Virus Fatigue

While traveling over Thanksgiving break, I nearly suffocated. It had been hours sitting on the plane and in spite of the short maskless eating reprieve, I arrived to JFK hyperventilating. I looked around to see if I was alone in my suffering but there was no sign of asphyxiation. Everyone looked like faceless robots. At baggage claim, I lowered my mask below my nose. I was vaccinated and tested negative so I gave myself permission to gulp down some air. Breathe, breathe, quickly I told myself. I turned to see if the security guard would come and reprimand me. He did not. By the time I folded myself into the back of a yellow cab, I was deflated. I think if COVID doesn’t kill me, wearing a mask and anxiety will do the trick. In spite of all of our advancements in science and technology, it feels like our world is contracting.

I think, I want to see your face. I want talk spit on my cheek. I want to touch your hand. I want to talk about something other than material reality. I want to love and trust humans again.

When I arrive at my destination, I strip off my clothes and bask in the joy of free space. I am alone but I am free to breathe. I let loose for a while and that feels good. When I get a little lonely, I consider going out but then I remember that I have to wear a mask and I don’t feel like it. So, I stay at home and communicate with the world through my many devices. This works like a charm for a while. Then, I feel empty. I miss the warmth of love and bodies. I miss the novelty of meeting someone new. I miss shared space. I miss communicating with someone without writing or talking. I miss the real world. I feel sad and disheartened and worried about the future.

Is this really it?

When I get like this, I light an incense and sit in meditation. I am hungry for love and confidence. And I need to calm the chatter down. In a few moments, I get that feeling. I’ve learned over years of practice to trust this, this moment of silence, this moment of dignity, this moment of concentration on the real world, the world where everything that really matters lives.

I am activating belief in the truth and essence of humanity.

I am activating healing.

I am activating faith.

I am activating well-ness and well-being when so many are in pain.

I am activating another way of being and thinking.

I am kindness for my fellow human beings when there is so much hate.

I am breathing strength into myself and pouring strength out into the world.

When I’m done, I get up and wash my hands and face. I put my clothes back on. I get my coat and mask and go out to travel again. I visit my family and friends. I show up with love and I am accompanied by the spirits who guide me. Love pours out of my skin and my consciousness touches their consciousness. I see them. We are old, fresh, wise, kind eyes. I notice a few things. I listen for suffering. I hold them in my presence, awake. I hug them with my arms and my inner being. I know for certain we are here in a flash of a moment and it’s good to keep company.  

A Glimpse into the Pandemic

The ground around the mall is covered with snow and ice. People are covered with masks and parkas. I imagine tight lips behind the masks, but I can’t see so maybe I’m projecting. I follow a couple who looks lost in some random search for Gucci or Kate Spade. We’re in the middle of nowhere shopping and pretending.

Emptiness. A flutter of anxiety. The horror of shopping. I’m thinking everything looks and feels dead and empty. This emptiness feeling is relentless suddenly and I’m having trouble breathing. I pull down my mask and wonder, when will this feeling end? When will this feeling that everything is unreal and wavering end?

We leave empty handed. I’m hungry and driving down the interstate. Now what? People are waiting for normalcy but there’s no normalcy after this. We’ve seen the void, the big black hole in the center of the universe. We know fragile and temporary and how relationships unravel under pressure, revealing. We know that some of us can keeping going on while others lose it. We know there’s an end to wishful thinking. We know we can survive without living.

My son, who is sitting in the passenger seat, lets out a heavy sigh and closes his eyes. I think, this man creation came out of me! He’s grown up now so I see him as my son but not belonging to me. We are two passengers on the same ride but tomorrow is unknown. We are thrown together for this fleeting moment and somehow I find solace in his presence.

I’m exhausted when I get home, like the sensation of emptiness sucked the life out of me. How nice would it be to slip into some drug induced coma right now but instead, I pour myself a scotch and start cooking.

I thought I had learned to surrender to all this already, to just let tomorrow go, find joy in the present ordinary. I thought anxiety would’ve disappeared by now and that I’d be swimming every day in the great big ocean of freedom like a Buddha whale. I thought eventually my heart would stop aching. But alas, this being human is a guest house and I’ll be visited every day in spite of awakening.

In the Age of Face Covering

“The eyes are the window to your soul” William Shakespeare

For women, the eyes are especially telling and even more so in an environment that requires face covering. Now, women (and men) all over the world are covering their face to protect themselves. The impact of this visual landscape is mesmerizing. In New York City, for example, where eye contact is a rare commodity, face coverings, however chicly designed, have increased that concrete jungle feeling. As I walk the streets, covered appropriately, I ruminate about this strange new setting. I find myself thinking about things like trust and spectacle, instability and ambiguity, fantasy and cravings, drowning or keep swimming, waves of disbelief. I think about how as each month passes we adapt and contort ourselves to keep on living. Some people I pass appear to have accustomed themselves to this dystopian-like setting. For others, they give off that cagey feeling. Then, back in the privacy of our homes, we pull off our coverings and try to breathe. We hope to calm the chatter of the street and find that soothing sound of heart beat. Some days, it beats too fast to be soothing. Other days, we can hardly hear the beat and we wonder if we are in fact, dying. What may be dying, exactly, if it is not our body?

There is only one solace to all this. That perhaps it is time. That we will be forced to look up at each other, out of our technological devices and fall back into the eyes.