I have always been able to do this.
When a regular inconvenience happens, I handle it like an asshole. Let’s say I lose my keys. I swear; I throw things around. I stomp about, searching and throwing and swearing. Then I find them and I am back to bluebirds swirling around my head with lilacs in their beaks.
When something scary might happen, I handle it like an asshole. If I think a breakup is imminent, or I’m waiting for health-related results, I obsess and I google and I’m snappish and the bluebirds take a week off to do coke in Reno.
But if something big really happens, if the shit actually goes down, then I do what I’ve always thought of as the big clampdown. Once the news I didn’t want to get gets to me, I say, “OK.” And then I clamp down. I feel nothing. I remember the first time I was able to conjure it up; I was 15 or 16. I won’t go into the bad news itself but let’s just say I got bad news, there came the big clamp, and I thought, “Oh. I didn’t know I had this option.”
I liken it to an anaconda after it’s eaten, say, an antelope. The snake gets really quiet and still so they can digest. That’s me when a crisis actually happens.
So, in August of 2019, things were going pretty well for me. I liked the house I’d bought, work was fun, and I had a delightful white foster kitten. Then on the way to the shelter to pick up said kitten after I’d (needlessly) taken her there for a little kitten cold she had,
I got into a car accident. I remember the ambulance people took my blood pressure, and it was like 407 million over 6,052. I was alarmed at this, as my blood pressure is so low you can’t really call it pressure. It’s more like blood gentle insistence. “It’s high cause you’re freaked out,” said the ambulance guy, who probably has a title and I’m not thinking of it because time change and also a Norwegian or possibly North Carolinian Forest or possibly cemetery cat is lying across me getting his endlessly lengthy fur all over the space bar and I’m distracted.
So, once I found out I had a concussion, I clamped down. “OK,” I told myself. “I just have to lie in the dark for a few weeks and not look at computer screens and listen to a lot of audiobooks.” And I did. I got through it.
As soon as I was done having a concussion, I had the big bladder cancer scare. That started in October, and five months and five horrific and generally very uncomfy tests for various cancers later, I had surgery (did you know?) that didn’t really solve the issue at hand, but it did get rid of some things I needed to get rid of. So that was in February, and I had a hard recovery, and in March of 2020, I was finally starting to feel better.
“Hey, maybe now everything will be—“
So you know what I did? I clamped down. I digested the antelope all year. I got still and quiet, and did not let myself panic (much) and waited it out. I secretly seethed when I saw you take trips and just get together with 10 people. But I mostly just tried to muddle through this pandemic as best I could. My mantra was, “I don’t wanna be part of the problem.” Sure, I could probably go to that outdoor restaurant. Everyone’s doin’ it. But if I got sick, there was a higher chance I’d get really sick, and then I’d be part of the problem. I’d be one of the people crowding hospitals and taking up a bed and a ventilator.
Or maybe I’d be fine, but I’d pass it to someone else who would become part of the problem.
I just stayed in so I wouldn’t be part of the problem. I said that over and over while I clamped and I waited.
Then there was a vaccine, but it wasn’t coming my way, and I figured, oh, maybe June. Maybe July. Then there’s the 5 weeks or so you have to wait till you’re good to be back out there. So maybe August. Maybe September. And I kept digesting the antelope.
Maybe that’s why I’ve gained 20 pounds this year. I was on this reduced-power setting and couldn’t dredge up the energy to do much exercise. I’d do my work and I’d be exhausted. Honestly, maybe my low-power emotional setting was why.
Anyway, on Friday, one of my coworkers, who’s King Kamehameha high risk, not sorta high risk like me, wrote me. “Here’s a number to text. They’ll text you back with locales to get your vaccine.”
“Oh, I don’t—” I said. I had no hopes of getting mine for months.
“You’re high risk, like me,” she said. “You’re one of the only people I saw who actually stayed really safe. TEXT THIS NUMBER.”
So I did. And that afternoon, I had an appointment at this huge vaccinating center they have here in Greensboro. It’s the largest in the state. They were doing high-risk people a few days early.
There were so many reasons I didn’t think I’d get in. I didn’t think my lowly no-spleen immune system would count, even though my doctor told me from the get-go it did. Even though my cousin, who’s a COVID nurse, said, “Oh my god, STAY OUT OF CROWDS.”
But yesterday, I got my shot. I got my first vaccine! Even when I was in line, I thought, “Oh, they’ll tell me to turn around and go home.” I think my clampdown self was so convinced of not being done with this till late summer that the rest of me hadn’t caught up.
But you know what?
I got the damn shot. My roots and I got the shot, and on April 3 I get the next shot, and on April 17 I can go out like a normal person. A normal person with a mask. STILL.
I have a hair appointment at the end of April so I can stop looking like middle-aged Blue Lagoon. So I can stop loving Wilson and get off the island.
I have a Botox appointment right after that. And I have PEDICURES in my future!! I haven’t gone a year without polished toes since I’m 7. I realize I am the groomiest person you know, but it’s my hobby and I’ve been so busy being Jed Clampett all year, moving slowly and calmly and dissolving that antelope and I CAN FINALLY HAVE SOME FUN IN JUST 33 DAYS.
On the drive home from my shot, the radio played AC/DC’s Shoot to Thrill, which is a ridiculous song that I enjoyed thoroughly. I was over there singing along like I’m regularly plagued by too many women and too many pills. Too many women are pills, that’s what I’m plagued by.
Now, I have a physical tomorrow. Last week I had a COVID test and some blood work done in anticipation of said appointment. IT HAD ALL BETTER GO WELL. I’d like this year and a half of constant … stuff to be over now. If she says, “Oh, your blood is riddled with things wrong” Ima clamp down on her HEAD. So let’s hope for the best, there.
If everything goes well, Ima go Roaring 20s on your ass. Ima take my 55-year-old stiff self and hit the opium dens and the gin joints and 23 skidoo all over yonder. Ima make my own perfume in France. Ima see the Northern Lights while I sip really dark hot chocolate with vanilla-tinged whipped cream. I’m going to paint my nails different shades of peach and buy myself a peach sapphire to match. I will wear more leopard print and make my hair even bigger than it already is. I do promise, however, to never live, laugh, love about anything. I haven’t completely flipped my lid.
But my clamp is coming loose, y’all.