Friday, May 08, 2020

Weak Lungs

Yesterday I went out and did a bit more than my normal in terms of erranding...Met up with Jacinda at Upinngil to hand off masks and look at flour, dropped the Prius off for spring tire swapping, then decided - while waiting for my tire swap, and since I had a mask on already anyway - to walk to Dollar General (who I know has cheap dried beans), and to Aubuchon because we have no hoe (and no idea where the damn thing went), and I needed a length of stovepipe to make a squirrel baffle for my bird feeder post ala Grampa Dan (we used to have matching ones back in the day that he engineered and we built separately). I saw a lot of people unmasked outside, and a lot with masks in their cars. Now, if you put the masks on the people out for a walk, and told the people in their cars that they don't need them while driving...but I digress.
I went into Cumberlands (touch free!) and peed but bought nothing, because buying is touching and consuming and I have no interest in consuming anything I didn't make myself yet. The surreal "new normal" was simultaneously off-putting and comforting, with doors held wide open and caution tape roped up and an employee serving drinks across a barricade of wheeled Rubbermaid carts instead of the usual melee. The long lines of cars at both Dunkin' Donuts on Federal confirmed my decision to give up coffee - which at 8 weeks "clean" is a nice pat on the back. The last thing I need right now is caffeine withdrawal when the coffee market collapses. I've had that. It wasn't pretty. Tea it is.
At Dollar General I was surprised to see all the dried beans gone but 8 pounds, and I bought them all. People were respectfully distant, employees look fearfully at customers which leads me to believe they get a lot of shit in the course of a day. Why not - after all they're essential(expendable) workers.
At Aubuchon there were 4 employees at registers because although it was only Wednesday this is Random Sunday in May weekend coming up, and that always stimulates the buying up of anything floral or bird or garden related. There's not a lot, let me tell you. No giant racks of plants. All I needed was a hoe and stove pipe, as physically distant and as quickly as possible, thank you very much.
So I got what I needed - one garden variety garden hoe, and one 6"x24" galvanized stove pipe section, and headed for the check-out.
The floors are marked with 6' spacing, which some people understand and others do not. How obtuse you need to be to not see a giant blue X marked every 6' with giant blue arrows indicating direction of traffic flow is beyond me. Situational awareness is dead.
After I checked out and was heading for the door, I overheard a blue-collar redneck type turn to his equally blue-collar redneck buddy and say "I don't know why I have to wear this. I mean, it isn't protecting me, you know? I mean. It's isn't."
And I snapped back "NO. It's protecting ME." and walked out the door into the sun, not waiting for a reply.
They just don't get it. And as I was walking back to Tire Warehouse I got to thinking about how and why they don't get it...and there's so many layers of why and so much information floating around that's misleading and conflicting...and I ...I just want people to understand. I know - I could just feel it - that when I walked away part of what went through his white male macho head was "Who the fuck are you??"
So, for you, sir, let me try and explain who I am:
I am your mother. I am your children's mother. I am your grandmother, your children's grandmother, your wife's mother, your beloved Auntie who you need to visit more but never have time because of the kids and the wife and work and all the excuses.
I am your kid's teacher, the receptionist at your utility company who cuts you a break on the bill because you're out of work. I am the doctor who tells you to stop eating crap and get some exercise, and the lady at the bank who deposits your unemployment check when the ATM stops working.
I am the nurse who will set up the iPad so you can see your wife and kids in the ICU if you "get it bad".
We are unable, it seems, to see past ourselves. This has been a failing of our culture for decades, this failure to teach responsibility to others. I know I failed with my own kids, and it looks like everyone else did as well. I recently stated that White Jesus had become a convenient wrap to hide our insecurity and fear and paranoia. I stand by that.
My parents used to worry about my "weak lungs". My father worried that he'd passed pulmonary HTN onto me (there are early indications that it's true). I've got auto-immune disease and an abnormally low white count with no diagnosis behind it other than "...some more auto-immune things, and we will know which one when more symptoms develop". I've got unresolved issues with a family member that I hope to resolve at least a little before I die. (Mommy loves you, you rotten little hedgehog/porcupine/turtle thing).
I'm not working because the actions and movements of other people are unknown to me and out of my control. I'm not going to the museum because the actions of other staff and volunteers are unknown to me and out of my control. I'm not seeing or spending time with my grandchildren because their movements and those of their parents are out of my control and...not known to me. All of these people are like this guy at Aubuchon - "Why? Why do I have to wear this thing? Why do I have to stand 6 feet away? This is AMERIKA, GOD DAMN IT, and it's my RIGHT to kill other people with a virus I don't know I am carrying!"
I shop for food once every two to three weeks, and with Misfits Market (hallelujah! organic produce at my door! use code COOKWME-KH3CIF for 25% of your first box!) that may be eliminated, so I'll pretty much be here. I limit my interactions with the world as much as possible. We don't order take out because I don't know if the people prepping the food are masked, gloved, and disease free. I've had to cancel progress on repairing a badly injured wrist for the foreseeable future.
So when I get angry about people not staying home, and people's because I'm scared.
I'm scared that I will get it and end up on a vent drowning in my own secretions because someone out there didn't wash their hands, and thought wearing a mask was unfair to them personally. I'm scared that I won't see my kids or grandkids again in person to talk or hug or say I'm sorry or I am not sorry or come here so I can slap you. I'm scared that this is my new normal, and even when the rest of you are out and about I'll be here waiting for some magical herd immunity number that never comes, or that comes at a cost I don't want to pay - like the lives of the people I love. That is the biggest fear.
I’m also angry. I’m angry because the science is really clear on how these pandemics start, on how our treatment of animals used to feed us creates the perfect environment for the development of killer diseases, and yet in our greed for the flesh of other living things and corporate greed for selling them to us, we do nothing to change that. The answers are so easy that they've been deemed "too easy", and are therefore discarded.
Frustrated feelings today. I dislike the word "can't" because of it's negativity and limiting effect on individuals. I choose to say "I choose to" or "I choose not to".
I choose not to go to work. I choose not to go to the museum. I choose not to see my grandchildren in person. I choose not to walk the 3.5 mile loop I've walked (or run) a thousand times before. I choose not to go out, get take out, shop more than is necessary.
The reasons for why I choose those things is where I get caught up; self-absorbed and self-pitying.
Choice implies desire.
I don't want to choose these things. Presented with options, I'm choosing the ones that best ensure my survival, or keep me safe. Safety isn't a thing that usually factors into my choices on a personal level. I've never been this intimated by an unseen thing. I'm taking it seriously, I've ordered inhalers, I'm eating every antioxidant that gets near my face, I'm actively strengthening respiratory accessory muscles, I'm doing deep breathing...
And all this when for all intents and purposes I'm HEALTHY. If you met me on the street or if you know me well...I may look paranoid, extreme, overly cautious...because nothing about me in person says "Oooo, high risk..."
So all this talk about re-opening...who's looking out for the people who look healthy, aren't necessarily - but don't have my privilege? The people who will be fired if they choose to put their life ahead of a dollar?
I know a lot of people who are high risk who are going on business as usual...I don't have that gene. I'm not one for running into burning buildings. I've got things I want to do. Survive is at the top of the list. But man is it hard to stick to that plan.
I've never been particularly good at sacrifice. That's not why I'm still here. I'm here because I'm selfish, and a survivor, from my follicles to my toe nails. Right now survival means shrinking my life to this tiny fragment of "normal". The longer this goes on the more guilty and heartsick I feel. I'm like...a strange sort of conscientious objector, choosing to stay home while other people better and braver than I risk death in my place. And it is HARD, man. Really hard. Because the thing that could take me out - I mean for real take me out - is a tiny thing no one can see. I don't know if the guy before me at the gas pump left it behind. I don't know if a patient's family got sick of quarantine and went visiting then licked a door knob I may later touch without knowing. I don't know if that unmasked kid at the Home Depot was partying with friends all weekend before offering to help me load lumber into my Prius. So yeah, some of that is "living in fear", but if everyone believed science and took this shit seriously...I could relax, have less fear, and more reasonably assumption that people CARE about my life - about anyone's life beyond their own - enough to wash their hands and put on a fucking mask. And who am I? Go back up and read the list. I am anyone. I am everyone. I am you, you are me, we are all ONE. Jesus tried to tell them that, but their heads are way too far up their asses to see it.
It knocks your cavalier socks right off, reading descriptions of COVID-19 deaths, and knowing...what you know. Fearlessness, it turns out, has limits. So fuck yeah I am scared. If I wasn't I would be a fool. God - whatever that is - gave me a brain and I use it without apology.
Today....I'm grateful for paint and pencils, and produce.

