On Taking Risks

 

In 2020 I made several large changes to my life. As many of you have noticed (and pointed out) I “blew up” my life this past year and “somehow” landed on my feet. Personally, I don’t think it’s a “somehow” thing. This life wasn’t random, I chose it. I never felt like I was blowing up my life, I felt like I was making intentional, well-thought-out decisions that would hopefully push me in the direction I ultimately want to be (even if I didn’t have a clear picture of what that was).

I gain a lot of security and safety from planning overplanning aspects of my life. Planning itself is a coping mechanism for my anxiety. Knowing the next move makes me feel more in control and if I can plan out the next one, five, ten years then I can, theoretically, control those years/outcomes better and ultimately reduce my anxiety.

Complete transparency, it has never worked, but like a hamster on a wheel, I have kept running. It’s not that my plans haven’t worked it’s that having these plans has rarely resulted in lowering my anxiety in the now. So maybe it was the personal losses of 2019, maybe it changing career paths, coming to terms with something I had been hiding from for a long time, or maybe it was realizing I had already met the right person. Maybe it was the synergy of all of these things and more. I wasn’t looking for something or someone else, but what happened was that I had a moment where I realized that I wasn’t actually risking one thing for another, what I was doing was making two separate decisions, simultaneously.

I made the decision to leave a relationship and move cities because that’s what I wanted to do. I owed it to myself and that person to give us each the space to be in relationships where we were equally loved by the person we were in love with. I love New York City, but the need to be closer to family outweighed the desire to live in the city I love. Making the decision to leave the relationship and city was one move.

The second decision was where do I go from here.

Back to a city I knew and loved: DC. A place where not only would I be close to family, but where a close friend lived. A friend that was also newly unattached. For the first time in our four-year friendship, we had the space to look at each other in ways that as friends we previously didn’t allow ourselves to. Corey wasn’t my forever person, because technically he couldn’t be, but then in one moment, as that changed he just was for me.

It wasn’t a choice, it was simply loving. I don’t think love should be complicated. I think sustaining a loving relationship through thoughtful action, personal growth, compromise, and more is complicated. But when someone asks if you love your partner I don’t think that question should have a complex answer. The beauty of love lies in the simplicity of “yes, I do”.

⊹  ⊹  ⊹

Several months ago my writing took a back seat. Let’s talk about why, because the more I think about it the prouder I am of myself and I think that pride comes from having taken a risk. It was the first time in my life that I’ve come into a relationship as an adult. I came with my own beliefs & expectations, with the knowledge of how to articulate and trust my intuition. I didn’t enter it as a girl who was going to follow a partner. I entered it as a woman who was and is fully prepared to go it alone. The thing is, entering a relationship, engagement, and life with someone else comes with a learning curve, with compromise.  In my first month in DC I didn’t post on Instagram, I focused my energy & attention on my doula career + 2 (!!) jobs + very new relationship.  And so, unintentionally, the blog took a backseat. 

I took a risk in coming here.

A risk in starting a relationship with my best friend.

A risk in moving in within a week of a first date.

A risk in agreeing to marry someone I had known for years, but dated for only six weeks.

Every step was an unknown, every step was a risk.

I owe myself and those risks the energy, space, and time to work, to try. To not just accept, but embrace the failures along the way. When taking risks it’s important to know that while it doesn’t always work out there’s beauty in “blowing up” your life. So much beauty in a clean slate without knowing what’s to come.

This life is so special because of the risks that got me here.  I had safety in the previous iteration of my life, but that safety itself was a risk. Every day we take risks. We put off time-sensitive projects. We text them first. We make the first move. But few people recognize that sometimes taking the “safe” option is the biggest risk of all. Staying safe, playing inside the lines, is how you end up living a life of unmet potential.

Everything you could be is in the details of the risks you aren’t willing to take.

Make Believe: A Confident Day at the Polls

When we first learned about voting in school it seemed so easy, so straightforward. You vote for the person you want. The person with the most votes, wins.

