I want you all to read this next sentence like you’re Sinead O’ Conner singing the famous ballad, “Nothing Compares To You”. (However shaving your head is optional):
It’s been eight long months and twenty-six days, since I had something to say. (La La La La La!)
I mean, I’ve had lots and lots to say, but much of it has come in the form of garbled anxiety speech, panicked text messages, and online complaints to Amazon.
Where do I begin when so much has happened since I last wrote about the merits of mediocrity?
Do I focus on the more superficial woes we’ve all experienced like, the joys of getting every item you never needed delivered to your door for a mere 200 percent markup? Or rally around the collective insanity of a world leader who has single-handedly dismantled a democracy that was at best, an insecure step child living under a staircase? Do I talk about the loss of loved ones, the loss of friendships, or our collective humanity?
I feel like so much has whirred by at both breakneck speed and with painfully slow monotony, it almost feels like old news to even discuss how I learned to conserve toilet paper using the “fold-over-twice” technique.
Since I can’t really speak about anyone else’s journey during this unprecedented time, maybe I’ll just stick to my own.
For a moment I’m going to tell you a little bit about my experience during this time of covid. It may be of interest or it may be as bland to you as that fourth bowl of pasta you’re consuming while reading this. I know, I know, getting your carbohydrate high is one of the few guilty pleasures you have left in this upside down world and by god, no one is going to take that cheesy rigatoni bowl out of your American hands.
For me, quarantine started off with a bang. Like a literal bang. Not like a gunshot, but like a trim to the front of my forehead. I happened to have a hair appointment the day before lock down, and while I am definitely most grateful for my health, I am almost as grateful for getting a few extra weeks of no-roots and forehead coverage.
Wouldn’t you know the apocalypse hits right after I go and got my hair done? Talk about being all dressed up with nowhere to go.
Later that day I remember walking into the supermarket with a great head of hair but feeling totally overwhelmed by the lines of people stacking jugs of water atop five-pound boxes of Sugar Smacks cereal and mounds of trashy party napkins. People were shopping as though a hurricane was about to hit our little neighborhood, one squarely landlocked in between cities that gave birth to such enduring inventions as the Valley Girl and Internet Porn. Yet, somehow these folks had lost their cool and were wielding the crazy eyes of a Floridian gun collector. I couldn’t wrap my brain around what I needed for nourishment and also, I didn’t want to buy into the idea of hoarding a bunch of Hungry-Man dinners. Plus, I didn’t need a natural disaster to justify buying a family-sized box of Pop Tarts. To me, that was just another Tuesday night.
There I stood in line, sandwiched between a disheveled woman wrangling her three, overstimulated children and a perspiring man in a yellow tank top that read, “Jersey Nights”, who clutched tightly to the fifteen cans of cat food cradled in his arms. I looked down at my bag of frozen peaches, tomato sauce, and beef jerky, and thought, “Yeah I think I got what I came for.”
I had tried to shop earlier in the day but ended up leaving my cart in the line and walking out of the store empty handed, shuddering from the hee bee gee bees. Crowds of panicked customers were squished so close together, you could smell the despair over the burgeoning toilet paper shortage. Frozen pizza and Apple Jacks weren’t worth getting sick over.
Though it’s too bad I didn’t end up buying them and gorging a solid carbo load, because I got sick anyway.
By day three in quarantine I started to develop some odd symptoms. I initially chalked it up to your run-of-the-mill anxiety attack: racing heart, sweaty palms, brain fog. Then by day four, I was hit with such extraordinary fatigue, I thought I’d been kicked by a horse, dragged behind it for twenty miles (or 32 kilometers if you’re un-American), left to barbecue out in the middle of the desert, doused in someone else’s cold sweat, barbecued some more, then electrocuted by the horse’s owner who was mad at me for stealing his horse, then forced to wear a child’s-sized helmet for the next thirty-two days straight. All while being chased by a mob of angry land sharks.
After calling 911, and two additional visits to the emergency room, several excruciatingly long months, and zero covid tests, my symptoms began to slowly subside by early June.
Even saying that much, doesn’t really scratch the surface of what the past seven months have been like for me and my extraordinary family made up of superheroes and dragon slayers. Plus who’s to say my heart ache through this whole pandemic is any worse or better than anyone else’s?
