Micro-stressors – The big things that would have been tiny things pre-2020; also responsible for road rage and internet rage and mass dysfunctional humanity 

These last two years have been chock to the brim full with them – for all of us. 

It’s as if the world has become a giant red reverse arrow.

Everything small has become big. Everything big has become small. 

These are the stories we are writing for ourselves, I hear over and over again in my head. 

This summer, when the burden felt light and the yoke seemed easy, I told some friends that I wanted to be better at unfurling my hands. 

“I’m 44 years old and as I look back at the short arc of my life, there’s never been a time where my worry has changed a single outcome. I want this next year to be a year of surrender,” I said. 

Those words felt so good, so right, so reflective.

Now, they feel taunting, haughty, foolish. 


Washcloth – a man-made object, repurposed to separate us from what is versus what should be

I worked my way through college as a CNA in a nursing home. Every shift, we’d do rounds, making sure that all the residents were clean, dry, and comfortable. 

A few of the residents suffered from Parkinson’s. 

Their fingers would curl up tightly into their palms, a perpetual fist that they were powerless to unfurl. 

If left alone, that fist would carve wounds into their flesh – rancid sores with zero chance of healing unless we’d step in to intervene.

It was never an easy job. 

I’d plant my feet firmly on the bare commercial floor tile, sneakers squeaking under the dirt and human grime, my then-105-pound-frame bracing for a fight. 

Mostly incapacitated and 80+ years old, these residents were fighters, determined to hold on to every thread of agency they had left. 

It never mattered that we were there to help

We were enemies, dictators disguised as caretakers. 

Finger by finger, bone by bone, we’d pry open their hands – slipping a clean, rolled-up washcloth between the force of their bone and the hollow of their palm.

I’d always say that Parkinson’s was the worst affliction. 

Zero control, but total mental awareness.

I still say that.


Joke – a kind of truth-telling designed to shield us from full impact 

“Please kill me before you let me suffer like that,” I say to my husband and kids.

I never speak those words seriously. They’re always trailed with a laugh. 

But my family doesn’t join in on the fun. 

They look at me in sheer agony, and I know the truth.

We all know it. 

They’ll never do what I’m really asking.  


Surrender – an admission that you don’t own the outcome 

I’ve blocked most of my social media accounts from my phone. 

I only read the news in short bursts of time. 

I tune in to conversations, but I speak in to them less and less. 

And I don’t know if any of it is helping me navigate through this uncertain world or if it’s making everything worse. 

The micro-stressors seep in through the cracks regardless. 

What kind of story are you going to write for yourself, Lindsay?

The voice in my head is persistent with this question. 

But I don’t think it’s asking the right one. 

I think the one that matters for me (and maybe for all of us) is the same question, only in reverse.

What kind of stories are we helping to write for everyone else?

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