Black Holes and Hungry Hippos

Photo by Pawel Czerwiński on Unsplash.com

“There’s always failure. And there’s always disappointment. And there’s always loss. But the secret is learning from the loss, and realizing that none of those holes are vacuums.”– Michael J. Fox

This weekend, for the first time in months, I had plans that didn’t involve ordering pizza and scrolling through various streaming services. I was going to leave my very narrow area of safety and venture out into the world. By world, I mean my province, in my country, a few hours away from my home. So, a small, small, world but it might as well have been another planet!

Forgive my repetition, but I’ve been taking this pandemic very seriously and I’ve been doing my civic duty. I stay at home as much as possible. I wear a mask, wash my hands, and use hand sanitizer. I maintain physical distance as much as I can and when I can’t, I hold my breath and stamp my feet.

Just kidding, I don’t hold my breath. That’s why I wear a mask! Sure, it’s uncomfortable and sometimes I feel like I’m being suffocated by a pillow but I’m not. I can breathe. It’s only for a short amount of time. I can be uncomfortable for thirty minutes and if I can’t endure the indignity, well, I stay home. Civic duty and basic human decency. I don’t know why that’s so hard for some people.

Yeah, I’m heading down a rabbit hole full of angry squirrels, and I’m out of nuts. Or is that fucks? Oo, I said a naughty word. My bad. I swear, I’m trying to watch my language but sometimes it gets the better of me.

Do you know what got the better of me this weekend? My body! It hates me. It senses the rise of excitement, the sweet smell of anticipation, and it watches me prepare for a good time. It chuckles, hands over its beer, and then: Ba Bam! Captain Buzzkill, reporting for duty. How may I ruin this very fine day?

If only I could throw my body into the brig and carry on without it. Make it walk the plank? Feed it to the fishes? Arg, you scurvy… I think I’ve spent too much time on those various streaming services.

The pain started Thursday evening, and it kept me up most of the night. It wasn’t that bad. Certainly, nothing that required immediate medical attention, but I kept an eye on it. With a chronic illness, the list of things that could be going on is quite extensive and a few of them are seriously problematic. Since none of my symptoms fit into that category, I decided to wait it out a little longer and see if anything developed.

Let me just get a step ahead of the speeches. I can feel em. The concern, the eye roll, the deep intake of breath. Thank you for caring. Seriously! I appreciate the concern, but I’ve lived with these medical conditions for a very long time. I know my body and my illnesses. I know what symptoms to look out for and I know how they feel. I also know, with the symptoms I had, I’d be told to wait and see. Or, I’d sit in the ER for eight hours, exposed to all sorts of contagious diseases, while a lot of tests were run. Tests that would tell me to go home and rest.

I hate hospitals. I’m not a big fan of the needles and the touching. The smell of disinfectant, stale coffee, and bodily fluids. It’s either so noisey you can’t hear yourself think or it’s so quiet you can hear yourself think. Hopsitls, no thanks! I’m happy waiting to see if more concerning symptoms come up. It’s cool, I think I know what’s wrong. It’ll be okay in a few days.

A few days…Oh, man! That’s a few days after the road trip. I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks. Health authorities gave us the thumbs up with reasonable precautions. We’re taking reasonable precautions! I bought a new mask and enough hand sanitizer to bathe a herd of wild beavers. How many beavers are in a herd? Do beavers travel in herds?

I don’t know! I just found out you can milk a beaver. No, we weren’t planning on giving it a try on this trip. We were, however, going on a physically distant and socially responsible adventure. I need an adventure! I want an adventure. Why can’t I have an adventure? 

(Sob, fist clench, feet stomp, “Grr.”)

Maybe I could still go. Maybe I’d feel better in the morning. Maybe I could suck it up and drive for eight hours while my stomach feels like it’s being ripped apart by some alien fish creature. Maybe I should be smart and not drive into the middle of nowhere while experiencing something that could, potentially, turn in to a medical emergency.

Maybe I can stop writing ridiculously long sentences.

Oh, there are so many maybes and not one of them takes me on an adventure.

It’s one thing for a child to be petulant. It’s expected, and it’s cute in a funny, thank God I can’t have kids, kinda way. When an adult does it? Yeah, not as cute or funny. People stare. They shake their heads. Naughty words are used. A petulant adult is sad, kind of pathetic, and pitiful.

