Amidst the pandemic, a look at the bigger picture

Like most everyone else, I love the ritual that is coffee. Heating water. Grinding and smelling the beans. Brewing. Holding a cup of hot, mind-awakening liquid. Sitting and sipping. It’s meditative. And soothing. And it tastes so good.

This morning, I brewed my usual two small cups. I could only drink half. That’s always the sign. That I need to chill the ‘f’ out.

It’s taken a while for me to make the connection, but I have it figured.

Stress causes our adrenal glands to release cortisol and adrenaline. Producing too much over a period of time causes my adrenal glands to simply wear out. They’re tired. They kivit. On top of the stress, drinking coffee triggers the adrenal glands to send more cortisol and other hormones into my body, causing kiviting adrenals to completely give up. Burning out the adrenal glands causes different problems for different people, but for me I experience chronic fatigue, digestive issues, skin issues, and general weakness. Not good things.

So I pay attention when my body had a sudden dislike for my beloved morning ritual.

It’s saying take care. Calm down. Take time. Meditate. Go for walks. Eat well. Stop drinking coffee and caffeine. Let me rest.

So I listened. And allowed myself to lie in bed. And went for a little walk outside with the toddler. I watched a stupid movie under the covers. I slept. Woke up and drank weak black tea with honey (sigh). Said a small prayer of thanks for a supportive husband, a family that is home and loved. I’ll, God willing, repeat this for a few days.


It should be no surprise that the cause of my prolonged stress has been the COVID-19 pandemic. And the preparations, the preluded grief, the feeling of standing on a precipice of unknown impact. Thinking about those in abusive relationships and forced to remain home. Thinking about the kids in unhealthy homes, wanting to sleep in peace. Thinking about friends who’ve lost their jobs. College classmates without health insurance. The people throughout the world dying because there aren’t enough ICU beds. It’s overwhelming. And it should be. Sometimes transformation only takes place when we’re forced, through pain, to see what’s broken. And having lived through the trauma of my mom’s suicide and a divorce, I’ve learned to focus on what I can control. I’ve learned to focus on what there is to be thankful for. I’ve learned to focus on taking the next right step. To look at beauty and truth.

So today I thank God the big kids are back in Alaska from school in Colorado. I thank God our community passed a strict nonessential passenger travel ban. I thank God for food in the freezer, the ability to walk on the earth, the trout currently pulled onto the river ice. The people in our clinic, our stores, and those at the airport terminals meeting freight and mail service. The teachers delivering education as best they can. The people who give virtual music performances on Instagram. On YouTube. The artists who still create and reflect truth and beauty of the world. The sunlight. The snow. The grosbeaks, chickadees and red polls that bring life to our little corner on this earth. The tulugaq that has been roosting on the spruce trees every night. My comfortable pants. My job. My family. The crisis itself for forcing us to look at what’s important in life and maybe create change this world earth needs.

And even my sudden dislike of coffee, telling me to take care.

Laureli Ivanoff is a freelance writer and former radio journalist. She lives in Unalakleet.

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Laureli Ivanoff

Laureli Ivanoff, Yup'ik and Inupiaq, is a writer and advocate in Unalakleet where, with her family, she cuts fish and makes seal oil.