But my earliest memory of an election, in 2000, didn’t look like that. I couldn’t understand why each candidate seemed neck and neck with the popular vote, but within the electoral college one was pulling ahead. And in fact, at the end of that election the candidate with the most votes did not win

I still don’t get this system. It’s not that I don’t understand it or know its origins, it’s because the electoral college is fucked up. Like seriously fucked up

But regardless of that, it’s important to greet your ability, opportunity, and privilege to participate in our democracy as just that: a privilege. And because you, like me, may need to set the stage to feel more prepared I’ve pulled together a little list of bits for you on November 3rd. All ethical, same as our president should be.

 

Here are a few things to make your day at the polls something to look forward to:

a snuggly pair to keep you warm against chilly morals.

to make the potential for long lines a little more comfortable.

something red, white, and blue.

for the little ones you’re setting an example for.

to care for yourself after a long day.

 

Wishing you warm thoughts and thank you for participating in our democracy.

Weekly Loaf

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Grams & Percentages

  • 500 g flour (500 g bread)
  • 398 g water (79.6% hydration)
  • 118 g levain (23.5% inoculation)
  • 8 g salt (1.6%)

 

Timeline

  • 9:00 am — fed starter
  • 4:30 pm — start autolyse
  • 5:45 pm — add levain (1:15h autolyse + 8:45h starter)
  • 6:15 pm — add salt
  • 6:45 pm — modified counter lamination
  • 7:45 pm — bowl fold #1
  • 8:15 pm — bowl fold #2
  • 8:45 pm — bowl fold #3
  • 9:40 pm — pre-shaping
  • 10:00 pm — shape loaf and place in banneton for 12h retard
  • preheat oven 500°
  • bake: lid on 25m, lid off 10m
  • remove loaf from cast iron, allow to rest for 4h

 

Notes

  • Didn’t intend to start the dough today, but the starter was incredibly active straight out of the fridge.
  • Really happy with the hydration level for a 100% bread flour loaf. 78-80% hydration has become a tried and true level.
  • Super airy, buoyant dough.
  • Corey got to try his hand at scoring which was surprisingly more fun (for me) than scoring myself. Clearly he did a great job because the lift of this dough was beautiful.

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Personal Note: Answering All Your Questions

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View this post on Instagram

After 18 months in NYC, I’ve returned to DC for the rest of my life. I moved about a week ago and ever since have been fielding DMs of ‘why?’ and more specific questions. Walking the line between personal privacy and wanting to keep you all in the know, here’s what I’ll say: There were a lot of new things in my life that led to this decision. A new career, new people, new passions. Above all, I spent the first half of 2020 digesting all the lessons of 2019. Losing so many family members over the course of nine months, living so far from my family, feeling guilty, feeling helpless, changing careers, made for an eventful, albeit rather dark, 2019. Digging into all of these teachings I came to the same conclusion over and over: my heart is in DC. I made the decision, for me, to leave my relationship and start a new chapter in a new [old] city. I spent more than five years living in DC before the move to NYC and it will always feel like home. The words sound rather clichéd and disingenuous, but the truth of it is that in the past few months, and especially past week, I really feel that I’ve reconnected with myself. Out of respect and excitement for everything that’s to come I’ve decided to take a step back from the daily IG life (many of you’ve already noticed this). This isn’t goodbye, we’ll speak soon — especially on the blog. With love, Molly

A post shared by molly shephard (@mollyshephard) on

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On July 28th, I published the above IG post. At the time I had just moved 250 miles from New York City to Washington, DC, a city I had previously lived in for five years. Ending my engagement, moving cities, starting a new relationship, has all played out in seemingly rapid succession over Instagram and has led to many timeline-related and “Wait… what?” style questions in my DMs and (most recently) asked through Stories.

