Recipe for constriction:
Twenty years of complicated trauma plus four years of being stalked by a violent “friend” taught about being hyper vigilant–for more than six decades. Have her injured and retired much earlier than planned, and just beginning to find her way during this retirement. Have her proud for not overreacting for news of a novel virus; no, this time she will not stock up or freak out. It’s on the other side of the world, right? Right? Add grief for a lost sister and a state of shock about her new reality.
Add the pandemic.
Click. Knowing she is privileged. Knowing how many are suffering physically and emotionally. Guilt over privilege. I know, she will give up something she loves, make a sacrifice. Bye bye, poetry. She will volunteer more and more, to help others. She finds students who need help and mails lessons, materials, makes phone calls. Tutors.
Click. Husband forced retired early due to pandemic. Lucky, lucky they are and they know it. Able to do this, rather than face the pandemic daily, face first, face to face.
Click. His former employer is no longer paying him since he doesn’t work there anymore. He’s having to deal with sudden retirement.
And they are lucky, and they know it. Yet it is scary to have to be so worried about money once again, after five decades of working hard to get out of debt and be sufficient.
It is, however, a recipe for constriction, a recipe to kill poetry. It is a recipe for clenched jaws that make her jaw muscles so strong, they could snap wire. CLICK, CLICK, CLICK.
See, see what happens that one time you decide not to be hyper vigilant, not to worry and stock up.
The days are okay, for there is sunlight and she forces herself to take nature walks, one thing not denied. It’s healthy to walk. Stay away from others on the path, wear a mask.
But the nights close in and find nightmares returning, ruminations, constrictions. Worries. More rumination. This is not what she had planned for retirement. She knows how lucky she is. She misses people more than she can say. She likes people. She misses her sister. She is with grief and night, grief for the pandemic, for the loss of her sister, for the “so that was my career” thoughts. She uses carbs to calm herself. All the carbs.
I knew somehow this would happen, she thinks. I am getting older by the day. I’ll never be able to enjoy retirement. I miss work. I miss teaching. I am living a meaningless life right now, helping no one and doing nothing, she thinks, even while knowing she would never judge another this harshly.
She walks more during the day, even on the days when the windchill is dangerous. She only stops on the days when the house door is frozen shut. Not trusting the gym during an airborne virus pandemic, she walks the halls at night and frets.
Be hyper vigilant. There is a killer novel virus. Stay away from others. Wash those hands very often. Be hyper vigilant. You should have been hyper vigilant. See? Told you so.
Twenty years of complicated trauma plus four years of being stalked by a violent “friend” taught about being hyper vigilant. For more than six decades. Did you suddenly forget important life lessons?
Before the pandemic, she was writing a lot of poetry and publishing; after the pandemic, the constriction, the clenched jaws and the nightmares prohibit poetry.
More or less. Things are opening up now. She is trying not to over react to words such as variant. She is trying to relax enough to read poetry. She is trying to write again, to write poetry. She has found nature classes online bring joy and looking up and looking down while walking in the woods shows her the unimaginable beauties she never saw before in her work, work, work, work days.
She thinks about a pandemic, privilege, and poetry. She knows deeply how lucky she has been. She knows that her mind and body didn’t seem to care, that she reacted at a primitive level of survival. She knows she should be more relaxed and joyful as the new pandemic rules ease up, as people are able to socialize again, get out more again. She knows it is much safer now than fifteen months ago. She knows it’s her rotten trauma responses keeping her on the edge, hyper vigilant, getting her mind full of stinking thinking. She knows how much she misses her career, teaching, and misses people. She knows she should lighten up.
More or less.
(Image from the Creative Commons)