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.

Too Close for Comfort

I am not the greatest of airplane passengers. It’s the taking off and landing parts that make me anxious. Once the inconceivably heavy airplane gets off the ground and up in the sky, straightening itself like an arrow to float through the clouds, I’m fine. But I’m worse with landings than with take-offs. On landing in Costa Rica a few years back, exhausted from lack of sleep and anxious as usual, we discovered that I had left a neat arc of fingerpad-shaped blue bruises around M’s bicep. Being wonderful, he didn’t say anything at the time, and he supports me through all of our white-knuckled (on my part) landings. He always had the dream of being a pilot himself, a dream which I hope one day will become reality.
Long ago, in a different career, I was a road warrior. I flew all the time. I was gone at least 50% of the year. And I loved it. But after a couple of years and a few hundred flights, I had the sense that my luck was running out. That I’d beaten the odds, but that wasn’t going to be the case for much longer. There was nothing that precipitated this feeling. It just gradually crept up on me. Strangers sitting next to me would ask me if I was okay during landing, and I’d always tell them I was fine, but they knew better. Then I decided to have a baby, and my road warrior life came to a close. It was an awful lot of fun while it lasted.
Since then, as I say, my anxiety about flying has grown. K is also an anxious flyer, through no fault of mine; she has experienced some unbelievably bad flights during her time flying alone, which have rather put her off of it. I will still always go, because that’s just who I am. I want to go. I want to move. I want to see. All of it.

And then things happen, like what happened today in my own backyard, or rather the next town over. United Airlines #328 took off from Denver on its joyful way to Hawaii. Not more than 30 miles after takeoff, one of the engines exploded. People’s dashcams captured the flames on the plane as it flew above them. Ring doorbell videos showed pieces of engine debris dropping out of the sky, falling into the middle of residential streets. In the park where K used to play Ultimate, people were taking videos as they ran for cover from chunks of metal dropping from the sky. I heard the plane as it turned to the left over my house – it sounded a little like thunder, and I didn’t know what it was at the time. By the skill of the pilot and the grace of God, the plane made it back to Denver International Airport, with no injuries.
There’s a video out in the cyberworld that a Denver resident’s parents took of the engine as they flew back to the airport. It’s shredded on the outside and flames are burning on the inside. Everyone seemed exceptionally calm in all of the snippets I’ve seen. Had I been there, I likely also would have been calm, because panicking never helps anyone or anything, and it’s not in my nature. However, had I been there, I suspect it would have put me off of flying again for a long, long time. Here’s a still from that video (credit to @michaelagiulia).

I mean, yikes. Seriously. Not something you see every day. Or hopefully, ever.

Daily gratitudes:
That everyone on that aircraft was safe
The sound of snow slick roads when you’re cozy inside
Blankets
Flexibility

Quote of the Day: “When I don’t sleep, it’s not that I feel tired so much as assaulted.” — Samantha Harvey

Holding Fast: A Weekly Thursday Poem

Holding Fast

Hold me as the stars fall
into the sea blue pools of your eyes,
edged with aspens in the fall.

Hold me as the Milky Way shines
its burnished light upon the waves
while lanterns drift into the night sky.

Hold me as the moon changes
its passionate face from full glowing
to reckless, rigid sliver.

Hold me as the steam rises
from the heat of the waters
and the warmth between us.

Hold me as the planets gaze
back at us in envy,
longing to be paired as we are.

Just keep holding me.

Daily gratitudes:
MKL
Homemade soup
Blue skies
The waiter at Efrain’s
Wrapping up in a warm robe

Quote of the day: “No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.” — Helen Keller

Unicorns and Rainbows

Well, only unicorns because M has been describing himself as such lately, and that seems to be a fine accompaniment to rainbows. He was sitting with me during this one. As we slog through the asshole month, I have shoveled the walk twice in four days and tried to keep the temperature in control in the Bungalow. After stepping in an ankle-deep puddle at the grocery store, I felt like Spring was farther away than ever. Others have it much worse in places where such cold is not expected during winter. It helps to know that places and days and moods, as shown in this image, exist. Stay warm, y’all.
Oh, the weekly poem will be a day late again this week.

Daily gratitudes:
The little old cart man at the grocery store
Finding a kindred mermaid spirit
Hot, deep baths
Warm, snuggly Mr. Man
Oatmeal with blueberries

Quote of the day: “From my earliest memories, I was one of those who wanted to go places. When I couldn’t go, I would have my dreams about going. And, such wild dreams were seldom conceived by any other child.” — Anna Williams

Why True Crime?

