Well, how about we process some thoughts and feelings in real-time? That sounds like fun! And it always works out so well.
I’m sitting at a garage, waiting for my car to be serviced, and it’s the strangest sensation. It feels wrong. It feels like I’m breaking at least a dozen laws, and soon a paddy-wagon will pull up and whisk me away. It will look like one of those silent films where the movements are exaggerated, and the music is delightfully odd.
Hold on, is paddy-wagon a bad word? It sounds like the sort of thing that has a derogatory origin. Is it bad? What are the origins? Am I being an ignorant fool right now? Ignorant, yes, but calling myself a fool is a bit harsh. I want to learn so, here I go, typing the word into Google, and I’m using my overpriced data to do it.
Not all heroes wear capes? Oh, that’s taking this too far.
And…Okay, well, that’s not cool. It does indeed have a derogatory origin, and I’m shaking my head in dismay. It’s horrible! People were arrested for being Irish which, in someone’s mind, equalled criminal. I…What? Why do we do this to each other? Why do we insist on treating a single group of people with such disdain because of…reasons that make no logical sense? I am well and truly baffled by the nature of our species.
I would delete my earlier use of that term, but I just learnt something, so let’s share the knowledge. The more we all know, the better we can do in the future. If my use of the term was offensive to you, then I apologize. It was an innocent mistake made out of ignorance, but now that I know it causes some people pain, I’ll no longer use it.
That’s the best we can do, isn’t it? We don’t know what we don’t know until we know we don’t know it. Wow, the grammar police are going to have a field day with that sentence. But it’s true! There’s so much information out there, and we have access to a lot of it, but how do we know to look if we don’t realize and acknowledge our own ignorance?
I’ve said this before, but let’s say it one more time. Ignorance is forgivable. Willful ignorance, however, borders on an inexcusable act of spite. It’s choosing, despite all evidence, to accept a lie and perpetuate a fallacy. It’s ignoring the pain our actions are causing because our comfort, ideology, or beliefs are more important. Even if it causes injury or death, we hold fast because letting go, growing, learning is so unthinkable that sacrificing another person’s life feels righteous.
It is, in my humble opinion, the epitome of selfishness. Is it beyond forgiveness? Is it beyond redemption? My petty side says yes, of course, and they should burn for what they’ve done. The hopeful part of me won’t let go of the mere chance of mercy or grace. Which one will I listen to?
It depends on the depth of my fear, I suppose. Right now? I’m scared, and being here, in this space with people, feels so wrong. How can this be legal? How is this okay?
When I was a kid, there was a song, I can’t remember all of the lyrics, but a part of it went, “They’re coming to take me away hee hee ha ha.” If you know what that song is, let me know down in the comments. Seriously, where does that line come from? Now it’s going to annoy me to no end.
And no, I’m not using my expensive data plan for this. It’s too silly, and I’m too cheap, frugal, broke. Pick your favourite adjective. Besides, I already used it to learn about Irish immigrants, and it was more interesting and informative.
With those lyrics, hee hee ha ha, running through my head, I suppose it’s quite obvious that a vague sense of paranoia is creeping up my bones. I keep looking over my shoulder, half expecting a swat team to swoop in and take me away. For getting my car serviced? What if it’s a trap or one of those sting things I’ve heard so much about. There is a utility van parked outside, and we all know what that means.
Someone is fixing the utilities?
Okay, if you insist, I’ll return to the “real” world and agree that it’s a maintenance crew. Also, and I’m just spitballing here, I’ve been watching too many spy shows, and it might be affecting my perception of reality. You know, just a little bit.
Oh, being here feels so wrong and I’m twitchy. Given everything that’s going on right now? This experience is so surreal. COVID cases are going up after the holidays, and we’ve hit a new high in COVID related deaths. It’s not as high as some countries or even other parts of Canada, but it’s kind of scary to be out in the open right now. The virus could be anywhere, and anyone could get exposed to it.
Also, the hugs not masks crowd is still out there, willfully ignoring facts for their own dainty sense of comfort. Oo, I’m edging towards petty. It’s creeping up on me. Do I shut it down or let it roll? What would you do?
Going to get my car serviced would be, at any other time, an inconvenience, but it wouldn’t set me on edge. I wouldn’t flinch every time someone came too close. I wouldn’t feel the need to look over my shoulder at the sound of footsteps. I certainly wouldn’t adjust my mask for the nineteenth time in as many minutes.
This mask is bothersome, and I hate it with a growing passion. The longer I sit here, the more displeased with this piece of cloth I become. Did I just call it a foul name under my breath? Yes, I did, and I’m not sorry. It had it coming. It’s making my nose itch.
