Friday, January 8, 2021

That 2020 Hangover Though

Real life will be intruding on today's post. If you've got enough of your own real life at the moment, best skip this one.


I've been sleeping all day again, and restless all night. Some of it is a little nerve damage in my neck and arms I'm struggling with, but mostly it's :;gestures vaguely:: all this. You know? I've lived and worked online for over 12 years now, and it's given me light, love, community - but lately my time there leaves me distracted, listless, vaguely anxious. Even with the political stuff here in the U.S. starting to cool, I'm just... unsettled.

It helps that my routine is getting back to normal; no more holiday breaks from therapy or weekly check-ins with friends. Those gaps over the past 2 weeks were vital missing jenga pieces in my tenous Keep It Together Tower, and largely why I posted so much here. I think I needed to check in with you bots as much as I hoped to be a little check-in for you. Plus, you know, fun Christmas stuff. :) (I still didn't fit it all in. Next year I've got to start sooner, ha.)

We're leaving the trees and decorations up a bit longer this month, because the twinkle of colorful lights makes the nights seem friendlier.

Covid is so bad here in Florida that we've had to stop the Project:Epbot job we've been working on. Even with all parties masked, our friends are so high-risk that they've had to lock down completely, which I understand and agree with, though it still makes me sad. I miss the work. I miss doing something tangibly helpful in this time of feeling so helpless.

On the other extreme, we have friends who've abandoned distancing and who we have to keep saying no to. We have John's high-risk mom who won't wear a mask, but who makes us feel terrible for not spending time with her. Everywhere we turn there's this tension of trying to love people the best way we can, weighing the risks, and sometimes risking relationships with the very people we're trying to do right by.

It's draining. 

And 10 hours of sleep just isn't filling me up.

My reaction to stress and conflict has always been the same: I retreat. I shut down. I get quiet to the point of going catatonic. I think I just have to hide for a while to recharge.

At the best of times I dislike phone conversations. I can't see your face, how am I supposed to know what you mean? How do I know you're listening? What if I can't hear you because the connection is bad but then you keep going so I can't ask you to repeat yourself and now I have to fake knowing what those missing words were and figure out some ambivalent response? Aaaaaarg. It's all so dang stressful.

So here I am writing this post instead of returning 4 phone calls from well-meaning monsters who love me but who also don't text. Heh. I don't want to talk, not out loud. I don't want to exchange pleasantries or fake the smile in my voice. But I also don't want to be real and tell them how much I'm struggling to find a reason to get dressed. I just want to sit here in my quiet, darkened living room, with the twinkly Christmas tree on, pick at the jigsaw puzzle on the coffee table, and not feel anything for a while.

Yep. I think I'll hide a little while longer. Try to heal up.

And hey, you there, still in your jammies, nodding your head in that "omigosh, ME, TOO" way: you're welcome to join me. We have Movie Night in two hours over on the Epbot Discord, and we're watching Ratatouille. (Or if you miss that, there's a second showing Sunday afternoon.) No talking or daytime clothes required; let's just watch a movie, post silly gifs, and heal up together.

I love you, by the way. Thank you for loving me. Thanks for being here when I post too much and when I don't post at all. Thanks for being there for each other. This community keeps me going even while I watch from the sidelines, and your posts and comments mean more than you'll ever know, to people you'll never meet.

Here's to sweet silence and soft twinkle lights and healing up from the scars of 2020.



47 comments:

  1. So sorry your projects have been halted. I've also let the sleep schedule slide and felt like this ever since the kids didn't go back to school. Love you for sharing and normalizing the feelings of the pandemic and the chaos. Movie night will be healing!

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  2. After your Jenga comment, I feel like in this version of the game, we're putting the blocks back into it. We'll build you up, buttercup.

    Oy, but I feel you. This week's already been a year. I slipped and fell on my driveway while shoveling, I accidentally flooded my bathroom...twice...and now the oven is trying to kill us. Yesterday and today, I walked into the house to the smell of gas. I *have* to make jokes about it to keep my sanity, because given what else is going on out there...yeah.

    And OMG ME TOO when it comes to the phone. I have *hated* the phone since I was a child. I'm better about it now, since I'm a de facto receptionist at my job, but I have a minor hearing loss and things just don't come across the same way as they would in person.

