Tuesday, March 23, 2021

March Maddening

         Coming out of our shell? Well, sort of. Two shots delivered (Moderna) in February two weeks apart, meant waiting two weeks of March to begin to 'feel different.' Sort of. Physically, little changes, though pandemic anxiety is difficult to shake. Sleep is erratic. Public behavior is like playacting. Masks feel eternal - and necessary. Emotionally,  relief of course, A lack of fear and trepidation. Lunching with two friends who are also past the danger zone, or supposedly so, when chance of a life threatening disease is diminished. 

     What's so maddening in the wake of this new phase of life (in which life seems altogether possible, without danger of a virus claiming my own) is the advent of pollen and then the cicada hurricane...I'm left with sniffling and coughing and  sneezing, wondering if the scourge will ever end. Both scourges, not to be compared. Pollen-nated while vaccinated.

 I"m one of the lucky ones, now today (already officially spring) among a very small minority of those who have' crossed the line'. There is a guilt connected to the sense of freedom, partly compensated by the idea of celebration. What helps, too, is the promise of a great profusion of flowers everywhere, alongside budding trees, the ecstatic delight of  color and sun. Plants and flowers engender tremendous emotional support accompanying the medical boost.

Though what to do or say to people refusing to follow CDC 'orders' - who say absolutely no vaccine for them. The strong-minded mother of two young twins declaring she never has been sick, never had the flu, never needed protection and so won't start now. Will she at least allow her children to help protect others from Covid and take a jab when that age group is highlighted. So much still is unknown about the secret carriers - children as well as adults.

A 52-year-old Black man says he refuses the option because he believes  the vaccine is 'unnatural' - does not come from nature. He cannot be convinced that the virus itself is a biological mishap arising out of an animal's contact with humans. No, he must insist on a paranoid version - that the virus was created in a lab  whether by accident - still unknown - or design. The tall thin man has become fixated on what he calls a natural diet - fruit and vegetables only, little or no meat - and thinks will keep him safe. He works outside as a handyman while wearing mask, has a phone (so aware of the world, at least minimally) but no checking account. He obviously does not feel responsible in any way for fellow human beings; his conscience relates only to the wellbeing of his own body. 


PS The pig wants into the game, too.

Monday, February 8, 2021

February 2021 ETC.


February came  out of nowhere. Many days recently seem just like the next one or the one the day before. No special event marks the changing of the months - except for those lucky enough to celebrate the certainty of a first or second vaccine dose. 

And how does the prospect of becoming more safe, somewhat immune, feel?  More of a mix of emotions than all out relief. Some of the same habits, patterns of behavior continue. An obsession with creating the next meal, the uncertainty of being able to plan far ahead, awareness that  mindset and outlook is determined a great deal by the behavior of others.  To wit, cocooned in my single state,  alone at home most days, I am 'out of the box' elated when some incidental encounter occurs either remotely or in person. A neighbor texted me this morning out of the blue that she had left me a piece of lasagna in a plastic container outside my gate. No explanation - just a note.  A thrilling note of care, never mind that I've stuffed my fridge with food and go on binge buying to local stores occasionally just to be around people

Or maybe the reason for these forays is more complicated. The chance to go unrestricted into a world that looks BC - before Covid - in many respects. A chance to have some spontaneous connection with strangers, using all senses to get oneself out of the humdrum daily life. Getting some exercise and stimulation Out There. So when I went yesterday on a whim to buy what I had convinced myself was a 'necessity' - jumbo pasta shells that I could stuff deliciously, maliciously, with sausage and cheese - I knew the surest place to find them was an Italian grocery in the Union Market near me in NE Washington. Too far to walk on a dreary day (though at 46 degrees, nearly a warm one), but a grand excursion into another neighborhood. I surely did not want to make a dish of pasta always too large for consumption. But I wanted to feel I could find a physical object that I desired in a context that I could pretend was 'normal.'   A cheerful burly man queried me with a smile: What was I looking for?  Ah, yes, he said - they had run out of the shells and reordered so there must be some in one of the large cartons stacked up before the pasta shelves. I said I had found a parking space and wasn't going to be in a hurry to leave. He said he would attack the cartons and, lo, he did find the Ferrara labeled box and handed it to me. I can't even remember now if he wore a mask and, if he did, how would I recall a smile? A mask in my own mind perhaps? (I've been a bit absent-minded of late: signed the date on a check sent to someone as " Feb. 2121" without realizing it until later. Went to my bank to deposit a check and somehow ended up withdrawing an equal sum from my account. The clerk seemed to understand my confused state.)

This pretense of buying a box of pasta I didn't need led me into a wonderland of sights and smells, engagement with clerks only too glad to see a shopper or sightseer in their midst - , and the best excuse to walk up and down streets in an ever-changing area. Apartment buildings being built opposite small wholesale dealers in food and other goods, a bustle of commercial activity, discovery of an emerging Latin market and restaurant center. Some protocols easily observed: quick sanitizing hand wash in and out of stores. The local book outlet, Politics and Prose, now condensed, open for browsing. How long has it been since I felt free to roam the shelves? No more than five or eight or such allowed in at a time but on a Wednesday afternoon that would not be a problem.

