Rona Fatigue and Wordlessness

I seldom find myself at a loss for words. Truly. I’m nearly always ready with a sassy, salty comeback or quip. I can remember only one time when words failed me, at the Buena Vista in San Francisco, on a dreadfully rainy day, after quite a few of the Irish Coffees for which they are famous, when the bartender blatantly propositioned me. (Once I found my words, I declined.)

Throughout the duration of this virus, which K and I call The Rona, and its in-and-out quarantines, I’ve been inside, with the exception of walks when the weather was nice, seeing M on weekends, going to the grocery store, four dining out experiences, catering at three or four weddings, a little thrift store shopping, and appearing at my second job once a month. We did travel three times over the last 12 months, twice by plane and once by car. Looking at that list, maybe it’s more than some folks and less than others. It sounds like more than I thought. But it doesn’t feel like a lot for 12 months. It doesn’t feel like “normal”. I don’t feel like “normal”.

I was not the most social person to start with, but being told I can’t do a thing is the surest way to make me want to do that thing, and make me grump about not being able to do that thing. I may have mentioned my mulishness before, as putting my ears back is a well-known trait of mine. At this point, as we’re entering Year Two in Life with a Virus, I am over it. I’ll repeat for those of you in the back. I. AM. OVER. IT. Because I’m caring and responsible, I still wear a mask everywhere I go. I’m not seeing friends because I don’t want anyone to get sick because of me. I didn’t think I went that many places, but apparently I’m missing the places I didn’t go. Because that’s a thing. M wonders if we’ll ever get back to normal, and I tell him that, as with any loss, we will find a new “normal” but I doubt we will be quite the same as before for a long time.

My Rona fatigue is showing up as more anxiety, more tension, more frustration, and less motivation to do things that I was doing, like eating well and exercising and learning a new language, all the things that I did so well at the beginning of quarantine. I also feel like, as I said at the start of this piece, I’m at somewhat of a loss for words. Uninspired. Though not free of thought. Just a lot of rambling thoughts that aren’t organized or interesting enough to share. This could also be some of the “brain fog” that is a long-term side effect of having had the Rona, which M and I both had last March. At least I had enough words handy to write this.

I’m currently reading John Berry’s “The Great Influenza”, which provides perspective on the political and social situations of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which actually originated in Kansas. It has been an eye opener. I had no idea about the severity of that pandemic — much more severe than ours — nor did I know anything about virology or Woodrow Wilson. It’s been quite an education and I recommend it. The parallels between the public messaging about the Spanish flu and the messaging about the Rona are remarkable. But one point the author makes is that it took a long time from the first victim fell ill to the time when the country settled into its new normal. I think that’s how it’s going to be for all of us now, 100 years later.

A different kind of mask for this crazy world.

Winter Blues

This should be a poem. I feel a poem brewing in me, but it hasn’t steeped enough yet to be birthed. So I’m putting fingers to keyboard for a half-version — a “po”, if you will. Something that expresses the sentiments without the lyricism.

Depression has been a constant companion for me in this lifetime. I’ve done all the right things — therapy, anti-depressants, herbs, diet, exercise — and 90 percent of the time these days, I keep it at bay. But when it comes on me, it comes like an avalanche, and I don’t have an avalanche beacon and I’m buried under tons and tons of weight. I always dig myself out. Always. Because of promises I’ve made. Usually, it’s bad for a day or a night, a short, yet tolerable length of time. This bout has been particularly vicious.

I haven’t slept well in four days, plagued by nightmares (a rarity for me), hot flashes (also something that hasn’t happened in years) and thirst. I mourn for everything — people, opportunities, choices — and cannot find solace in the many blessings and joys in my life. I yearn for sea breezes, for a future without a set date, when we are settled in the Retreat for summer and living on a beach during the bleak, cold, grey-brown of winter. This darkness has been my companion for two days now, which is not long in the grand scheme of things, but feels like an eternity while I’m in its midst. Digging oneself out from under an avalanche is slow-going at best.

Tears come easily and of their own accord, triggered by nothing, something, everything, Not in a deluge, but in a welling, a prickling in my eyes, half-formed (like this po), and unwilling to spill. I find myself inconsolably lonely, grieving the past and the people I’ve lost.

I say a prayer each night, that tomorrow will be better, but so far my prayers are failing me, falling not on deaf ears, because that’s not how prayers work. Which means there’s something I am supposed to learn from this. There’s always a lesson, isn’t there? Some are just harder to puzzle out. So I force myself to eat. I have some sweet warm tea. I take a shower. I do a load of laundry. I sort through some clothes, setting some aside for charity. I do 100 sit-ups. I change the sheets. I look for words of comfort in random places. And I find the merest crumb of peace. I scan the darkening skies for a metaphorical dove with an olive branch. And I hope for a better morning.

Dentistry in the Time of Coronavirus

One thing you didn’t know about me: I have my Father’s teeth. Not his literal teeth, or a wooden version a la George Washington; darn strong ones nevertheless. I don’t know if the quality of teeth is a genetic trait, but it certainly seems so to me. My Father never, to my knowledge, went to a dentist in all of his 80+ years, passing away with all of his original teeth and nary a known cavity. He also had a very high pain threshold (a trait I inherited from both parents) so he could have had dental problems that he just ignored. After all, he ignored a heart attack when I was 19. But I digress.

I am a loyal dental patient. I’ve been seeing the same dentist for about 35 years. Typing that makes me amazed that he’s still practicing. In the course of those years, I’ve had two dental hygienists, both of whom I’ve adored. One is now retired, and the other is my age. Our kids went to the same nursery school, though we never encountered each other then. We know about each other’s lives. It’s an old-school, small town type of relationship. We talk a lot during my appointments, and I’m certain that all dental practitioners must take a course in how to understand people when their fingers are in your mouth, and you can only make sounds like, “Aho, int tht ingstng?”

With the advent of Covid-19, protocols have changed in order to protect both practitioners and patients. No more going in and sitting in the lobby, catching up on the latest issue of People magazine. Now, I stand in the chilly vestibule, attesting that I haven’t taken public transportation or been licking the buttons on gas pumps until my hygienist comes out to take my temperature and escort me to the chair.

I’m also a sensitive dental patient. The roof of my mouth is like a three-dimensional topographic map of Colorado, so those things they put in there for x-rays hurt like the devil. I get a little anxious when my teeth are getting cleaned. Thinking about it today, I realized that it’s a huge mark of trust to allow someone to put sharp metal instruments in your mouth. I mean, having a functioning mouth is pretty important for a lot of staying alive reasons. You don’t want just anyone sticking pointy things in there.

To alleviate the anxiety and make me more comfortable, they give me nitrous oxide, which does not make me laugh, but does make me a little drifty. It also makes all the music played in the office sound the same – no idea why. Since everything has to be disposable now, they use a little canula to gas me up. It’s like having a miniature wind tunnel stuck up your nose; not at all the previously happy nose mask experience. It also doesn’t work as well, as I discovered today. When my hygienist hit a particularly sensitive spot, my arm automatically drew back to smack her. I stopped myself from doing so, but she noticed, so of course I said, “Ahm slry.”

We both resembled something out of a bad sci-fi movie or an underground film about rogue plastic surgery. Me under a blanket with my green sunglasses to protect me from the laser, and my nitrous and oxygen tubes with canula, and her with his protective eye wear, face shield with additional cloth mask, rubber gloves, and disposable gown.

In summation, we had a nice, if garbled chat, my teeth are healthy as always and feel delightfully smooth, and no violence occurred. In this day and age, I think we can mark that down as a good human interaction.

Not my actual mouth.