Easter was far from normal….
The day began unalarmingly. I rose early, fed the cats, made coffee, ate a yogurt, and gathered the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies. As I blended the dry ingredients with the butter/egg/sugar/vanilla mixture, I felt a pain in my chest. A bout of reflux? I stopped the blender and waited for the feeling to pass. It didn’t. At least not right away. I felt a head-rush–as if I’d stood up too fast. I was already standing, so I laid my head on the counter. The pain and head-rush abated somewhat. Dave entered the kitchen, carrying his laundry, ready to start his day. I greeted him then told him I didn’t feel well, that I needed to sit down. I moved to the bench by the window. I couldn’t catch my breath, slow my respirations–are those the opposite of each other? I asked Dave for an aspirin–thinking I was having a heart attack? He brought the medicine and a pulse oximeter. My oxygen level was in the 90s–good–but my heart rate was in the 200s–not good. He put his ear to my heart: “it sounds like birds’ wings fluttering.” I said I thought I might sit in the recliner instead. I moved to the living room, lay back in the chair, and begin to feel less pain in my chest. But then I felt a wave of nausea, without the cold sweats, and thought I might pass out. Or die. Something about this feeling was not the same. I sensed I might not wake up if I fainted this time. I asked Dave to get help.
911, ride to the hospital, blood tests, chest Xray, EKG monitoring – all normal.
Supra-ventricular tachycardia (SVT)
the precious commodity eludes me today, of all days, the first weekday after the switch to daylight savings time. wide awake at 5:45, which was actually 4:45 two days ago. no, the cats did not wake me. perhaps I slept too long on Saturday. maybe I have too many puzzles racing around in my brain. I did 4 yesterday: the Spelling Bee, the mini crossword, the Sunday, and a jigsaw puzzle. or it could be my body’s adjustment to the missed SSRI dose on Friday night. still finding a balance.
today I receive my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and I’m a bit anxious–especially after my “mild prolonged response” to the first one. ’twill be a relief to be protected. by March 22nd. just a little over a year since we shifted to remote work. the year that time stood still.
The president promised that we would be back to normal by Easter. That was last year. Now it’s this year and that president is gone. The new president hasn’t made such a promise. He’s not that foolish. But here we are, one year on, and whatever we thought about returning to normal–whether it would be sooner rather than later–doesn’t matter. There will be no “return” to anything resembling “normal.”
I’ve ruminated on the concept of normal before–back to normal and Norming–and find myself continually returning to the word. Perhaps because the world seems obsessed with normalcy: creating a sense of it, returning to it, institutionalizing it. The elusive place of typicality. Where conditions are usual. Where everyone and everything are average.
What if no one died from the coronavirus, would that feel normal? Or if no one died from gunshots wounds received while shopping at King Sooper’s, working in a massage parlor, or driving along a highway, would that feel normal? Or if immigrants–illegal or not–received compassionate care, would that feel normal?
When I feel “normal” I often wonder what’s wrong with me. The world seems blunted and dull. I plug into my computer and play the working game. On time, in step, efficient, and organized. I stay calm; I complete my tasks; I forget to breathe.
I live on a hill. A very steep hill. When I look out my window I see my neighbor’s car pulling out of their driveway, which wouldn’t be anything unusual, except the car and the driveway and my neighbor appear at the top of my window. As if they might drive down the hill and through my house. Sometimes I look out my window and feel dizzy with vertigo. Which way is up? Will I fall off this cliff? How do I find my balance?
Now that the new year has begun, I imagine a gradual return to normal. I’ve pondered this word before, but I still marvel at the comfort some of us take in “normal” activities, a “normal” life, the “normal” progress of politics. Is there really such a state?
The word reminds me of “nostalgia,” which presupposes a better time/place/state of mind. When life was good, when people were kind, when everyone knew their place. Ever elusive. Like a sense of “home,” which as soon as one feels it, it vanishes–becomes dark and disturbed. Evanescent. Evanescence.
Words. So many words. We’ve been playing the Times’ Spelling Bee–an accursed game that leads one through promises of ever-growing intelligence (Nice –> Great –> Amazing –> Genuis) and the ultimate prize of “Queen Bee” (guessing *all* of the possible words. So seductive. So comforting.
The comfort of words, games, puzzles, movies, books, music, organized shelves and spaces. These buffer the death, the raging pandemic, the horrifying news. We are meant to be sheltered now. Encased in our homes. Comforted by words. Safe with the normal routine of life in lock-down.
the high school friend killed in a motorcycle accident; the friends’ contracted pneumonia; the cousin committed suicide; the aunt poisoned by alcohol; the teacher caught COVID-19; the friend’s husband fell into an endless coma. funerals pile. dread circles. it’s just a matter of time until death finds my parents, my spouse, my kids, me.
tendrils, filaments, connecting us to each other over Zoom. how do we know we’re actually working? what is work if we’re not in the office, sitting in purple chairs around a conference table?
ephemeral, theoretical, abstract–the concept of connection. is it touch? is it hearing? seeing, smelling, feel? in the end we only have feelings. the lingering sense of connection.
Twenty-eight family and friends click on the Zoom link
to watch family and friends talk about you:
how much fun you used to have playing guitar, catching fish, snowmobiling.
All of the drunken escapades that seem, from the videos, like a blast at the time
but in the aftermath appear tragic.
Sixty years of revelry reduced to thirty minutes of reminiscence.
It’s all well and good–
all the laughter, the partying, the joking around–
until someone falls over and dies.
And a daughter holds her phone without answer, holds onto her dog, holds back tears,
holds open the hole through which you escaped.
a flicker of dreams that I vividly experience yet vaguely recall; the images, sensations at the edge of memory; I can’t quite grasp them (noun)
flickers come to the bird bath, perching on the railing, stretching from this loftier perch; such big birds to be called flickers (noun, red-shafted flicker)
the flickering lights of Ogden in the pre-dawn darkness; red/green alternating, blue pulsing, white shimmering (adjective)
my energy, my interest, my desire flame, fade, and flicker (verb)
History/Etymology: Middle English flikeren, from Old English flicorian