Interesting Times

A curse, falsely attributed to a Chinese imprecation, goes like this: “May you live in interesting times.” After the last two years, I feel I understand why this is a curse. I don’t recommend living through interesting times.

Just now, I was scanning the online edition of The Irish Times, a paper I had never read before. I was curious about a story they had about the bungalows built all over Ireland in the 1970s, as I’m reading a book that mentioned the phenomenon. A headline grabbed my attention. Apparently, COVID hospitalizations are up in Ireland. I immediately checked the Boston COVID wastewater website to see if we had a spike in MA, and apparently, we don’t. Yet. It’s that “yet.” I’m so tired of the pandemic at this stage. I want it to end. I am tired of wearing masks, but I’m afraid not to. I’m appalled by the people who refused, even at the height of the pandemic. This attitude showed up even in my own family, and I am now permanently estranged from the person who exhibited it.

That’s another issue with this pandemic. What it’s doing to our relationships as people’s true lack of empathy and caring is revealed in all its ugliness. I noticed it in the run-up to the former President’s election. I couldn’t believe he won, and frankly, he didn’t really. We just have this antiquated system known as the Electoral College that has stolen elections from Democratic candidates who won the popular vote. Meanwhile, gerrymandering and voting restrictions have consequences. Across the country, there is a movement to silence and marginalize teachers. We will have a crisis in education as we cannot fill empty teaching positions. I have never been this worried about public education in this country. Who knows how things might have turned out if not for the continued existence of the Electoral College? Would as many people have died? I always thought voting mattered, but the last seven years have taught me exactly how much.

My first reaction to thinking of another COVID surge was despair. Realistically, I understand that pandemics must have a shelf-life. It’s not in a virus’s interest to kill the hosts. It’s much better for a virus’s longevity to create a mild illness that is easy to pass along. I know that the worst pandemics and epidemics in history eventually reached some sort of endemic equilibrium. I just want this whole thing to be over. I wanted to travel. I still want to travel. I am trying to hold out hope that things will improve, but it is harder and harder to stay optimistic.

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fall leaves photo
Photo by LABabble

Doesn’t the R. I. P. Challenge make you feel like fall is finally coming? Fall has always been my favorite season, even when I was a girl. Ever since I was girl, it has felt like the real beginning of the year. Perhaps there is something to the holiday of Rosh Hashanah or even Samhain that makes more sense to me than New Years Eve, which is a holiday I have always disliked. Fall really feels like the beginning of the year to me. It could be that I’m a teacher, and I work to the rhythm of the school year. It has always seemed to me that each September brings new opportunities and a clean slate—a chance to start anew.

I don’t think I’m too different from many women in that I spent a great deal of my life worrying about myself, what people think of me, and whether I’m okay. It has taken a long time and a lot of work, as well as questioning a lot of what I was brought up and socialized to think, but I am finally becoming comfortable with myself. I could kick myself over how long it’s taken, or I could just be happy it is happening. I decided to do the latter. After all, I think plenty of people never arrive at that place. I do feel happier and more confident than I have in a long time. Perhaps ever. What a gift.

On the one hand, I wonder if my levothyroxine might have something to do with it. An underactive thyroid can cause depression symptoms (in addition to a whole host of other seemingly unrelated symptoms). I have now been on my medication for a month. I can’t remember the last time I felt so little anxiety. I am not sure I’d be me if I didn’t have some anxiety, but it’s been freeing to worry less.

I was socialized, like a lot of girls, to put others before myself. On some of the occasions when I have not done so, particularly as an adult, the repercussions, particularly from family, have been swift. I have spent a great deal of time—too much time—worrying about what other people think of me. Perhaps it is my approaching 45th birthday, but I just can’t do it anymore. I admit I admire some of these millennial women I see who have such strong ideas of who they are, of what is fair and equal treatment for women, of what they want. Perhaps it’s just a perception, and they feel the same inside as I always felt. It sure seems to me like their demands to be treated with respect are different from what I’ve seen in women of my generation and previous generations. I have come to realize that I really do need to take care of myself and that I need to see my own value. That doesn’t mean I need to be selfish. It means I need to love myself.

It’s hard to say that. That I love myself. It’s a new feeling. I have spent a lot of my life not really sure if I do love myself or if it was appropriate to feel that way about myself. I spent a lot of time doubting and second-guessing and worrying. I just don’t want to do it anymore. And it doesn’t really matter if I do because if I doubt and second-guess and worry, it doesn’t change what other people think about me anyway. So, in the end, there really isn’t much point in all the worrying.

I don’t know how it will change my relationships, or if it will, but I already sense a shift in my marriage. I feel closer to my husband. I’m also sensing a shift at work. Yes, I work hard, and give my job the attention it deserves. But I am trying, and succeeding more all the time, to leave my job at work and be more present at home.

I just feel different. I’m happy. It feels good.


remember when?

After today is over, my 40th birthday will officially be closer than my 39th.

What I want to know is where the time went. I feel like I was just in college, just yesterday, driving down Riverside in Macon in my friend Sheila’s car with this song going in the background.

It seems wrong that it should be over 20 years ago. Really wrong.

One of the reasons I keep this book blog is that I truly feel there are a lot of books I need to read in my lifetime, and I want to keep track. I know I’m not old, but I’m not young anymore, and it’s weird to think of myself that way. Especially because some things don’t seem to change—like how Georgia suddenly blooms in mid-March and you have to play “Blue Skies” by the Allman Brothers when you’re driving down the road. It’s a requirement.

How does 20 years go by so fast? Not fair, life. Not fair.

photo credit: Robert S. Donovan