While I believe and have believed that you truly don’t owe an explanation of your life and choices to anyone, what I do believe is that many of you sincerely care and gaps in what I’ve shared has left you feeling confused. So here’s the full story:

  • I ended my engagement [and relationship] shortly after it began. It was the right move for me and the right move for him.
  • At that time I was already intending to move to DC for a short period of time (August-October) to attend to private doula clients. Ending that relationship made me intensely question why I was living in New York City and if it was making me happy. I ultimately determined that being so far from my family over the previous year had taken a deeper toll than I initially realized and by May was making long-term plans to permanently return to DC. As many of you may remember, I have been talking about moving to DC since Summer 2019.
  • I decided, with my ex-fiancé, that the cats would remain in New York City with him to avoid causing them emotional strife of a move (moving them to NYC was difficult for them).
  • In early July, I learned that my DC apartment had fallen through, two weeks before I was scheduled to move and physically needed to be in the city to support my doula clients. I was offered the opportunity to temporarily move in with someone I had known as a friend for years and been dating for a few weeks.
  • We both quickly found that what was intended to be “just for a week or so” felt a lot more like forever so I stopped looking for another apartment, rented a U-Haul, and before the end of July was officially moved in.

I did what I have been advising you all to do for years: I did what was best for me. Clichéd as it may seem, I followed my heart.

In March I stopped the most popular series on the blog, Dear Molly, purely because I slowly felt myself becoming the thing I loathe most of all: a hypocrite. How could I write each week, telling you all to be brave and honest and bold while I played it safe? At the time I was deeply struggling in my own relationship, with myself and then partner, and while I got pretty good at putting on a happy face I knew I couldn’t do it forever.

Leaving my relationship and New York City, and all the details that came with those choices, have made me feel more like myself than ever. Part of why I didn’t write on here for so long is the same reason that I took a hiatus from Instagram, I want to protect that feeling. I don’t personally feel that I’ve ever had a terribly filtered online persona, but I do think that the mindset I get into when I log on is one that I’ve cultivated to be positive. I want to continue to be the positive place you all love to come, but I don’t want to continue sacrificing the reality of my life along the way.

So what does that mean? Simply this: when I need “me” time, I’m taking it.

Weekly Loaf

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Grams & Percentages

  • 500 g flour (260 g bread, 200 g WW, 50 g spelt)
  • 390 g water (78% hydration)
  • 110 g levain (22% inoculation)
  • 10 g salt (2%)

 

Timeline

  • 12:50 pm — fed starter
  • 4:00 pm — start autolyse
  • 5:45 pm — add levain (1:45h autolyse + 4:55h starter)
  • 6:15 pm — add salt
  • 7:30 pm — bowl fold #1
  • 8:40 pm — bowl fold #2
  • 9:40 pm — pre-shaping
  • 10:00 pm — shape loaf, roll in Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel Seasoning and place in banneton for 48h retard
  • preheat oven 450°
  • bake, lid on 45m
  • remove loaf from cast iron,allow to rest for 4h

 

Notes

  • Tried a new technique of rolling in seeds/seasoning. Used what we already had on hand and am pretty happy with how that turned out. In the future I’m thinking poppy seeds…
  • Was slightly over-proofed and could have been shaped about 30m earlier than it was.
  • Darkest loaf I’ve made so far which definitely helped the flavor development.
  • The overall structure of was strong and even with a complete compress bounced back to its original shape.
  • The loaf itself was tender, with a nice chew, and [with the addition of seasoning] was perfect for dipping in olive oil or making fancy grilled cheeses (two things we definitely did).

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Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

Is there ever a wrong time for a cinnamon bun? I grew up having them almost every weekend when my dad would get a Saturday morning craving, drive to Safeway, and come home with two Pillsbury rolls for our family of seven to share. Nearly two decades since my first memories of Saturday morning cinnamon buns and I still think of that tradition every time I have one.

The more I bake the more I want to try making things that I always assumed I would buy. I think that’s the beauty of sourdough in general, it’s pushed me to rethink a lot of the baked things in my life. After working on this recipe for a couple of weeks I’m content with how it turned out. Tender cinnamon rolls that aren’t too difficult to make and that, despite requiring a little extra work when compared to store-bought, are worth every second spent in your kitchen (as if a moment there is ever wasted).

