Pandemic journal: Month 10 (December)

Weeks 38-42 : November 30 – December 31, 2020

Week 38

Monday. At my parents’ house.

With everyone either at work or busy with other things, I don’t get much help with Owl — though it’s more than I would get in our apartment — nor is anyone available to hang out. But I’m multitasking as much as ever, and it’s maybe even more frustrating now that I’m navigating other people’s meal schedules and opinions on Owl’s behavior. 

That said, we had huoguo for lunch and tonight I’m looking forward to freshly made wontons, and I haven’t lifted a finger. And there’s central heating, and more adults to talk to at meals. 

A short-haired Asian person with glasses pets a black and white cat
A small dark-haired child draws outdoors at an easel


I forgot that being around my family activates a lot of my insecurities in being an at-home parent — namely, that I do it (and feel about it) differently than other women in my life, and I still struggle with that. 

The isolation of the suburbs always disturbs me. Even the next-door neighbors feel far away. It’s a bubble (the house) within a bubble (the neighborhood), and it’s too easy, here, to become completely apathetic to anything that doesn’t directly affect the bubble. I suppose if I researched the history of suburbia I’d find that it was planned this way. 

Meanwhile, I’m dissatisfied with my body and appearance. Probably even 5 min of daily stretches would help a lot but it feels so impossible to initiate any task, whether cooking or exercise. I saw very starkly today that being with Owl wears me out: give me 15m of multitasking and cajoling and negotiating and limit-setting and I’m hurtling toward maxed-out. 


I dreamed E and I traveled to Iceland. When I woke I didn’t remember the dream consciously, but I put on my lopapeysa. A couple of nights ago I dreamed I was in France, buying groceries. I’ve had SO many more dreams here. I don’t know if it’s being around people, or in a new environment, or reduced stress and responsibility. 

Yesterday was good; Mommy took Owl and little S to the park, so I journaled and did some diversity committee work. After lunch A came in and I showed her our mission statement and we talked over the DEI work she’s been doing at her company and what I’ve been doing at preschool. I stayed in my room wrapping up while the kids played, and then went down to dinner. S had made a cake for Mommy’s birthday and mine. 


E and I are getting a date night! We’re going back to the apartment to water plants, etc, and the parents said they’d watch Owl so we can make it an overnight. I’m excited, but I feel the familiar apprehension about leaving Owl — I’m always afraid we’ll be killed en route and leave them parentless. I suppose that’s what people call an intrusive thought. 


A strange, transitional day. There’s a new Bay Area order that’s quite strict, effective until Jan 4, so we may stay at the parents’ until the order lifts. That means things are getting easier and more hopeful for us at a time when they’re horribly bleak for just about everyone else, with cases rising sharply and all holiday gatherings and even outdoor dining and playgrounds now closed off again. And yet there’s also a bizarre cognitive unreality to the numbers; SD and I were just saying yesterday it feels like it can’t be true; surely we’ve beat this thing already?! What else have all these months of misery been for, if not flattening the curve?! And yet, obviously, that’s not how it’s worked out. KK says they had 5 deaths just yesterday in her small town. 

Week 39

Friday. Still at my parents’. 

I miss N but I don’t seem to have it in me to reach out. I’ve talked less/shorter to everyone this week for whatever reason. I suppose it is a busier time of year — not just holidays but ofc the surge and new orders, and everyone finishing up work before holiday breaks. 


N invited me to join her weekly sit over Zoom. The last time I had any kind of meditation practice was years ago, and I stopped when Tisha died — stopped yoga, I think, also — and I was remembering that today, because while I tried to label all my thinking, ofc I thought anyway. And many of the thoughts (and more than that, sensations, emotions) were griefs. And sensations of tension, of hiding/clenching, of nothing being safe. 

If I were really to take care of myself, every day I would do ~45 min journaling and ½h meditation and 1h rolling and stretching and dancing. It’s not that I can’t find the time. These are all practices of training — they take effort, even if ultimately they’re energy-giving. It’s very hard to stay present, with all the distractions; even in my closed room during this sit, I could hear Owl getting teary and asking for me and E pulling them away, Mommy talking to Daddo, a truck, rain (though that was pleasant). My phone vibrating. The lure of social media and messaging and games and information. The needs and sensations of the body. Preschool presidenting, and kindergarten applications. Meals and shopping and keeping everything clean. Am I making enough art? Am I spending enough time with E? Which friends am I neglecting? What’s going on with my family? Am I eating right? Am I moving enough? 

I had a lovely birthday. It started with Owl, unprompted, wishing me happy, and continued with a surprise delivery of pastries and roll cake, orchestrated by A. A gift from SC Secret Santa, which I had fun unboxing and sleuthing over. Making an experimental sweet potato brown butter vanilla bean cake, family Zoom, a very small friend Zoom, preschool holiday party, chats with friends and E, some alone time before bed (though I was so overtired I slept poorly). Lovely tulips sent by J. Discovering my new bright golden yellow Tonlé jacket looks great over my new black hoodie. The deluge of good wishes. 

