Darkness

Today is Sunday, May 10th.

It is Mothers’ Day. While I don’t agree with the commercialisation of Mother’s Day, there was certainly something rather strange about this one. JD wished me a Happy Mothers’ Day, and my daughter rang from Hohepa to wish me well (she sent a letter, too), none of my four sons did so. Three of them are married, and three of them have children. I doubt that my daughters-in-law forgot their own mothers. So this feels very strange. As I grew older, and became unable to work, these anniversaries began to seem much more important than they used to. I always used to be busy. Now I have much more time to brood.

The day was odd in other ways, too. I did the washing, hung some things up, and put others in the drier. I went shopping, and bought some fresh bread (it was almost all gone), an avocado (a treat at $3.99 each), and some chocolates. Then I made a sandwich for lunch, put the sandwich things away, prepared dinner, cleared that away. I prepared my own breakfast, too. As I said goodnight, my husband said Thanks for a good day. For whom, I wonder?

Which lives matter?

I listened to a number of podcasts during the day. Most of them concerned an interesting question in these times – Just which lives matter? The rest concern the shock of Michael Flynn’s turnaround. There are outlines of what happened, in legal terms; but it seems to come down to the fact that he lied to the FBI, about his conversation with Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US, about the sanctions imposed by President Obama for Russia’s interference in the US presidential election.  He also acted for Turkey, when this was illegal. So why did he lie about these things?

There are continued reports about meat processing plants, having diagnosed cases of Covid 19, and now some deaths. A female judge was heard saying “But they aren’t regular folk”! This tells you a lot about American attitudes to those they consider beneath them, or sub-human..

I listen to a podcast about Amazon reminding me how mean Jeff Bezos continues to be. I’m reminded personally when I can’t read interesting articles in the Washington Post. I knew that working conditions in Amazon warehouses are very poor, with staff working very hard, very long hours at minimum wage, and discouraged from taking bathroom breaks. The customer has an amazingly good experience, with the purchasing website being easy to use, and items being well packed and delivered on time. Staff are discouraged from joining a union, and from speaking out about climate change fears, or Covid 19 fears. Some warehouse staff have tested positive for Covid 19, but others have not been informed, although they work huddled together. Staff aren’t even permitted to take leave without pay; staff working in warehouses don’t have their health insurance paid by their employer, and they don’t have paid sick leave.  This sounds truly dreadful, and it’s not as if the richest man in the world can’t afford to be kinder to his staff. The techies live in a different world, of course, with better pay and more employee perks.

Jeff Bezos, who could be a leader, both as an employer, and in terms of climate change, chooses not to. The banner for the Washington Post reads “Democracy Dies in Darkness”. It sounds nice, but what does that even mean?

I read this morning that South Korea has chosen to close 2,100 bars and clubs, owing to a new outbreak of Covid 19.

I am rereading Barbara Tuchman’s “A Distant Mirror”. Sadly, it seems that those who survived the Back Death did not go on to be model citizens. Although there’d been examples of great kindness and self-lessness shown, the survivors for the most part demonstrated some of the worst aspects of humanity. Nevertheless, those who survived to tell the tale are our ancestors. There was a lot of talk of a “miasma”, of stale and fetid air potentially carrying the disease.  It’s interesting nowadays that while this virus is probably airborne, falling rates of pollution have shown the true beauty of places like Delhi, and we have marvelled at photos of Venice and St Peter’s in Rome without the tourists.

I listen to another podcast talking about the Biblical plagues of Egypt (refer yesterday’s hornets and locusts).  It’s pointed out that Trump could have made big money by getting masks made in read, like his MAGA hats in China. He’s chosen not to, or perhaps he hasn’t thought of this. In the US, Trump seems to have given up on the rush to a vaccine. Meanwhile, in the US, Asian-Americans are in the receiving end of anti-Chinese sentiment. Meanwhile, the heads of the CDC and the FDA and Dr Fauci are in self-quarantine after being exposed to someone who tested positive for Covid 19. That is very scary; these folk, although limited in their ability to speak, are highly valued.