    It's so hard not to see people you want to see, but I commend everyone for sticking to things and continuing to wear masks. The one time my family and I were with a decent-sized group of people--my aunt's funeral--my dad and I ended up testing positive. We weren't anywhere else where we would've come down with it. He'd taken his mask off to drink coffee at the funeral home and the virus hitched a ride with him; I got it from him a couple weeks later. It was more like a cold for me, but over a month later I still have lingering issues. (Dad's was worse but he has fully recovered.) It's stressful to continually have your guard up, but please, it just takes a moment for this to happen.

    Finally, I swear my grandfather left the Christmas tree up one year until his birthday...in June...so twinkle light away for as long as you'd like.

    --Yet Another Jen

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  3. I really like using Marco Polo, which I started doing this spring with a few of my girlfriends. It has all the visual communication of FaceTime, but allows reviewing, thought gathering, and replying-on-my-own-time of texts. I’ve been able to have some sincere conversations. And also cat check-ins.

    I love puzzles too. They are random and challenging, but there IS a solution. Big ~hugs~ to you and John.

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  4. Right there with you, Jen. If I didn't have a kid, not sure I could get out of bed the past few days. I find connecting with people even online too much for me. I'm definitely a retreat-er at these times too. I want the connection so badly, but I just feel so entirely overwhelmed that I just can't make myself do it at all.

    But apparently, talking to you I can do! I guess because you don't expect anything from me? I dunno. Regardless, please stay safe. We love you <3

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  5. Jen, I've been following your blogs for a long time now, and I can't thank you enough for how much you've helped me. One of the things I remind myself constantly is something you said: fear is never stupid. I have a lot of fears, and I'm working on letting go of some of them...but it's so nice to know that I'm not alone. This is what you've created: a place for so many of us to come to find fun and silliness, comfort, and permission to be ourselves, or to be not ok. It's a friendly, safe place, and I...we need that so much right now. Most other social media outlets don't feel that way to me, even when I have friends from real life there, but here, it always feels safe. Thank you. You are amazing. Thank you for being so kind, accepting, real, and welcoming. You are a beautiful person, inside and out, and you are loved. Thank you. Just...take care of yourself. You deserve it. Hugs. --Christina Nelson

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  6. I feel this so much. *gentle internet hugs* Really the only reason I get dressed right now is because I have to walk our dogs. I've found that a side effect of this is that if I'm dressed I tend to want to do semi-adulty things - like clean - so that's a thing that happens (I think it's the putting on a bra that does it). Anyway. Just wanted to let you know that as a fellow member of the "what's a sleep-schedule" club, I'm with you in spirit.

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  7. Given my comment-related anxiety, I normally just lurk, but your frank honesty in this post has inspired me. Both to declare my love for all things Epbot (Love this blog!), and to get off the phone and try to sleep tonight. Thanks for motivating me to take care of myself. Sending healing thoughts to you, John, and everyone else here.

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  8. Take your time! it is okay to introvert for a while and just care for yourself and especially, BE yourself. Its important to do so!
    I hope, you can recover some strength to find joy in your projects again and especially find projects which are doable at the moment! (Can you prepare stuff for later projects? or for example, if furniture needs refurbishment, just collect it at your friend's and do it at home? its not the same, no question, but perhaps a bit of a solution?)
    Anyway: Thank you for sharing all those parts of your life, not only the happy ones, i'm struggling offen enough too and it feels better not to be alone with it.

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  9. If watching twinkly lights late at night and letting the world go by for awhile is what you need to do for self-care, then that's what you need to do. The world will be there, and those who know you and care about you will understand. And I really get how devastating having to stop yet another project and put your hopes and plans on hold yet again is when it's been a long series of disappointments after disappointments (because that is my life for the past year+ (yes, pre-Covid) in a nutshell). I don't know what to say other than it's not just you and we're all just hanging in there.

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  10. Hugs. We totally love you and John. The very first thing Purple said when she found out we were going to Orlando in July was, "Can we meet up with Miss Jen and Mr. john?!?!" Not a word about the pageant or Epcot or Disney. **You** were the first thing on her mind. Hugs again. Purple has built her platform on the premise of looking for ways to serve others this year. We're working on a book to help spread that little matchstick of an idea. Purple has accumulated literally hundreds of hours of service to others that can be done at home. With the exception of the one hour per week she has been out of the home teaching astronomy, all her service hours have been quarantine friendly. We know your heart, dear Jen. You share it with us weekly, and we're so grateful. We're praying for you! Hugs yet again.

