House Arrest

House Arrest

No one enjoys the lockdown process. And now that we’re “celebrating” the one-year anniversary of the first lockdown orders, it’s hitting home with a lot of people. We’ve spent one year donning masks, focusing on washing our hands, and avoiding contact with our human beings. For some people, that’s an endless lifetime. For those of us of the introvert persuasion, it’s more like business as usual (more or less). And while I won’t admit to being a FAN of everything, I haven’t hated it as much as other people.

Until last week.

I’ve been battling issues with my sinuses…well, since I moved to Virginia. As anyone who isn’t a native will tell you, this is the state you come to to develop allergies. I have no idea WHY that’s the case, but you’ll find stories from one end to the other. And I’m no exception. My ENT has changed my medication routine so many times I can’t remember what we’ve tried and what we haven’t (short of injections, where I draw the line). Finally, we decided to run a CT of my sinus passages to check for potential problems. Considering my neuro issues were also undergoing changes – and the fact that the trigeminal nerve sits near the sinuses – it made sense to cover the bases.

Surprise! Turns out my sinuses aren’t normal. (If you know me, this isn’t much of a surprise. Very little of my anatomy is normal) My turbinates were out of alignment AND overly large, I had air trapped within them, and my concha were too big. It led to a natural environment for trapped inflammation – and made me a perfect candidate for a balloon sinuplasty.

(So much for my plan to avoid surgery this year)

If you haven’t ventured into an OR in the past year, there’s a new test required – even for inpatient procedures. That’s right: the COVID test. As someone who hasn’t needed one this entire time (not counting the antibody test they perform each time I donate blood), let me say one thing: that test fucking HURTS! I’ll concede it may not be so bad if you have normal sinuses, but I don’t. I handed over a bloody swab to the nurse who looked at me sideways. And then she dropped the hammer: I wasn’t allowed to set foot outside until my procedure. Which happened to be TEN DAYS away! No one warned me about THAT fact!

Granted, I wasn’t going out a ton. But the weekly trip for groceries let me BREATHE! To suddenly end up trapped in the house, with no chance to shop for the new curtain rods, or pick up my own medications felt like the worst kind of house arrest in the world. I hated it. I’d stand in the window and watch my husband drive off on our basic errands and grumble under my breath. Maybe they were tiny (necessary) trips, but they were my lifeline to the outside world, and now they were gone. I felt like a criminal. Ten days was the worst life sentence. And my mental health took a major hit.

You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.

I was MISERABLE! No walks around the neighborhood. I couldn’t even set foot in the backyard since our neighbors were outside working in their yard (couldn’t risk the possible “contact”). Ten days in the same walls. I didn’t want to do anything. I mean, I did (I needed to write), but I didn’t WANT to. It was a rebellion against the confinement. All I wanted to do was go to the stupid grocery store! My one little outdoor venture! I never thought I’d look FORWARD to a surgery!

Of course, then the procedure happened, and I got a new shock. I knew it was inpatient. I also knew I’d stay awake the entire time. (For the record, listening to your sinuses crack and pop is a level of disturbing I don’t have words for) But they assured me I’d go home and be back on my feet by the next day. So I planned accordingly with my clients.

Never trust doctors.

Within 20 minutes of hitting the recovery room, I knew I was in trouble. The “pain medication” they prescribed may as well have been Tic-Tacs. I almost broke my husband’s hand, and I couldn’t stop the tears. As the staff are using that half-laughing soothing tone that indicates they don’t believe your face was just smashed in with a boulder. It took me more doses than I care to admit (when I got home) to reach a point where I didn’t want to actually bang my head into a wall to make everything stop. And I realized there was no way I could sit at a computer the next day. (Balancing a laptop over my head while reclining sounded a little risky) I had to swallow my pride and send messages to my clients, requesting a “day off.” (Remember, freelancers DON’T get sick days)

Recovery presented a new “normal” for me to cope with. By Monday, I had no choice but to work. I didn’t feel 100%, but I had assignments. If I didn’t get writing done, I’d have no paycheck coming in. Not to mention that I’d end up letting clients down. I had to find the balance between feeling like someone ran over my face and concentrating (it’s fun – I highly recommend it).

As the week progressed, I felt better and better, but things weren’t “normal.” I’ve been exercising five times a week, but my post-op instructions said not until my recheck. And while my body was dragging (it DID just go through an ordeal), I noticed the lack. My legs started cramping in the middle of the night, and my foot would twist – issues I haven’t had in MONTHS. (Not to mention my FitBit giving me crap) I struggled to sleep through the night (part of which, I admit, was due to the fact I couldn’t breathe through my nose).