One thing you didn’t know about me: I can’t tolerate horror movies. I don’t even like the energy of them in my house. I know they’re fictional, but one of the things I’ve learned in the life is that if someone can imagine something, then someone’s probably done it. That opens the door for all manner of terrible acts and all sorts of terrible people to commit them. I’ve probably watched four modern horror films in my life: Halloween (the first one), Nightmare on Elm Street, one from the 1970s or 1980s with a dummy (maybe Child’s Play? Or Magic?), and Jeepers Creepers 2, which I watched by myself in the Cottage alone late one night for no reason that I can fathom. I like bad sci-fi B-movies from the 1950s but those aren’t graphic — they’re more silly and psychological.

That’s it. That’s all. My mind always seems to go to the mothers of the children or teenagers terrorized and killed in the course of horror movies. I take horror movies personally and to heart, even though I know they’re just movies (and not snuff films, which I remember my Boston boyfriend telling me about as we took a walk in the Mews one early spring day.) It seems horror movies don’t bother most people (including K), and for the life of me, I can’t understand that.
But…
True crime is another thing entirely. It makes zero sense that I can manage true crime documentaries — in fact, immerse myself in them, as I did yesterday. These depict actual events that happened to actual people and you know that these kinds of programs try to make you feel the horror that the victims felt. Why do I find that more tolerable? I have no idea.

Yesterday, it remained too cold for anything, so I watched ”The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel,’ followed by the ‘Night Stalker’ (not the 1970s series, but the Netflix series). It passed the time., It also creeped me out to realize that one of the two Hillside Stranglers lived in Bellingham in the late 70s, and went to what K tells me was known as the ‘Murder Bar’ in that college town, a bar that has hosted the likes of Ted Bundy and the D.C. sniper. What draws serial killers to Bellingham? And to one particular bar? And why did K never take me there when I visited? Those are all thoughts for another day.

I know that many people find serial killers fascinating. I suppose we want to understand their state of mind, the rationale behind such brutal actions. In doing so, we can assess our own minds and (hopefully) reassure ourselves that we are not capable of such acts. It reinforces our belief in the good within us, that we are not monsters. At least most of us aren’t. Creepy.

Cold?

I’m likely talking to most of the U.S. now. It’s cold. Here, right now, it’s 0 degrees and the sun is starting to set, which means it’s just going to get colder. Being a woman of a certain age, I keep the house cold anyway, so cold that K and M both feel like they’re in a meat locker when they’re here. It helps me sleep because I can get super snuggly and toasty warm. During the day, however, when sleep is not an option, I’m working under two blankets, my feet encased in Muk Luk fuzzy socks, and my insides warmed by mugs of tea.

That’s the standard for the Bungalow. Today has been an exception. In defiance of my upbringing of keeping the house cold, I’ve turned the heat up to (gasp!) 64. That’s kept my hands warm today, so I haven’t had to resort to fingerless mittens for computer work, as I did yesterday. It will be a challenge to keep the Retreat warm, because the ceilings are so high, but we’ll manage somehow.

When it was bitterly cold on Friday night, the Black Angus cows were covered with a coating of frozen snow, clustered together for warmth. I could almost hear them wishing that they were allowed in a house (not a barn) to warm up. My original Colorado house was across from a small ranch, run by a single little old woman named Charlene. I wanted to K to grow up with cows and horses visible from the big front window, and I succeeded. Charlene passed away a few years back, closely coinciding with K’s departure for college, and the HazMat crew was called out to demolish her small house. Apparently, she was somewhat of a hoarder, and I know that she would occasionally take her winter calves inside the house to hand raise. them. That’s what all those cows the other night wanted…to be hand-fed into front of a toasty fire in a warm house.

My Facebook memories are rubbing my nose in the cold today, as usually M and I are somewhere tropical and warm at this time of the year. So I keep seeing images of Belize, of Abaco, of Cozumel, of Costa Rica, pop up. I’m grateful that I’ve had those times, and we’re happy that we’ve dodged this kind of weather well the past four years. It’s worth it to be here as we continue to shift to the Retreat.

Stay warm, my friends. Here’s the dreaming of tropical beaches.

Angels by Mary Oliver

Because I have spent the last ten hours editing, I don’t think I have a post in me, but I do have Mary Oliver’s poem “Angels”, and I want to share it with you.

