Letting It All Sink In

The waters cresting against the shoreline of my personality have, for the past four months, been receding. I can’t even describe to you the size or shape of that loss because the experience itself remains mired in a heavy fog. Part of the difficulty I have trying to see through that density involves losing some of the language I would use to describe it.

Slowly and then suddenly, it seemed impossible to write. I lacked not just the motivation but, by all accounts, the ability. Even now, as I reach for words to describe the experience, I get tangled in my phrasing and it takes longer than it should—than it once did—to land upon the exact meaning I’m seeking. (In a complete and surprising burst last week, I grasped frantically at the speed of language flooding my mind.)

Beginning in mid-January, I started losing myself when my long covid crashes—those all-encompassing blackouts of both mind and body—grew in frequency, duration, and severity. At first, I lost (more of) my capacity, then my sense of creativity, then my sense of humor, and finally my sense of hope.

All of those things require not just energy but vitality. Zest. When your body is reduced to the most basic of functions because it only has enough energy to carry those out, then everything else becomes extraneous, cut from the team. More than acute fatigue, I began to feel poisoned. After doing too much, which could be as innocuous as a one-hour Zoom meeting or a 15-minute walk to the library, this polluted toxicity would creep across my body, pulling me down into the lethargy and confusion that began to define my days. (It’s a mitochondrial problem—something I only recently learned the science behind it.)

Sadder still, I didn’t even understand the scope of what was happening until a few months had elapsed. I knew, of course, the strangeness of this latest struggle and was perturbed about the why and the how and the how long. But it wasn’t until I stopped listening to music that it dawned on me how much of myself was suddenly gone, vanished. A ghost hanging over the horizon.

I write this from a place of reprieve, but I no longer trust this highland the way I once might have. It’s so hard to say whether this will be a turning point or a simple plateau before I’m pulled under again. I usually attach music to a post and talk about it—that is, after all, the whole point of this little blog. But I haven’t been listening as much or as widely lately, and the mere fact of writing what I’ve already produced feels like accomplishment enough. I present the track this time, but not the reason behind it. Let the inference stand alone.

I hope there’s more to say—and more energy to say it. I’ve had a sneaking suspicion that living in a big city is hurting me far more than I once thought possible. Last week, after resting and resting and resting some more in the lead-up to my trip, I ventured to the Hudson Valley and, lo and behold, perked up. It wasn’t immediate but it was a kind of miracle. By the end of my time there, I felt so much closer to the baseline I’d reached at the end of last year—the one already so much smaller than the life I once lived. But it felt like a fair compromise given how debilitating long covid can be. I’ll take small so long as there’s still a sunrise.

On my last night in Cold Spring, I stopped into what will easily become my favorite place if I end up moving to the area. While I waited for my to-go order, the server asked what I was doing there. I called it a writing retreat. “Have you gotten any writing done?” he asked. I chuckled, the pain sitting quietly at the edges, “No, I haven’t.” He smirked. “Well, that’s ok,” he said. “You’re just letting it all sink in.”