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    1. Awww, hugs to the whole clan over there, Anni, and a special high-five to Purple! No telling what the world will be like in July, of course, but maybe we'll get to buy y'all a Dole Whip yet. :)

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  11. Thank you for this post. And, well, all your posts really. And this wonderful
    community built from it. But an extra big thank you today. It was a leave out the milk in the counter all day, walking by it I do t know how many times, to finally have it register before going to bed. Gentle internet hugs from here.

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  12. And here in Florida we're deep into a resurgence of the virus so going to the grocery store is scary and yet, it's my only time out of my house. I agree, keep the tree up. It's a joyful thing! We have Legos in a tall alcove in the living room and we keep Christmas lights up there. It's so cheerful. My new motto is, "It's not perfect, but it's better and that's good enough." So, it's not perfect, but it's good enough to just exist cuddled up with the tree. Tomorrow is another day, and it will be a better day.

    Btw, how in the world can you do a puzzle with cats? I have 2 and there's no way I could put out a puzzle and expect to have all the pieces to finish it.

    Los of love to you all!

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    1. Yes! "Progress not perfection." I just heard that last week, I think maybe from the Do It On A Dime host, and I want to hang onto that phrase this year.

      My key to puzzles with cats is A) not to care too much about the puzzle and B)to cover it with a foam board when not in use. I still have to shoo them off every night, though, since they love sleeping RIGHT where I'm working.

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  13. Boy, did I ever need to see this post today. I put soup stock in my coffee instead of creamer. They both come in similar containers!
    I too have a issues with the phone, I just have a hard time processing what everyone is saying and what I should say! I always thought it was because my dad used to make us use proper phone etiquette. He would actually correct my friends when they called, "Yes, Peggy is here, and so is her mother, and sister, would you like to speak to her?" Jeeze, I think that dates me. I love texting. Then I can think about what I need to say first. And some days, I just don't want to talk to anyone, in person, on the phone, even an email is too much.
    Keep what you are doing, but do what makes YOU happy, take care of your self first before you help others. Never say sorry for not posting, or posting too much, we will be there for you & John no matter what. Oh, man, here come the crocodile tears.

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  14. Right there with you, Jen. I respond to stress and phonecalls in the same way. We're still living in the middle of layered, persistent trauma. So I'll hole up with you and try to recharge a bit.
    A chat group that stemmed from an offshoot of the Facebook robot page has been 90% of my social interaction during covid. The community you started is 100% saving lives.

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    1. Oof, here come more grateful tears. Thank you.

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  15. I have been reading Cake Wrecks and Epbot for years, but this is the first time I've ever written. Even those of us who don't have issues with anxiety are struggling with the world we are living in right now. It is hard to not be able to see family and friends face to face. The fear I see in people's eyes when I walk up to them (wearing a mask and social distancing). Like we are all contaminated. Losing good friends to cancer and heart disease, and regretting not being able to have seen them for almost a year - and they are gone. Your posts over the years have helped me to understand those who do struggle with issues (my husband struggles with anxiety, but will not get help, so he leans hard on me). And, reading what you and your fans go through and how you all deal with it is helping me deal with my feelings of loneliness and sadness. You have brought joy, acceptance, and understanding to all of us, and I really do appreciate you and the others being transparent. We all are hurting, in one way or another - it is good to be amongst this group of lovely people. Thank you, to you Jen and John, and to everyone else who reads your posts.

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    1. Thank you for this. I know 95% of folks just lurk here, so I treasure every first-time comment, knowing how many more you represent. Hugs to you and your hubby.

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  16. Sometimes the dark tunnel looms before you. Take a deep breath, enter, knowing that yes the tunnel is dark and long, there is light at the end of it. You will get through that dark tunnel. When you reach the end and are bathed in that glorious light again, you feel stronger, because you made it through.

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  17. I don’t comment often, but I’ve been a loyal reader since you started this site. I understand the whole thing. Not wanting to talk, but needing the connection. This has been a terrible year so far. I really hope it improves.

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  18. Don't forget my friend, to ask for what you need. And if what you need is to live on others, text some people "I'm feeling fragile so I thought I should check and see how you're doing."

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  19. Thank you. I needed to feel like I wasn't alone today. ❤️

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    1. I am reading and nodding my head in agreement. You're not alone. So many are having the same needs and issues. Keep posting as much (or as little) as you need, and enjoy your lights as long as you need to. I read of one person leaving the projection sparkle lights up year round. (It reminded me of fireflies.).

