I have had some vivid, amazing dreams lately. Animals visit me regularly in these dreams. So far, I’ve had dreams with turtles, snakes, elephants, bees, cats, frogs, and dogs. At first, I just bored Katie with retellings of these dreams. Her advice was to look up the ‘meaning’ of the dreams. Well, I did. Let me tell you, this branch of arcana is a rabbit-hole (pun intended, although they haven’t made an appearance yet) you might want to avoid.

A quick caveat: I haven’t smoked or ingested pot since mid-September. Not that my pot habit was particularly large. I usually smoked on cleaning day, or when Lyme made it impossible not to. Anyway, those of you who have ever smoked regularly and quit, you know how dreams rebound. Researchers think that pot inhibits/suppresses REM sleep, but who really cares about the whys.

I am a lucid dreamer. I go back and change the trajectory of a dream if I don’t like it.  The other night I dreamt I went to a class reunion (don’t even get me started on what the hell that meant) and I noticed it was nothing but a bunch of old people, and we weren’t dancing. Well, I didn’t like that dream. So I changed it. The first dream was probably the way it is. The second dream was straight up memory from an earlier reunion, where we were packed together dancing to “Brown Sugar.” Much better.

I also have recurring dreams, some I’ve had since childhood. There are two houses that I know intimately in my dreams that don’t exist in my real life. Lots of stuff happens in them, and I’m almost always stressed out when they appear. They obviously represent a place I don’t want to be. I haven’t had any dreams with those houses in them in a while. There have been new dream houses, but obviously temporaries. The other night the house was a dorm of some kind, chilly, modern and all-white. It was dark, cold and rainy outside and the windows were massive and uncovered. Running on both sides of the house were dogs, like all the dogs in the area had come together and were trotting with purpose towards something. I wasn’t disturbed or scared, other than the Stephen King-like disquiet of so many dogs. Occasionally a dog would turn and look at me with a look that said, “Come join us.”

Dreaming of animals is a newer thing and quite different for me. Oh, there were the times two of my dogs visited me in the days after their deaths, or the time I dreamt I had a frog on a leash (hey, it was grad school. I also dreamt my fingers got chopped off and I’m a writer, so…), but rarely have I dreamt like I have in these last months. I’m usually too stunned by the bizarreness of these dreams to change them. I watch them unfold slack-jawed, except for the emotions that course through me: peace, rootedness, amazement, comfort.

When I started looking up the meaning of these animals and my dreams, I learned there are a LOT of people who are looking for interpretations of their weird dreams. There are also a lot of people out there ready to help. Like astrology, the language and meanings are loosey-goosey, open to whatever you are looking for. And like astrology, I don’t believe that dreams should be interpreted literally, or that such interpretations should be mistaken for absolute truth or real-life decisions.

On the other hand, my brain is going through a lot, apparently.  My subconscious is very busy at night. Sometimes I believe it’s trying to make sense of the things that I don’t want to deal with. Other times I think maybe it’s just fucking with me, teasing me with the most ridiculous and mundane images possible. A little entertainment from me for me. Haha. Joke’s on me.

Almost all of my dreams have optimistic interpretations: personal happiness, overcoming your problems, being at peace with yourself, good luck, strength, and transformation. I guess my next questions would be, why does my brain feel the need to do this to me? And why is it so relentlessly optimistic?

It is possible that I resist giving myself credit for my own personal strength. In fact, I try very hard to avoid all thoughts of the circumstances that have forged that strength. Instead of congratulating myself on finding meaning and contentment in a drastically altered life, I focus on  what needs to be done now. It seems a lot easier than thinking about my life or my inability to change things like COVID or Lyme.

Also, I don’t have the extra energy to contemplate anything more than what I choose to do, and I don’t choose to consciously tell myself how fucking great and strong I am. So my brain has chosen to do that for me in the only time I don’t control it. In essence, I’ve outfoxed my own self and become my own cheerleader through my dreams, because I can’t do that when I’m conscious. I hope all of you have such wily brains. These dreams are a lot of fun, and in their own ways, quite comforting.




Is there a word for female curmudgeon? The formal definition is a “bad-tempered person, especially an old one” and is unisex. I’m not one yet, but I’ve been flirting with the possibilities of allowing myself the luxury. This would require energy, maybe more energy than the daily decision to find something good about the day. That is the choice these days, isn’t it? I don’t know about you, but most days find me on a roller coaster of highs and lows that I’d rather not experience. I’m more of a lazy river kind of gal, and yet the universe has strapped me onto the Tower of Terror.

