Fever Dreams

My anxiety climbs in strange ways.

For example, during everything that’s happened so far with the Coronavirus, and despite the fact that I’m in my late 50s, I’ve never really feared for myself, at least not that I’ve been consciously aware of.

My disquiet expresses itself mainly at the micro level. When I’m anxious, I obsess much more about the break-up of my family or my relationships with my siblings or the limited level of my social life–or even about the state of my writing–than I do about any impending apocalypse. But that doesn’t mean those closer interactions are actually causing my distress.

This occurs, I think, because growing up, the greatest sources of turmoil were always the ones closest to me: my parents’ fraught relationship, the long-running cover and overt warfare among my brothers and me, the drama of schoolyard frenemyships and unrequited adolescent crushes. Oh, I was always interested in the wider world, and arguing politics, television, films, music, and ideas was very much the family sport.

But the reality of my lack of control over the world has always been easier for me to accept when applied to the far away part of life than the close in. (That also probably explains my propensity for depression.)

So when I wake up multiple times in the night, when I go what I call “sleepless stupid” and start to ask myself how much my partner really loves me and how much she keeps me around to avoid the inconveniences of the alternative, and when I start to argue with myself that she and my children might be justified in that attitude, eventually I suspect that something larger might be going on.

Last night was such a night.

I found myself in front of the TV at 2 a.m. trying to decide whether Netflix or Amazon or the Lifetime Movie Network offered the best chance for distraction. I returned to bed at 3 or 3:30, and still only drifted in and out of sleep a bit. And all the while, my shortcomings chased themselves around and around in my head.

And for a good chunk of today, I’ve felt restless and on edge.

I have a perfectly normal temperature, but I’ve been feverish all the same. Grasping for something familiar to hold onto, even if it just amounts to reading to myself my various flaws. It’s so much easier to be angry and judgmental about the elements of life that float within my small sphere than to face the scale of how this might go wrong.

This afternoon and tonight, I’ll try to meditate and exercise my disequilibrium down to manageable size and keep myself to the day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute.

I wish you better luck than I’ve been having, but if you have the misfortune to be in much the same place, try to remember to be kind to yourself. I’ve come to believe that fear is really nothing to be afraid of; it’s what I do with it that matters most. Tonight, I’m going to try to live with mine a while.


“Words in a Word”

And now for today’s word play. To review the rules: Begin with a starter word containing 8 to 12 letters. Then you use any combination of the letters to make many words as you can. You can only use each letter as many times in each new word as that letter appears in the starter word. Here’s an example:


deli                 cat                  tail                  date
dial                 cite                 tale                 late
deal               tea                  tile                  lee
detail             eat                  lead               eel
clad                lad                  tie                   dale
ideal              lit                     idle                 tad

If you’re so inclined, you might even come up with a poem or short bit of writing, using as many of your derivative words as you choose:

cat statue clad in lead
hides on the deli’s lee side
hidden from wind; a tad of
tea scent clings to the lad
sitting idle at the tile
counter, awaiting a date
who’s late

Today’s starter word: absolute. Or come up with your own (remember, 8-12 letters). You can share your list and/or poem here or @mar_de_palabras on Twitter.


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