Then home again, bags clanging with the edible merchandise for which I am probably reluctant to consume, dreading the routine, yet again, of creating a meal by myself, for myself alone yet somehow having to try. A pattern of sorts: prove that the NYTimes recipes are accessible and the rhythm of creation will be satisfying in ways far beyond the pleasures of taste.  How, even in the bloated newly remodeled Safeway in my home neighborhood, I can do such wishful thinking of the preparation ahead, knowing at the same time that I do not want to be subject to the confinement involved.

The month now notable for the date (2/14) and time (approx. 11:45 a.m.) I receive a second Covid vaccine. No mean thing to be a member of what is something of a club - those relatively few of us working towards a form of security to be able to mingle in the world. Not necessarily mingle freely with impunity but at least with some relief that it is now unlikely (after a 10-14 day wait-and-see time) that I would be a victim of the disease. A serious victim. So I feel I have won some sort of lottery through little effort and a lot of prayer. Prayers that take the form of specific dreams about the process, the actual jab. Through it all, anxiety was rising from some unknowable source - until I felt like a kid going off to the first day of school alone. No special favors were being granted me, I was only one in a long line standing outside the Model Cities Senior Wellness Center unsure of what system was in progress. Anxiety that if I failed to arrive on the stated hour chosen that I would be, again, adrift in a crowd waiting to find out every day if, indeed, symptoms had turned up in my system.  Nearly all coming there were white and masked and older. DC citizens mainly from nearby Ward 6 grouped by their preordained appointment time, every 15 minutes. An ice storm had struck the day before, cutting down travel and any thought of walking far on slippery sidewalks. The city in lockdown: no mail because postal carriers couldn't risk a fall, and especially on brick that can e especially slick in  30 degree weather.

Still it is/was a strange psychological element that nearly upended me, interrupting sleep the night before. I had comfort only in the fact a friend would drive me to the center (I was afraid, among other things, the lock on my 13-year-old car was frozen solid in the ice storm, making a drive impossible.) The comfort of having another person around. Does such anxiety go back to a childhood spent too much alone and insecure lacking any real sense of safety.  I grew up always running from those fears,  when one is one's own worst enemy and victim. How I would shirk challenge in order not to fail lest I disappoint. Such a state of mind  must stem from early roots. What else accounts for the diminution of self-confidence and strength.

But it is Sunday, Valentine's Day - and the relief was immense after receiving the jab from one of the Safeway pharmacists doing the jabbing on overtime. Entry into a large bright room and a choice of unveiling either left or right upper arm. Little small talk ensues. A single sting and then our reward: a coupon from Safeway (the sponsor? who indeed was paying for all this?) saying we would get 10 percent off on purchases on a trip in the future with the exception of liquor and prescription medicines. We are encouraged to wait 15 minutes in an adjoining room in case some unsuspected reaction took place. I said I would wait in my friend's car and ran out, as though from prison. Relief was more than palpable. I could turn to thoughts of others, buy flowers for the neighbors who do me small favors unasked. And in turn  I am given some heart-shaped ravioli and homemade cookies. My son on the phone volunteers that I should expect the second dose to have some side effects' though he has yet to have even one dose.   He did not overstate the case. I spent a night and a day with a success of aches and pains and self-pity - as warned. 

normal state since it is still not yet known if vaccinated people can be carriers and even if two or more of us are together unmasked that we can pretend normalcy. To await the studies, the what-ifs, a life ahead that still will seem precarious but probably not deadly.  How long will such a limbo state last is key. To be among, at this date, only 4.2 percent of the US population to be 'fully vaccinated.' But not, alas, fully secure of best behavior around others.

I'm probably among many people who continue to be deviled by different forms of anxiety: where they come from, how to 'cure.'   A friend believes that his brush with Covid (fatigue mainly) produced welcome change in his sleeping habits for unknown reasons. Maybe the habit of sleep lingered on..so that now he can count on enjoying 'full night's sleep,' where before (B.C.) he struggled. The anxiety I often feel about digital devices and their 'bedeviling' impersonal sometimes inscrutable rules: might it stem from one's sense of helplessness in general, the impersonality of nature and its command over life. When sitting alone at home watching films on television, I have a similar reaction: the movies are manipulative, indifferent to individuals in the audience, a reminder of how the 'entertainment age' has taken over the world. Explosions of social media as substitute for human interaction and immediacy. My rebellion and my frustration over why it had to happen and why it came to be.