 

Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

Gather [materials]:

  • 1 mixing bowl (4 QT)
  • 1 mixing bowl (small)
  • 9×13″ baking sheet or pan
  • parchment paper

For the dough, gather:

  • 1 c sourdough starter (ripe, fed)
  • 3/4 c whole milk (lukewarm)
  • 1/4 c butter (softened)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c white, wheat flour
  • 1/4 c white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • optional: orange zest

For the filling, gather:

  • 1/2 c brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp butter (melted)

For the frosting, gather:

  • 4 oz cream cheese (softened, room temperature)
  • 2 c confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 c milk

 

 

Instructions:

Autolyse: Mix starter, milk, butter, egg, flours, sugar, (and optional orange zest) until flour is fully hydrated and dough has formed a cohesive mass. Sprinkle the salt on top on the dough and allow it to rest for 25 minutes. Knead dough, mixing in the salt, until dough becomes smooth, tacky, and slightly elastic (approximately 3 minutes).

 

 

Bulk Fermentation: Place dough into a clean bowl, cover, and leave in a warm place. Allow dough to rest for approximately one hour before stretching and folding it. To stretch and fold, using one hand reach down the side and under the dough. Gather it gentle and pull, stretching the dough up and over itself, ending in the center of the bowl. Rotate the bowl 45° and repeat, until you are back where you started. Recover and set aside. Repeat this process every hour, for a total of four hours, until the dough is elastic and has good gluten development.

To make the filling: Toss brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt and butter with a fork to create a slightly dry mixture. Filling should not be wet as it will saturate the dough. If it seems too wet add 1/2 tbsp of flour to achieve a ‘wet sand’ consistency.

Assembly: Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll it into a 14×22″ rectangle, approximately 1/4″-thick and ensuring even thickness throughout. Leaving 1/4″ of the dough’s left border uncovered, spread the filling over the dough. Smooth the filling over the dough evenly and lightly press it into the dough. Starting with the right, filling-coated side roll the dough into a log. Trim the ends off the log, then cut the log in half. Cut each half log in half, creating four equal logs. Then cut each quarter log into thirds, resulting in 12 total rolls.

 

 

 

Proofing: Place the rolls, cut side up, onto a greased or parchment-lined 9×13″ pan, cover and place in a warm place. Allow the rolls to proof for approximately 1-2 hours, until they pass the poke test. For the poke test, gently press the pad of your finger into the side of the roll. The dough should spring back, but leave an indentation. If the dough springs back completely the dough is not proof enough. If the dough does not spring back the dough is over-proofed. Allow the dough to continue to proof as you preheat the oven to 400°.

 

 

Baking: Place the buns in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and cooked throughout. While the rolls bake, make the frosting.

To make the frosting: Beat the cream cheese and sugar until well incorporated. Stream in the milk until you have your desired consistency. I prefer a thicker frosting and typically use about half the milk or (if a double batch) increase the confectioners’ sugar by 1/2-3/4 cup.

 

 

Serving: After removing the buns from the oven allow them to cool for 10 minutes before icing.

 

 

Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

Dough

  • 1 c sourdough starter (ripe, fed)
  • 3/4 c whole milk (lukewarm)
  • 1/4 c butter (softened)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c white, wheat flour
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • orange zest ((optional))

Filling

  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp butter (unsalted, melted)

Icing

  • 4 oz cream cheese (softened, room temperature)
  • 2 c confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 c milk

Autolyse

  1. Mix starter, milk, butter, egg, flours, sugar, and orange zest until flour is fully hydrated and dough has formed a cohesive mass. Sprinkle the salt on top on the dough and allow it to rest for 25 minutes.

  2. Knead dough, mixing in the salt, until dough becomes smooth, tacky, and slightly elastic (approximately 3 minutes).

Bulk Fermentation

  1. Place dough into a clean bowl, cover, and leave in a warm place. Allow dough to rest for approximately one hour before stretching and folding it. To stretch and fold, using one hand reach down the side and under the dough. Gather it gentle and pull, stretching the dough up and over itself, ending in the center of the bowl. Rotate the bowl 45° and repeat, until you are back where you started. Recover and set aside.

  2. Repeat this process every hour, for a total of four hours, until the dough is elastic and has good gluten development.

To make the filling

  1. Toss brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt and butter with a fork to create a slightly dry mixture. Filling should not be wet as it will saturate the dough. If it seems too wet add 1/2 tbsp of flour to achieve a ‘wet sand’ consistency.

