Time to Focus

COVID-19 is getting old. And experts agree that bringing it under control may take until the end of next year. In the meantime, I’m trying to find the good in it while being mindful of those who are sick or have lost a loved one or their job.

Most of the good from COVID-19 is a result of having more time to focus, to pay attention, to listen, to do one thing at a time.

I’m finishing books. I have a habit of starting books, geting two or three going at once, and then, because other activities come along, not finishing them. But I get interrupted less often lately, and the stack is going down. I’m reading more and for longer periods before I need to give my attention to another task.

I realized some time ago that the ability to focus is one of the advantages men have over the rest of us. It’s in their DNA. Since man walked the earth, he was a provider, a hunter, a protector, and those things require focus.

Women, on the other hand, bear the progeny, and kids make things messy and disorganized. So, it’s in our DNA to multi-task. We can nurse a baby while cooking, watching two other children, and talking on the phone.

But jobs get done better when there’s focus. So, the trick is to focus on those things worth doing. COVID-19 has kept my life simpler and with the added time, given me the clarity to do the things worth doing and let the others go.

Gene is reading for fun! He has never been that kind of a reader. Reading, for him, has always been something you needed to do – for school, for work, for getting something done. Reading was practical. Because we’re stuck at home, he has begun to read for the pure pleasure of it. And in true masculine style, he sticks with one book for several days until it’s finished. Reading books gives us something to talk about besides cars, trailers, air conditioners, and fishing. And it’s fun to hear him laughing at a passage or to listen to him read me something.

I’m writing with a sense of purpose. Facebook has been an outlet for my writing, but you can’t develop good stories or interesting ideas in just one or two paragraphs. Hence, my blog, which, at my daughter’s suggestion, I started on April 3rd. This is Blog Number 22!

There’s a lot involved. Selecting the topic is the toughest part of the process. Then there’s the writing and research, the organizing, the rewrites, the editing, and the adding of media. And I can’t omit the platform, which is like learning a new language, a clunky one, at best. All this is good brain exercise and keeps me from flitting from one activity to the next.

Gene and I are walking again. I can’t attend my exercise programs, so walking has been a lifesaver — if we get up early enough to beat the heat. We talk when we walk, and it’s a helpful way to touch base on our projects or just run things by each other.

I have a friend who says that men will do anything if it’s outside. I think that theory has some merit. Think about it: he doesn’t want to cook, ask him to grill; he doesn’t offer to help with the cleaning, ask him to blow off the patio and hose it down; he doesn’t communicate, go for a walk and try to get a word in.

Good friends are calling, and I’m calling them. We can give each other our full attention. We can share funny stories and make each other laugh. We can take our time and give each other the space to say it all; that’s hard to do in a text or email. I come away from these chats rejuvenated and comforted. And I think they do, too.  

I’m putting my son’s mementos from preschool through 4th grade into a scrapbook. He’s 40 years old! I did this for his older sisters years ago, and I’ve started this project several times, only to have to clear off the dining room table and put everything away. Not this time. We never have company!

Gene and I do more together. This is a man who doesn’t want to be “mothered,” married to a nurturer. But because of COVID-19, he has let me learn to cut his hair. He seems to like the result and the money it saves. And I love doing it!Gene's 2nd haircut2 5-16-20

We fix lunch together, even if we go our separate ways to eat it.  We team up on chores, e.g., he vacuums, I mop. We run expenditures by each other before we go out and buy something, rather than just ordering it because we suddenly have time. (Okay, this one’s entirely mine.)

He has felt from the beginning that I have “too many constituents.” Now I’m home most of the time, not running in so many directions. I can give him my full attention when he needs to tell me something. And all this leads to a better sex life, which seals the deal.

So, that’s my list. Taken individually, the items may sound mundane. But together, they contribute to health, intellectual stimulation, and richer relationships, and that means a happier life. At the root of it is the time to focus. And COVID-19 has given me this gift.

Ironic, isn’t it?

P.S. Please sign up for my blog. I’m curious to know who reads it. And if you would add comments about how COVID-19 has improved your life, I’d love to read them. Stay well.

Life with Parkinson’s


Some days when I wake up, I can’t see the time — on the clock on Gene’s bedside table or the one on my phone. My right leg is twitching , my toes are cramping and feel glued together, my back is stiff and achy, and my balance is … well, It’s shit. I must look drunk on the way to the bathroom.

But I take my meds, brush my teeth, and have a cup of coffee. I may be shaking on the right side, but within an hour, I’m doing pretty well. And if I stick to my schedule, the meds keep my tremor under control.

Such is my life with Parkinson’s. And yet, when I got an automated call yesterday from my health insurance provider, I answered “very good” to the question about my current state of health because, except for the Parkinson’s, it is very good. After all, when asked if I had this health issue or that one, I was able to answer “no” to every one of them. That’s because they didn’t ask me if I had Parkinson’s — or any movement disorder, for that matter.

The truth is, I can do pretty much whatever I want to, thanks to good medicine (doctors and chemicals) and lots of exercise. Like Alan Alda, my motto is “Keep moving.” And so I do. I work out with a trainer on Monday and Friday, go to a boxing class on Tuesday,  attend a Dance for Parkinson’s class on Wednesday, walk, hike, and garden.

This is my trainer Matt Jarvis, with me. Under normal circumstances, I work out with Matt twice a week, in a group.

On Thursday, I attend Tremble Clefs, a choir of people with Parkinson’s (and a few care givers), directed by a music therapist. You see, Parkinson’s tries to make everything controlled by your nervous system smaller — your movements, your handwriting, even your voice.

Having lived in San Francisco, Seattle, Faribault, MN, Phoenix, and Tucson, and having worked most of my life, I have lots of friends. And being in the Phoenix area with our five children (Gene’s two and my three) and 10 grandchildren, there is, under normal circumstances, lots of interaction with people of all ages.

This is my husband Gene and me with our nine grandchildren. The 10th, a baby boy,
was born 2 months later.

So I go about my days like anyone else, constantly aware of my disorder, but pretty much ignoring it. Even in this surreal time of COVID-19, life is good. And I am grateful.