Taming The Fear

The time I’ve been preparing for all my life is here. For years now I could smell it coming in the wind, felt the rumblings under my feet, heard whispers from the trees overhead. I’ve spent a year painfully eliminating all that I knew and believed that was no longer sustainable or trustworthy, pushed along by an inner urging. With the past crumbled into a pile of lies and the future so murky that my sense of direction was lost, I groped along in the dark with only basic instincts to guide me. Where I landed is all that I had when time as we knew it stopped.

I thought I was prepared for this: stock up on necessities, stay home and till the garden, be creatively mindful, and support those who sought my help in any way I could as I recovered from surgery. I limited the daily horrors of the news, played soothing music and started garden seeds while listening to audio books and chatting with friends as I kept a watchful eye on my level of anxiety and proclivity for mental depression.

But doing my part in staying home to stop the spread of disease was not enough, it seems. Complications from my eye surgery began promptly on the day my state’s stay-at-home order was issued. I was forced to travel three hours roundtrip to seek medical attention, where I found out I had a retinal detachment underway with orders to lie flat on my back for five days after laser treatment to keep from having surgery in some already overburdened hospital.

I thought I was prepared but fear had other ideas. The villain finally got to me, and took what was left of any security and stability I had managed to salvage since starting over in a new home and town where we had barely begun to know our neighbors. My days and nights blended together as I memorized every crack in the ceiling above me, hoping for the best and dreading the worst, letting my overactive imagination play out in creatively dreadful ways. My dreams at night which had already taken a sinister turn turned ugly with anxiety.

Seeing no other way out, I began to give myself permission to grieve the beautiful eyesight that I had briefly experienced along with the world’s sorrow as precious loved ones everywhere suffer from this insidious virus or pass away alone in hospitals while others isolated at home are tormented by abusive partners set off because of their dire circumstances. It was overwhelming at times, but I kept hanging on to what was given to me–a loving partner who takes great care of me, health insurance to cover my treatments and a roof over my head with plenty of food and toilet paper.

Five weeks have passed in a blur of uncertainty, fear’s faithful companion. Lying still for so long was an exercise in release, of expectations, of routine, of control. With all the time in the world, I found that I could truly listen to conversations and savor the moments when I sat up to eat. Since I spent several weeks not bending over or lifting anything, I left the gardening to my spouse and watched him gain confidence when the plants responded to him. I let go of planning anything besides the next doctor’s appointment as I watched trees bud, bloom and leaf out from the inside as an exceptionally colorful springtime unfolded.

Despite fear of what was happening out in the world, I realized that this was an opportunity to be still and heal, to become intimately aware of my own physical needs and what I’ve always taken for granted. I was forced to finally learn moderation if I wanted to recover and proceed with any quality of life. Nothing was spared from scrutiny, from alcohol consumption to diet to screen time to worry. And I had to allow myself to be vulnerable but not a victim.

Yesterday, I was given the green light to live life normally again. I was told to do what I want, with the exception of engaging in any boxing tournaments. The country and the state where I live are starting to entertain lifting their restrictions. But I know better. The normal we knew is over. As time goes on, the more experts realize how little they understand about this virus, the more frightened the powers that be become of the unrest already taking place, and the more we as a people acknowledge how undervalued and under-compensated those who provide our basic needs and services have been.

Whatever my purpose will be moving forward remains a mystery without expectations. For the time being, my job is to live mindfully and provide for my own basic needs and those around me in a sustainable way, making sure to leave enough for others and never taking for granted good health, plenty of food, a safe place to live and the connection to loved ones again. Fear can only destroy us if we let it in to stay.

5 thoughts on “Taming The Fear

  1. Tamara, good to hear you are finally getting past the eye problems and are able to do things you want again. I am amazed you had to travel so far for treatment. As if a detached retina was not an emergency.

    Yes, you are right that we can’t go back to the old normal, but I think we may get back much closer to it than you imagine. An effective vaccine would be the key. I’m amazed thinking back that we survived the outright dirtiness of those around us as long as we did. Did I actually eat the food sitting out at those Chinese buffets? And after seeing some of the customers?

    You must be having floaters and flashes. I only had a retinal tear and that was years ago, but the floaters are still annoying and sometimes I get a flash.

    We are thinking of you. Keep writing. Keep painting.

    1. Thank you, Mike. I’m thinking of you and Vera as well, and very glad that we can stay connected during these times through technology. I was never much of a letter writer back in the day, so various social outlets help tremendously. I hadn’t established a new eye doctor after moving, so I needed to go to the “big city” to see a specialist. I was lucky he was still seeing patients. Many weren’t during the shutdown. I have since transferred my care locally, and look forward to staying put for quite a few months. The floaters and flashes have diminished, thankfully. My surgeries prompted the gel in my eye to detach, which led to the retinal detachment. A fun side effect that they didn’t prepare me for, not to mention that the timing was unfortunate. Here’s to a better way of living moving forward.

  2. I’ve had to read this several times to begin to have an understanding of what you’ve been through, both physically and emotionally. I know I still can’t understand. It seems you have somehow fought the good fight and have not been destroyed by all that has happened to you, but that doesn’t make it all less horrifying. I feel awful for you.

    You are exactly right about uncertainty being the faithful companion of fear. We are awash in both, and you even more so as you’ve endured all this.

    I am gladder than I can say that your eye is healed. May that be the good sign.

    1. Thank you, Maureen. Sorry I’ve been silent for so long. I was waiting for some good news to share. Fear has a way of getting to us all, in whatever form and method that triggers us individually. My fear of losing vision and not being able to get treatment pushed me over the edge but I was also lucky to be seen by a doctor and have good insurance. Unfortunately, there are so many who don’t have access to these “luxuries” in this country. I’ll do whatever I can to support better social services for everyone in the future. It’s my biggest hope that our support systems will be improved in the future. Hope you and your family are staying safe and well these days. Your blog posts are a welcome sight each day. Glad I can still read them!

      1. AMEN to that! I can only imagine the fear you’ve been through. Sometimes we wait so long for some good news that we forget what we’re waiting for! You’ve almost been to such a point. Indeed we are seeing how badly we need support systems — we are in such a mess.

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