Assembly

  1. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll it into a 14×22″ rectangle, approximately 1/4″-thick and ensuring even thickness throughout.

  2. Leaving 1/4″ of the dough’s left border uncovered, spread the filling over the dough. Smooth the filling over the dough evenly and lightly press it into the dough.

  3. Starting with the right, filling-coated side roll the dough into a log. Trim the ends off the log, then cut the log in half. Cut each half log in half, creating four equal logs. Then cut each quarter log into thirds, resulting in 12 total rolls.

Proofing

  1. Place the rolls, cut side up, onto a greased or parchment-lined 9×13″ pan, cover and place in a warm place. Allow the rolls to proof for approximately 1-2 hours, until they pass the poke test.

  2. For the poke test, gently press the pad of your finger into the side of the roll. The dough should spring back, but leave an indentation. If the dough springs back completely the dough is not proof enough. If the dough does not spring back the dough is over-proofed.

  3. Allow the dough to continue to proof as you preheat the oven to 400°.

Baking

  1. Place the buns in the over for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and cooked throughout. Check that the center of the dough is fully cooked. While the rolls bake, make the frosting.

To make the frosting

  1. Beat the cream cheese and sugar until well incorporated.

  2. Stream in the milk until you have your desired consistency.

  3. I prefer a thicker frosting and typically use about half the milk or (if a double batch) increase the confectioners' sugar by 1/2-3/4 cup.

Serving

  1. After removing the buns from the oven allow them to cool for 10 minutes before icing.

Quarantine: Day 80

It’s been a minute… unintentional, but still incredibly long since I was on here. It feels like life is moving at a glacial pace and somehow big changes are happening every day, hour, minute. Most of those changes I’m not ready to share here, but it feels good to know the world is continuing to move. It reminds me of my time as a white-water instructor. While the surface may look calm, you never know what’s underneath and while I don’t envision being swept up in my own undertow it can feel like that at times.

How many emotions and feelings are tied to quarantine and how many have been there the whole time. Is quarantine the cause or is it a magnifying glass? I don’t believe emotions are ever born of nothing. It’s never a fight about the dishes, it’s about not feeling supported as a whole. It’s not a fight about your boyfriend having “too many” female friends, it’s about you not feeling secure and loved in your relationship. There’s always a deeper level and I push myself to continuously dig into introspection.

As someone with a slightly impulsive personality (read: all my tattoos are born of less than 5 hours of forethought) the slower pace of decision making, learning to respond instead of reacting, has felt like the softest bed to land on. Being on the verge of steps I’ve been considering for over a year has left me with some feelings of impatience, but also an immense comfort. I know what I’m doing and I’m happy to do it. Big decisions are never easy, but often are the ones that define our lives.

I spent the past year weighing the thoughts of everyone around me and using this ‘research’ to influence and maybe even determine how I felt about a situation. When your family and circle of friends say one thing it can feel like swimming upstream to choose a different path. And may even put you in the line of fire of the people you trust and love the most. Learning to prioritize my own voice, heart, and wants has made all the difference. It’s my life to live and I cannot spend it thinking of the needs of others (I’ll have plenty of that to do when I’m a mother, right?).

You cannot base your emotions on the emotions of others. You cannot live your life to make someone else happy. Your emotions are valid and honest and real. They are never an “over-emotion” because they are exactly what they are, mean, and feel to you. Embrace them, reflect on them, challenge them, and accept them.

Quarantine: Day 65

Paragraph: Written.

Paragraph: Deleted.

Wash.

Rinse.

Repeat.

That’s been the feeling lately. I usually keep personal frustrations and struggles off of the blog until I feel like I have some clarity. Mostly because I don’t want this to become a space where I lament and you all listen, like some egalitarian therapist office. That’s not the purpose of this blog, it’s not a record of my personal growth (although, in many ways it’s similar).

