Cathy ZielskeCZ Life70 Comments

cathy zielske blog post COVID 19

cathy zielske blog post COVID 19

NOTE: In this post, I’m going to talk about therapy and my personal experience. I share these thoughts today with this caveat and also to remind you this is my perspective, and in no way do I have all of the answers. We can think differently and still share pieces of our humanity. But it might help someone out there. And it might help me.


I realize this photo looks like it’s just me, sitting across from you, savoring a fine cup of Columbian crystals, preparing to have a warm little chat about life.

But if you look a bit closer, you might just miss a human being on this same wild ride as you… the COVID-19 swing is what I’m calling it. But let’s lay out some of the groundwork first, okay?

  1. Me and my family are presently healthy and doing our part to the best of our ability to flatten the curve in the great state of Minnesota. We are stuck safe at home. We are limiting our trips to the grocery store to just one a week for me and one a week for Dan, so we can both share in the hunting and gathering, so to speak.
  2. Three out of four of us still have jobs this month. Cole has an excuse as a college sophomore, and Dan actually has more job security than either Aidan or myself, as he’s now a tenured elementary school teacher. In other words, we have income coming in and it is not lost on me for a minute how many people out there presently do not.
  3. We are managing the space in this house to the best of our abilities. Since Cole came home from college (and honestly? I don’t even remember what day that was now), we’ve been successfully managing the shared spaces for work and school. It’s good to have space when you need to be away from other humans, even in your own home.

Those things notwithstanding, this COVID-19 pandemic is still not an easy event to manage. It’s just not.


I spoke with my therapist last week. You may or may not know this, but I’ve done therapy socially-distant style since Day 1. She lives in Southern California. Me and my husband have always spoken to her—separately, mind you—on the phone. After a decade of working with her, we’re pros at it. (Pros at talking on the phone, not necessarily at personal development.)

She told me last week that based on what I was telling her, it seemed that I’d regressed in my personal development. She said it wasn’t surprising, as she was seeing this across the board with her clients.

Yeah, like I need a therapist to tell me that. Ba dum bum!

One of the things she has talked to me about for a really long time is human beings’ inability to take in what she calls the brutal facts of life. Things like: We are born. We have a life span. We do not know how long that life span will be. We are fragile. Safety and security are illusions.

Now before you click away and say, “WELL, THAT’S JUST DEPRESSING! HARD PASS, FELICIA!” I’ll tell you why I’m telling you this.

She has been telling me this for years to get me to connect with reality. What does life really offer to humans? If you are checked out of reality, you do all manner of destructive things to maintain the ability to feel good and feel in control. Humans like to feel good and feel in control. But life is completely out of control. And for some of us, that’s another brutal fact that is really hard to take in.

For me personally, it has been damned near impossible at times.

So for years, I’ve poked around in my personal development and yes, I’ve made some progress. I’ve learned some things about why I am the way I am. And I’ve grown in places that have benefitted me and everyone around me. But I still have a lot of shit to figure out. Apparently there is no end to the work. I learn and grow by degrees. Or I unlearn and regress by degrees. It really depends on the day and my attitude on that day.

The brutal facts of life, for me, have often seemed theoretical. I have looked at them and thought about them and what my response could be to them, but they have always seemed to be more of an idea and less of a tangible experience.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the brutal facts of life into the experiential—into that tangible—and it’s really messing with a lot of people right now, myself included.

Our ideas about safety and security are being challenged in a very real way.

And so, there have been swings.


Some days I’m up and I am BEYOND grateful for my health, my family and my work. Work takes me out of my head and puts me into a space where I can focus solely on the tasks at hand.

When I wake up early, say 4 a.m. or so, and my mind starts to race, I just get up, make coffee and just start to work. It’s the only way I know how to keep anxiety in check and feel like I have a clear purpose for the day.

Some days I feel incredibly lonely, and that’s really strange to say as a card carrying introvert who really does not require a lot of social interaction to feel full on any given day. The loneliness comes from realizing how alone you can feel in your response to what is happening. Not every family member experiences stress in the same way. We all have ways of processing and they rarely, if ever, line up in perfect symmetry.

All days I avoid the televised news. I had to stop watching a few weeks ago and now I stick with local and national public news outlets that I read online. I limit myself to what I need to know daily, maybe 30 minutes in the morning, and move on.

