When All Else Fails…

I mentioned last week that having the freedom to write day after day has resulted in… carpal tunnel symptoms in my left wrist and hand. I don’t mind that it hurts–compared to a three-day migraine it’s nothing–I mind that it scares me. This is a condition that sometimes only admits of surgical treatment, and that means downtime, expense, logistical challenges, and woe is me.

Other worries in the current environment go Yertle the Turtling on top of that fretful situation, and pretty soon, I am in a corona-funk. Everything is awful, the sky is falling, and I’ve already finished the new Julia Quinn, the new C.S. Harris AND Ozan Varol’s first mainstream nonfiction title. Whatever shall I do?

My worries are trivial compared to the life and death stakes many people are facing, but lecturing me about that doesn’t help my outlook. “It could always be worse,” is, to me, a Hail Mary pass thrown at reason on a playing field full of legitimate, painful emotions. It could always be better too, ya know.

I think back, though, to my parents, who endured the Great Depression; WWII (Dad served, Mom was a nurse); the Korean War; McCarthyism; Vietnam (my oldest brother served); Watergate; the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Malcolm X, Medger Evers, and Harvey Milk; the Kent State shootings; and various other wars, recessions, miseries, and scandals since. They both grew up without penicillin (Mom turned out to be allergic to it),  and with the ongoing threat of polio.

And you know how my parents coped? Welp, Dad generally had two double martinis every night after work. The first was in his hand within ten minutes of arriving home, and, “Mama, can I fix you a drink?” was probably his way of saying, “Honey, I love you.” In my mother’s words, “that was how you coped.” They may not have been the greatest generation, but they were certainly the drinking-est generation. And no, I never saw either parent drunk.

Some people cope with adherence to a faith tradition, some with music or exercise, some with a glass of chardonnay, some with books (Yay!!!), some with meditation or journaling. I’m personally consuming a bit more dark chocolate than usual–a big bit.

But my bedrock coping mechanism is to default to gratitude. As worried and scattered as I’m feeling, as disruptive as a sore paw (and a little bitty pandemic) could be for a chubby, aging, full time writer, what am I grateful for?

Ethically sourced dark chocolate, that’s for bleepin’ sure. Medical professionals who can fix a sore paw. Technology like dictation software that means this is not the end of the world, Grace Ann. Readers who like what I write enough to keep a roof over my head. Nifty little wrist cuffs that, for $19.99, will keep me from messing up my hand any further. My bloggin’ buddies, who stop by this space to share wisdom, wit, and worries…

And pretty soon, after I go down the gratitude gopher hole, I’m feeling less anxious and more settled. So what I want to know is: How do you cope? To three commenters, I’ll send SIGNED print ARC’s of A Duke by Any Other Name (c’mon, Tuesday!).

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24 comments on “When All Else Fails…

  1. A lot of my coping mechanisms are the same as yours. The “attitude of gratitude” is a big one. Some of the most unhappy people I’ve known are ones that can’t see the good in their lives because they are too focused on what they don’t have.

    I use laughter, prayer, reading, deep breathing also. I work hard at keeping a positive attitude and I have a kitty who knows just when she needs to jump in my lap and give me some kitty hugs. Hope that wrist gets better soon.

  2. I listen to music–or make music–to cope. I’ve been cooking a TON of comfort food and baking up a storm. We’ve been watching movies and several old BBC/PBS television series we never watched (because we didn’t have time) the first time. Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries and Cadfael especially. I heard there is a reboot of Perry Mason coming up soon.

    And I READ A LOT! Usually about 30 minutes to an hour every night before bed. In fact, I can’t wait until Tuesday, myself.

    Be well and safe, Grace. We’ll get through it I just wish it would hurry up and get resolved SOON.

  3. For me: jigsaw puzzles, crocheting and being out in nature. I love walking outside but just sitting around flowers and trees in the yard works too.

  4. Being a 72 year old retired social care manager who worked with young and old with various difficulties I feel guilty and frustrated that I cannot help in the situation we find ourselves in at the moment.My frontline working would be useful I know and I’ve seen on the news people my age volunteering.When I spoke to my daughter about this she reminded me of the state of my health when I finally retired,I was physically and mentally drained.My son said I was already doing my bit by isolating and sticking to the guidelines. This still did not settle me but I know I can help in some small way,I’m working on it.I already fetch my neighbours shopping and newspaper.My thanks to our courageous NHS workers and everyone working to keep it all rolling along.We are so fortunate.To you all around the globe keep safe and keep smiling.Our countries are doing their best in such challenging times,someone has to steer the ship,difficult decisions have to be made.Looking forward to your next book Grace,Tuesday will soon be here.