Also, don't worry about Murder Wasps. They've been in the US for a few years now. It isn't great news, but it also was just a smoke screen some PR person probably threw out there to grab the media (squirrel!).


Unknown said...

good read hugs Melissa

Kitty Kat said...

You expressed it all! This describes me, too. I am the one of the two of us who goes out to get the tires changed over, does the food shopping and/or pickups, goes to H & R Block to turn in our taxes. I get thereby-geebies when I come home and for the next 4-5 days I find it hard to relax, wondering if I have picked up Covid-19. Yes, I war a mask, a head scarf, night vision sunglasses over my own, a mask and sometimes gloves (especially when gassing up, very important there!) I take wipes with me and hand sanitizer and use them liberally on my keys, carts, credit cards, credit card terminals, etc. I frown when people are laughing or talking too loud as that spreads their particles further. And yes, many are massless an I tru to hold my breath when I have to pass them. The thought of suffocating to death alone, isolated, facing death like that is a most tragic of deaths, and one I do not want. I am here to stay for the near future. I can still do some good for others, and have done so in surprising ways (surprising to me) over the past two weeks. I am still here in this world and from this place I can make a difference for others, not when dead. I agree that others do not get it and the are people who are not used to putting the needs of others into their minds and hearts to motivate their actions. This crisis is an opportunity for people to be stretched beyond their preferences, to choose to put these aside for the sake of the lives of others OR NOT. This time will separate the wheat from the chaff. Unfortunately, many grains of wheat will die directly due to the actions and choices of the chaff. My city has 7 active cases, with 62 recovered, 3 dead, close to 7,000 tested and many hundreds yet with results pending their tests. Public Health stopped recording for the public how many hundreds of test results were still outstanding. I regret that. 7 people in quarantine might give me a false sense of safety. 700 whose tests are not yet read puts me on alert. Two of those cases of positive were grocery staff at the Walmart. Our Public Health head made a decision not to let the public know this while the infections were active. She tool a stance to protect business profits over people. Because where there are 2 grovery clerks positive, there are many others who got exposed. I should know this to have an informed choice of where to shop elsewhere for th next two weeks. She withheld this information until it came out in the news and she justified her decision. She did not inspire confidence in me. I had shopped there at that particular time. She robbed me of the chance to make a safer decision for myself while supporting the profits of a multinational wealthy conglomerate! Yeck! So we muddle through these times. Yesterday my two sisters came over and we sat outside in the breezes 8 feet from one another. It was good to reconnect midst all this isolation. I cut rhubarb and made a strawberry-rhubarb compote with maple syrup. I transplanted some tomato plants to large outside pots and I weeded a few beds. Doing gardening work brings life to me. Up, up with LIFE!