I’ve spoken about my anxiety on here before and … truly I don’t know where that sentence was going. And that’s really frustrating for me. Quarantine has made me feel more and more like I’m in a box. Being literally confined to a small space has made my mind feel the same way. I wish I had a big revelation to share with you. I wish there was a magic number of sourdough loaves I could bake or miles I could run to make myself feel better. Maybe there is. Maybe that number is too large to be feasible. Maybe it’s this city. Maybe city-living has become too much for this country girl. Maybe it’s love. Maybe it’s strained friendships.

Lately, I’ve found myself being the support person for everyone around me and it’s made me feel like I can’t actually be upset about quarantine or personal questions and struggles I’m having. I have friends going through break-ups that I want to be there for, so how can I go to them for my own support? Through my attempts to be positive, it feels like I’ve excluded myself from the ability to share a lot of the feelings I’ve been feeling, deeply.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a checklist that you could scroll through, answer yes or no to each item, and receive the perfect path to take? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could turn off questions or emotions that you don’t like coming up? But as a human and not a computer program we don’t have that ability. I almost wrote “we don’t have that luxury” but what a gross sentence. To view our struggles, free will, options, and opportunities as a burden?

It seems that every time I think I’ve hit the low of the quarantine, another low comes along. I’m not sure exactly what it was about today, but my mood just would not click. I worked out, I went on a long walk in the fresh air (breathed through a mask, of course), made coffee, made breakfast, made lunch, cleaned the apartment. And still, just felt like a dud. I felt frustrated and petulant, frenetic and exhausted, everything was off. Quarantine and so much time in a box have a weird way of making you feel safe and vulnerable all at once. Both suffocated and lonely.

This is one of the weird rides I have ever been on and it continues to get weirder and more difficult.

Weekly Loaf

Grams & Percentages

  • 500 g bread flour
  • 400 g water (80% hydration)
  • 118 g levain (23.6% inoculation)
  • 8 g salt (1.6%)

 

Timeline

  • 7:00 am — fed starter
  • 11:50 am — start autolyse
  • 1:00 pm — add levain with pinch over method (1:10h autolyse + 6:00h starter)
  • 1:30 pm — add salt
  • 2:00 pm — counter lamination
  • 3:15 pm — coil fold #1
  • 4:00 pm — coil fold #2
  • 5:00 pm — coil fold #3
  • 5:30 pm — coil fold #4
  • 6:00 pm — shape loaf and place in banneton for 12h retard
  • 6:00 am — preheat oven 450°
  • 7:00 am — bake, lid on 25m, lid off 45m
  • 7:25 am — remove loaf from cast iron, turn oven off, leave loaf in spoon-cracked [off] oven to dry out for 30m

 

Notes

  • This dough was for a takeover filmed for Mejuri (video at the bottom).
  • The dough was incredibly soft and light, even just at the adding stage salt.
  • I didn’t fret about any trapped air and the load ended up light with an even crumb throughout. I think in the past I’ve been over-attentive to potentially trapped air and popped fermentation bubbles.
  • I continue to be impressed with 80% hydration. Incredibly manageable and reliable.
  • Next loaf I want to try and get cleaner with the lid on/off times (aiming for 2/3 of total time with the lid on).

 

Temp Check

I take my temperature every day, literally and figuratively.  It’s how I cope, how I breathe in and out, and how I determine the way that I’m going to care for myself over the course of the new day. Sometimes self-care is staying in bed all day, sometimes it’s a bath, sometimes it’s a run. Yesterday’s self-care looked like organizing the blog’s press and finessing the coding (with significant assistance from my code-literate fiancé — first time I’ve used that word on here… 🥰).

So how are you doing? What’s your temperature?  Today mine is normal, although I have a slight cough that’s likely a result of the change of season I’m witnessing from my window. I’m worried about my family. My parents are both in high-risk groups and both essential personnel, meaning they haven’t stopped going to work. My mother, brother, and sister-in-law are in medicine and on the front-lines of Covid-19. My niece is less than four months old, I think about her every day.

I’ve prioritized pausing and allowing myself to feel everything that I am feeling. Despite being on day 45 of quarantine it is not ‘business as usual’. Nothing about this situation is usual. Letting myself feel concerned is part of how I am caring for myself.

A few things that are helping …