And the reality is that also on all days, I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Or next week. Or next month. Or even in the next minute. And that means there are some days when that will feel overwhelming and I need to work really hard at staying in the present and remembering I can only influence how I respond.

That, and work on cultivating a positive attitude.

I’m beyond grateful for my two socially-distanced best friends to whom I speak with nearly every day. They let me get my shit out so I can keep my shit together for my family. I’m grateful and honored that I can offer a safe ear for them, as well.

I do believe in the whole “this too shall pass” idea, but it’s more like “this too shall pass, but you have no freaking clue as to when.”

But really, that’s just life.


That’s what I have today. It’s only my perspective, of course, and I just want you to know that swings are okay and unavoidable, even for people who seem like they have their shit together.

Love to you all.



Cathy ZielskeSwings

70 Comments on “Swings”

  1. #1

    Thank you for sharing that, my friend. That ‘brutal facts of life’ part was hard to read…but very true. I’m also grateful to have work (and that I’m another card-carrying introvert). Thinking of you all, hoping the swing doesn’t go too far up or back. <3

    1. #1.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Yeah, I dialed it back a little… my therapist has a lot more she tells me, but it’s not for today.

  2. #3

    Appreciate your honesty and willingness to share … it’s so important that we all talk about these things instead of hiding them away. You are awesome.

    1. #3.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I’m definitely trying to be responsible for my stress. I can thank therapy for that attitude.

  3. #4

    Thank you so much for this, Cathy. You captured what so many of us are experiencing. This sentence hit me right between the eyes:

    “Our ideas about safety and security are being challenged in a very real way.” Yup.

    Holding you in my heart. ❤️

  4. #5

    Thanks for putting that out there & “keeping it real”. Due to having an adult child at home with lots of emotional health issues, I already lead a fairly solitary, homebody existence – but I yes to have the option of “escaping” on the weekends – my husband, who is thankfully still working, could be here, but now that option is gone. It’s not even so much that I would go, but I could, and now I can’t. So yeah, that can sneak up & feel as if it’s going to swallow me on some days for a few moments – but mostly I try to keep perspective – we are safe (for now😉) we are comfortable, and we are fed – in these strange days, that’s about as good as it gets – so I’m grateful. And there is the inter webs – sometimes too much, sometimes just enough – but WAY better than all of this would be without it! Keep on keepin’ on the best you can – and thanks for sharing❤️

  5. #6

    Love to you, Cathy. It’s a really freakin’ weird time and we need to keep being honest about that. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. Stay safe and well. I appreciate the crafting inspiration you continue to provide us through COVID.

  6. #7

    Yes. Yes. And yes. I habe good and bad days. Yesterday was rough. Today I resolves to do better and it is a battle every damn day. I long for normal average-ness… And am not 100% sure we are going to get it back. Thanks for your post.

  7. #9
    Deborah P

    Amen! I’m another introvert that has had just about enough of social distancing. In some ways this is how I feel when my car is in the shop – stuck, can’t go anywhere, can’t leave if I need/want to. Only this is 1,000 times bigger. Now, I have a job (essential business), I have food, I have a roof over my head, I have a family and friends just like I did before. I even have my car! And toilet paper! But still, I feel in limbo. I will continue to social distance and I understand and applaud my State’s order to stay at home. But it is hard. I hear you.

  8. #11

    Thank you for sharing and articulating that so well! I’ve been feeling the same way. I’m about to have a counseling appt today and I’m certain I’ve regressed. 🙂 My middle son left for Air Force Basic Training right before this hit. He graduated last week and all we could do was watch via Facebook Live. In the middle of the joy, pride, and gratitude was a sense of overwhelming sadness and disappointment for what we’ve missed. I am fully aware that I am not alone. The disappointments are everywhere. Now to figure out how to rise and respond to this in a way that brings light and joy to the darkness…… AND to live fully in the present. Thank you so much for your honesty. It helps so much to know we’re truly not alone.