      Today I'm dealing with the aftermath of the rear end collusion to my car by a young new driver, so along with the inconveniences of a car repair, rental vehicle place that isn't open early enough for pickup/dropoff on Monday so I have to drive back into town on a Saturday and pay for 2 extra days rental myself, ache-y neck & back, even have to repair a break to my worn out wedding band that happened when I hit it on the car door when frantically searching for my purse (turned out it was on the floor in front, not in the back seat floor area). All of the extra stress, worry, anxiety, along with the Covid extras has pushed me to the edge.

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    2. I'm so sorry, Christal, I can't even imagine having all that pile on at once. Take your time; it's OK to have a good, self-indulgent breakdown from time to time, before you pick up that sword and charge back into battle. It's even better to reach out for help, though, so I hope you'll tell someone close to you what's going on.

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  20. Hey, this seems like the perfect time to share this vid my sister just sent me:https://youtu.be/8KGOZ3fiG9s
    Chill and relax, my lovely 'Puffs

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    1. OK, I watched that whole thing with a big dopey smile on my face. (It's a Hufflepuff rap video, for those wondering.) Thanks!

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  21. I love you. And John. And your cats. And your generosity with your thoughts and emotions, even when they're not "picture perfect". Especially when they're not picture perfect. You are one of the reasons I have hope. The community that gathers in your name (FoE) is one that I turn to almost every day. Great big socially distanced hugs (but no chat - just twinkly & comfortable quiet), mother of little Captain Mal

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  22. You rock those Christmas lights as long as you like. We start putting up our Christmas stuff usually the weekend after Halloween, so you're welcome to start posting all your Christmas pretties as early as you'd like. :) I'll definitely enjoy it as long as you'll show it.

    Take your time and rest. Do whatever it takes to make you happy and healthy. We'll all still be here. And if I ever get to meet you, I promise to text. :)

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  23. Hugs to you, My virtual reality work out coach, (Supernatural on oculus quest), she posted something for the new year that resonated with me. We always hear new year new you. She said this year new year be you. I love the sentiment and think it fits for so many of us. Be you whatever that is and it is good enough. 2020 has been such a trying year for all of us. Thank you for all of your posts, sharing your time and your world. You and John have been a bright spot in my world for many years. I appreciate all that you do to make the world a brighter place and if you need to take a break that’s ok and we will all be here when you come back.

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  24. I left my quarantine bubble after finding out my partner was emotionally cheating and planning on meeting in person (thus destroying our bubble), and having a close friend die. Grief triggered some self-harm so I realized I needed to go someplace safe. I'm now hiding at a friend's house (she's like a sister).

    I'm in a great, safe, environment. But it's still so overwhelming. My quarantine has been quiet, and now there's people talking all day. It's not much bed so I'm out of sorts. I'm in a safer place than if I stayed home....but I'm so overwhelmed. And I feel like I can't complain because they opened up their bubble to me, and are taking care of me.

    It's hard. Seeing other people post about the hard shit they're juggling to...it's just makes me feel so much less alone.

    So thank you, and thank you to everyone to comments and shares. Thank you for being open. Thank you for sharing your hard shit. Because it makes me feel less crazy and alone.

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  25. Sending lots of love and virtual hugs your way and to all who are Epbot Fans. It's been such a tough time - everyone has been touched by :;gestures vaguely:: all this. I've seen folks who are such strong rocks crack under the strain. We all need to love each other a bit more right now, and we all need to give ourselves more selflove and realize everyone needs a little bit more time to take a break. All our collective and individual resilience is wearing thin. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones!

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  26. Thank you. You've articulated how I've been feeling much better than I've been able to. Be safe.

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  27. Thank you for sharing the fun and the not so fun! The Christmas stuff is still up, the house is a mess, and I've let the small child start everyday with way to much screen time just because I haven't been sleeping well and just can't adult at 7am right now. Monday I have to get back to grown up life becuse break is over but while I definitely feel the guilt of everything I haven't done I also know I really need this time to be in a funk and recharge. At this point our Christmas lights may just become valentines lights and thats okay. Thank you for being you!

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  28. Thank you. Take care. You're doing what you should. I'm glad i discovered you. Hope to see you at the next Dragoncon.

