Try Not to Breathe


My calendar today shows an appointment to have my hair colored.  Obviously, this will not be happening.  Worse, as if to taunt me further, the facial ID function on my iphone has mysteriously stopped working.  I’m certain it’s sheer coincidence that my own phone fails to recognize me on the very same day that my real hair color starts to make an appearance.  Still, I was a little taken aback.   I felt like saying, “hey, it’s me, I swear!”  My iphone can be forgiven for its confusion though.  As time goes on, and my motivation for self-beautification wanes, my eyebrows alone have me bearing a striking resemblance to my father – or any other elderly male with facial hair challenges.

This pandemic thing is mind-blowingly surreal.  Like most others, I’ve not lived through anything that has had an impact on such a grand scale.  I have exactly two feelings that I vacillate between throughout the day and there seems to be no middle ground.  At certain moments, I experience a heartfelt feeling of solidarity with my fellow humans.

I like this Facebook page called “View from My Window”.   People post just one picture of their view from wherever they happen to be while doing the #stayhome thing.  It’s comforting to be able to commiserate with people from Brazil and Alaska and Madagascar and Bulgaria and Mississippi and Zimbabwe and Moscow.   It’s that whole, “we’re in this together!” shtick that gives me the warm fuzzies.  I get the same feeling when I’m driving and hear sirens, and I observe everybody getting out of the way for the emergency responders.  This is embarrassing, but I always get a little choked up when I see that.  I guess it just feels good to know that when shit gets real, people instinctively do the right thing.

Well, not everyone.  Apparently, a bunch of Kansas lawmakers ignored their governor’s shut down orders so they could go to church on Easter Sunday.  I don’t even know what to say to this, so I’ll just leave here this quote by Charles Darwin: “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”

On the other side of my pandemic mood spectrum, is a ridiculously intense melancholy.  I say ridiculous because I don’t think I have any business being down, and frankly, I’m starting to get on my own nerves.  It’s less the fear of the virus itself though, than a specific feeling I get after listening to the president speak about it.  I feel hobbled.  That is the most apt word I can come up with.  That scene from the movie Misery?  The one where the Kathy Bates character takes her mallet and gives the James Caan character a hearty whack at the ankles?  It’s awful to watch.  That’s how I feel though.  Every time Trump speaks.  A little more hobbled.  The possibility that this guy could be foisted upon us for another four years because a large swath of the populace views him through a different lens makes me so sad for our country.  It would almost be easier to just throw in the towel, go with the “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality, and start watching Fox news.  They certainly seem pretty joyful in denial land.

I won’t do that though, because a little painful reality is necessary sometimes.  Once a year, I get a breast MRI.  I do this strictly for early cancer detection purposes because I have a family history of this nasty disease.  I’m determined to get the fucker before it gets me.  Breast MRIs are not pleasant.  They’re like Disneyland rides – if Disneyland were created by a person who was bullied in high school, and is still really, really angry about it.  You lay face down, arms above your head, in a dark tunnel, with a very loud jackhammer like noise pounding in your ears for about six hours.

Actually, it’s only about a half hour, but it FEELS like six hours.  They give you a myriad of instructions before you enter this shaft of doom.  The most eye-roll inducing one being the “try not to breathe” mandate.   This always has the opposite effect on me.   I’m so anxiety ridden by the whole process itself (not to mention the reason I’m doing it and the potential outcome), that I end up with my heart pounding so scary fast and my breathing so rapid that I feel like I’m drowning.   This inevitably leads the young male technician (it’s always a male for some reason), to helpfully advise me mid-ride by saying “try not to breathe so heavily”.  Fuck you son.

I only bring this up, because since this whole Global Pandemic fun house started, I’ve been visited frequently by the hyperventilation thing.  In my more paranoid moments, my head goes to the bad place (shortness of breath?! what’s my temperature!).  The only thing that calms me down is when my rational side kicks in and I remind myself that I feel the same way during an MRI, so I’m likely not heading for the ventilator.  Not today, anyway.

I’ve inadvertently used this time as a weird kind of sick leave.  An excuse to wallow in my manufactured sadness and not do anything terribly productive.  I need to stop.  Because, this shut down is not ending anytime soon.  As if to remind me, I found this random vignette below set up on my kitchen counter.   I took it as a sign.  Gumby standing next to my water flask with my “end gun violence” bracelet.  Gumby basically telling me to snap out of it and get back to the stuff that I claimed to be so passionate about before this all started.  Stuff that will still matter when all this ends.  Gumby would probably also tell me to keep breathing.



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