  5. I think we are all using the same coping strategies; baking, eating ,reading and watching tv.
    Walking is helping me as well. I noticed that I was crabby last week when the pouring rain interfered with my step count.

    Baking bread seems to be the “new thing”. We can’t find yeast in the stores! I am trying to perfect the 2 ingredient dough pizza crust. (Flour & Greek yogurt). I have been making homemade pizza for the last few weeks. Kneading dough is a HUGE stress reliever. Mrs. Meyers lemon squares and banana bread are on tap for today.

    I have been reading and watching tv. Our cable company gave us free channels for the month So we are enjoying some new movies. Daughter and I watched the The English Game last week on Netflix. And we are watching Belgravia . Netflix has movies we can watch as a family which is nice.

    I realized yesterday when I was walking with Rose how lucky I am to be able to walk my neighborhood , to see bunnies hopping around, to hear the birds and to see the flowers start to bloom. My husband and daughter and family members are healthy, And I realize how lucky I am to have Rose. She gets me out of the house by 7 am and walking her starts my day off in a good way.

    Happy Book Day!!
    Nathaniel and Altheas story will provide hours of enjoyment to all of us! ❤️
    Thank you for creating such wonderful stories!


  6. My kitty helps me cope. Where is my furry pants princess kitty? I need some pets. I feel better for the purrs. My kitty also likes to snuggle in when I’m reading. “Oh good you’re doing that thing where you lie still but can still pet me.”

    Writing sometimes helps me cope. My sister said once that playing around with extended metaphors is what separates the bright/gifted from the pack and writing is always one big extended metaphor for my life. I think it is a way of organizing the big the bad and the ugly into usefulness.

    My siblings help me cope. Texts are happy little lifelines to sanity. A phonecall is a lifeboat when the crazy floods in fast.

    A weekly phone call with my therapist can be helpful. So can sugar. So can a walk. So can sitting down and finishing something (a mask, a seam on pj oants, a basket of laundry put away). These are filed in the often but not always category of coping strategies.

  7. It sure does give us a new perspective on the lives of our parents and grandparents, doesn’t it? I’ve been sorry for the generations after us who haven’t come up with elders who lived through wars (Siri wants to make that “tears,” which works too). I gained so much knowledge about the world: frugality, generosity, faith, self-reliance and basic skills (tire-changing, gardening, sewing) from those good folks who had to do it all — and did it well. Even if “well” was code for “drink in hand.” 😉 I know I’ve been enjoying a gin and tonic again, after years of not drinking, too. Good luck with your paw!

  8. Hope your wrist gets better soon, Grace!
    No need to send a signed ARC, as I already have a digital copy in the hopper, thank you. I just wanted to hop on with wishes for a speedy recovery.

    And I am meditating daily, getting direct sunshine daily, and exercising daily. As well as being punctilious about going to bed early enough in hopes of getting enough sleep. Having my body in better shape helps my mind, and vice versa.

  9. I have an art studio I can’t seem to create in, a console full of board games not getting played, embroidery not being stitched. I was even giving myself a hard time for not reading more non-fiction and self-improvement books! I was so hard on myself for not doing any of the things I was told would make me feel better (or come out the other end better) that it made me feel worse than ever. I realized that not judging myself for my lack of motivation (initiative? joie de vivre? laziness??) in the midst of this pandemic, where we are all wading through uncharted territory, was the best thing I could do for myself. So my coping strategy is simply trying to let myself be. One activity that makes me feel better is lots of time spent lost in the lives of the Windhams, Wentworths, and MacGregors. Thank you so much for that Grace Burrowes!!!

  10. My husband and I are both still working, which, in a world gone mad, helps a lot. Otherwise… good meds, a puppy and sprouts, from those under the lights in the basement, to the dandelions coming in the lawn.

    Take care of those writing hands. I was scheduled for carpal tunnel surgery when the physical therapist suggested thoracic outlet syndrome. Some of the same interventions work, but physio, braces, hockey pads, and a proper bra kept me from surgery for awhile, anyway.

  11. I have never been good at keeping plants alive but I have started growing food from scraps. I figure I’ve got nothing to lose – if a planting fails it was only a scrap. No pressure. So far I’ve got a parsnip, a couple of beets, garlic and hopefully my ginger will take. Tomorrow I am starting some lettuce and onion. It is incredibly satisfying and delightful in a way I didn’t anticipate. As we inch toward spring up here in the north, to have new growth to watch and fuss over is my surprising new hobby.