Pre-COVID, I would have done some the things that kept me cheerful while sick with Lyme: museums, movies, visiting friends, and the occasional trip. This is by no means the whole list, but it’s the one most affected by COVID. Joni Mitchell had it right, “you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.”

I have deep, strong inner resources. I’ve had to, with the challenges life has thrown me from an early age. This isn’t the place to get into that, but those of you who know me know that no matter what, I manage to see hope and joy in anything. Lately, though, curmudgeon-ness, or at least the freedom to let oneself become a grumpy hermit, happier alone than with people, is quite tempting. There is a word for this. It’s not even German! Apanthropy: An aversion to the company of men; a love of solitude. I suppose we could quibble about the use of ‘men’ in this sentence, but you get the gist. That’s what I’ve been experiencing, and it’s blossomed under the rich fertilizer of COVID.

The main problem with this scenario is that I’d actually have to say really shitty things aloud. I think this is one of the requirements to becoming a full-fledged curmudgeon. It could be this is why curmudgeon is associated with men more than women (don’t fight me on this. You know I’m right).

Although I care much, much, less what people think of me, it is not in my nature to hurt people, whether they are strangers, friends, or family. This may prevent me from earning the title curmudgeon. I’ll never say never, though. I could become one of those mean old ladies who says exactly what they think.

The pandemic has been hard on virtually every person I know. It doesn’t seem to matter if you are angry at having to wear a mask, or sad that you have lost loved ones, or sick of being isolated, or missing loved ones. I’m not sure any of us can comprehend what we’ve endured yet. I do know it has made me less tolerant. Things that would just slide by irritate the hell out of me, and it doesn’t seem to matter who or what it is. I’m positive I irritate the hell out of people, too. Our national zeitgeist is one of emotional exhaustion. I just had a head start on everybody else.

Most people are new to social isolation, being alone with themselves, or being forced into sharing close quarters with the same people for days, weeks, months on end. Our ability to move, to go anywhere is one of the privileges of living in a wealthy democracy.

Six years ago Lyme forced me to re-evaluate this privilege, but I was no stranger to being alone. I have always been content to be alone, and as the youngest child, that is a good thing. Both of my brothers were out of the house by the time I turned thirteen. My cousin Ginger lived with us for a few years after her parent’s divorce, so it was the two of us for a little while.  From my sophomore year on, Mom and dad worked full time, so I was alone before and after school. I reveled in the  solitude, happily eating dessert for breakfast, blasting my music and dancing with no one to bother me. I was never afraid, because at that time we had Charlie the Great Pyrenees who would have killed anyone who threatened me. I don’t say that lightly. Anyone who knew me then and came to my house could tell you how scary he could be.

I’m sure I was lonely at times. Who isn’t at that age, especially if it was a Friday night and you thought everyone else but you was out having a magnificent time. But even then, I had things to do. I read voraciously. I listened to music constantly. I tried sewing occasionally, and I baked things when the spirit moved me. I didn’t mind my own company back then and I don’t mind it now.

Then I got Lyme. Or rather, I’d had it for over a year and didn’t know it. When I started treatment, I was so sick I barely noticed my isolation. The first three years were the worst. I’m sure I lost friendships over this period, because virtually all of my energy was consumed with taking care of myself. I may have been a little prickly during this time. Really, who could blame me? People had no idea how I could be so sick for so long. Reconciling myself to chronic illness and trying to educate the people around me made me extremely grumpy.

And I grew used to being alone. Not just, you know, a day or two, but days and weeks of alone. I anticipate that the biggest problem for me in life after COVID will be returning to a social life, as in, will I want to? It’s hard to imagine the anticipation of going to, say, a new exhibition at the art museum, or a concert at Red Rocks. I’m pretty sure I’ll be excited over these things once again, I just can’t quite picture it. For now, though, I’ll put my scanty reserves into holding my tongue and trying to see the positives.




I railroaded my dad into letting me move in with him this past September. It seemed like a good time with COVID and lockdowns and my continued journey with chronic Lyme. The original plan was to sell my house, move in with dad for a while, and later on, move to Costa Rica. Then came COVID and a radical change in plans. I kept my house. Katie is living there and taking care of everything. Keeping the house  was more of an emotional decision than purely financial. It didn’t  (and still doesn’t) seem like a good time to take risks.

