The motto of the infantry is “Follow me!”

Yeah: don’t do that. If we are all in the same boat, put me on a little schooner by myself. I see Niagara Falls ahead and am thinking, “this could be fun? Hold my coffee and watch this.”

O Captain, My Captain!

But I just thought I’d write a little bit about that simmering pot and how we are all in the same boat. Yesterday, a couple Facebook posts caught my attention and they reminded me of a conversation I just had with my cousin. The basic gist was, “I’m having a really shitty ass day and I have no idea why.”

I know why. The American Psychological Association (APA) knows why and my neighbor who owns a string of psych services knows why–as he makes money hand over fist.

Whether that boat is heading towards Niagara Falls, or just down a lazy river, we shouldn’t be in the damn boat. It’s unnatural. When the lockdown first started, it was like turning the burner on underneath a pot of stew with a lid on it to simmer. Our brains are the stew. My range top shows the effects of what happens if you allow it to simmer for too long—I’ll scrub it all up eventually.

I’m an old pro at this. Battle hardened. I’ve had that flame on high for large stretches of my life. I had one psychologist mention to me that he felt as if I lived my first 30 years in “fight or flight” mode. Imagine what that does to the body? Not to mention the mind. My bad days are a bit different than most. I’ve learned to adapt and work through this crap. But it’s getting to me as well.

Bad days for no reason goes hand in hand with the total inability to know what day it is. Or month. Or hour. Is it nap time yet? A friend, a true battle hardened veteran with tours in Afghanistan, a psychiatrist, explained that we have all lost our “anchor” events. Going to work, the weekly get-together with friends, the haircut appointments, and things like that kept us anchored in our lives, in our identity.

Me? I started out this lockdown with absolutely no idea who the hell I was. Last year, I stripped out of my identities with the final piece flying off at the beginning of February. Perfect timing.

O Captain, My Captain!

[Now I see myself in place of George Washington in the famous crossing of the Delaware picture–but with me in my birthday suit, holding a mug of coffee. If that mental picture is now in your mind: you’re welcome.]

I’m just tired. A friend once mentioned a long time ago in an apartment in West Philadelphia that it seemed like I lived 10 years for every one that everybody else did. Another friend recently mentioned it seemed like I lived more in half my life than many do in four lifetimes.

I’m an old, old man, rocking in my chair, with the stew on simmer as I listen to the hiss of the overflow hitting the hot steel of the stovetop.

A couple months ago, that stew had the smell of an Italian beach, where I was supposed to be right now, finally getting some rest while I consider if I have anything left in my tank. Nowadays, at night especially, as I sit staring at the walls of this house that was supposed to be sold, it has the smell of an old age home, antiseptic and bleach with the occasional whiffs of the flowers that young people bring to their grandparents on special occasions.

But that’s just the depression talking. There is a lot it whispers to me at night. Just trash talk. Meaningless. Pointless. Forgotten like the mists that burn away with the rising of the sun.

We can start to believe anything is normal if we live it long enough. I’m a pro at that as well. But though consciously we think it is normal, our subconscious is that simmering pot. It knows better. We’re going to start to grind the hell out of our teeth at night. Bad dreams. Panic attacks possibly. The fun ones for me are the panic attacks, while I am asleep, that leave me sprawled on the floor gasping for air.

Small things, tiny things, even happy things that we have lived with all of our lives are going to annoy the living hell out of us. We’re going to have shitty ass days for no reason whatsoever. But there is a reason.

This shit ain’t normal.

O Captain, My Captain.

Hell, I guess to be honest perhaps the boat I was in was already going over the falls and the pandemic pulled it back. In many ways, it forced me into healthier paths. Some of my unhealthy coping mechanisms are locked out in lock down. I’m forced to look at myself in the mirror each morning and make a choice for myself.

I hate the fact that many of those mornings are at 4 am. But I have my breakfast, establishing new routines. Strawberry frosted miniwheats with vanilla almond milk. Keeping busy, maybe taking a nap, then some yogurt and granola for lunch. –I don’t think I’ve had three meals a day since I was forced to in boot camp in ’89.

This shit ain’t normal: but you are okay. Just a normal reaction to an unnatural situation.

I’m not okay. But that’s been a well-established and entertaining fact for five decades now. My psychiatrist friend recommended that people talk to people who are already screwed up. We’re good at this shit.

O Captain, My Captain.

Be your own captain. Establish anchors in your lives. (I guess that fits in with the whole boat and naked Washington and Niagara Falls theme?) You can’t use the old anchors so establish new ones. Work out—the endorphins are a hell of a natural medication. I personally recommend yoga and practicing mindfulness. Establish a routine and stick with it. Make it a point to keep a calendar and remind yourself as often as you can what day it is so days don’t blend into the next.

Me? I can’t. Long story. I tried. It bothers me. Everything bothers me. More and more. That’s why I am planning on reeling in my anchor and drifting for a while. The pandemic pulled my boat back away from the falls. Not being in motion, though, is far more terrifying than the falls. Hold my coffee and watch this.

I’ll keep writing though and you can keep reading.

O Captain, My Captain: Fun words to play with but not the happiest of poems.

Navigate to your safe harbor to weather this storm, knowing that what you feel is natural and that you are part of a huge club, a worldwide club. We should have t-shirts made. “I survived the Great Detention of 2020.”

The Breakfast Club anybody? Simple Minds? “Don’t you, forget about me…”




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