So my “middle of nowhere” site in the desert IS in the middle of nowhere, as far I’m concerned. It’s not a real campground and there’s not a building within sight, although there are lights on the horizon at night. But I stayed really close to the road, and cars or trucks drive by at least once per hour during the daylight hours. Plus there are at least half a dozen other RVs or campers within sight, although several hundred feet away. Close enough that I know my nearest neighbors were running their generator at 2AM, which is probably close enough that if I desperately needed help, I could stumble my way to their camper and cough on them. I assume they’d call for help then, because campers are usually pretty nice people.
Although that said, I did spend a while in the dark of the night last night, when my fever was back, wondering whether we were apocalyptic enough that someone finding me delirious in the camper would kick me out to die in the desert before stealing the van. Survival of the fittest, after all, and I’ve never believed that I’d be one of the survivors in any apocalyptic scenario. I lack the killer instinct. I’m not even willing to stock up on toilet paper, lest the next person need it more than I do.
In the bright light of day, however, my fever is gone (again!), and I think I’m getting better (again!). Whatever I have, it’s a weird illness, because it slowly grew worse and now seems to come and go in waves. Some of it is exhaustion: I use up my energy and then I’m just completely depleted, to the level of lie on the bed, cry and feel sorry for myself. Sick enough that I can’t even read because I can’t focus. And then a few hours later, I think I’m on the mend again.
Yesterday, in one of the “lie on the bed, cry and feel sorry for myself” moments, it occurred to me that maybe my son has ignored my attempts to connect with him because he’s really sick himself. Maybe he’s dead, in fact. How would I know? I spiraled into total anxiety, fear, panic — just what a sick person needs — until I learned that he was fine. Not from him, but from a friend who’d talked to him recently.
“Fine,” but in the middle of a pandemic, ignoring my tearful phone call and plaintive email, because I have committed the crimes of being rude and really smart. (Admittedly, my plaintive email also asked him to please stop being a jerk, so, you know… maybe not so plaintive?) Only a Czech could appreciate my then state of mind, which they would define as litost. I learned about litost in a book called How Emotions Are Made, which I highly recommend for an interesting, if seriously dense read. Litost is “said to be untranslatable, but roughly, ‘torment over one’s own misery combined with the desire for revenge.’” I found that such a beautifully apt description of my feelings yesterday that I had to laugh and now I’m working on letting go of those feelings.
It’s not easy. But according to the author of How Emotions Are Made, scientifically, our emotions are just social constructs. We define sensations, label them, and treat them as real, but if we want to change the label, we can. Fear is just excitement without the breath. Sorrow, in this case, is saying good-bye to a future that I thought would be like the past, but that will instead be something new. I don’t know what the new is going to look like yet and it feels pretty scary, but at this exact moment in time, I’m admiring a beautiful sky, there’s a lovely cool breeze, my avocado was perfectly ripe, I can feel the sun, and I can listen to music. My life is good and I’m grateful. Also ready to feel healthy again, but optimistic that it will happen any day now.