Angels

You might see an angel anytime
and anywhere. Of course you have
to open your eyes to a kind of
second level, but it’s not really
hard. The whole business of
what’s reality and what isn’t has
never been solved and probably
never will be. So I don’t care to
be too definite about anything.
I have a lot of edges called Perhaps
and almost nothing you can call
Certainty. For myself, but not
for other people. That’s a place
you just can’t get into, not
entirely anyway, other people’s
heads.

I’ll just leave you with this.
I don’t care how many angels can
dance on the head of a pin. It’s
enough to know that for some people
they exist, and that they dance.

Daily gratitudes:
Chicken noodle soup
A warm house
Sweatshirts
That Mr. Man forgives me for the disasterous attempt at using a saline nasal spray on him

In the Stars

Astrology: yes or no? Believer or scoffer? I honestly am not sure. I’m a Cancer (I hate saying that, because it sounds like I’m a disease). And I could be the poster child for Cancerians: a sensitive, ocean-loving, moonbeaming, moody, wanderer — well, not the wanderer part, because Cancers are supposed to be homebodies. Other than that, I suppose there’s some validity to it. I studied up on it quite a bit, along with herbology and palmistry, during my esoteric semi-hippie early days in Colorado.

It was also terribly in vogue when I was in high school. There seems to be a resurgent interest among K and her friends, which makes me wonder if it’s something that captivates us at that cusp of adulthood, that perhaps we hope to gain understanding of and direction for ourselves as we gaze into a future shrouded in fog. Because of her, I’ve developed a renewed interest in the subject.

Back in the days of yore, the go-to astrology text was Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs. I gave K a copy for Christmas a couple of years ago so she could see how things have evolved since the 1980s. You wouldn’t think astrology would change, but it seemingly has — becoming more detailed and specific. I did have the pleasure of staying in Linda Goodman’s former home in — who’d have thunk it — Cripple Creek, Colorado, which had become a Bed and Breakfast. And a haunted Bed and Breakfast, no less. I was in town for a ghost adventure at the former jail (and an adventure it was, may I say) and made the mistake of telling my hostess at the B&B about it, which led to her having me go into the basement to see what I could pick up from a ghost perspective (also an adventure). The next time I went to town, this particular B&B was closed; the ghosts may have been too much for her.

I’m a fan of Rob Brezsny’s astrological divinations and musings in his Free Will Astrology column/email. Having just googled him, he doesn’t look like what I’d expected, but he looks exactly like what an astrologer should look like. Who really knows how sound any of it is, but I’ve found his insights and predictions to be pretty on track over the last ten years or so. He also seems to tap into a certain esoteric level of rational thought that I very much appreciate. I’ve enjoyed his book Pronoia, which also amused a crew of market researchers who visited my house some years back to interview me on my love of Toyotas.

K has introduced me to Co — Star, which is an app instead of a column, but I guess that’s what all the cool kids are doing these days. It’s very specific, based on one’s date/time of birth. I (of course) know my birth date, but am not so sure of my birth time. My birth certificate doesn’t list it and my folks are somewhere in the stars themselves now, so I can’t ask them. But I’ve made my best guess in the hope that, whatever this app produces based on birth time, close enough is close enough. The little astrological messages are somewhat cryptic, which is both good and bad, but intriguing and make me ponder. For example, today’s central message: “A tongue that lacks self-control is a fire.” That one is pretty self-explanatory. But the “Dos” and “Don’ts”, I’m not so sure of: Dos: Ice cream, Sunshine, Venting. I don’t have ice cream and there has been very little sunshine today, but yes, I have vented to K. Don’ts: Clutch pearls, Pathos, Narratives. Not a huge pearl-clutcher, but it could have happened during the venting; not really expressing Pathos (took care of that last weekend); and Narratives….? Well, I guess this is one, so that really should have been part of the “Do” list.

On the purely pragmatic side, I love the stars themselves. M and I have a wonderful memory of driving to Santa Fe one dark night before Christmas when we first started dating, and we’d never seen so many stars. That memory still stands, even after seeing nothing but stars during a power outage in Costa Rica. And on the anniversary of our first date, we drove up to a meadow in Gilpin County and froze ourselves sitting in the bed of the truck watching a meteor shower. But anyplace under the stars with him is perfect. My horoscope said nothing about being sappy.

Daily gratitudes:
Fingerless gloves
The woman who crossed herself before driving away from the Emergency Room
My marvelous niece who has a birthday today
The new way Mr. Man snuggled in last night

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.