The Princess and the Metaphorical Pea*
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives you a pandemic, add vodka.
Unknown brilliant philosopher…being me
I love to walk. Be it a vigorous hike, or a leisurely stroll, meandering lazily or briskly covering ground; mad, sad or glad, I find joy in a good walk. I find equal solace in Little Debbie Snack Cakes, but let’s not go into that.
Sheltering at home like most of you, denied my customary workouts at the Y, I’ve been walking the country lane where we live even more often than usual; sometimes twice a day. I don’t have to worry about social distancing here because there isn’t anybody else around.
I suspect I’ve gained 10 pounds with all the cooking and carryout dining we’ve been doing. That last part is totally altruistic. I’m taking one for the team, gastronomically speaking, in an effort to support our local restaurants. Especially those featuring fried chicken and carrot cake with about an inch-thick smother of cream cheese frosting. Had I actually donned jeans at any time in the last month, I’m sure I would find them impossible to zip by now. I’ve been living in a revolving selection of sweat pants since this all started. My definition of “dressing up” in the new normal means putting on a sports bra.
This spring has been a mixed bag, weather wise. It hit 80 last week, and then snowed this weekend. It was brisk and I wore my winter coat, old tennies and sweat pants as I headed down the driveway carrying my trusty walking stick. It will come as no shock to you that one thought, one topic burned fervently in my mind; for the love of sweet baby Jesus, when will I be able to get a pedicure? JK, LOL! Of course not. I was thinking about our current grave situation. But, still, I would kill for a pedicure. Not that that’s at all important in the grand scheme of things. Forget I mentioned it.
(By the time I’d cleared the driveway I’d managed to pick up a tiny stone in my left shoe. No biggie.)
On the macro plane, I worried about mankind as a whole. My heart aches for all who have been struck by this disease. Those who are in fear for their health or those that they love. Those who have lost their lives or those that they love. We can’t even mourn properly. Being unable to gather for a funeral, to celebrate someone’s life and grieve together – that strikes me as unutterably sad.
(My pants were sliding down a bit with every step, slowly but surely. Dang it! The pebble worked its way under my foot and was now stabbing me in the bunion. My right eyebrow started to itch, a frequent reminder of the shingles I had on my face and scalp last fall.)
I worried about our country and our economy. Will the cure be worse than the disease? Will there be anything left to salvage when we “open up” again? Looking at unemployment figures and the dismal state of our retirement savings leaves me vowing not to open any mail bearing the name Vanguard, T Rowe Price or Fidelity for the foreseeable future.
(The sliding underwear was taking my sweatpants along for the ride. I wear these pants all the time with no problem, so I figured it has to be the underwear. Why, oh why, do I keep these old undies with the shot elastic? I stuck my left hand under my parka to anchor the sliding clothing. Budweiser and Twisted Tea cans dotted the roadside. I figure the later trash was left by high school girls – seems like the kind of thing they’d drink. They probably cry for the plight of the baby whales and see no contradiction in tossing their trash on my road because, duh, you can’t drive around with those empties in the car. What if Mom & Dad caught you?)
I worried about my family. My girls are half the country away from us in the San Francisco area. Are they being careful? Are they staying safe? They are in good health, but this scourge has picked off the young and healthy as well as the old and infirm. I miss my brothers and sisters far away.
(I can’t believe what slobs people are. Jerks have tossed beer cans, cigarette butts, even major appliances along my lovely country lane. That toilet is still there, on that little side lane, after all these years. I picked up another pebble in my left shoe. Must have a hole big enough to drive a Buick through the damn thing. My right eyebrow was twitching and itching like a son of a bitch.)
My husband has all kinds of health problems, so he is especially at risk. His heart monitor picked up irregularities last week and when his cardiologist told him to go to the nearest hospital my heart fell as well. A hospital, formerly sanctuary for the ill, is now a terrifying place where you might catch a worse malady than the one you came in with. I had to drop him at the ER door – they wouldn’t let me in. Our local hospital doesn’t have any Covid-19 cases, thank God, and he was released after only 1 night, on new meds and doing OK.