I may need to peel that onion back one layer at a time, but in the meantime, I’m going to start from right here at this moment. Then once you’ve decided to re-join my world of useless entertainment, I’ll re-introduce you to some of the deeper stuff that might warrant you grabbing a stiff drink or a stick of bubble gum, depending on your proclivities.
I think one of the challenges in coming back to writing is that so much has happened, it’s hard to know where to pick up. Like when you haven’t seen your biological father for eighteen years, do you start by talking about day number one since his departure like, “Yeah, so there was the time I stopped pooping my pants…” Or do you just decide to pick up in the present day with, “So I’m a homosexual and have dealt with abandonment issues for the past 22 years. Thanks for taking me to brunch. How’s your frittata?”
Or perhaps it’s best to gently ease back into this world of blogging with a nice, innocuous non-sequitur. Maybe I’ll simply start by sharing how I’ve taken up baking while in quarantine. I’ll get you enticed by my gluten-free, dairy-free, muffin recipe and then somewhere in the middle of telling you to add more honey, I’ll casually drop into the conversation that I might go bald, I’ve lost loved ones, my job, my partner, my sense of smell, and also, don’t forget to add a pinch of salt.
Maybe diving in head-first is best for now. I’ll aim for the middle of the pool. And if I discover I’ve accidentally landed in the shallow end, at least it’ll be easier to swim to the steps.
So…I’ve just attempted to make banana muffins. Only problem is, I’m on a very limited diet for health reasons (See the “might-go-bald” portion above. Also, tune in next week as we’ll make a whole story out of that doozie.) So the ingredients of these magical muffins consist of 1 cup over ripe bananas, 1 cup coconut flour, 2 tbsp baking soda, a bucket of tears, and six months of best laid plans.
They’ve just come out of the oven and after tasting my creation, it’s very clear I’m dealing with a good news/bad news situation. Good news: they kind of taste like donuts. Bad news: they kind of taste like sidewalk chalk. But for someone who hasn’t been allowed any grains, starch, diary , sugar, or mouth joy for three months, these little doggies taste like pure heaven. (If heaven were a donut made out of sand and 9 volt batteries.) Because they also make me feel like I’m chewing on rusty pennies when I eat them. Does anyone else get that odd taste in their mouth when they eat banana bread? Or is it just me?
For what it’s worth, at this very moment, I am a baker! I’ve got a baked product cooling on my stove top and an oven mitt covered in schmutz. I don’t know what else you need to qualify, but I feel like I’m on the road to new discoveries and according to me, I’m winning at baking!
For certain, this year has taught me a lot of new things. Like, how to handle apocalyptic nightmares, use a first aid kit for actual emergencies, (not just as a door stop), how to count to twenty obsessively, how to make homemade shit out of homemade shit, how to speak eleven words in Korean (my language app hasn’t been as successful as I’d hoped), how to play Words With Friends while sitting on the toilet, how to give air hugs and cyber high fives, (I will pay you twenty dollars in cyber high fives if you’ve never taken your phone to the crapper and played a useless game while on it), and how to love myself exactly where I am- right. this. minute.
One month ago I adopted a dog to cope with the overwhelming sadness of life. Two months ago I was told I might lose all my hair. Three months ago I was told I just had “anxiety” after experiencing three months of a litany of symptoms from brain fog, to incapacitating fatigue, to heart palpitations, to lung pain, to loss of taste, smell and vision, intermittent fever, a tingling/electrocution sensation in my limbs, fever, (oops! I mean memory loss) nausea, abdominal pain, vertigo, night terrors, and a perpetual case of the Mondays.
Groundhog day became my religion and I found myself pacing for hours in circles singing “Happy Birthday To You” in an attempt to not only keep my heart from exploding out of my chest, but also to wash off the global mystery virus that somehow went away once you’d congratulated yourself in the form of a song about your birth. Side bar, we’ve been in quarantine so long, celebrating a birthday in quarantine has become a rite of passage. What’s it gonna be? A car parade? An at-home-disco-themed party for one? M&M’s for dinner? Or the fan favorite- sitting in a circle at the park.
My birthday is tomorrow and I’m not sure from the panoply of options what I’ll do. With fires raging across the state of California and no real option to be outside, I might just throw out all my belongings and pretend I’ve moved into a new home.