Arg, I hate this mask so much!
But I won’t take it off and risk infecting anyone with the germs I may or may not be carrying. I’m trying my level best to be considerate, accept the facts as they are, and not what I want them to be. But it’s hard. I want to play make-believe. I really want everything to go back to normal. Are you struggling too? Tell me this is getting to you, and I’m not the weirdo, sitting in a waiting area, mutter obscenities at a mask.
To their credit, everyone here is being as safe as they can and, they’re following all of the guidelines that our health ministry has put in place. There’s hand sanitizer on every flat surface. Chairs are spaced out, and masks are being enforced. Staff and customers are being respectful of space and distance. It’s as safe as a public area can be right now.
But it’s still a public area, and that makes me incredibly nervous. As careful as they’re being here, what if people aren’t as cautious elsewhere? What if they are a part of the special few who willfully choose ignorance? What if…
When did I become so paranoid and petty? When did I become so scared of you? It’s been such a gradual change that it wasn’t until this moment that I actively noticed the shift. When did going out in public become so strange?
I have one excellent reason for this newfound level of anxiety. We’re living through a viral pandemic, and I take medication to lower my immune system. I had a kidney transplant thirteen years ago, and these medications keep that gifted organ alive and healthy. If my immune system worked, it would attack the foreign organ and kill it. In turn, my immune system would kill me.
There’s a deadly virus out there, and I could use an immune system right about now. That’s not going to happen. I can’t stop my pills because then, well, that wouldn’t kill me as fast as the virus, but the end would still be the same. So, I avoid going out, and when I do, I have to be extra cautious. Going out into the real world, for me, requires a certain level of paranoia if I’m going to make it through these crazy times.
I’ve already had the virus once, and I’m grateful to have gotten off as easy as I did. It’s taken me five months to feel almost human again, but it could’ve been worse. I can’t imagine what it would be like to go through it a second time. Could my body handle it? I don’t know, and that scares me.
It’s only natural, I suppose, that my flinch response would be so finely tuned but again, when did it happen? When did going outside feel like I’m breaking at least a dozen laws? When did the real world turn into a silent film with cartoon heroes and villains that would make a Tarantino movie look tame?
When did hugs become a weapon and a mask a symbol of oppression? These are strange days, my friend, strange days indeed.
It’s in moments like this that I kind of envy the few who worship at the church of denialism. Those people who toss science aside, and take Facebook posts as gospel. They demand hugs, not masks. They can’t believe that science isn’t a fad, and this pandemic isn’t a get-rich-quick scam invented by doctors, nurses, virologists or epidemiologists.
It must be nice to give yourself over to ignorance, and I’m not being condescending. The previous paragraph— Okay, sure that was thinly veiled condescension— But this one is sincere! It would be kind of nice to live in that headspace. It would be great to sit here, work on my manifesto, and not be afraid of everyone.
The manifesto bit was a bit too snarky, wasn’t it? Mercy. Grace. Compassion. Forgiveness. If I say these words out loud, maybe then I’ll be able to feel them deep enough to extend them to those who can’t do the same for me.
Again, I ask, when did fear become a necessity? And when did it trigger this petty side of my personality? It’s not a good look, and I don’t like it at all. When did it show up, and how do I get rid of it?
I haven’t gone out all that much, and this hour has been the longest I’ve spent in public. These feelings are new, and I’m trying to process them in real-time. I don’t know when I became scared of you, of everyone outside of my bubble, but I am. And that makes me kind of sad because this woman just started a conversation with me, at a respectful distance, and my initial response was retreat. I don’t want to run away. I want to engage and connect with people around me. I want to form relationships and temporary bonds forged during a shared moment of annoyance.
I don’t want to be afraid of you or wish anyone harm because they choose ignorance. I don’t want to believe that mercy, grace, and forgiveness have their limits. But I’m scared, and it’s starting to wear me down.
This is dark and twisted, I’m sorry. I’m just sitting here, waiting for my oil change, and these thoughts started banging around my head. I’m processing, and I’m asking questions. I’m looking for answers to questions that might not have any. Typical! Why can’t I ask an answerable question?
No matter what happens, I have to believe that there’s hope. I need to trust that life, no matter what the norm becomes, will be better. It will be happier. Fear? I’m sure it will be apart of it, but it doesn’t have to control my life. It doesn’t have to turn me into the very thing I despise. I can find a way to forgive those who would sacrifice my life for their comfort.
It’s just, right now, I’m not sure how to do that, but I have to believe it’s possible.