Stress

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there was a reporter who loved stress. She called it “good stress”. And it was mostly about making deadlines and finishing marathons. Interviewing, writing, live shots, telling people’s stories – that all got better under the good stress.  Knowing there wasn’t an option NOT to train for a marathon got her out the door those cold snowy mornings. Before work. And after just four hours sleep.

Ahhhhh good stress. How I miss it.

Stress now is mostly about the endless pandemic. Covid-19. And variant after variant. Almost 2 years of fear, grief, lockdowns, masks, travel bans and Zoom.  Families in mourning. Families divided. Friends not speaking. Children in hospitals.  Vaccine passports. Vaccine mandates. Tests to fly to a foreign country. Tests to get back home. Rules changing overnight. Anti-vaxxers clogging up hospital systems through rounds of different variants. Jobs lost. Or maybe – The Great Resignation. Live events – theater, concerts, clubs – cancelled or restricted.

Only big league sports escaped the shut downs. Even before vaccines. Perhaps because there was so much money at stake. But then this month – as the omicron variant flared – the money suddenly stopped talking.  As the ultimate bad boy story unfolded. Tennis star Novak Djokovic – adamantly unvaccinated – got tossed out of Australia before he could defend his title. For lying on his visa. More or less.

Inflation is soaring, the supply chain has been broken for months and months, The Federal Reserve still seems paralyzed, the withdrawal from Afghanistan was and still is a tragic disaster and President Joe Biden – elected to fix what his predecessor had broken – seems – along with his dysfunctional party – unable to walk and chew gum. Meanwhile the democracy most Americans have cherished for hundreds of years looks ready to collapse under the weight of social media-driven misinformation and Trump-world QAnon lies and conspiracy theories.

You want to talk about stress?

A few months ago I read in a health report that collectively – Americans’ blood pressure has risen markedly since COVID-19 enveloped us.  I know mine has. I’m angry all the time now. So is everyone I know and seemingly, everyone I DON’T know. It’s an inchoate anger.  At everything that keeps going wrong. At a rickety health system where doctors, nurses and other hospital staffs worked until they collapsed and yet somehow loved ones and friends died. It’s an anger that more than a year after vaccines started going into arms – the now militantly UNvaccinated have made it almost a Trumpian religion to stay that way. Even as Trump himself has finally begun touting the virtues of getting the vaccine his administration actually produced. It’s an anger that keeps building because once again the hospitals are full, health workers are exhausted and at least 80% of those on respirators now are unvaccinated. Many of the rest just didn’t bother to get their boosters.

There have always been lots of things which stress us out. They’ve usually varied – person to person. Often in the past, money – or rather the lack of money – has been the biggest stressor. Now – it’s all tied up in COVID. Somehow, in some continually frustrating way, the virus is at the heart of everything. Sometimes it seems we’re not just wobbling under this burden of stress. We’ve all gone down that rabbit hole in some way. Descending into a fragmenting world where everyone seems not just stressed but after almost two pandemic years – almost mentally ill.  Every week it seems we hear of someone pushed onto the subway tracks. Or knocked over from behind on a busy city street. Or shot for literally no reason at all.

Meanwhile the confusing rhetoric from health officials continues. About the omicron variant and masks and maybe a fourth vaccine shot when so few have even gotten the third…..and on and on and on and on.

I yell all the time. At my husband (who yells back at me). At the poor cats. In my car. As everyone else in THEIR cars seems to be doing the same thing.

When will this end? HOW will it end? Where are the psychologists on cable TV or even on Twitter who can explain us to ourselves.  Tie it all together and tell us how to make it stop?

There is seemingly nothing in this world right now (except perhaps Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aberrant dream of recreating the Soviet Union) that is not based on or caused by or related to the COVID-19 pandemic. And the way our officials handled or didn’t handle it. And the way we in the free world are reacting to losing the personal freedom we all once believed could never be ripped away.

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