Stress Test

Stress – let’s see what could be causing stress in my life?

Maybe it’s the last two weekends working in a busy tourist town in the middle of a pandemic. Everyone’s wearing a mask, but many many interactions with books, beer and credit cards are freaking me out a little bit. 

I shouldn’t have these worries – I’m fully vaccinated. Why can’t everyone just get vaccinated?

Maybe it’s THE END OF UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS. I have less shifts than before the pandemic. I want less shifts than before the pandemic. The bar isn’t fully open so there aren’t many tips at this job. Gigs are starting up again, if you’re brave enough but it’s hard to promote them, hard to ask people to come together. Unemployment has saved my ass this last year and a half. It’s made it possible to keep working on writing and music and pay the bills. I’ve been lucky, because it supplements gigs and record and book sales and tea towels and t-shirts I’ve printed and sold. I’m always hustling but unemployment made the hustle more benign, less stressful.

Maybe it’s having my dad depend on me in a way I’m not used to. For years he had a wife, who passed away from Covid back in December. He also had my brother Pat and my amazing sister in law Karen, and my older brother John. They all lived in Pittsburgh. Now my dad lives in NYC and it’s my brothers Michael and Riley and me looking out for him more. 

Maybe it’s Eric getting ready to go away on tour. I worry for him driving all alone, doing all the work of gigging after the events of last year (Covid, heart attack). They’ve affected him and it’s affected me. Will he be safe from being reinfected? Trying to stay safe while doing all the usual work of touring is a lot. Yet I’m looking forward to him getting back to doing what he loves to do, what he lives to do really. I’m even looking forward to some quiet time to myself, and a chance to watch Halston the Netflix series and some French films. But I find myself anxious just the same. 

I felt really sick yesterday. I mean, I just couldn’t get out of bed. I had terrible dizziness. I was nauseous and weak, convinced I had Covid, or had been bitten by a poisonous spider, or was having a stroke. It was awful. Eric was bringing me water and cups of tea but there was a point where I wondered if we should call 911. I’ve never felt that before. Never felt so vulnerable, like what if this is it and I’ll be like this the rest of my life. What if my healthy life is ending, right now?

My dad has been calling me every morning, to tell me he doesn’t like where he lives, or to ask when we’re going to do something about his hearing, or his eyesight. Sometimes he remembers what he says and other times he doesn’t. He never asks how I am, doesn’t seem interested.

But this morning I called him. “It’d be nice if you came to see me,” he said. I’d driven down last Thursday to take him to the doctor. There’d been a devastating storm the night before, the end of Hurricane Ida. A travel advisory or ban was in effect for coming into NYC. I had to ignore that as my dad was counting on me for an appointment we’d set up a month and a half ago. I’d promised him.

The GPS took me up towards Bear Mountain and down the Palisades Parkway as there was flooding at the usual exit off the Thruway. Traffic was bumper to bumper across George Washington Bridge. I warned my brother who lives in Queens he might have to take Dad to the appointment, which he was perfectly capable and willing to do, it’s just that I’d told my Dad I was coming. I’d promised.

The FDR Drive was a mess. There were abandoned cars littered along the roadway and silt and trash washed up causing more traffic stops and starts. Same on the Grand Central Parkway. It was apocalyptic, and yet the weather was beautiful. I drove like an ace , because what was i going to do, turn around? My brother met me at my Dad’s and we took him together, and the one appointment led to needing to make another so my Dad considered the whole thing a useless exercise. I drove back home defeated and drained.

“Dad, I’m not feeling well. I’m sorry I can’t come this week.” I told him about the dizziness, my worries about having caught Covid after waiting on so many people at work. Maybe it’s paranoia or stress. The dizziness. The fear I was having a stroke. My dad started to cry, saying he hoped it wasn’t his fault. He became so caring. I thought he’d forgotten everything but he still remembered what it is to be a parent. 

I got my Covid test back and it was negative. I saw the doctor and she said it was vertigo, and not to worry.

I don’t know if that’s possible.

I told my Dad I’d see him next week. “I love you honey,’ he said and I felt so much better for a minute.

Upright and hanging in there…hope you are too.

