Coping with COVID-19: How We're Fighting the Coronavirus
Updated: May 3, 2020
This post isn't about all about Parkinson's Disease specifically, but something we are all going through. The current pandemic has impacted lives around the world. It might be difficult to believe when people are losing jobs and even their lives, but things will get better. Even though I worked remotely for years, being essentially "locked down" in our home is difficult for me. I miss the random lunch and dinner dates with Doreen, I miss the fellowship at my church, and I miss hanging out with our friends and neighbors. I even miss my routine on the Microsoft campus: bumping into colleagues in the café for breakfast, meeting random people over lunch and strolling between buildings.
This, too, shall pass.
I'm taking advantage of this time to build new good habits that I plan to carry into my life once the restrictions are lifted. Here's a few areas I'm focused on. First, a quick update.
Before I dive into the post, I wanted to share a quick update on my personal symptoms. So far, the medication has been working well. I'm typing better and my foot cramping has reduced significantly. I still experience mild dystonia in my left foot in the evenings and my left arm still tremors frequently, especially when it's cold and after I exercise. Yesterday I experienced a new symptom for the first time: gait freezing. It was a very mild episode, but I was walking up the stairs and when I expected to pick up my left foot, it remained "stuck" on the step. My momentum carried me forward and I was able to catch myself with my right foot. It was a very isolated incident but something I'm now hyper aware of as I walk around.
The first area I'm building habits with is my foundation: faith.
Just over one year ago I started a new plan to read the bible in a year. Even though I first placed my faith in Jesus almost two decades ago and regularly attend both church and bible study, I never set out to read the entire bible until now! It was a simple goal but absolutely transformed my life. I learned to recognize the power of starting each day with God's word, and have not stopped. I finished the one-year program and am now starting a new one.
My faith habits include:
Start each day in prayer to put God first and not my personal needs. A bad habit of mine that I've broken was scrolling through social media posts first thing in the morning instead of finding comfort in my creator. My wife has an awesome personal rule she follows: no social media before 10 am. Instead of waking up to the latest death toll, I take comfort in: And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." - 1 Peter 5:10
Continue my morning routine each day by reading the bible. I finished a chronological plan and decided to move right into another study. Every morning I devote at least 15 minutes to strengthening my faith.
Give thanks before every dinner meal and pray for our leaders, our doctors, our paramedics, fire fighters, nurses, pastors, those who are donating time and risking those lives and those who have been impacted whether it's from illness or losing a job or feeling the loneliness of isolation.
I love the creative ways our faith community has managed to stay in contact so it's physical distancing but not social distancing. We gather at the same time to watch our sermon streamed online and just started Zoom meetings to bring everyone together.
One thing I learned is that the best workout program is the one you stick with. I don't like jogging in the cold rain and I was feeling anxious at the thought of being isolated in the garage to use our home gym. Instead of doing nothing or getting overwhelmed, I adapted. There are several ways I'm staying fit and these are consistent habits I'll bring with me into the future.
Every morning before breakfast or even stepping foot into my home office, I jangle. If you're not familiar with that term, I wrote a post about The Jangle.
During the day I play rounds of Beat Saber. This is an amazingly fun game. I'm not being sarcastic when I say it is great for Parkinson's Disease. It tests memory (to be successful in the more challenging levels, you have to remember the music and the patterns of blocks), coordination (moving to the beat), and provides a great workout by swinging, jumping side to side and squatting.
During the day we take our German Shepherd on walks around the neighborhood. Some of the loops are long and involve fairly steep hills.
Every evening, I do a workout from a site called Daily Dose PD. They provide challenging high intensity workouts designed specifically for people with Parkinson's Disease, but beneficial for everyone. It reminds me of CrossFit workouts but with more emphasis on calisthenics.
Finally, before bed I'll do a yoga-style stretching session. The stretching and breathing help me relax and prepare for a deep night of sleep (not to mention recover from my workouts). My wife and I also do Tai Chi sessions together for the same reason (calm and relaxation).
Doreen and I always work on our relationship, and this time of "shelter in place" gives us new ways to grow even closer. Our love is still strong after over 20 years of marriage, but everyone is susceptible to routine. Our focus has been to do less next to each other (like watching movies) and do more with each other, like playing games. Here's what we do to maintain our relationship (and relationships with others) and what we hope to carry forward out of this pandemic.
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I always enjoy our lunch and dinner dates. We've had to get creative with not going out, but we have fun with pizza dates, ordering Mexican and enjoying Thai. We take this time to share our day and thoughts with each other.
When I knew we were going to be stuck in our home for some time, I ordered several board games, including Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly (National Parks Edition), and Scrabble:
We also love grabbing a regular deck of cards to play "Crazy 8's."
When the weather is nice, we go on walks with our German Shepherd. Our neighborhood has beautiful views of Mt. Rainier, the Cascades and the Olympics and is always a fun and relaxing (although quite hilly) time.
As part of the online fitness courses I'm taking, there are some Tai Chi videos that Doreen can do with appropriate modifications for her back. We love our time doing this together to relax before bed.
We are great friends with our neighbors. To maintain social distancing, we've had conversations over our fence line and even shared a toast through the window. Last night we tried something new and hung out over a Zoom video and played a JackBox game. It was so much fun. I can't emphasize how powerful having video to hold face to face conversations is compared to just talking over social media.
I recently took on a new role as .NET Data PM at Microsoft. My start date, Monday March 9th, 2020, was after Microsoft proactively decided to shut down our campus. I feel so fortunate and blessed that the pandemic did not prevent me from continuing to work or take on the new role. I have been in the role for a month without having a single in-person meeting. Microsoft has some great approaches to staying connected.
Amanda Silver, our Corporate Vice President, started a virtual breakfast club so every day at 8 am I can jump on video and see coworkers and chat. The "club" may have anywhere from 2 to dozens of people and I've gotten to know some coworkers who I've never met in person.
We hold regular team meetings and encourage everyone to turn on video (no dress code required other than being dressed) to add a more personal dimension to our meetings.
A few teams I work with have virtual lunches to hang out. We also started playing games. The games are a great way to have fun together, but also help reveal personalities and stories that help us get to know each other and improve our connection.
I used to go into our Channel 9 studio on a regular basis to co-host a show named On .NET. The studio is closed, but we're still in business. Fortunately, in my previous role I was able to acquire recording equipment like a high-quality microphone and webcam. I'm continuing to host the show, only we do it remotely over Skype now. So far, the results have been great!
I think the toughest part about this is getting comfortable being alone, but it doesn't have to mean being lonely. Doreen and I are blessed to have each other, but we keep in contact with friends and family on the phone and even had a fun meeting with our neighbors talking over the fence.
If anyone needs someone to speak to, I'm happy to make time and talk, so just reach out.
Have faith, look forward, and enjoy the opportunity to be still in this fast-pace and hectic world. I wish you all well and hope you have a blessed and abundant time ahead.