My little sister is in an assisted living facility, her abilities somewhat impaired by the brain cancer she has been living with for so long now, she’s one for the record books. Her place is on lockdown. The other residents are 30 years older than she, but she is now denied even the doubtful pleasure of their company – she’s trapped, unable to leave her apartment. Meals and meds are delivered and all she sees are the masked workers and the daily phone calls from those of us who love her. The intention is to prevent the virus from getting in but, if it does, we all know how it runs like wildfire through such places. We are terrified that this scourge will sneak in her building and ravage the residents.
(There were all types of cigarette packages dumped along the road, but Marlboro Menthol in the box is the clear favorite. There are too many for this to be random; is that the cigarette of choice for the teenage scofflaws who toss their empties on our road? I’m not that up on the illicit preferences of the local teenager. Or, and this is my favorite theory, are these the work of one, local dipwad? Maybe he told his wife he quit and he doesn’t want to be caught with the goods? He pops breath mints and tosses the proof of his failed resolution at roughly the same place on his way home every day. The stones in my shoe seemed to be getting bigger, stabbing into my tender foot with each step. I stopped and leaned on my staff, take the shoe off and hop around trying to keep from stepping on the cold, wet ground while simultaneously grabbing at my drooping pants. Two steps after I’d congratulated myself on getting rid of the pebbles, they came out from their under-insole hiding spot to stab me anew.)
I wallowed in self-pity, feeling isolated. I’m missing friends and family. I’m missing laughing and eating and drinking and shopping and doing whatever the hell I want. I’m tired of tippy-typing away at my laptop at my dining room table, the new work-from-home office for most of us. Tired of my own company, tired of even my beloved husband and dog, who are both beginning to get on my nerves. Something tells me that I might not be that much fun to be around 24/7, either, if my husband’s solo drives around town at all hours of the day and night are any indication.
But I reminded myself of the bottom line. Cliché or not, it’s true: we are all in this together, and we will get through it. We will get past these strange times. And maybe we will be stronger for it, if we keep ourselves focused on the truly important things in life.
(I limped home, up the driveway, left foot throbbing from the rocks wedged in my shoe, clutching fistfuls of parka, sweatpants and saggy, baggy underwear which wound up in the trash 3 seconds after I got in the house. Next time I should bring a rolling cart and some trash bags, wear rubber gloves and use one of those grabber things to pick up the junk those asshats keep dumping on our road. Jeez, Louise, my eyebrow was itching and burning like I was being stung by fire ants. )
Faith, family, hope and love: everything else is merely distraction.
Stay safe, my friends.
*For you youngsters, here’s the short version of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale of “The Princess and the Pea.”
Once upon a time there lived a queen whose son was of marriageable age. The queen was determined that only a genuine princess would do for him. One night during a terrible storm, a young woman knocked on the castle door and announced she was a royal princess who had lost her way and was seeking shelter. The queen was skeptical. She had seen many young women who would use their charms and any means possible to gain fame and fortune by trapping a prince into marriage. It was the medieval precursor to “The Bachelor.” The queen had already saved her son from some hussy who was shacked up with 7 men of short stature (7!), and a floozy with see-through shoes who drove around in a pumpkin. She was on her guard.
The queen led the young woman to a guest chamber and helped her into a four-poster bed piled so high with mattresses and feather pillows she needed a ladder to climb in. Unbeknownst to anyone, the queen had devised a test for the young woman. At the very bottom of the bed, under all the mattresses and feather pillows, the queen had placed a tiny pea.
Now, it’s a well-known fact that a princess is much more delicate and sensitive than your run-of-the-mill girl. The queen figured a true princess would be able to feel the pea.
When the girl came down to breakfast, the queen asked how she had slept. Being well-mannered, the girl said “fine, thank you,” and the queen’s heart sank. Being truthful, however, the girl added, “I don’t mean to complain, but there must have been some big rocks stuck among the mattresses and pillows. I tossed and turned all night and am black and blue.” Huzzah! The queen knew that this delicate girl was the true princess she sought for her son, because she was so very sensitive, even though some would say she was too easily distracted by minor irritations and should just concentrate on the important issues at hand. And they lived happily ever after.