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  29. Hey Jen. I've been struggling to heal in this time. I always get a bit of post-holiday blues, and they're hitting extra hard this time, especially since I didn't get to do all the holiday stuff I'm used to. Anyway what I mean to say is thank you for sharing your experience and I love you in the distant, non-creepy parasocial friend way that is appropriate.

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  30. Thank you for sticking with it, and for cheering us on, and for letting us cheer you on! Also, especially, thank you for the Discord server; I am not on Facebook for reasons, so you "sponsoring" the startup of the Discord server has given me a delightfully odd corner of community that I would not have had this year, and it has been *incredibly* helpful so many days this year (oh so so many). Whatever you post on Epbot has also been a delight and a welcome distraction or a welcome new-way-to-look at the miasma of... whatever... and say "this sucks, and we will keep going and we will keep doing what we need to do, and it will probably be better again." (note: doing what we need to do is sometimes "hibernate for three days and mostly eat animal crackers" and that is okay; other times it's sending in cards to congressional representatives, or cleaning the toilet, or making/building/crafting something.)

    With the "I want to do something *physical* to help" urges: any chance that there's a children's hospital or domestic violence shelter or Ronald McDonald House near you that would welcome custom furniture/storage/wall-art/toys like the AT-AT rocker? Some may also have parts of their building currently not in use due to the pandemic, but might welcome redecorating? It'd probably take a few rounds to connect with the right people, but I could 100% see you building a tree hidey-nook, kind of like you showed in your tour of the Christmas lights, for the kids at a domestic violence shelter and that would be just... so huge... for them.

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  31. Long time lurker, rare poster. All my love to you and John, all the commenters, and all the readers. You guys are all amazing. I always love reading the posts and the comments. You're my people!

    Leave the twinkle lights up all year long! I definitely need more twinkle sparkle lights in my life. Twinkle lights are the best. :D

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  32. I absolutely get this. I don't have any words of wisdom to offer, but know that you're not alone in how you're feeling. <3

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  33. I always appreciate your honesty, Jen. I have a small meme I picked up somewhere. It has to do with grief, but it also applies to other life happenings: "Some days, it's okay if all you did was breathe". We all need to allow ourselves that once in a while. I don't know if it will help, but lately I've been especially blessed by "Let the Truth be Told" by Matthew West. He's a Christian artist so the song is from that perspective, but he sings about something I'd done so many 100's of times in my life, it resonates with me. Virtual hugs to you!!!
    Maureen S

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  34. When it seems there's an end in sight is when it all starts to weigh on us the most. Hang in there, we're all here for each other and WILL get through this!

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  35. Sending you lots of love, Jen. I'm sure a lot of us are feeling this right now. I know I am. I bury my head in the sand and become paralyzed as well. Hugs!

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  36. Jen, even though it's been almost 5 years since I met you and John (and bonus Bianca!), that memory is one of my favorites. Thank you for all that you share with your reader-family.

    I have a mug that says "I work hard to provide for my dog" and some days the only reason I get out of bed is to feed her and the only reason I stay out of bed is to earn money for her kibble!

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  37. It helps so much to know there are others who feel this way. I'm struggling, too, and we still have our tree up. The lights help me realize there is a light at the end of this tunnel. Thank you for sharing and helping people connect, as you always do.

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  38. Mrs. Yates

    If you want to talk through risk management with "non-mask-wearers" with someone who has her undergrad degree in microbiology, drop me a line.

    I won't gaslight you with "masks" do nothing. I won't blow smoke up you skirt and tell you it's safe to get up close and personal with anything less than an N-100 respirator with an immunocompromised person.

    You *can* find a way. It's a thing: A physical virus, not an evil miasma.

    I was able to spend 5 days with my beloved elders unmasked, and with warm hugs. It is doable.Very challenging, but doable.

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  39. Jen, content warnings never hurt, but please don't feel you need to apologize for posting about real life. What you share is always helpful: even when you're feeling down it helps us to see someone articulate so well what we also are feeling.

    I hate taking the Christmas lights down: it seems so much darker afterwards. Ours are still up.

    Everywhere we turn there's this tension of trying to love people the best way we can, weighing the risks, and sometimes risking relationships with the very people we're trying to do right by.

    I totally get this, AND the phone thing. I have one relative who (1) is fairly anti-mask and (2) would have her phone surgically implanted if she could. She can never understand why we don't pick up the phone 24/7 or immediately reply to texts. As for forgetting and leaving the phone at home? Completely incomprehensible to her.

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