I felt like shit.

Now, I’m sitting at the beginning of a new week. The majority of the packing has dissolved, letting me breathe like a normal human being again. I’ve got the all-clear to return to exercising, and I’m starting a new program this afternoon (we’ll see how well I do). I’m back to sleeping again – though I still spent most of the weekend unconscious. And I’m allowed to venture into public again (as little as we do that). I’m starting to feel like a human being again.

It’s strange how little it takes to erase those feelings of “normal.” We take them for granted. And I’m not about to say the restrictions need to get lifted (that’s stupid – people are still dying). But I finally understand what the extroverts feel. It was a new perspective on things. Which is never a bad thing. Though I’m still glad to get back to my “normal.”

The Numbers Game

The Numbers Game

Hourglass and clock
Photo by Jordan Benton from Pexels

Like it or not, everyone gets a little older each year. (In case you’re wondering, I fall into the NOT category) Some people luck out and don’t show that age. They pass through decades without a hint – inside or out. Other people feel every passing minute and it shows. And then you have people that may not wear their age on the outside, but their internal mechanisms fail. (Time comes in a close second in the sense of humor department to the universe)

And stopping time? Not possible.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of the adage “Getting older is mandatory, but growing up is optional.” I know I can’t stop the years from adding up. And my body lets me know, in no uncertain terms, that I’m not a spritely kid anymore. However, I’m not about to hunker down in a rocking chair on the front porch. (Not that I’m THAT old, either – in case you were suspicious) I don’t think my numerical age should dictate how I live my life. And, ironically, that knowledge came with getting older. (Hysterical, I know)

The moment you throw in the towel on the things you love and enjoy because you hit…I don’t know, some weird age threshold, is the moment your body DOES start to quit on you. The MIND dictates how old you feel (most days). And if your brain tells you to belly flop into the pool, run around with a Nerf gun, or kick back on the porch with a stack of comic books, then arguing you’re “too old” to do so violates your programming. Does knitting or arranging coffee table books HONESTLY sound like more fun to you? (If you enjoy knitting, this isn’t meant as a dig – do what you love) Look at the difference in activity level! One’s going to keep your body moving and pumping blood through every limb. The other? It encourages sedentary life and stagnant blood flow.

Now tell me which is healthier.

Laughter promotes health. Which means cartoons trump documentaries, people. Pushing the “try me” button on toys in the stores and giggling lightens the stress hormones in your body. (Even if you get strange looks from the “adults” around you) And what sounds better to you? Creating a work space with your favorite characters or making sure you adhere to feng shui? As someone with cartoon, comic characters, and cast photos on her walls, toys and stuffed animals on her desk and shelves, and stickers on the computer and monitor, I can tell you which fosters the better work environment. (Especially since I’ve lived in a rigid work environment in the past)

Does that mean I stop learning? Of course not. Hell, my job requires daily research. I have non-fiction books on the middle shelf over my desk, and I pick up a few new ones every year. I watch the occasional documentary if the topic catches my interest (and I don’t consider it absolute bilk; Tiger King falls into that category. I never watched more than 10 seconds of the trailer). I expand my mind between Marvel movies and cartoons, but it’s on MY terms – not because I feel it’s expected due to my age.

And my body? Yeah, it feels twice my physical age. I’m down four organs already. Writing my surgical history ALWAYS overflows the lines they give you. My body is crisscrossed with scars. I take handfuls of medications twice a day. And my collection of specialists is coming along nicely; I’m only missing a few before I think I’ll have seen every single one.

But people mis-guess my age.

It’s all a crazy number game. And you have ALL the control – over YOU. So why in the world would you ever choose to act your age?

Final Countdown

Final Countdown

Wedding Prep Items: Gift Box and Program

Our wedding’s roughly a month away. I’m not exactly sure when that happened. Final payments have been paid. We have our guest total. The decorations are finished and tucked away in plastic totes for transfer to the beach house. (After we realized we only ought two owls last year – complete and utter brain fart) We even have the favors assembled and in the plastic totes, ready to go. There are still a few stray tasks left on the calendar (my fiance’s vows, which I know he hasn’t written despite several months of badgering), but we’re in the final homestretch. Custom (or is it tradition? Maybe obligation?) states I should be excited or at least nervous by now.

I’m not, though.