Today I have not followed any of the statistics, either here or in the US or UK, as I usually do. I believe there are two new cases of coronavirus here.

The headlines shriek about the arrogance of Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Government, while some are saying we should not go to level 2. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.

Meanwhile, we are learning more about the potentially horrific effects of Covid 19, from the long recovery time, and perhaps you will never recover your previous strength and stamina; to the deaths of some children, with different but dreadful symptoms; and to the effects on those who spent time on a ventilator.

I have had some personal experience of this. I was in a coma for several days; was kept anaesthetised; had various surgeries, some unsuccessful; and, eventually was awake more than I was asleep. During that time I had all kinds of dreams, not of being attacked, but back to a world of my childhood. I also had flashes of reality – the swelling of a blood pressure cuff, having my mouth swabbed for thrush, being hoisted onto a bedpan, wondering why I wasn’t consulted about whatever was being done to me. I just wanted to escape into the new dream world that had become my reality. I dreamt one night that I had short-term memory loss, and I thought this was something I should hide from everyone.

When I came around, although this took some time, and there wasn’t a Eureka moment, I couldn’t really do anything: I couldn’t speak, couldn’t swallow, had to ingest pureed food and thickened water (which I loathed), couldn’t move – even to pick up something which had dropped, or to put another blanket over me. I was always cold, and I threw up, spontaneously. I couldn’t sit up, either: after my shower each morning, I was supposed to sit in a chair for a while. I learnt after a while to ask the nurse to leave the call button and blankets within reach. I would try to “sit up” for an hour, before collapsing back into bed in some discomfort. I grew tired of doing the quite easy Dom Post crossword. I had bad double vision. This became easier to manage after a nurse brought me an eye patch.

Things could only get better from here.  But there was enormous distress. Nobody understood what had happened to me, much less me. Counselling? Forget about it. Your entire life has just changed. You’re still alive! Life can be very difficult.  One of the difficulties is that no one knows how long recovery will take, or to what extent one will recover. I learnt, after some time, that medical people don’t know how you feel: they can say you have “balance issues”, or chronic fatigue, or some extent of double vision, but everything varies, and many things aren’t visible, for example, the sometimes constant nausea, the weariness, being too tired to speak or read, the fact that one’s mind is racing, much of the time, while my body, sadly, says No!

I miss feeling grounded, as I used to, no matter how tired I was. My head feels “weird” much of the time. I have described three aspects of this: my head feels like a balloon on a string, my body feels like a ship at sea, and then there’s the vertigo, which generally occurs if I roll over in bed or look or reach up, or down.  I also feel like one of those balls with things rattling around, randomly, insde them.

When Chris Cuomo says that this disease “messes with your head”, I can understand what he means, but he wasn’t hospitalised with breathing problems.  I see staff rejoicing and clapping when a Covid 19 patient leaves a hospital, but for this fortunate person, the journey is just beginning. I remember when I saw a documentary about the Boston Marathon bombings, and the dreadful injuries caused there, that some “victims” accepted what had happened to them far better than others, who have ongoing grief and pain, and regret for the lives they used to lead. I realised then that I, too, had PTSD. Panic attacks, delirium and depression are commonly suffered, too.

I understand, and sympathise, with the pain some are enduring. While you are glad to be alive, it is hard to adjust to a new normality, especially when normal expectations are not met. Most people’s financial situation becomes much worse during such a crisis. Others don’t necessarily recognise what you’ve been through, and how hard it can be to adjust. Everyone wants you to be as you were before!  And, of course, you do, too, more than anything!  But there is hidden trauma, that no one else really understands.

Well, it’s been good to write about that. What strange things come to mind, during this strange and interesting time. It is good that nothing much is required of me, at this time. I am still enjoying the “Stalingrad” book. That, too, seems very prescient, seeing as the Russian people lived through a time of great crisis.

What music is special today? More Chopin, I think – his Piano Concerto No.2.

Nga mihi nui

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