Late Summer Chronic Thoughts
August is always hot and humid in my little corner of the world. The last week or so has been pretty unbearable outside, so I am very thankful for the air conditioning system we had put in a few years ago. I’m usually a pretty reasonable person who kind of goes with the flow of things. I am not a happy camper when I’m hot.
Sheryl from A Chronic Voice has put together another great set of writing prompts for this month. They are: Wandering, Catching, Compartmentalizing, Regenerating, and Visiting.
I think everyone is at least marginally aware of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. My family and I had already been big fantasy fans, and we loved the movies. The books are long but absolutely gorgeous to read, with beautiful imagery and a wonderful story. In my daughter’s senior year of high school, her literature class did a long study of all things Tolkien, and she was hooked. One of the most famous lines from the book and movie is: “Not all who wander are lost”. It’s from “The Riddle of Strider”:
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
— J.R.R. Tolkien, The Riddle of Strider, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
“The poem emphasizes that sometimes gold is hidden or mistaken for something else, as opposed to gaudy facades being mistaken for real gold. Strider, secretly the rightful king of Gondor, appears to be a mere Ranger. Fundamentally, both Tolkien's phrase and the original ask the reader to look beneath the skin, rather than judging on outward look alone.” (Wikipedia)
This is a lovely example of how things are not always what they seem, and what you see is not always what’s true. This is an incredibly important lesson for traveling through life, and especially traversing the internet. The snapshots folks show you on their social media are carefully curated to show things in the absolute best possible light. We should never compare ourselves to those images, because, as Tolkien says, “All that is gold does not glitter”.
I know I traveled far from the original prompt here, but Tolkien tends to send me on a journey. Another way to wander, perhaps?
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My brain immediately goes to Covid, as in “don’t catch it”. The last eighteen months have been dominated by doing everything I can to not catch this virus. Everyone in my family was at high risk, so we’ve spent our time isolated from everyone we care about and staying in our home. I feel very privileged to be vaccinated, knowing many countries are still having difficulty obtaining enough vaccines. As someone who is immunocompromised because of medications I take, even with being vaccinated, I still don’t feel safe enough to return to anything resembling pre-pandemic “normal”.
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It’s also been really frustrating to watch people either write off the risks or go as far as to ignore the dangers. I’m not speaking in general, though the very public protests against mask mandates and anti-vaccine folks are frustrating, I’ve found the thing that has been just heartbreaking is watching people I care about, family and friends, ignore, write-off, and just plain flaunt the risks, knowing they are putting themselves and others in danger. I really thought we were better than this. A great majority of people I know have definitely taken things seriously, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to look at those who didn’t the same way.
Here’s my last little bit of advice for catching (or not catching):
• Wear a mask
• Wash your hands
• Get vaccinated
There is always at least one prompt that hits very close to home. This month, compartmentalizing is the one for me. Everyone has trauma, so everyone has to have coping mechanisms to deal with that trauma. Compartmentalizing is defined as: “a defense mechanism in which people mentally separate conflicting thoughts, emotions, or experiences to avoid the discomfort of contradiction.” (Psychology Today) Personally, I look at it a little differently. I use compartmentalization not to avoid cognitive dissonance, but to sort of save for later emotions that are too difficult to deal with right at the moment.
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For me, compartmentalizing is the tool I have always turned to since I was young. It’s like my brain says, “You don’t need to deal with this right now”, and it puts whatever the issue is away for dealing with later when I can better handle it. Is it the healthiest way to deal with things? No, probably not. It has, however, allowed me to remain functional in situations that otherwise would be emotionally and mentally overwhelming. Long-term, compartmentalizing can be detrimental. Those emotions I’ve packed away need dealing with at some point. The good thing about compartmentalizing is I can choose, to a point, when I am ready to deal with those emotions I’ve put away. I can process things with a therapist or feel I’m ready to do that work.
There are cycles to everything in life, and chronic illness is no different. I cycle through periods of impairment that are often followed by times of regeneration and renewal. Does it mean complete recovery? No, not usually. But if I can step back and look at how I’m doing, I can see those periods of time that have been difficult are often followed by periods where I’m feeling a little better and able to do more. Sometimes I can do things to help me get renewed, but sometimes I just have to wait things out. Eventually, my energy is regenerated, and I feel a little better, and can get more done. That regeneration allows me to do more online, or bake some yummy treats, or get creative and enjoy doing that.
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Once I was able to see and understand this cycle, dealing with it has gotten easier. I know that there will be a period of regeneration after a flare. I may not ever get back to where I was before, but any improvement is still an improvement. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel helps me get through the dark days.
Even though everyone who lives with me is vaccinated, we’ve still been keeping outside contact to a minimum. Both the Hubs and I are on meds that reduce our immune responses, so we’re not sure how effective the vaccines were for us. Now that the CDC has recommended that immunosuppressed individuals get a booster, we will schedule that. I still think we will be keeping to ourselves. Our doctors have told us to do what we’re comfortable with. This pandemic is still so unpredictable, I’m just not comfortable with any unnecessary risks. I’ve been using Zoom and Messenger and text to keep in touch with family and friends. I know it’s not the same, but virtual visiting still maintains connections.
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What kind of things are you doing to stay connected? What is your comfort level with visiting and catching? I always enjoy these writing prompts, and I hope you enjoy reading them. If you’d like to read more, you can check out some of my other posts here and here. Be sure to visit A Chronic Voice to check out what other bloggers wrote about these ideas.