When I called 911, they refused to test me. When I went to the ER, they refused to test me. When I went back to the ER two weeks later, they refused to test me again. Early on unless you were coughing like a maniac, they wrote you off as “anxious” and so instead, I got labeled as a stressed out goon.
But flash forward six months into this joyride apocalypse and I’m now starting to see other’s stories about what is now being called, “Longhauler” symptoms. I suppose because I never had that debilitating cough, they didn’t consider I might have it.
Whether it’s all the years of singing, or genetics, my little asthmatic lungs rocked through much of it with nary a wheeze. Don’t get me wrong, I had lung pain and trouble walking and breathing, but that was minor compared to the other symptoms wreaking havoc. Lemme tell you, Internet People, I wouldn’t wish what I had on my worst enemy. I described it at the time as living on a hamster wheel of torture. (Possible new reality game show?) And for almost three months, my body was perpetually rolling through one bad moment after another.
Somehow though, by changing my diet, months of rest, vitamins up the wazoo, (fun fact: Wazoo is an actual place. It’s a new orifice I discovered a few weeks into the insanity. It’s located halfway between your sternum and your most lucid fever dream) meditation (thank you Depak Chopra- your calming voice talked me off the ledge more times than I can say ) and Netflix (thank you Star Trek for being both meditative, philosophical, and total escapism. And also, I’ve watched it so many times, I now speak Klingon: jIQuch Che’!) I finally started to feel better.
I still have days when it hits me and I think, is this coming back?! Why can I feel my heart in my gullet? Also, what’s a gullet? But then I remind myself I am strong, I will get better, it will pass, and I have so much to be grateful for right in this moment.
I’ve also found comfort in hearing about other people’s experiences that look just like my own. I had been told for so long it was simply psychological, (which even if it was, it was far from “simple” and completely debilitating nonetheless) but when famous people started speaking up, everything changed. Because as we all know, if a famous person talks about stuff, it has to be real. You see one celebrity talk about their litany of symptoms while wearing no makeup in $500 dollar Gucci sweat-pants, in the backyard of their mansion, while wild goats run free behind them, and you stop and think, “Gee, they are just like me. I feel so validated!” And to be fair, seeing a post from Alyssa Milano talking about being sick and her incredible range of bizarre symptoms much like mine, not only gave me great comfort but also reminded me she is as much of a bad ass today as she was when she was twelve years old, working Tony Danza into submission.
But let’s get back to those magic muffins!
What makes a good muffin you might ask? Well first off, it needs to be 1993. This is the year both frozen yogurt and muffins were at their apex. Every street corner housed not only a brightly lit, combination yogurt & muffin shop but was usually saddled next to a Blockbuster Video. Remember renting? Remember late fees? Remember lingering in the video store with your frozen yogurt and muffin, staring at one VHS cover after another?
Muffins have been and always will be garbage comfort-food disguised to look like a healthy snack option. If muffins were a train of thought, it would probably be, “Lie to me.” But I feel like these days, a little of that might actually be as satisfying as watching Die Hard on VHS.
So now that I am finally here in my kitchen trying to re-live the best parts of 1993 by eating a garbage muffin, I realize in this moment, the world doesn’t look quite so sad. And eating a hot ball of sanded sidewalk cement is not entirely terrible.
There was a time I truly didn’t know if I would come out the other side of being sick. So many haven’t. So many have lost loved ones. Have lost work. Lost homes. Lost their dignity.
We’ve been awakened to our privilege, our duty to speak up and protect those who cannot protect themselves, to look our seemingly best friends in the eye, and say, “This is wrong and we have to take responsibility for our part in it and help put an end to.”
So here I am, back at the muffin shack, also known as my kitchen, also known as my office, also known as my vacation area, also known as the area my dog likes to poop on the floor.
Our worlds have become infinitesimally tiny and grotesquely large in one fell swoop. The answers we need are here and the questions we need are hanging out there in the ethos. But I know for me, one day, one sandy muffin, one joyful mouthful of sawdust at a time equals a good life.
It’s taken me a long while to come back to my sense of humor and finding a way to share it with you all again. It was deeply submerged in my bathtub, desperately trying not to drown. But it finally swam up to the surface and is back now. And I’m going to do my best to bring it to you, one gritty bite at a time.