  9. #12
    Audrey VOLT

    I so appreciate you honesty and authenticity, two of the reasons I follow you. The hard part of this pandemic is the unknown … none of us have ever been through this before, no one has the answers. We all might have had some authority figures that we previously looked to for answers, but in this situation, even they have no experience to comfort us. It is making me dig deep into myself, my faith, my beliefs. And guess what? It is also making me realize how much I appreciate my creative hobbies, like scrapbooking, to relieve the tension and find joy in a dark time. Hang in there sister, we will get through this together!

  10. #13

    This whole experience that we are going through has ripped away all the stories we have told ourselves, right or wrong. I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that the WORLD is going through this, not just pockets of people in different locations. We all need to get to the basics of who we truly are and rebuild who we truly want to be. As I read in one article: This is our chance to define a new version of normal, a rare and truly sacred (yes, sacred) opportunity to get rid of the bull and to only bring back what works for us, what makes our lives richer, what makes our kids happier, what makes us truly proud. We get to Marie Kondo the ish out of it all.

    Thank you for being you and for sharing.

  11. #14
    Omayra Ortiz

    Thank you, Cathy. Those “brutal facts of life” unite us all, aren’t they? Like you, I’m swinging back and forth. I have a HS senior that doesn’t know if graduation is happening. Prom is not, for sure. I have a college freshman at home that was supposed to be having the “best time of her life” with friends far away from home. We LOVE having this extra time with both of them, but this is not normal. And “abnormal” doesn’t feel right. THANK YOU for therapy through your wise therapist. Thank you for sharing your life, talent, and mind with us, with me.

  12. #16

    Love your honesty – and I agree, it’s the whole control thing I believe humans have the hardest time with – we all want to feel some sense of control and as this *situation* lingers on we realize this virus is something none of has control over – But I love your statement about being able to control our attitude or response to things – even THAT is hard sometimes – but I also believe it’s a choice, and I hope [with God’s help] I can continue to find something good to focus on each day –

    1. #16.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Yes, some days we do not have the ability to choose our responses! Especially when we are overwhelmed. 🙂

  13. #18

    Hi Cathy,

    Thank you so much for this blog post! It helped me feel less alone in my anxiety about all that we are experiencing. I thought that perhaps I am “an immature adult” that I can’t handle watching televsion news anymore, so good to know that someone else feels the same way, especially someone way cooler than me!

    Blessings to you and your family (and an extra hug to you from one momma to another of a sophomore college son at home who isn’t super thrilled about it at times!)

  14. #19
    Amanda Schnabel

    Thank you so much for sharing with us–that you are voicing what so much of the world is feeling is a definite, comforting kindness–thank you for that gift.

  15. #20

    Thanks Cathy. I sure needed that today! Now off to the studio to finish a project I doing as a trade for some masks a friend is making.
    You make me smile everyday when I watch you on Instagram!

  16. #21

    Cathy so go to know I am not alone. I seem pretty good on the outside because I hold a lot on the inside by telling myself there are others who have it way worse off than me. I’ve had to deal with a lot in my life and learned that tomorrow is not promised at the age of 21 when I lost my mom suddenly. I’ve gotten through life mainly by keeping a positive attitude and the power of prayer. That doesn’t mean i don’t have mood swings or feel lonely (when I’m not alone) and sad or sorry for myself but it does mean I have to remind myself of all the blessings I had during this life too. Some days are just easier than others and that’s the truth. Here’s a socially distant big hug for you my friend! We are really all in this together.

  17. #22

    Thanks for Sharing . I think way to much about the future when. I should be focusing on the today. My stress gets so out of control sometimes to the point it gets me sick.

  18. #23
    Tammy B

    Great post Cathy. I hear you on the swings. I can’t watch the news and rarely read articles about the pandemic from any source. An author I follow became so obsessed with this virus that I could no longer follow her. She was posting what seemed like hourly updates and articles and videos, and it became way too much for my anxiety riddled brain. I didn’t go on Facebook for days and deleted all of her emails. Even now, I stay away from social media in the evening or I won’t sleep. I’m trying not to dwell on the bad or the sad or the politics of it all.

    My family is healthy and two out of four of us are employed – one working from home and the other working night shift which keeps him away from the general population. Some days I wish that I could do more things for more people but that time will come. For now, I stay at home as much as possible and will the snow to melt faster so that I can get out in my yard! Thanks for always keeping it real. Take care!