I’m tired, which I think I’m entitled to at this point. Other than the few tasks I’ve placed on my fiance’s task (Kuiil goes on top of them – our private joke), I’ve handled the bulk of the work. You can translate that to the majority of the stress. (Okay, I was going to shoulder the stress, no matter what – it’s what I do) I’m allowed to feel tired. I knew how much work was going to be involved; that never frightened me. I’m a dedicated worker, after all. Feeling tired is a badge of honor. It means I survived the process intact. More to the point, so did everyone else. (And, believe me, there’s a list of people who came close to funerals)

I think the problem is I’m more upset than excited; more disappointed than anticipatory. I knew back in March that things weren’t going to fall out as planned, but there’s a difference between theoretical thought and reality. Talking yourself through worst-case scenarios A-Z differs from watching them come to fruition. Eventually, you run out of internal pep talks, and they become mechanical recordings on auto-repeat.

And then the guilty side of your brain joins the fracas.

What right do you have to feel bad? Friends aren’t even HAVING weddings this year, and you’re upset yours isn’t turning out the way you thought? No one’s wedding is approaching “normal” this year – get over it. (As if the words “get over it” have ever actually worked in the history of the phrase) I bury my disappointment in cheer and the phrase, “I understand completely.” Never mind the words stopped having any meaning months ago.

Was stocking up on hand sanitizer and soap part of the original plan? Nope. Did I expect my father to gift us with two digital forehead thermometers to check guests as they enter? Definitely not. Was I planning to spend every day of the week in the house wiping down counters and surfaces with disinfecting wipes? No. Have I confronted all of those things with a gracious smile? Yes.

Do I spend at least ten minutes looking at the stack of RSVP cards sitting on my desk every day? Yeah. (Never mind that there’s no reason to even keep them at this point. The responses are logged in my binder, the preferences are marked in my notebook, and I have the answers burned into my brain) Have I avoided responding to an email because I can’t muster a bright, cheery response even through misinterpretable text? Yes. And does my guilt eat into me every single night? Of course.

So, no I’m not excited.

Probably a terrible thing to say, and I’m sure I’d catch shit about it in normal social circles. Do I have doubts about one aspect of the ceremony or reception? Of course not – I planned everything years ago. We’ve thought through the contingencies and made sure we’ll keep everyone safe. It’s not how things were SUPPOSED to go, but do I have doubts it will be anything less than it should be? Of course not.

But am I excited? No. I’m just tired. Tired and sad. Maybe talk to me in a month and ask me then. My answer may be different then.

Plague Planning

Plague Planning

My wedding planning notebooks

“And your plague policy is…?” With just about three months to go, we find ourselves asking that question more and more often. Not a question I ever anticipated coming out of my mouth. Certainly didn’t expect to utter it behind a mask (a really cute mask, but that’s beside the point). NEVER thought I’d ask the question in regards to my wedding. (Thanks a lot 2020)

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m organized. (Yes, I realize that word isn’t strong enough, but I’ve yet to encounter a word that encapsulates my actual state of mind) I read through every word of my wedding planner, which I bought the same week I got engaged. There weren’t enough tabs to my liking, so I added more (if you can’t find something in the binder, you’re not looking). My Pinterest boards are carefully broken down into every aspect of the wedding. I have white board calendars for tracking appointments, with additional color-coded check boxes for what needs accomplishing. The calendars went up a year prior to the wedding date.

Someone forgot to tell me to plan for PLAGUES.

In all of the advisories, warnings, and extra suggestions, nowhere does it mention pandemics. COVID-19 threw off my schedule, prompted an insert for the invitations, caused me to orchestra Plans B-Z (just in case), and led us to cancel our honeymoon (for the time being). We inserted that plague question into our interviews (once the state reopened and interviews were possible yet again). We recognized that our already small wedding might dwindle to just family. And we learned gratitude for every small business that smiled, laughed, and assured us they understood.

No one expects the plague.

Before, getting my fiance’s suit wouldn’t have been a problem. Now, setting foot in the mall took grit, nerves, and a lot of hand sanitizer. Neither of us have done so in MONTHS. We know people don’t listen to the state order for masks. We have no idea what people do on their own time, if they follow social distancing or not. The number of cases in our area is climbing. Even avoiding the mall proper and sticking to the store in question didn’t make us feel safe. But the suit wasn’t going to buy itself. Something that was supposed to be fun and involve laughter felt akin to a military operation.

(Mission accomplished, by the way)

I watch the days trickle away. I should be excited, and some days I am. Other days, I want to hide. I re-read the inset I wrote for the invitation and imagine everyone declining to attend. I fret over coordinating so many Zoom attendees. I look at the bins under the bed in the guest room, filled with favors and table decorations, and my depression asks why I bothered (not that they’re returnable at this point). I open my binder and look at the confirmed cancellation of our honeymoon cruise.

This virus stole away the joy from the event.

