Living In Fear

Almost all new books mention, in some way, “The Bob.” Of course, the authors don’t know enough to call it “The Bob,” so they call the virus by other names that don’t really mean much. It was bad enough living through the upheaval; it’s a whole lot worse having to relive it in books. Sometimes, the reference is simply a placeholder, to give people an idea of when the story takes place, which is never a good idea because it dates the book, and readers in the next few years who prefer only current books won’t be interested. Other times The Bob is a major plot point. Either way, it doesn’t interest me. It seems perhaps sacrilegious to say this, considering the trauma so many people suffered during the past year and a half, but whether The Bob is mentioned merely to set the time or is an intricate part of the plot, it seems . . . trite. And even worse than trite — a cheap shot to get people personally involved in the story instead of using good writing to get engage readers.

I could be wrong, of course. Others might like to see their “Bob” experiences from a different point of view, to gain a bit of perspective.

The author of the book I am currently reading talks about how worn down people are from more than a year of worrying about their families and themselves; how weary they are of having to wear masks and keep their distance from others; how exhausted they are from isolation and loneliness and grief; and especially, how tired they are of living in fear.

I do understand that many people got deathly sick, that loved ones died, that some people suffered tremendously from isolation, but those things alone, I would think, would preclude people from reading about the horrors they lived through.

Notice I say, “the horrors they lived through.” Despite what I wrote in the first paragraph, that it was “bad enough living through the upheaval,” the truth is, for me, it wasn’t bad at all. In fact, it made no difference to my life. Well, except for the mask, but since I was seldom around people and seldom went into a store, I rarely had to wear it.

I never worried about myself, never was afraid, never was lonely (except for a few times that had nothing to do with The Bob). Most of the people I cared about were already dead, and those still alive were taking care of themselves. I didn’t have any travel plans to call off, and as for local events, I’d mostly stopped going to those before they got cancelled. (I’d gained too much weight for one thing; the food was generally something I shouldn’t eat, for another.)

So I stayed home and read. I did see a few people, but always the same ones — the woman I worked for as well as an occasional friend or two. And that is exactly the life I would have lived even if The Bob had never made itself known.

I’m not denigrating anyone’s experience. I know it was a rough time for a lot of people, but it does seem strange to me that in this, as in so much else, what might be good for one person is terrible for another. Still, we each have our own nemeses.

I don’t know if it’s true, but I read that women with O positive blood got The Bob less frequently and not as bad as people with other blood types (it has to do with the protein coating on the cells). Unfortunately, it is definitely true that women with O positive blood are especially tasty to mosquitoes that carry various deadly viruses.

It just goes to show, if one thing doesn’t get us, something else will, though with the mosquitoes as with The Bob, I do the best I can. I won’t live in fear.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Sweating the Small Stuff

I try to live by the saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff,” but sometimes it is impossible to do especially since some of the really small stuff seems to be the biggest stuff.

Some of the small things I am currently sweating are mosquitoes, gnats, and other insects. They wouldn’t be a problem if they left me alone, but already, so early in the season, I am dealing with mosquito bites, gnats up my nose, grasshoppers eating my petunias. (Luckily, so far the petunias are all the hoppers seem to like, though they have nibbled on other plants to see if that foliage were to their liking.) There’s not much I can do about the gnats or the grasshoppers, but I have sprayed permethrin on my gardening clothes (khaki pants rather than my usual black because mosquitoes love black) and I use eucalyptus lemon oil on my face and hands, but they still manage to get me despite those precautions. It’s possible they get into the house at night and feast on me then, but I’ve only seen one mosquito in the house so far. (Although I would never hurt a fly, I have no compunction about offing critters that drink my blood.)

Another small thing that I sweated was an eyelash that got caught in my eye. I couldn’t get it out last night, though after a while I couldn’t find it anymore, so I thought perhaps I’d removed it without knowing I’d done so. Today, however, I woke up with a sore eye. I finally found the lash masquerading as an inflamed blood vessel. I eventually managed to work it over to the corner of my eye where I was able to scrape it off. That is one “small stuff” I had to sweat because it’s not good to have something foreign in one’s eyes.

And yet another small thing that looms large is that each of the past few evenings, I’ve had tearful moments of missing Jeff. After eleven years, most people would think that missing him should no longer be an issue, especially since I’m doing okay, but occasionally it is. I’ve been trying to be upbeat, to see the good in my present life, to not look back but not look forward, either. Neither looking back nor forward does me any good. There is nothing I can do about the past because it’s done and there’s nothing I can do about the future because that is out of my control. Besides, aging is a factor in my future, though people often disagree and tell me that it isn’t. The truth is, looking to the future, I can see myself getting older and feebler and trying to do the best for myself with diminishing strength and energy, and that’s not something I want to dwell on now.

