Mary Lou Sanelli
Mary Lou Sanelli

I find the stress the worst of it, not knowing how things will turn out. 

My friend Terri compares life to Groundhog Day. I fear I may never again be able to press my hand to someone’s arm as I speak. We are physical people, not touchy-feely, but affectionately demonstrative would describe us to a T.

Belltown becomes a place I’ve never experienced before. For starters, there is no traffic to speak of. In all my years in this city, I have never been able to cross Denny without waiting for the light.

Not one work email in over a month. Just thinking of the empty days I will have to fill and fill and fill, while spring passes in the blink of an eye, and we just know how quickly summer will.

I’m eating too much, thinking too much, drinking too much.

That last sentence is not just an admission but an embarrassment.

I come from a long line of women who have a deep dependency on distilled white vinegar. Italians love their homes to be clean, clean, clean. I, too, add lemon oil to vinegar to deal with my anxiety. I’ll re-spray the counters again, vacuum again, empty the wastebaskets again, tidy my home while mentally I live in chaos.

After last night’s riots, I had to scrub the tile grout.

Really, I wonder about myself.

If you were a psychologist, you might say we clean to give ourselves a sense of order. If you were a nice psychologist, you might say this is a positive coping skill. If you were a truthful one, you’d say that we are fussy, finicky or, more to the point, anal as crap.


Larry and I are starting to bicker. We don’t know exactly how to help each other right now, nor will we stop trying. This is the definition of marriage after all of these years.

I confess to my sister that I was stoned at her wedding, and she says, “As I remember it, the most important issue on your mind was whether or not you would agree to wear panties under your dress.” This is all to change the subject from the dismal truth that she is a nurse in New York and has had 14 people die in the last 11 days.

When I tell her I don’t want to spend another day trying to fit dance choreography into my living room and that Zoom is no longer cutting it for me, she doesn’t say much. If she did say what she was thinking, it would likely sound like this: “Sweetie, your troubles are nothing.”

This is why I don’t share how my new studio has become a smooth section of concrete in Denny Park that I only have to share with a couple of homeless guys.

Or that I danced for the homeless guys.

Though I didn’t just dance; I performed.

And when I was through, they clapped.

The way I see it, a performer needs to perform, so that’s what I did.

I was brought up to pray at a time like this. But I’ve never had to deal with a time like this. And I never learned how to pray. Maybe I should have. Because my hair is falling out.

The first time I noticed way too many strands in the comb was after my mother had a stroke. Left neglect they called her new condition, “where a huge part of the disease is denial,” and I remember thinking that is so appropriate, given her skill for stumbling through life and never quite finding her footing.

Just thinking of some of the funny things she said in her last days gets me through these crazy months. I fix on them now (all nice and neat in a bullet list) because I need to laugh as much as I need food and water and counting on my work to come back.

• She wants the banana on the counter. There is no banana on the counter. But we have always come to life from entirely different realities, so I figure nothing has really changed.

• Hungry as ever, she yells, “I want to go to the Outback and have a steak! With lots of mushrooms!”

• “I like it when you write about me and the B-****,” meaning her ex-best friend who is now my father’s wife.

• “Your father came to me to tell me he still loves me.” What did you say, Mom? “I said it was about time.” She adds, “Thank you, God! I am mending the cracks.”

• “I’m not dead yet. Am I?”

• “Send me a copy of your new book. Care of God.” 

Mary Lou Sanelli, author, speaker and dance teacher has published three works of non-fiction and her first novel was recently released by Chatwin Books. Please support your local bookstore! For more information, visit