Silver linings are not my thing. Looking at the bright side is not my thing. I don’t see the glass as half empty or half full. I expect the glass to be shattered on the floor with any number of sticky beverages seeping into the boards around it. If this sounds terrible to you, I feel a little bit sorry for you because that means you’re probably really struggling right now. If ever there was a time that being a pessimist was the way to go, it’s now, during a global pandemic, when all the best but mostly worst in people is on full display. As a pessimist, I expect this.

That’s not to say I can’t be disappointed. Even if you expect the worst, experiencing it is still a letdown. For example, I’ve had a feeling something was going on with my body since the summer, specifically that my rheumatoid arthritis might be measurably active for the first time in many years. Bloodwork from my physical in September seemed to indicate this, and when I finally saw my new rheumatologist, she confirmed it (thanks to Covid, I’m having to reestablish all my doctors here in Westchester, which in normal times would be a pain in the ass and in Covid times is just fucking exhausting). And I’m terrified of what this means. Up until now, I’ve avoided aggressive treatments because I’ve been afraid of the possible side effects, especially from medications that suppress the immune system (though, ironically, these seem to be helping fight Covid). Left untreated, inflammation in the joints can lead to inflammation elsewhere and significantly increases the risk of heart disease, especially in women, all of which my new rheumatologist made sure to highlight.

I’ve been in emotional overdrive trying to figure out how this happened, how long it’s been happening, how I managed to fuck up the same way my parents did by not taking my disease seriously and skipping out on most of my doctors’ visits in 2019 after having otherwise been vigilant about annual physicals and rheumatology checkups and eye exams, etc. This means my most recent previous bloodwork, all of which was normal, is from 2018. What should have been the usual annual gap is now doubled–in a global pandemic year, of course. I pore over the new results and google what each abnormal number can mean. They all seem to point to RA, so my mind goes right from that to the risks I’ve found on the internet, a terrible mantra running through my head: heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, stroke; heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, stroke; heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, stroke. I skip over the possible treatments, skip over the dietary and lifestyle changes I can make to help mitigate the risks, and instead I prepare for the risks as a foregone conclusion, like that shattered glass on the floor. And I beat myself up. Isn’t this my fault for not being more active, for not being better at work-from-home pandemic life, for letting myself become a sedentary lump of Covid anxiety? I should’ve known what was at stake.

So, yes, disappointment happens. Even if you keep the bar low, even if you think it’s as low as it can go, expected and unexpected terribleness can sneak underneath it. And in the pandemicness of it all, everything feels heightened, bigger, scarier–how could it not? But I promised silver linings, and silver linings you shall have. Because also in the pandemicness of it all, there are discoveries, moments of light, reasons to be so fucking grateful. For example, I have a wife, Kim, whom I both love and like. I have a home where I feel safe and a job I can do from my safe home that provides me with the insurance I need in order to continue to visit the doctors and get the bloodwork and pay for the medications that have sent me into a tailspin–none of these are givens even in non-pandemic times.

Other random goodness:

  • I’ve been cooking regularly, which I hadn’t done in years because commuting back from NYC every weeknight made it feel impossible.
  • We bought origami kayaks that we’ve been taking for relaxing paddles in the Tarrytown Reservoir just a five-minute drive from our house.
  • We’re spending Thanksgiving just the two of us this year, and I’m relishing it.

A particular discovery I’ve made is the wonder of long walks on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail (OCAT). It only took 10 years and a global pandemic for me to start exploring the section of the trail that’s just a few blocks from our house and realize that where it connects to the Rockefeller State Park Preserve near Gory Brook Road is totally within walking distance.

On these walks, I’ve watched the leaves change from the verdant green of late summer to the golden yellow of mid-fall to the slippery brown that now carpets the trail. I’ve watched the sun sink into the Hudson through the glow of the Tappan Zee (don’t try to make me call it that other name–Tappan Zee forever, yo). And just yesterday, I watched a white-tailed buck foraging in the woods. I had stopped to look at the mausoleums peeking out through the bare branches from the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and heard rustling on the hill below me. I stood there keeping as still as I could, shifting only slightly to see him when he moved just out of sight. Other walkers–mostly families, only some of whom were masked–strolled past on the trail I was on, above him, and on the trail below him, but none of them saw him. I thought about pointing him out to a masked little girl walking by with her masked parents, but I didn’t. I kept the buck to myself.

I was sure he’d run off at any moment, but he seemed at ease with me, and after a few minutes, he climbed up the hill to lie down in a clearing about 20 feet away. My breath caught when I realized his right hind leg was injured, and he was hobbling a bit to keep from putting weight on it. I thought to call the DEC but hung up when they answered. What if they tried to help and only succeeded in traumatizing him? Worse, what if they put him down? He seemed otherwise healthy, wagging his tail and chomping on whatever deer chomp on; he even licked his lips while he looked at me, which I managed to catch on video. I told myself I’d stop by on my way home, and if he was still there, I’d call back. To my relief, he was gone.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all,

Jessica the Westchesbian

Jessica lives with her shiksa wife and geriatric cat in picturesque Tarrytown on the Hudson. Although a proud Westchesbian these days, Jessica grew up in Asheville, North Carolina, back when the opening of the Olive Garden and the 24-hour Walmart were big news. During business hours, Jessica’s a communications professional who translates highly technical concepts into clear, concise, colloquial language that media buyers and sellers can understand. Outside of business hours, she’s a poet, cat mom, wife, avid reader, and lover of questionable crime, sci-fi, and supernatural TV shows (preferably all in one), not necessarily in that order. Her poetry has appeared in Tin HouseThe Paris ReviewLIT, and The Huffington Post, among others.

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