    I have been baking vegan, gluten free brownies to beat the band. Just about every variation I can think of to have with a cup of tea. And books upon books. I have ARCs from work to keep me happy for some time and I have been burning through them.

    I hope your wrist heals quickly!

  12. While I have always loved to cook, that usually meant cooking for large groups of friends and family. Being Italian, food is how we show love! It was not unusual for me to have 20 or more friends at my table, enjoying the food I cooked, but mostly getting together for the camaraderie (and music–we’ve met many of our friends via the ukulele!). Now it’s just my husband and me, but dinner is still a celebration of love, just smaller! My biggest problem is that I am used to cooking for a crowd, so when it’s just us two, I can end up making meals that we eat for 3 days, which means there are 2 days when I don’t have the fun of menu planning & cooking. But, as you’ve mentioned, we are luckier than what previous generations endured. And I am rationing my dark chocolate supplies!

  13. I have been coping by telling my husband and son – I love you, reading, chocolate, sending cards out to family and friends to brighten their day and starting my garden seeds. When I send a card out I try and send one I made myself and I usually put a tea bag in it or a skin care product sample, just a little something fun. My mom is 86 and she loves a card with a tea bag in it. I keep sending her different kinds of tea to try. Also, as a person who suffered carpal tunnel to the point I could not hold a fork in my hand for a meal, surgery isn’t bad. I had to have it done in both hands. My son was under a year old at the time and it could not wait any longer. I had the first hand done and was back changing diapers in 2 days. A month later I had the second hand done. I had a great doctor and my son just turned 15 and my hands are still good. I tried everythng before surgery, nothing worked.

  14. Get thee a huge tube of Boiron’s Arnica gel. My surgeon turned me on to this & it’s nigh to being as effective as the prescription ointments he wrote scripts for while we postpone another procedure. No smell, clear, & smear it on morning, noon & night to relieve the OW! Cheaper than the co-pay for the prescription goo as well. Whole Foods has it, Amazon, various other healthy stuff providers.

    Can’t wait to post my review tomorrow. This is your best yet! ETA on the audio? I needs me some Langton.

  15. I am so sorry that you have developed carpal tunnel syndrome. I am a computer programmer and spend a lot of time typing. I worked *very* long hours at the time. I believe I bought a keyboard wrist rest that helped. Anti-inflamatories like Advil also helped over time. The issue did finally resolve without surgery, but I don’t think it would have if I’d had to keep typing as much for such long periods of time. I hope you get better soon.

    • Another change I made due to my hands (and eyesight) was to begin reading ebooks. I also have a fair amount of arthritis in my hands, particularly the thumbs, so holding a book became painful. For that reason, please offer your signed book to someone else.

      I appreciate your books so much. I think I have every one of them, and they are frequently re-reads.

  16. Oh, Grace, coping has been rough – but like you I also rely on “It could always be worse.” I’m in NY, and we’ve been hit pretty hard. Many people we know, or know of, have been very ill, and in some cases, have died. We’ve been staying home for well over a month, with my husband venturing out once a week with his safety gear, to shop. We’ve been enjoying wine and FaceTime, with friends. I have been doing (and creating) puzzles on jigsawplanet.com. Lots of reading, cleaning closets, and a Trintellix every morning. Cooking new things – it’s like the TV show Chopped here, figuring out what we have and what to do with it! Not everything is available in stores here. Been doing some baking, too. Planning our retirement home down South. Trying to stay away from the news as much as possible. Listening to more music, especially on YouTube. Also, John Krasinski’s Some Good News videos are great! Praying more than usual. It helps. *sigh* Stay safe, everyone! xox

  17. Well, dark chocolate first of course! And the cats. And reminding myself that my mother took very good care of me for years, and deep breaths or leaving the room works, as opposed to mindless violence. Going outside for at least 10 minutes a day, which is one of the best pieces of advice I got from a doctor. Enjoying the great, pollution-free air and the wonderful flowers which are lasting forever thanks to a cool wet spring. Reading, re-reading old favorites and finding new ones via Amazon or literature-map.com or whatever. TV. Calling old friends. I’m learning to draw too. And baking bread too, like everyone else. (Got a large bag of yeast on Amazon, natch!)
    As far as the medical issues, researching the hell out of it on the internet helps, and for something like this, looking at the videos. With carpal tunnel, which the doctor breezily tells me I only have mildly in spite of the occasional days of blinding pain, really look at your ergonomics. Are you typing with your wrists slightly bent? Don’t. Do. That. Splints or braces or wrist rests or whatever helps, try it. Mainly, don’t push it when it starts hurting slightly. Mild pain is your sign to stop. And really, it’s your sign to step back and seriously take it easy for a couple of days.
    Also, I found that wearing my braces at night really helps, because that’s 8 hours in the correct position right there.
    Investigate voice recognition software. The typing for editing is usually easier than the typing for drafts, especially if they’re multiple. Check with your writers groups for advice re coping with carpal tunnel, also check online for advice from computer or data entry worker’s advice, rather than just for advice from writers. Medical people have a ton of documentation to do on computers, and they know what to do medically too, even if you have to research past advice rather than hitting them up for help now. Although, if you have health insurance, including Medicare, they have/should have tele-medical calls now, and maybe even to specialists.
    That’s it. My hand hurts! And this is what happens when you ask retired reference librarians for advice!