How much is Covid, how much worry over political/social trends in the country at large? Remarkably, it's somehow soothing to be among people -one at a time ideally - each giving the story always with a sightly different  twist on how he/she managed to sign up for the vaccine, what happened when he/she actually got the vaccine, and what physical reaction the first or second might have occurred. The body knows...and each body is different so reactions are unpredictable in each person.  The comfort, of course, is knowing a date is fixed, the vial is secured (or will be until the message comes about a delay...). Should we all be wearing a V sign if we have officially made it through the hoops.  So it was the other night that I could enjoy a martini and regale with some humor what was my experience to a couple who were also  now 'done.' 

Then the problem becomes whether this is reassuring to others who are not. "Can't wait to get the mask off,' is the general cry of greeting to replace 'How are you?' which is meaningless: everyone is miserable  having to wear a face covering, listening or reading about rule changes (what is 'safe' and 'unsafe').


Friday, January 8, 2021

January 2021 The Great Unknowns

So it seems. We are all hunkered down in our unsheltered bunkers, waiting. To hear latest information on virus behavior on vaccine rollout, on political news.

Nothing else. 

It is nearly impossible to describe mental moods surrounding the immanent possibility of obtaining a vaccine. An unease unlike anything else save the miseries of being lost in an unsettling dream. The sense of being alone, totally in a lottery of sorts that would determine success in finding a spot. Of not ever really knowing how that will come about. The clatter of helicopter blades overhead, circling and circling, atop the fiery screams of police cars and fire engines racing through the town. My town a village of sorts, the Capitol Hill residential world, and an address eight blocks from the Capitol itself now shrouded in military paraphernalia on thousands of camouflaged soldiers. How strong the sense of doom hangs over in the wake of what now is called an insurrection for lack of any real definition.

  At the same time there is a desperate sense of impending deadline as vaccine becomes available but in unknown numbers of doses. The tightrope walk on the computer, figuring answers to a system that answers best to those familiar with government methods. How this mentored a crippling inhibition to thought. How when I had in my hand printed material directing me to a certain pharmacy where I would get a first injection I would misread the information  and insist that my goal was a CVS and not what was clearly written down 'Safeway.' That I insisted on  first glance that I had to be available for three hours, between 11 and 2 on a certain Sunday - when in fact I misread the line and neglected to see that I was due between 11 and 12 . That nerves trembling I went to the wrong place in spite of reading sign that said 'no vaccines here.'  That an obliging CVS employe with an iPad in her hand gently corrected me and pointed to the Safeway across the street.This was after I thought to carry a folding stool with me, fearing I would be standing in line for three hours at the site written down on precious paper. And I only had got that far because I had thought to reve up my computer well ahead of the published start time for 65-and-older first appointments.

So, finally, a first shot and absolutely no reaction when even the gentle pharmacist in charge of administering the doses confessed he had had a sore arm for days and had to sleep on his back. Another friend confessed to the soreness and also to a bruise she attributed to 'thin old skin.' But no complaints until I was told that the second required Moderna shot would be given at another location. It was up to me to sign up, yet again, take my chances on a slot. Though at least I had proof of having a place in line at one of the three 'senior wellness centers' listed on the piece of paper he handed me. Another hangup: it wasn't explained that this still was a Safeway link and that the only browser I could use to connect with any one of the three centers was Chrome. Safari on my Mac was useless. We do live in a complex world when even such basics are not readily explained.

Overall continuing into inauguration day: why such an obsession with food, with recipes, and having to find work to do with my hands. It wasn't/isn't enough to open piles of books and dive into other worlds. The very real outside world made concentration difficult = but a clearly written recipe at least provided a sense of order and even some satisfaction. I could create something, whether good or bad. I could see progress that way, physical evidence of change. I painted out the stain on my bedroom ceiling caused by a link from my roof some weeks ago. I could clean my hands and feel relief.  All this throughout the clattering stutter sound of helicopters overhead, the screaming sirens in the street, the sight of soldiers in camouflage on every other street where there weren't also parked police cars.

Some people are emotional, others intestinal I love quoting as a ritual to anyone wondering why a stomach can show upsets even when a mind appears calm. I have been in a third mode - the irrational - through days fraught with questions about violence and insults and uncertainties (mostly now about vaccine distribution). When thinking or sleeping does not improve the state of one's mind.

Then, lo, the curtain raises on what is purportedly a New Era, though staffed well with old hands under the new/old president. Still a lack of consolation, however, given the staggering numbers still in thrall to conspiracy and loss and whatever it is threatens minds that seem concocted out of fear. A strong sense of unease governs days shrouded in the Covid menace. It is little comfort to realize that, as of today, 1/24, I am one of only 810 residents in my DC Ward 6 who have been given a single vaccine shot - out of thousands who must keep trying. And the single shot isn't real protection except psychologically.  Experts say the so-called protected person still can transmit virus (but not get deathly sick him/herself).

Stasis. Waiting. Wondering. All opportunity for pondering. 

Useful fact to remember in the course of the day: That by 2050 some 2/3rds of the world's population will live in urban areas - though what is actually known as a city may yet be defined.