene have both ridden in Sophie also. 

All five cats have been in that car. It’s pretty special. 

Only four of the five cats ever lived in the apartment. Three of my five cats have lived in my house. Yet, all five of my cats have ridden in that car.

I’m glad that Sophie has had the opportunity to go to all of my favorite places before the pandemic hit. Not only is travel restricted due to the pandemic, but my ability to drive has decreased over the past six years or so due to my disability. At least I can say I drove that car where it was important for me to go.

Many people talk down to me over my love affair with Sophie. But when a car has been such a significant part of your life as this one, you get attached to it. My car has been more reliable than most of the people in my life.

I am hoping that when Sophie dies I will be able to afford a third Toyota Corolla, but we will see.

When I bought the house, I was ecstatic that there is a garage here. I park Sophie in the garage in the winter. I am happy that she is getting the treatment she deserves.

My car has been a lifeline to me in the pandemic. I know that no matter what happens, if things get bad, I can always jump in the car and go. I no longer know where I would go, but I know that I can leave it I ever needed. Unfortunately, all of my safe places to which I would go – the people have all died in the pandemic. 

I am so thankful to have Sophie in my life. She is my lifeline to Kip and Kitty who passed away. She keeps me, Jude, Simon, and Jolene all safe. We travel in her to go to medical appointments.

It’s probably stupid to write a blog post about a car, but Sophie is kind of a big deal here. I’m looking forward to many more years of driving her.

Death Cleaning

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Spring is coming and we all tend to come out of hibernation and move around more. This includes spring cleaning, minimizing, and downsizing.

I have a room upstairs that I use to collect items throughout the year for donation. I wait until spring when I can get around easier to take everything to be donated. Thankfully, the place where I typically take donations has an outside contact-free drop off point. 

This weekend I went through all the items upstairs for donation. I sorted everything into piles based on where it needs to be donated. For example, there is one box of items specifically for the animal shelter (old towels, sheets, etc). There are also items that can be recycled now that it is easier to put recycling out since the snow is gone.

I have a few items that, quite honestly, need to go to the dump. I do not have a clear idea how to get rid of them. One of those items is a broken vacuum cleaner. When I moved into the house, there was a vacuum cleaner already here. I had brought my vacuum cleaner from the apartment. It worked out perfectly so that I could have one vacuum cleaner upstairs and one vacuum cleaner downstairs without having to try to lug a vacuum up and down the stairs. 

This past fall, the vacuum cleaner that “came with the house” broke. Now I have to figure out how to get rid of it.

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about downsizing and minimizing even more so than in previous years. I have been on the minimalist journey for about a decade, and the journey never seems to end.

In working on my photo project of making an album for myself, I thought about all of my belongings more ruthlessly. What do I really need? What would happen to things if I die?

The way the pandemic is going, I will honestly be surprised if I survive it. My only goal is to outlive my cats so that I can keep them all together. Right now, that seems like a very big and very impossible goal.

 I have applied some minimalist philosophies, such as getting rid of things that are part of your “fantasy self,” and packing things up for 3 months before getting rid of them. However, there are still some items that seem to stay.

The twin bed in the upstairs bedroom is one example. Years ago, I debated whether or not to get rid of the bed in the spare bedroom. I decided to keep the twin bed. It even moved with me from the apartment to the house.

I have had this fantasy self that thinks it is there for an overnight guest. I like to think I am fully set up for company if anyone ever needs a place to stay. I have only had this actually happen one time when one of my friends was in nursing school and my apartment was closer to the hospital where she was doing her residency. She stayed with me for the duration of the residency. That was actually the impetus for purchasing the twin bed.

The twin bed does not actually get used. Sure, I use it myself occasionally when I feel I need a change of scenery or want to feel like I am on vacation while I am at home. However, there are a total of three beds in this house for one person. I can get rid of the twin bed and still have two other beds in this house.

There is my bed (full size) and the couch pulls out into a bed. In fact, I took vacation last month for my birthday, and the cats and I camped out in the living room on the bed that pulls out from the couch. We never even used the twin bed upstairs. 

With the pandemic, I honestly don’t see anyone visiting me for an overnight stay. Even if I did have an overnight visitor, there is still the bed that pulls out from the couch. That bed is pretty comfy. I slept on it for two years before getting the bed I have now.

I am becoming more ruthless in what I am getting rid of due to the pandemic. When I die, someone is going to have to go through all of this stuff. I’m sure most of what I own will be donated or trashed. If that is the case, I may as well donate or trash things now. I only need to keep what I absolutely need and am using.

Of course, the less I have, the easier it is to clean the house as well. That is a definite plus.

In addition to the twin bed, another item I have held onto for an absurdly long time is the metal bed frame to my full size bed. Well over 5 years ago now, I took my bed off the frame and put it on the floor. Kitty had arthritis in his back legs and was having a hard time getting in the bed with me. Once I put the bed on the floor, it was much easier for him. Kitty passed away 4 years ago. My bed is still on the floor because it is easier for me to get in and out of, as well as the cats who are with me now.

I honestly don’t think I will ever put my bed back on a frame again because it makes the bed too high. I think it is time to get rid of the frame.