  18. I’ve always believe that to say “It can’t get any worse” I am jinxing myself and that something will make life worse. Saying it could be worse, is stating fact and not a comfort for me either.

    Reading is my main source of coping with any and everything. Comfort foods such as chocolate, bread, cheese, pasta, and whatever else I am craving are also ways I cope – with the extra glass of wine usually with the cheese, bread, and fruit. Finally cuddling with my pets and my hubby are big coping methods. Thinking about it reading and cuddling are necessary parts of my life no matter what is going on – the food as well however during stressful times, I have more cravings.

    I hope your carpal tunnel can improve without surgery, Grace. I had it years ago and was able to avoid surgery by wearing a wrist brace and using wrist supports while typing. However, I had a mild case.

  19. Ah! How do I count the ways to cope!
    1. No children to homeschool
    2. Dark Chocolate
    3. Semi-retired
    4. Books
    5. Car finally paid off last month
    6. Did I mention dark chocolate?
    7. House paid off
    8. Did I mention books?
    9. In good health
    10. Spring flowers!

  20. I loved reading “A Duke by Any Other Name” Thank You!
    Thanks as well for your blog and your info about words…

  21. I moved from my childhood home in Baltimore to New Hampshire 18 months ago. My mother bought this house for $600 in 1962 when I was 14. It was built in 1789 by a Revolutionary War soldier on his 1000 acre land grant. There is 160 acres of that land still with the house.The house had been abandoned in the 1930s and was was derelict . Mom and I spent the first summer renovating it. Dad said he would not come up to New Hampshire until we had flush toilets. The roofer was very rude to Mother and she fired him; so she sent me up to put on the roof, it lasted for 20 years.
    When Mother died, 11 years ago, I started another renovation to make the house livable year round. My daughter and her husband live north of Boston with the all important grandchildren. Since they are only an hour away and it is significantly cheaper to live here, I retired to the woods. I’m half way up Rowe Mountain on a dirt road which closes for the winter, the isolation of the Pandemic does not seem very different from normal.
    I started off on March 13th keeping my grandchildren, but after a week it turned out my youngest granddaughter had been exposed to the virus. Amalia is only 5 and was very homesick and I thought if she got very sick, she needed her Mother. After that, I got the weird notion that if I got sick and died, I did not want anyone to see how disorganized the house is under the surface; so I have been cleaning and organizing. This involves dragging moving boxes out of the basement and sorting through them. Some of the stuff is quite amusing because I have been an antique doll dealer for the last 30 years. Many hours have been spent in front of the TV binge watching old Masterpiece Theater DVDs repairing dolls, teddie bears and their accessories. I really miss entertaining which is how I kept my social network alive even though I live in a remote location.
    Between random snowstorms, spring is starting in the north. I’m trying to spend 2 and a half hours a day gardening. I’m digging up and starting over on a garden I put in 20 years ago for mother. They call it the Granite State because any time you dig in the soil, you get rocks. I’ve replaced rocks with organic composted cow manure and if it would stop snowing, I could start planting.
    Lately, I’ve been under the weather with an odd nerve disease, Guillaume Barre syndrome which I had 30 years ago. Now it is just Stiff neck, headaches and tiredness. I really commiserate over your Carpel Tunnel syndrome. Working keeps your mind off of the weird times we are living through. It is fine to say stop and rest, but that gives you way too much time to think about what is going on.
    I’ve just finished reading your latest book which is wonderful. I love how you described Yorkshire, my daughter’s godparents lived in the Lake District. They had turned one of the great houses, Underlying Hall into a boarding school for maladjusted children. Their program was great, they had some of the worst cases in England. Unfortunately, the state is no longer paying for that kind of help for children. Winter in the north of England is intense, but now they too have central heat and double paned windows!
    As the Pandemic continues the only thing to do is start at the beginning and reread all your novels again!