The Year Not in Review
I’m pretty sure my Muse has coronavirus. She’s nowhere to be found, and, if she does indeed have The Rona, I probably don’t want her visiting me anyway. The CDC remains silent on whether to social distance from a Muse. As a result, I’m winging this month’s column on my own. Like many things we took for granted before the pandemic – appointments, bodily contact and reasons to wear pants – I realize I miss my Muse and the wacky whispers she shares with me.
Without her, the first draft of this column, literally as pointless as a virgin margarita, captured 2020: The Year in Review. In my own defense, a “normal” year typically unfolds full of engaging and unique experiences, many of them humorous. Pressing rewind and revisiting the overlooked tidbits was once entertaining.
But. as I dissected 2020 in an attempt to fish out some positive moments, it occurred to me that even the least introspective among us has struggled to complete this exact sanity-saving exercise countless times already. Been there, done that. Not to mock the importance of positivity, but yes, we have all appreciated the extra family time. Yes, we have all embraced the “PR on top, PJ below” wardrobe hacks. We all agreed, no one missed commuting, our pets are flourishing and a Christmas tree makes everything better.
Everyone is exquisitely grateful for good health, employment, Zoom, Netflix and Amazon – not always in that order. Young people will always believe they’re invincible, no matter what. No one really enjoys wearing a mask, but we do it anyway. We all experienced the universal awkwardness of not hugging a close friend or family member, especially after a few drinks.
The Year 2020 offered few insights that have gone unfelt by the masses in our overabundance of personal reflection time. Plus, I found it super unpleasant to travel back and excavate my anxieties of those first months. A chip clip attached to my nostril would feel better. And I know this because – two nostrils, one chip clip and zero holiday parties.
Instead of commiserating, my Muse challenges me. She says things like, “Think about that sheer panic when you cough or sneeze? You know, that ‘Oh shizzle, could this be The Rona?’ paranoia, even though it feels exactly like every allergy symptom since you were old enough to buy your own Sudafed.”
“No,” I say, “that fear is right up there on the list of universal things we’ve all experienced. Boring.” But then she snaps, “Excuse me, I wasn’t finished. Write about symptoms other than coughing or sneezing – hot flashes, for example.”
Dang it, she’s always right. I could describe how my hot flashes wake me from a sound sleep, after I’ve thrashed all my covers off like a five-year-old dreaming he’s wrestling a T-Rex. As I lay there, baking, I wonder “Is this just another hot flash or a classic coronavirus fever?” In the middle of the night, everything always seems worse. Absolutely it’s a coronavirus fever. About the time you’ve cursed your fate, imagined what your family and friends will say about you at your funeral, and if you’ll be able to overhear it from wherever you are, and, maybe, somehow, stop any college stories from surfacing, the heat wave begins to fade. Moments later you are clutching those covers to protect you from the frigid night air.
Big sigh of relief. It’s not the virus, but rather the yo-yo internal thermostat of a woman of – a certain vintage. “And how would I make my aging funny, Muse, instead of just oversharing?” I would ask. And, without missing a beat, she would look all mischievous and say, “Think of the rose in Beauty and the Beast.”
“Bingo!” I would respond. “My age is like the Magic Rose from the Beggar Woman, when the Beast studies it, in that little glass bubble in his library that Belle wasn’t supposed to visit. He knits his furry brow in concern – the clock is ticking.”
“Exactly,” says the Muse. “The petals aren’t dropping off juuuust yet, but it sure ain’t a rosebud anymore.” We laugh, she maybe a little more than I.
Now we’re on a roll. Muse would offer, “Why not add, ‘aren’t we actually lucky the symptoms of COVID-19 are loss of taste and smell.’”
“Wait. Why? I don’t get it,” I’d say.
“Because,” she explains, “on that ‘aging’ note … if the symptoms were diminished eyesight and hearing, no one your age would ever realize they had it till they spread it to at least 100 people!” She would howl with laughter here, because she’s older than these Orinda hills and looks about 28.
Let’s all hope she finds her way back to me soon. There’s so very little to laugh about in the midst of this pandemic, and at the same time, laughter is good, energizing therapy.
We’re at that point in the marathon where we feel like throwing up, but we must keep going. I know I speak for my Muse as well, as we wish everyone the focus and strength to straggle across the finish line.