In my defence, I was also feeling really horrible, and my adventure had adventured without me. Can I just have this one moment? I’ll keep it brief, I promise. Thirty seconds of petulance and then I’ll move on. I’ll even find a silver lining if that makes us even?

Yikes, promising a silver lining is kinda risky don’t you think? Oh, I’m painting myself into a corner but let’s get some paint on our paws.

I knew I shouldn’t go, but I wanted too! I had everything ready. My camera batteries were charged, and my lenses were packed. I enjoy photography. It relaxes me and there were going to plenty of photographic opportunities. I wanna take pretty pictures. I wanna eat a picnic in the middle of nowhere. I wanna get in my car, put my foot on the gas, and drive. Just drive. Go out there into my small world and be free of the pandemic bubble for one day. One day! Is that too much to ask for?

No, no, it’s not, and I wanted to go damn it.

And time! Thirty seconds of petulance is over. I appreciate your indulgence.

I did the smart and responsible thing because being and adult sucks. I decided to stay home and situate myself within sprinting distance of a medical facility. You know, just in case my unqualified diagnosis was wrong or my body decided it wanted to be a drama queen. Act up all you like, body of mine, but I will never call you, Your Majesty so get off your throne.

My body can be such a diva sometimes.

Letting my travel companions know that I couldn’t make it was more of a disappointment to me than them. They were very understanding and kind. They agreed that it was a smart choice. After all, who wants to spend eight hours driving a car, when they’re in pain and miserable?

They got it but I was pissadointed. 

Have you heard that word before? It’s when you disappointing and pissed off at the same time. I was angry at my body for acting up just as I was about to taste a few hours of freedom. I’ve been so careful for so long. We all have! We were finally cleared to get out of our bubbles. We could go, with caution and safety, and now my body decides to throw a fit. Seriously?

How about any time during the last, what is it, five months of lockdown? When I couldn’t go outside and enjoy myself. When I couldn’t see my family face to face. When I couldn’t get into my car, put my foot on the gas, and drive. How about then? No, let’s wait until we’ve got one foot out the door. 

So close but so far and the disappointment hurts.

It becomes a vacuum that sucks us into a black hole. A swirling mass that consumes everything in its small corner of the universe. A hungry, hungry, hippo can’t be satiated. What goes in, doesn’t come back out. An emotional black hole is a lot like that except this hippo is ticklish and will spit you back out if you hit the right spot.

I’m so close to being a scientist but I keep missing it by that much.

Making the call to cancel the trip created a momentary black hole for me. It was the right call! If I’d gone, I would’ve been miserable and the pain wouldn’t have let me enjoy myself. But the pissadointment! I felt it deep as I texted my companions. I felt like I was letting them down but if I went it would be worse. Why should they suffer because of me? 

Oh, wow my body isn’t the only one with a diva complex! Just because I couldn’t go, didn’t mean they couldn’t. Just because I wasn’t there, didn’t mean they couldn’t have fun. Nothing was ruined for them. Nothing was ruined for me either, now that I look back on my weekend. 

It wasn’t what I’d planned or what I wanted, but I did find ways to enjoy myself. I cuddled my puppy. Made banana bread. Watched a delightfully ridiculous show on Netflix. Warrior Nun’s, if you’re curious and, yes, it was as silly as it sounds but there’s nothing wrong with silly. Especially when you’re in pain, pissed that your adventure got furloughed, disappointed that life doesn’t always go as planned, and wallowing in an ego trip.

Yes, I was petulant and pissadointed. I pouted and wallowed. I might’ve huffed and stamped my feet. But I also knew that I made the right choice. Even though I knew, or was fairly sure I knew, what was wrong the risk wasn’t worth it. Staying home, watching fighting nun’s, wasn’t all bad and it was smart. It gave me time to heal and get ready for the next adventure because there will be another one. As long as there’s air in my lungs, there will be another adventure.

So, here’s my silver lining take away: Disappointments happen but, they aren’t the end of the world and sometimes they lead to something better. Like banana bread, puppy cuddles, and silly nuns? Sure, and face time with a friend, a nice long nap, and time to heal. It all worked out for the better even though it wasn’t the adventure I’d wanted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by disappointment? Don’t get sucked into the black hole. Instead, tickle the hippo and see what happens because, you know: Science.

Oh, and I’m starting to feel a lot better thanks to a smart choice and kind friends.

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