So I look to today, but sometimes, as it has the past few evenings, that concentration on today seems . . . phony. As if I’m trying to be someone I’m not.

Still, there’s nothing I can do about Jeff being gone, and all I can do about missing him is let myself feel bad for a few minutes then dissipate the sadness with some sort of activity. Last night I dissipated those sad energies with dusting the furniture and dry mopping the floors.

Nor can I do anything about the other small stuff I’m sweating, including literally sweating — it was already eighty degrees when I went out to water the garden this morning. (It’s now 95 degrees Faranheit, 35 Celcius.)

Although a more positive or upbeat attitude seems phony to me, as if I’m not being true to myself, I tend to think it’s not really phony but simply another way of dealing with whatever comes my way. And what’s coming my way, for the most part, are a few flowers here and there.

I am glad to have the flowers, and glad that the hoppers around here aren’t as voracious as they were where Jeff and I lived. I blamed myself for my inability to grow a garden back then, thinking it was due to a brown thumb, but it was actually due to the large, brown grasshoppers that ate everything down to the ground, even the three-foot trees we planted. (The only things they left alone were lilacs and Siberian elms.) So I am grateful that I’ve managed to grow anything!

See? Even in a post about my various “small stuff” troubles, I end up with a glad and grateful attitude, though that wasn’t my intention.

Phony or not, that seems to be the way I am now.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Mosquitoes, My Bugaboo

A truly fabulous benefit of living in the high desert is: no mosquitoes!! I am one of those folks who are attractive to the little monsters, so I have always had to be careful not to go out at dawn or dusk, and to tuck my pants into my socks if I do, as well as dab myself with citronella oil, though the oil makes me as nauseous as mosquito bites do. In the desert, though, I have had much more freedom, going outside at any time of night or day.

For some reason, the other day I ended up with a bunch of insect bites on my legs. They seem to be non-poisonous spider bites, but even though the bites aren’t noxious, they itch like crazy, and none of my usual panaceas seem to work. (A Mary Kay dealer suggested using a face mask on new bites because the mask pulls out the excretions, but by the time I heard her suggestion, the bites were a couple of days old.)

These bites reminded me of the dreaded mosquito situation, and their prevalence on various trails, along with ticks. Oh, my.

Everything I have read about long hikes lead me to believe that while the benefits might outweigh the drawbacks, there is a lot of torture associated with such a lifestyle. I am so not into torture, so a lot of my research is about how to eliminate the pain without eliminating the benefits of the experience. (I am not one of those who subscribes to the rather ludicrous philosophy of “no pain, no gain.” What’s wrong with “gain, no pain?”)

In books and even online, people are always blasé about mosquito bites, but the insects are dangerous disease-bearing creatures, and for people who seem especially sensitive to the toxin, they are to be avoided at all costs. Hence today’s research in how to avoid mosquito bites.

Some of the best advice is what I have always followed: stay inside. But that advice is counter to the idea of a hike. Other suggestions stay away from water and stay away from trees. As far as I can see, if one goes for a walk in the woods, it’s hard to stay away from trees. And water seems to be a necessity of life. (I haven’t yet tested this theory. I’ll take the experts’s word for it.) Most important: stay cool and avoid exercise. Is it possible to hike without moving? Something to ponder.

I could follow the dictate to wear white and bright colors since black and dark colors attract the pests, but I have done so with little to no effect.

There are mosquito repellants, of course, though the directions on all the repellants say not to use for extended periods of time and to wash it off as soon as you go inside. But what if you don’t go inside but have to stay outside? And what if there isn’t a way to wash? Minty teas are supposed to help, as does (it is rumored) Skin-so-Soft by Avon. (These repellants work by changing one’s smell.) It’s possible to treat clothes with insect repellant, and to wear various mosquito-net hats, gloves, etc. There are even mosquito net full body suits. Would I wear them? I don’t think so. Just more gear to carry around, and besides, the point is to connect with the world, not to walk around in some sort of see-through Michelin man suit.

Winter hiking is a possibility, especially considering the problems of excessive heat in the summer along with the need to carry a huge amount of water, but winter hiking brings its own problems. I mean, it’s winter!!

When one thinks of walking and hiking, the dangers that are so often mentioned are bears, mountain lions, and other wild creatures. But bugs are my bugaboo. Don’t get me wrong. I like insects and don’t kill them (I always trap them and take them outside so they can come in again and be retrapped). But I draw the line at being eaten.

Note: a bugaboo is something that makes people worried or upset, and is akin to bogey as in bogeyman, coming from a Welsh word meaning “ghost.” Or maybe it is more African in origin, from words meaning “bug.” Any time such a dichotomy exists, I tend to believe in an earlier origin, one that encompasses both meanings.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.