Oh, Jeez… Look Who’s Back

Oh hai! It’s been a while. A long painful while.

A year ago, I thought it would be a good thing to look at this time away from the rest of the world as an opportunity. To write another book, to exercise, to learn something new… And while we pretended that it was only going to be a few weeks… no, maybe a few more weeks, or maybe a couple of months and… oh, maybe longer… I think most of us, back a year ago, knew this was going to be a long haul kind of deal. But that was too terrifying to contemplate, so we kept telling ourselves it would be over soon, disregarding all the proof that it was going to take years to resolve.

And during that year, time was elastic; days were both far too long and way too short. How can it be March again already, I’m not done with first March. And I didn’t get anything done.

That bit is okay; even if you had nothing else going on, we all had that low-level anxiety that made us frustrated and tetchy and just exhausted all the time.

My low-level anxiety manifested as pain. Because, to simplify, anxiety makes cortisol, which makes inflammation. So on days when the weather caused inflammation (which already makes me feel like shit), I was even more of a wreck, unable to figure out why parts of my body hurt so very much. Which… oops, made it difficult to see that I was suffering real and serious injuries, like herniated discs in my lower back (an old injury triggered by standing in line in the cold, back in March 2020, to get into a grocery store), and then later my neck, which got so bad that I was in spasm for about 3 months and couldn’t sit at my desk, hold up a book or a Kindle, or even, for a couple of weeks, my phone.

If anybody in the After Times is rude enough to ask me what I accomplished during lockdown, they’re going to get a full-on recap of every aspect of my horrific year of pain, including the bit where my left thumb went numb for 6 weeks and bending down to tie my shoes caused a jolt of hot, electric pain to shoot down my arm as if I’d been jabbed with a cattle prod.

The high-level anxiety manifested in a full-out roll on the floor crying and screaming session every time the mask bylaws got tighter. I eventually found the silver lining in this; no, I am not allowed go into a store because I cannot wear a mask, but also, I don’t HAVE to go into a store. People bring me things and that’s kind of awesome.

I’m still stupid paranoid about having some mask vigilante confront me for not wearing a mask (I live in a multi-unit building and while most of my neighbours understand my predicament, a few still give me the stink eye), but I’m not even sure why this bothers me so much. I’m a fat, old goth who grew up with people constantly making derogatory comments about my appearance. And I’m generally not afraid of confrontation… maybe it’s just the sense of histrionic paranoia I get from the mask vigilantes. They’re irrationally scared and angry (and volatile) and feel really dangerous in a way that a rocker dude in a Camaro yelling “Yo, fat-ass Morticia!” at me never did.

I’m at the point where even seeing someone wearing a mask is incredibly triggering and my brain assumes they’re going to start screaming at me. I’ve managed to counter this urge by imagining everyone’s face mask to be a giant flower. Imagining people walking around with giant flowers stuck on their faces is almost amusing.

(Yes, I’m aware that I pretty much have full-blown social anxiety at this point, and that I’m beyond the stage where I can just pretend that I’m a cranky old misanthrope. I may try to figure that shit out in the After Times when I have to go back out among other people but for now, I’m mostly okay embracing my inner Emily Dickinson and just staying at home, writing and baking.)

Anyway, it’s been a weird year, and if I sound a little stressed and crazy and exhausted, well, probably you do too.

My silver lining is that if I had to spend a full year in excruciating pain, at least I didn’t miss anything. There were no concerts or festivals that I was too sick to attend or worse, would have to leave midway through because I was hurting too badly. No dinners where my back would spasm due to an uncomfortable chair. No grocery stores where I had to negotiate arrows on the floor when I needed to go a different direction because I just needed to get my stuff and go home because the pain was so bad I was in tears.

I still saw lots of movies and concerts and plays, just from the comfort of my sofa – one of only two places I could sit relatively pain-free. (I ended up replacing my office chair, which helped a lot; turns out the tilt option that lets you lean back is really bad for your neck… who knew?)

And I’m able to do stuff again. I can sit at my desk and type (for more than a few minutes!), which is so brilliant it makes me tear up with joy. I can cook again, as long as I don’t lift anything too heavy or strain my neck. Mostly I’m just doing little bits of things – writing, drawing, various craft things – that make me happy. Sometimes this feels like I’m learning to use my limbs again, and the weather-related inflammation can still turn a day where I start out feeling fabulous into one where my left arm and hand hurt so much I cannot lift a coffee cup.

But mostly things are much bettah.

All of which is my long-winded way of saying that I hope to be here more often. And while you probably didn’t really miss me, I missed having somewhere to blather on about things.