  19. #24

    Wow, way to put what I’m feeling into words. It’s the uncertainty of knowing when things will get “back to normal” that I’m struggling with most. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

  20. #25
    Lori P

    I have been feeling the same way! I long to return to my old routines. But, when! Some times I think of this as a gift to slow down and enjoy the little things, and others I feel like a caged bird.

  21. #26

    I grew up in an unstable and violent home so having a president I feel I can’t trust and a virus that we don’t quite understand has caused me to digress back to “that” way of thinking periodically. I know, just like then, that I WILL feel I have a bit more control one day soon (I have high hopes). Other than that I’m a pretty doggone strong introverted single ol’ gal so I too stay busy because I know it’s best for me. Let hope we all look back one day and learn some valuable lessons from ALL of this. Thank you so much for sharing.😉

    1. #26.1
      Christine Fracchia

      How very brave and honest of you to share. We all have good and bad moments. And sometimes the bad moments can be most especially overwhelming during this time. It’s good to know we are not alone. I take stock everyday of the good in that particular day and limit the news! Thanks for sharing! I love your cards but your words are pretty darn good, too! Hand in there!

  22. #27
    Kim Kiehl

    Thank you. So much. In order for the museum where I worked to survive this my position as Sr. VP was permanently eliminated when they also laid off 80% of our staff. My position was the only one permanently eliminated but it may not be the last. This is the first time in 42 years that I am not employed. I live alone and some days are better than others. I miss my kids. I miss my grandbabies. I miss my mom. I miss my significant other who lives in a different place but works here during the week. But I have the 20in20 class. I have the scrapbook community. I have time to focus on my stories and to work on a Curate Your Life class that I have been wanting to develop. These days are such a mix of up and down, gratitude and sadness. But maybe I chose the word “moments” as my one little word for this year for a reason. It reminds me every day that all I can control is this moment. And I can appreciate this moment. And better moments are coming. Thank you for being you and sharing your gifts. Please know they bring comfort.

  23. #28

    I am so happy you wrote this! It seems fitting for so many and/or most… and for certain it does with me. We are not swinging alone! Thanks again!

  24. #29

    You’re not alone. I’m up and down from day to day, sometimes moment to moment
    We will get through this together.

  25. #30
    Michelle Bradtke

    I, too, don;t watch the news. Any of it. I just don’t want to hear that we aren’t “flattening the curve,” that we will have to be quarantined for at least another month, or that those who have already been infected are not immune to getting the virus again. I have plenty of projects to work on: SYY-Italy, my daughter’s vacation scrapbook, several mini books as well as cards, but I have zero motivation to work on any of it, especially friend’s suggestions to scrapbook Covid! Why would l I want to do that and be reminded what we are going through? And to your point, “this, too, shall pass,” but what will we be left with?

  26. #31
    Cindy McCool

    So calming to read your words and to know we’re all in it together. Actually, I’ve always known this but your comments reinforce and comfort. Keep well and hang in there. Art saves lives! I believe it.

    1. #31.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I may have told you this before, but my maiden name is MacDonald. I wish it had been McCool.

  27. #32
    Simone Josephson

    I agree with the sentiments expressed by you and others also. However I’m a little pissed at how we as human beings are handling the world. We have caused this to happen and we are going to need to clean it up. We owe our children and grandchildren a world that is safe and being taken care of. So for me I am working through a bit of anger as well as all of the other emotions. I am also a person of action and to that end I am looking for a way to involve myself in taking care of the earth and it’s people. I don’t know what that looks like yet but I can assure you I will be involved. One of the things I intend to do is to make sure that we don’t forget about the people who have risked everything to try and keep us well. Long term care facilities being one of the hardest hit areas is where I would like to get involved. Our care workers need to be paid a living wage and work in one facility full time. We have all become aware that infections of various kinds are spread through the way these building are staffed. Also we need to let our politicians know that we mean business and if they want our votes we need them to follow the recommendations of the many associations who have been trying to tell us that this was coming. I believe that we can fix the world but not if we sit on our thumbs and do nothing. We need to demand change as soon as possible. There it is my rant. We need to be responsible.