Isolation was wearing on everybody by this point. I had stopped writing, unable to draw on any of the emotional and mental strength writing requires. I was sick of Lyme, sick of COVID, sick of myself. There was no life-guarding or teaching swim lessons.. Airbnb had ground to a halt. Strangely, none of these things particularly bothered me. Trying to help dad solve his everyday problems with his computer, or his phone, or some mail he received, that bothered me.

It would have been about time to go for a visit without COVID. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I should be down there for a much longer stretch of time. Not anything concrete or pressing, just a feeling that we could, and should help each other through this time.

My best friend Laura ( I can say that, right, Laura?) needed a break from sheltering with the four males in her household and offered to drive me down to Tucson. We set out the day after a freak September snowstorm and arrived in Tucson late in the afternoon the next day for my 14 day quarantine. Our first place was a tiny condo across the street from dad with NO WIFI. I cannot stress this enough. NO WIFI. We got another place and saw my dad every night outside with masks on.

I moved in the house on the 15th day. Dad had cleaned and moved his office out of the room next to my bedroom. This visit was very different from earlier ones. We were going to co-exist for a long time. I truly appreciate his willingness to turn over parts of his house to me, allowing me to make them functional for myself. There was another person in the house, though. My mom has been gone for ten years. Most everything has been left the way she liked it. I helped dad go through a LOT of her things after she died, and we got rid of the things that accumulate in illness and old age: blankets, medical equipment, assorted kitchen things that haven’t been used in years, and knickknacks that must have meant something to someone at some time. We never really moved any of the furniture., though Dad had moved a few items out of his bedroom and rearranged the den and his office, but that was it.

This was more cataclysmic. My mom was precise. Not house proud, exactly. Everything had it’s place for both aesthetic and utilitarian purposes and it was to be kept like that. I felt like I was thirteen again, rearranging my room late at night, knowing mom would not be thrilled.

The kitchen was where I started first. Dad, like many widowers, had adapted to a simple kitchen routine: coffee, OJ, English muffin and sausage for breakfast, granola and milk or a sandwich for lunch, and either crackers, cheese and fruit or a frozen dinner for dessert. He used few of the many things in the kitchen. I started small, rearranging the pots and pans and cleaning out the pantry. Then I forged ahead and went through the cabinets. So many mysteries! Why were  there so many mismatched storage containers and lids? Why did we have three candy thermometers? And the biggest mystery of all, why did we keep spices from at least the 90s?

There must have been about thirty containers. I took a photo of some of them. Note the labels and prices. When was the last time you saw any spice for .57¢?

After I cleaned out the spices, I found it easier to change things in the house. I’ve rearranged my bedroom and office. I’ve added plants. The pantry and the fridge are well-stocked, just the way I like it.

We do pretty well, all things considered. Dad’s small retirement community has been and is very isolated, the threat of COVID moving through the community a powerful impetus to not gather or go out. Zoom classes don’t come close to filling that gap. Sometimes, like in my Spanish class, it highlights the differences in how people act during COVID. The three people under thirty have done the bare minimum in terms of isolating and social distancing. They talk about their travels and adventures while the three of us over sixty listen. We don’t do much at all, except go to parks or drive to pick up groceries, or go to appointments that can’t be avoided.

Sometimes I get frustrated when I see how differently people act during the pandemic. I can’t work up too much anger, though. I would probably do the same if this happened when I were much younger. It seems to me that it’s easier to hunker down at home and keep busy when you’re older.

At any rate, I can’t control what other people do. I can only control me. So I write, read, hike (a LOT), cook, clean, and keep trying to learn Spanish. I get depressed, I have relapses. I try not to think about when everybody else goes back to normal and I’ll still have Lyme to deal with. I think about letting go of the illusion of control to gain control, a futile, koan-like pursuit that so far, has not given me any intuitive enlightenment or tranquility.

I have done everything that I can do to protect myself and Dad from COVID and from the crushing loneliness self-isolation brings. Next week the Australian Open begins and we’ll watch tennis together, something we’ve both missed far more than I would have thought pre-COVID. We’ll continue to do our best to get along. I’ll ponder the fact that I have become my mother about many things. And then I will return to what I’ve learned best in the last six years with Lyme: the full-time business of coping.