Today was my first day off the bike in a week. My legs were really tired yesterday. Oddly, after about 15 miles they seemed to come to life. I found myself cruising along at 18 miles per hour. This is the sort of thing happens on long bike tours. (It’s a good thing because, otherwise, you’d never get where you’re going.) If this crisis hadn’t come along, I’d be ready to tour in a couple of weeks.
I learned today that two people have tested positive in the building where I worked for 25 years in DC. I don’t know them but I still know quite a lot of people who work there. A description from one of the victims who is currently in the hospital in Maryland describes truly awful illness and extensive lung damage. That’s what worries me most; my lungs are already damaged from illnesses in 2016 and 2018.
Generally speaking, descriptions of the disease vary wildly. Some people get no symptoms at all, others get what feels like a bad cold, still others, like the victim above, have high fevers, coughs, and escalating pulmonary distress. The randomness of all this is enough to drive you insane. And, since it takes days for the symptoms to arise you or just about anyone you interact with could be infected and not even know it. One truly odd thing about the disease is that all the physical distress is caused by your body’s defense mechanisms going haywire as they fight off the invading pathogen.
I have a strong fear of suffocating. When I was a kid, I hated it when other kids held my head underwater. When I was in the hospital with a collapsed lung in 2018, I rolled over onto my good lung. It compressed my good lung and left me without the ability to draw a breath. Climbing my first big climb in Colorado last summer, I found myself leaning across the top tube of my bike on the side of the road in the Rockies unable to catch my breath.
Stress is sometimes useful. When it’s under control, stress can help you concentrate on an exam or get your adrenaline going for a burst of effort. It’s not useful when it just wears you down mentally and emotionally. What we all especially need to avoid is that runaway narrative in our heads that builds bad scenarios on top of each other. It doesn’t matter what your personal situation is; your brain can hijack your stress defenses and carry you away to a place of despair. Buddhists call this prapanca. Prapanca stay the fuck away from me.
Today did have a few de-stressing moments. Instead of riding, I mowed the lawn. Fresh air. Mindless. Repetitive. Not a bad combination. And no interaction with potentially infected, two-legged disease vectors.
Late in the day my wife did a yoga class online. Just as it was about to start a woman came to our door. It was one of her yoga class friends, a psychiatrist, bearing a gift in a black bag. It turned out to be a bottle of gin and and one of tonic.
Gin and tonic, the doctor recommended cure for prapanca.