Conspiracies, Family, Death and Discovery

Health & Wellness: Coping with big changes during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic

The Before Shot

I don’t know what switch got flipped, but I’ve already received three messages this morning related to conspiracies.

What I’m about to share isn’t bragging or boasting, it’s an expression of gratitude. I understand lots of people are scared right now, but I cannot get behind any of these demands for protests, for prematurely reopening non-essential businesses (mine included), easing social distancing or rumors that the virus was manufactured right here in North Carolina.

I’m sharing this, because I want to put off being included in fear mongering, which isn’t helpful to my Bipolar Disorder. If you’re scared, I totally get it, but please do not scare me with you.

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I sense I’m in a much better position than many people, because as of yet I’m barely even aware of all the fallout. My debt and cost of living are relatively low. I have a couple clients who, for now, are consistently paying their monthly subscriptions to train via FaceTime. Thankfully, that means my relatively good savings won’t be hit as hard as quickly. I have a safe, enclosed patio with lots of space and fresh air, and my apartment is spacious. My cat is healthy and affectionate. My utilities and WiFi are good. I’m a prepper who already had nearly everything in place. I even refilled my meds the week before the lockdown with a 90-day supply of each. I have creative work to keep me engaged, I know how to effectively exercise with minimal or no equipment, I’m physically healthy, and I’m introverted. All that together means I am (as of yet) essentially insulated from all this.

For all that, I am profoundly grateful.

I hope for a safe resolution to all our current troubles. However, stopping social distancing the moment it finally starts to have an effect is short sighted. Also, in the quest for answers, I think it’s unhelpful to assign blame to people based on their race or nationality — viruses have always happened, and this one is probably not much different. The two strongest emotions we have are love and fear. Right now there is too much of one and too little of the other, and it’s pulling us in very dangerous directions. I know it’s hard (and that I’m speaking from a position of privilege), but please try not to feed despair.

The After Shot

My right hand: I clicked the attachment. I just received the final draft of the art book I’ve been creating this past year. Gorgeous! I was so eager to see it!

My left hand: A text pinged my phone. The image of my book was filling me up with total joy. Then I looked at my phone: “Mama just died.”

Dad had been caring for his mother after she broke her neck in a car accident. The accident happened the morning the first COVID-19 cases were announced in Augusta, Ga., but she had already been admitted to the same hospital where those cases were then being treated. They rushed her through the recovery process in only a couple weeks, because she was 93 with underlying conditions. Very soon after they released her, she passed away at Dad’s home.

She had to be cremated, and there’s no funeral planned. She was Episcopalian, and bought her plot next to Grampa all the way back in 1989. This was absolutely not what she would’ve wanted.

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It was a surreal moment, because I literally held bliss in one hand and sorrow in the other. The two crashed together and essentially canceled each other out. On the one hand I wanted to celebrate my book, but it made me feel guilty for not feeling bereft. On the other hand I needed to grieve, but I felt indignant that something would immediately diminish my sense of accomplishment. It took many days of allowing myself to oscillate back and forth between the two extremes to come back to a place of neutrality.

And now this: My biological father is not the same man as my adoptive Dad. Father was a rolling stone who liked the ladies. And the ladies liked him. I’ve always known of at least two half-siblings he had with my mother’s roommate, but assumed there must be many more women. For years I shrugged them off collectively with, “I wouldn’t know them if I were standing next to them on the bus.”

But now one of them has found my sister and me. And this new sister has a big brother. These are the two I’d always known about. When my mother asked their mother if we couldn’t all know each other as siblings, their mother refused. So none of us ever followed up.

But my new sister had been looking for us for decades. My brother doesn’t want to talk yet. I was trepidatious at first, too. I forced my sister to vet this new sister to make sure she wasn’t homophobic. It turns out her husband is bisexual. Now I’m enthusiastically opening the flood gate between the two of us. She’s fascinating to me, and I’m eager to meet her one day. My brother, too (if he should ever want that).

That will take some adjusting: “My brother.” I’ve never needed to use that phrase before. I have a little brother. So weird.
Maintaining wellness isn’t easy. Life is too complex for that. But something I’m seeing in all this dynamic shifting is an undercurrent of balance. Before Gramma died, I was proselytizing from a place too far removed from current events. After Gramma died, I began to appreciate better how transformative our current times are. I’m still writing from a place of privilege, given my precarious financial stability, but I feel I’m beginning to appreciate better how much chaos there is outside my insular man-cave. I sincerely hope you’re all okay.

Jack Kirven completed the MFA in Dance at UCLA, and earned certification as a personal trainer through NASM. His wellness philosophy is founded upon integrated lifestyles as opposed to isolated workouts. Visit him at jackkirven.com and INTEGRE8Twellness.com.

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