I will be back out playing some gigs/teaching a few workshops in Oct/Nov! Hope to see you if you’re nearby:

  • Oct 7 – 10 Lost Lake Writers Retreat – Alcona County NE Michigan
  • Wed Oct 13 – Natalies Worthington – Columbus OH tickets
  • Sat Oct 16 – Hudson West Fest – Jersey City NJ tickets
  • Thu Oct 28 – Binghamton University Art Museum – Binghamton, NY info
  • Thu Nov 11 – Colony – Woodstock NY – tickets

19 thoughts on “Stress Test

  1. clarke

    dang, girl!! feel better!! i have just been through the most stress i believe i have ever had. self-inflicted, sorta: trying to get my apartment closed BEFORE Ida hit!! that was crazy, and then the ‘drive’ to houston was INSANE. having already been thru the stress of losing both parents, this year, it builds up on one. so, just try like hell to blow off what you CAN!! reading has been really good for me (and i am reading something GREAT – hint hint!). hang in there!!

      1. clarke

        yes’m, sugar land for now. which is now getting a different storm. hope it isn’t as bad as Ida. take walks when u can!! don’t go pulling any jimmy stewart stunts!!

  2. John F. Kelly

    Ugh. Hope things get better, Amy. We will see Eric in Columbus in a couple of weeks (about a week before you are there!) and then will be up in Binghamton, again, about a week before you are there! We’ll meet up soon hopefully. Hope your dad stats ok.

    xo

    John

  3. Jim Sutherland

    Hope you start feeling better. Getting older (not that you are!) seems to magnify things, and of course covid adds to the stress potential for everything. Hope to catch a show one of these days.

  4. Cynthia Voelkl

    Oh, Amy. I just felt this post with all of my being. Even though it was a different time, I remember those years caring for my parents and I remember the stress and the anxiety and then the moments when they’d say, “thank you, honey,” or “I don’t know what I’d do without you,” and that felt so good in that moment.

    Stress is so damaging to our bodies but I know selfcare is easier said than done. Get as much rest as you can. I’m sending my love and will be on your shoulder any time you need me.

  5. Tom Burke

    Cheers Amy, I predict all will be fine. I care for a friend – a a former rocker – who now spends his days in a home; probably like your dad. I was so happy he was finally is a safe place after episodes of high risk and homelessness. Yet every call and visit revolved around “I hate this place. Get me out of here” (which was delusional). In January he was transferred to a new home and I feared the worst ( the place did not seem promising). Lo and behold he’s pretty happy. I say all this not because it parallels your dad’s situation or even yours, but because we have entered a new phase of our lives. We are caregivers, a role we are ill prepared for… and yet soon we too will need care given to us. How do we make sense of this fast moving predicament?

    1. amyrigby

      I’m glad your friend found a place he likes, Tom. I love the title and ethos of John Leland’s book based on his NYT profiles of older New Yorkers: Happiness Is A Choice You Make. https://happinessisachoiceyoumake.com
      I don’t want to go down the miserable route! I think caregiver role comes naturally to us, it’s just balancing the care we give others with care for ourselves that is the challenge. Keep growing, keep learning – that’s all we can do!

  6. John Stribley

    Thinking of you Amy, we lost both our Dads over the last year. Other difficulties with health and family stuff too, all made worse by covid. I’m on holiday away from it all at the moment, but it doesn’t take it away. Hope your health picks up and Eric stays well.

    1. amyrigby

      So sorry about the loss of both you and your wife’s fathers Stribs. That’s a lot to deal with in the same year. So glad you made it away for a holiday! Take care and thanks so much.

  7. Mary Lee Kortes

    I’m sorry you were so sick. The feeling of vulnerability, which is only going to increase/accelerate for us at this stage of life, is scary, except when it’s downright terrifying.

    Thanks for expressing my feelings so well.

    Take good care.

    Love, ML

    Mary Lee Kortes, LCSW http://www.maryleekortes.com Dreaming of Dylan: 115 Dreams About Bob *”Songs so meticulously crafted they sound completely natural”*. Jon Pareles, *The New York Times* *“Mary Lee Kortes’s voice—the high mountain sunshine of Dolly Parton with a sweet-iron undercoat of Chrissie Hynde.” David Fricke, **Rolling Stone* *Instagram * *Facebook * *YouTube *

    On Mon, Sep 13, 2021 at 11:07 AM Diary Of Amy Rigby wrote:

    > amyrigby posted: ” Stress – let’s see what could be causing stress in my > life? Maybe it’s the last two weekends working in a busy tourist town in > the middle of a pandemic. Everyone’s wearing a mask, but many many > interactions with books, beer and credit cards are freaki” >

  8. Tom Wilk

    Hi Amy,
    Hope things start to improve for you in the coming days. You’ve got a lot on your plate with family and work responsibilities.
    When I’m in a stressful time, I remember a saying a fellow reporter had taped to his typewriter at the daily newspaper we worked at in the late 1970s. I’ve told it to my younger daughter on occasion.
    Even The Longest Day Has An End.
    (I looked it up online and apparently it’s an Irish proverb.)

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