Then I remind myself that the wedding is STILL happening. I’m still marrying the most important person in my life. That cruise will happen eventually. I flip through my list of music to play throughout the ceremony and reception. I think about the beautiful cake and the thought I put into the decorations. I look at the pattern for my dress and all of the accessories. I glance through the images of the beach house and remind myself our families will be there.

What else do I need?

Yeah, COVID-19 sucks. It’s ruined a lot of 2020, and I have no doubt it isn’t finished with all of us. I can either focus on the fact that it made my wedding difficult, or I can choose to look at it that, years from now, I’ll look back and say, “Remember how we got married during the plague?”

One definitely makes for a better story.

Wedding Guilt

Wedding Guilt

Our wedding planning calendar for June

In a little under six months – November 14th, to be precise – is our wedding day. It sounds like a lot of time, plenty of time to finish up the details yet to be finalized and checked off the list in the binder currently living on the coffee table shelf. When I first bought the whiteboard calendars and set up a reasonable schedule for tasks, I thought so, too.

Enter COVID-19.

See all of those check boxes at the bottom of June? Yeah, some of those are carryovers from April: tasks we had to bump when doors were slammed shut. While we’ve been able to move some things up and handle them online (where would we be without Etsy?), others require physical visits and shifts in the schedule, waiting for lock-down to lift. Now, being the hyper-organized individual that I am, the schedule was already “early” to account for a fiance’ who hates getting on the phone, talking to people, and has a schedule less flexible than mine. Plus, I come from a military family – you always build in extra time for Murphy’s Law.

So I told myself to breathe and take it easy – there was still time. And, really, we’re doing fine. We had the bulk of the planning done before the New Year, and there are tubs of favors and decorations under the bed in the guest room, all ready to go. Neither of us wanted to stress about the wedding from the beginning, so we made sure we had the game plan laid out from square one (okay, square two – I didn’t scare him with my Pinterest boards until the day after he proposed). We’re okay.

And then I felt like shit.

Why was I feeling okay and relaxing when so many other people were cancelling or rescheduling their weddings? When people were losing money because asshole corporations were flipping them off with a, “Too bad – your contract doesn’t cover plagues” answer? When people were making do with quiet champagne toasts at home – maybe with bouquets left on their porch if friends and neighbors dropped by? (What would the world do if alcohol wasn’t deemed essential?) When people were taking photos with everyone in masks – such a treasured memory? (Now, if you went with the zombie apocalypse theme, I apologize – it worked)

I wanted to crawl into a corner and hide. I was smiling over receiving my beautiful shoes in the mail, laughing over choosing the comics to include in the origami bouquets and boutonnieres, grinning over finally ordering our wedding bands, and shrieking over how adorable our cake toppers were. (Okay, to be fair, those last arrived before lock-down ever started) What kind of person did that when other people were miserable and crying? Who feels excited and plans when other people watch significant dates pass in the rear view mirror? (Our date isn’t significant, in case you wondered)

Oh, right – a bride.

See, I never went to prom. In fact, I’ve never attended a formal event of any kind in my entire life. This wedding is the fanciest thing I’ve got. And a wedding is a one-shot deal. (Don’t quote divorce numbers to me – I know them. I’m an idealist…well, when it comes to marriage. I’m definitely only doing this one). Why shouldn’t I be happy and excited and continue with my planning?

It doesn’t mean I can’t still feel bad and sympathetic for those around me, though. Amazing as it seems to some people, but I can feel more than one thing at a time. I can be happy for my fiance’ and myself, and still send condolences to my friends. After all, it’s not like those wedding planners come with a caveat: “Make sure you anticipate the world going into lock-down and plan accordingly.” No one thought about this over a year ago, thought this was going to be a possibility. They were just happy.

And the universe is a sick, twisted entity.

We all know that NOW. (So if you get engaged during this lock-down – think long and hard before planning a big wedding. I’m just saying) Besides, I’m not in the clear yet. Guess when that second wave is getting predicted for: yup, November.

Panicking sounds fun, and I’m really good at it, but it won’t accomplish anything. And, as I said before, we’re already ahead of the game. Which means we’ve also started the Back-up Plan. We know – from current complaints and articles – the company renting the beach house won’t refund our money or let us out of our contract. Okay – no biggie; maybe we just have the family out for the wedding. It’s a BIG house, so staying separated won’t be a problem. And, really, who doesn’t like cake?

Will it be what we originally planned? Probably not. Does it matter? No. If all that mattered was the wedding, you’re getting married for the wrong reason.

So for the people who are planning and excited – good for you. For the people who cancelled or rescheduled and feel sad or miserable (or pissed) – I see you, too, and I feel for you. There’s no wrong way to feel, and that’s what really matters.