Both the bed frame and the twin bed are items I have held onto for a long time. Part of it is because I figure I have the room for them.

However, with the pandemic, I am realizing that someone is going to have to go through all this stuff when I die. Even if I do manage to survive the pandemic and outlive the cats, there will come a time when I need to leave this house to either go back into an apartment or a nursing home. 

You can’t take things with you when you die.

This year, I am going to start employing the Swedish Death Cleaning method to my belongings. I am starting with the twin bed and the full size bed frame. I have many other things to go through as well. It will be a process of trying to figure out what I am absolutely using and what items can leave. I want to make my life as simple as possible. 

Swedish Death Cleaning is the notion of cleaning things out before you die so that your loved ones are not left to do it after you are gone. I did not think I would be death cleaning in my 40s. I thought I would be death cleaning in my 60s. But here we are, in the middle of a pandemic. Life is short. The time to death clean is now.

The most difficult part is trying to figure out how to get rid of everything. Not all places are taking donations of items right now. That means it’s possible that more items will end up in landfills, which is not what anyone wants either. 

My project for the next 6 months or so is not only to death clean through all my belongings but to actually get rid of the items. This past year I have just shoved things into a room upstairs. Now it is time for belongings to leave so that I can have an empty room I don’t have to clean.

I have gone through just about every minimalist philosophy so far. I have asked items if they spark joy, I have played decluttering games, I have packed boxes and then gotten rid of them after 3 months. Now is the time for death cleaning.

For some, death cleaning may seem extreme. Given we are in the middle of a pandemic and many people are dying, I think the time is now. 

Have you tried death cleaning? How did it go? What are some items that you got rid of that were surprising to you?

80 Photographs

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There are literally thousands of photographs that I have taken and saved. Some are on cell phones, some are saved in my cloud account, and some are print only. The prints are mostly from the days when cameras had actual film and you had to wait a week for it to be developed. I have negatives for photos also.

I had quite a few photo albums and they took up a lot of space. In my minimizing, I purchased two photo storage cases that now hold all my physical photos. The two photo cases take up much less space than all of the photo albums. The photos are in their own case by category – person, event or trip. 

The photos I look at the most are the ones that are framed and actually in the house. These are the photos that hang on the walls or sit on the mantle. Sometimes I look at the photos on my phone.

I’ve had some up and down feelings lately in the pandemic. Part of me feels positive that I will live long enough to be in a care home. I think that if that were to happen, I want one photo album of my very best memories. It is easier to look at a physical photo album than it is to scroll through electronic photos. I looked at my photos a lot more when they were in the bulky albums.

Part of me feels negative and I don’t know how I am going to survive the pandemic. I just don’t see myself being alive 15 years from now when all the cats are gone. That part of me thinks that if I was in a hospital or (more likely) dying at home, the last thing I want to make sure I see is photos of my cats.

Even though I down-sized years ago and got rid of all the photo albums, I am realizing that the only way I actually look at photos is if they are in an album. 

I purchased a photo album that holds 80 photos. The album also gives space to write a note next to each photo. This aspect is important to me.

I have decided to go through the many thousands of photographs I have and curate them down into the 80 photographs that mean the most to me. I want a collection of the best memories of my life.

Starting with the photos that are actually in the house, I am realizing that I have had a pretty great life. I have had some amazing moments and memories. I have done great things. It is going to be very challenging to curate the best of my life into 80 photos.

At first, I started by making a formula. Given 80 photos, this is the formula I started with:

50 photos of the cats (5 cats – Kitty, Kip, Jude, Simon, Jolene), which means 10 photos of each cat, including photos of them in combinations i.e. Kitty & Kip, Kitty & Jude, Jude & Simon, etc.

10 photos of my camping trips

10 photos of my races – this one is a challenge with 18 medals and (hopefully) counting

10 photos of “other” – my once in a lifetime baseball game, trip to the MidWest, favorite photos not associated with the above categories

While this formula is a good start, I am quickly realizing that I have a lot more than 80 photos. I am either going to have to be ruthless curating, or find an album that holds 100? Photos instead.

The goal is that when the project is done, I will have one photo album of the cats and the highlights of my life. I want one place I can turn to in good times and bad times to relive the highlight reel of my life.

I guess the fact that I have so many good memories and photos from those memories is a good problem to have.

I am still going through photos, so I am not sure if I will take the curate ruthlessly or buy a larger photo album route. I do know that there will only be one photo album when I am done.

This project is turning out to be a lot bigger than I initially thought. It is also a lot more emotional that I thought. It is a good thing to relive positive memories in a challenging time. I have had a good life. It’s just kind of sad to think I may not survive the pandemic and that all the good times are behind me.

At this point, I am trying to remain positive. I am thoroughly enjoying going through my photo collection.

Has anyone else taken on a similar project for yourself or a loved one? Have you provided an older family member with memory issues with a photo album that is a highlight reel of their life? That is basically what I am trying to do for myself. 

Right now, I am trying to focus on 80 photographs. That may expand to be 100 or more. The limit will definitely be under 200. I probably should have figured out my photo count before purchasing a photo album. 

If you could only use so many photos to tell the story of your life and your best memories, how many would there be?