Lisa Hsia, a short-haired East Asian person with glasses, smiles while holding a bouquet of tulips.
Brown butter cake, Japanese sweet potato cream, whipped cream

Week 40

Monday. Still at my parents’

I don’t have much writing time, but decided to take 3 min of it in meditation, because of how helpful it was yesterday. It was good for clarity of mind and also discerning that ow, my back is really stiff and tight! Yesterday SI messaged me to say she’s decided to do a virtual version of her annual New Year’s retreat (YAYYYYY!!!) and wanted to know if I would lead some movement/dance. Ofc I said yes, with the disclaimer that I am not credentialed in any way to do such a thing. And then last night I realized, oh god, if I want to be able to move freely while leading others over Zoom, I need to move more myself. So actually S has given me a double gift: the retreat, and a much-needed kick in the pants to resume my dormant movement. 


E and I reflected this morning that if we didn’t have Owl, we would probably have spent months of the pandemic in bed. Would that have been better or worse than what we’ve been doing?!


I’m actually not depressed anymore, since coming here. I’m still not sure what I’m doing with my time, but I no longer have these long stretches every day of just being unhappy


I went to a BIPOC figure drawing session over Zoom. It was very well-run. One of the organizers said they’ve realized the necessity of moving the group virtual, because the pandemic won’t be over soon, and I’m thinking about that — about how there are still so many things that have been on hold because we keep thinking “after” will come sooner than it will, and new adjustments keep having to be made. Zoom life drawing feels like one of those adjustments for me, and so does Zoom meditation. Ever, we evolve; even pandemic time isn’t static. 

Watercolor and pencil drawing of a nude, short-haired person in seated contemplation
Pencil drawing of a tattooed person with red lips and voluminous hair

Week 41

Friday. Christmas. Still at my parents’

The cookie situation here is totally out of control. 

I think, especially for newish parents, there’s such a need for someone else to see us for who we are trying to be, both as parents and as people. And in the absence of my parent-friends, I’m trying to see myself, and it doesn’t feel the same. 


N couldn’t do our regular sit this morning, so I went to Yoko’s class, which I haven’t done in months. But today I wanted that deep, rigorous physical practice. I tried it out on the deck and that was even better than I’d imagined. The first time we lay down on our mats, face-up, I was astonished, delighted, and moved to realize I’ve never looked at the sky from that spot before. The tree looked so beautiful, leaves lightly golden around the branches’ edges; the next time, the (altocumulus?) clouds made a uniform pattern across the blue; another time, a bird approached another on a branch until it flew away but more slowly than I would have imagined; the sunlight caught a single thread of spider silk extended between the roof and the tree: now I saw it, now I didn’t. It’s possible I’m regaining energy and physical stamina with so much being easier here: a reminder that stress is physically taxing. 

Green-leafed tree against a blue sky, as seen from below

Week 42 (partial). Theme: boundaries with compassion. 

Thursday. New Year’s Eve.

I led C in a run-through of the movement workshop I’m planning for the virtual retreat, and we both really enjoyed it. She said she wouldn’t have believed I’ve never taught a dance class before. It energized me all day (even as it also tired me out)! 

A dear friend has tested positive for COVID. She doesn’t know how she got it. It is scary, how often I’ve been hearing that from people in the last month or so. I had my anxiety at bay until I told another dear friend who said, keep texting them, don’t stop reaching out, because who knows what might happen? Which is horribly grim, but isn’t she right?

This pandemic! Every time it feels like we reach a point where the stress has leveled off, new agonies come crashing in. It isn’t just this one friend, but other friends’ relatives, this whole surge. How are people getting it without knowing how; are we endangering my parents by being here, by using the public mailbox, driving to the apartment weekly, eating takeout, taking walks? Do I need to be worried about J getting the vaccine; do I need to be worried about her mom’s recent visit? Are we going to have to stay with my parents until “the virus is under control”, as Owl puts it? Do we close out the preschool year never returning there in any capacity? What of kindergarten; will Owl start school having been out of school for more than a year? What if my friends become gravely ill and I can’t do a thing to help? 

Well, it’s the same as ever really: one moment at a time. And in the moment, as far as I know, my loved ones are managing and they know I love them, I look after myself and those in my purview, and I do my best for the rest of the world as well. It should be enough, just to do all of that. (And right now? Unclench my jaw, release my shoulders, release my belly.) 

Pine branch and candle made from half of a satsuma

Sending love to all who keep doggedly searching out joy and love amidst the fear and anxiety.