On the Heat

He who fears he will suffer, already suffers because he fears.

Michel de Montaigne

It’s what would normally be the time of day I’m getting ready for bed. Kids tucked in if I’m not on the road, a cup of tea or water on the bed stand, and I’m curled up under the covers with a novel or catching up with a few good friends on social media before the light is turned off. But in this time where up is down and light is dark, I find myself cooking a midnight snack for my youngest at 11 pm while my oldest son is sound asleep following his own internal clock that has him up late night to dawn and sleeping from noon till midnight. And me, well it’s not a cup of herbal tea to soothe my dreams but a Yuengling sitting next to me, getting warm, to put what is that dull edge that constantly cuts into me, not quite deep enough to bleed, out of my mind. But to be honest, it’s not a solution that’s been working well.

As I change from my daytime tee and shorts to nighttime shift, I feel my cheeks warm. Is it the beer? Too much sun from my evening walk? Or am I starting to show symptoms? I forgot my mask when I went to the post office yesterday, ironically to send my high risk mother who is 70 with COPD a couple of masks I had on hand. I have some on order for her, but don’t we all? They are backordered. The rare few I have are rationed. My throat, is it a bit sore? My neck and shoulders ache too… now I have a headache….but I think it’s 5 days to symptoms, so I sit back and ponder…how many times have I been exposed? When? How many times was I not as careful as I should have been? Those sunset pictures, usually my moments of peace, but lately filled with just a bit of anxiety, was it then? The older woman in her 60s who walked too close and coughed near me, the man at the store who insisted on standing next to me and talk to me, the trust in my coworkers I see and interact with from less than 6 feet away in what we think of as a safe cocoon, but is it really? All these things race uncensored in my mind.

The “invisible enemy” has ballooned for me into the invisible anxiety. This tension that is always underneath manifests itself as anxiety that I usually have under control. I find myself in this wave where distractions from fear are keeping me afloat during the storm. But I am still sinking, slowly, and these stop gap measures are just that—temporary and barely effective—and when I come up for the next breath I realize I need to figure out a new game plan. As I take my temperature, a thrice daily routine, and pray that it’s normal, that the headache and achiness are just dehydration, fatigue, too many beers and cocktails, my mind is working to produce some newer approaches. Ones that don’t involve distractions that might have worked for a temporary pain pinch, but in the new normal that seems to stretch into the far future are only paths through even darker doors. So as I lay me down to sleep tonight, to ready for another day of work filled with harsh deadlines and austere resourcing, I think that I should get up early. Go for a run. Try yoga. But as I reach to turn off the light, I wonder if I’m just holding onto past activities to pretend I’m still that girl who existed before the world plunged into insanity. The one whose eyes are wide shut and mouth open in a silent scream of disbelief.

I hear a beep. 98.1 deg F. I can breathe. For now. Time to sleep.

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