  28. #33

    Love hearing from you. I am really missing my job and the pay packet that goes with it. It’s the uncertainty of when it will end that stresses me out the most. I, too am an introvert, but still enjoy some social contact. The loneliness is hard. However, on the positive side, I am really getting into jigsaw puzzles and a few good TV series. And just hanging in there. x

  29. #34
    Michele Hogarth

    Cathy thanks for sharing. I know life is currently in a turmoil state but my life is better knowing that I am not alone in feeling the unease with the unknown.

  30. #35

    Thank you for sharing your perspective-I am so blessed yet have been feeling so stressed and out of sorts. It helps to know others are having similar feelings.

    1. #35.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Yes, I think that is how many are feeling… I have things so good on many levels, but still this is a hard time.

  31. #36
    Tammy Chernow

    Thank you Cathy. It takes a lot of courage to share personal stuff. I too have a therapist who regularly reminds me to turn off the news. It’s unhealthy to listen for long periods of time. I’m trying to live in the moment and crafting lets me do that. Thank you always for your daily inspiration. ❤️

    1. #36.1
      Cathy Zielske

      It’s funny… I used to love the nightly news at 5:30 with Lester Holt. I actually miss watching Lester, but I couldn’t do it anymore, let alone the other networks that I never watched either (CNN or Fox). Now our dinner hour is filled with the sounds of cooking, working on puzzles… conversations or just quiet. And that isn’t so bad at all.

  32. #37

    I love your name for this … The COVID-19 Swing – sounds like a dance ! I think we need to get some dance moves together and make it a ‘ thing’ !

    I’ve always valued resilience – never managed to excel at it though – but as a concept it has a lot going for it . I didn’t realise it would be put to the test to this extent though ,so now I’m having to practise what I’ve preached and it’s HARD ! And also as a Mum , I often feel overwhelmed at the responsibility of shoring up the whole family . But I’ve come to realise that no one person has to do that alone . It’s a collective responsibility and I’m eternally grateful to those who share their feelings and remind me that we’re not alone , so , thank you for sharing Cathy . Now … about those dance moves …..

  33. #39
    Kelly Ornelas

    Cathy, thank you for writing this. Especially about the regressing part. I am also in therapy and have been for a long time. I am glad that you have validated some of the things I am going through. Thank you for sharing xoxo

  34. #40
    Patricia M Dugan

    Cathy, thanks for speaking out. So many of us feel the same way. No, we don’t know what tomorrow will bring but it’s always been that way. Each new day is a clean slate that we can write any way we want. It all depends on your perspective. Some days are easier than others and some days are very productive. Then once in a while you have a day when you just ‘don’t feel like it’. Those are the days you do nothing but make just you happy. I know I’m an introvert but I never liked that tag. I would much rather think of myself as a ‘life observer’. I sit back and watch, then I put my feelings about life into my card making. I get great satisfaction out of creating something then giving it away. Sitting down to make a card from beginning to end allows me time to relax and let the worries of the day disappear. I bless the day I googled ‘handmade cards’ and started following the blog of Jennifer McGuire. She inspired me and introduced me to many others who also inspire. I have suffered with panic attacks for years and the process of card making has taken me to a whole new world. We ‘artists’ know that world well and we also know that there is a lot of good out there and it will be waiting for us whenever we can rejoin it.
    So for now we have to just chug along, do our daily chores, create when we can, and know that each day we are home (though we may feel we are ‘stuck’ there), is a win. Pray for those that need it, support those that need it and ignore the idiocy. When we are all able to move about freely we will. Until then text, email or phone our friends and loved ones. Keeping in touch will keep us thriving. And I think that right now thriving is the best medicine.

  35. #41

    I valued your commentary today. I am older, 68, and have also worked with anxiety and depression. I did something that has been so helpful in my life, I became a nurse. When on duty, I was dealing with the real and living in the now. Even after retirement, I worked part-time until recently. But since I am diabetic and asthmatic, I can no longer be on the front lines. This is difficult at times. I remind myself that I am of service when I am not a part of the problem. Crafting and being creative has been a balm for my spirit. Walking outside, maintaining social distancing of course, has been really helpful. My husband and I have “power-walk days” and “strolling’ days. And I am practicing gratitude as much as possible, too easy for me to fall in the pity-pot. We can touch each other in all kinds of positive ways, such as what you have shared today. Thank you!

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