Desuppression

Seven hours of sleep, and the alarm sounds.

Seven hours of sound sleep. I could keep sleeping.

I press snooze.

Anticipating the snooze alarm.

I do not keep sleeping.

Waiting.

I could sleep like this every night.

Coughing gets in my way. It feels like a month of coughing, my abs punching my lungs to expel air at random times, at inconsistent forces. Attempting to tame a lingering tickle in my throat.

Coughing annoys, distracts. Steals sleep. I feel the tickle right now.

Breathing has been shallow lately in this past month. This morning I exhale deeply, and my ribs tighten. Sometimes the spaces between the ribs cramp. Like I have been running and I get a stitch in my side, but I cannot run through the pain until it subsides.

I am not running. I just lie here. Not sleeping.

But the cramps. Am I out of oxygen? Has it been so long since inflating my lungs through deep, meditative breaths? Have my ribs forgotten how to expand, to compensate for my body’s deficit in breathable air?

What is breathable?

Winter sits on the air, spits in it. Sometimes she brings snow and wind and chilled rains and replaces the air.

Winter is heavy and often merciless and stingy, not only with the air but also the sunlight.

I realize more than one cause facilitates my suffocation.

This early in the morning headlights slide across closed blinds: One thousand one, one thousand two. I try breathing again, and it still hurts.

Darkness penetrates the room. Darkness is space, but it does not expand. It constricts. I cannot breathe the space, but it breathes into me, occupying too much of my lungs. The pressure also surrounds me from the outside, hugging my ribs tight.

Darkness leaves just enough air in my lungs to cough. Cold medicine suppresses the cough, helps me sleep.

Now, if only I could breathe more than a teaspoon at a time without pain.

Yet when my child and my husband cough, all I want to do is absorb their coughs. They need to be cough-free more than I.

Ten minutes later. The snooze alarm sounds. I turn it off and sit up. I could keep sleeping. I could keep overthinking this cough. I slip out of bed and begin getting ready for the day, grateful at least to be breathing, albeit heavy, dirty winter air.

Grateful for the full night’s sleep.

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Disclaimer: Obviously I’m rusty with writing, but bear with me. I should be doing this more often and finding my voice. Beneath the coughs. Fingers crossed.

Thinking about Brrrr

About a month ago I wandered around the Relief Society room during the third hour of church. I scanned the room of chatting women to see if I could find people who would offer the opening and closing prayers.

When I walked back to the front of the room I noticed the face of the woman who would be conducting the meeting. I remarked to her that she looked tired, and I asked if everything was okay. I expected her to respond with something about staying up all night with her toddler daughter. Instead she told me that her cousin had died the day before.

This completely caught me off guard but I told her that I was so very sorry.

Class was about to begin. She got up and conducted the meeting.

For the final 45 minutes of church I couldn’t pay attention to the lesson. I kept thinking about my church friend at the end of the row, staring blankly, trying not to think. I knew this person was hurting but I still felt vulnerable around her. I wanted to hug her and talk to her about her loss. She had to keep it together so that she wouldn’t fall apart in front of the class.

It wasn’t until after the closing prayer that a few women gathered around her to offer hugs while mournful tears streamed down her face.

I didn’t get to talk to her.

About an hour later back at home, I received a text from this lady. She thanked me for my concern. She said she couldn’t talk before the meeting because she was conducting and didn’t want cry in front of everybody. I told her that I understood and again I was very sorry.

She said that her cousin was found outside the day before, frozen to death.

I gasped then cried when I read this.

People die because of the weather probably more often than we are aware. Pets, too. Heatstroke. Hypothermia.

Since hearing about this incident, whenever I go on Facebook and see people who live in warmer climates poking fun at people who live where it snows or freezes over, it makes me sad.

When the polar vortex hit, all I could do was hope that everyone found a warm place to wait it out. Even the poor souls who have never before experienced weather sub-30 degrees Fahrenheit. Especially those people who watched from their yards the mercury plunge ever deeper below zero.

This lady from church is originally from Arizona, where I know she’d rather be during the wintertime. I wonder when she sees those teasing Facebook posts to actual people who live in snow and ice and constant frigidity, if she says to herself that she can’t be mad at them; they don’t know her. They don’t know she has a cousin who died in the conditions they’re making fun of. They don’t know they’re being insensitive. They may even have experience with cold weather, but it’s hard not to imagine their attitude that they’re superior because they’re warmer. I wonder if it’s even crossed their minds, a loved one dying in extreme weather. Do they know what it’s like?

This lady at church? She knows.

Keeping Warm this Wretched Winter

When I got out of work this evening, there were actual puddles on the relatively snow-free sidewalk, evidence of molecules moving, releasing heat. Wispy clouds veiled parts of a blue sky, and the air didn’t make my teeth hurt.

Yet I looked at the forecast earlier in the day, and Saturday’s weather promises “areas of frozen fog.”

Weather, what the HELL is that? I chatted with a friend today, and she said frozen fog sounded dementoresque. She said I should catch a dementor. So that’s what I’m going to do on Saturday. I’m going to tame it and give it a clever name.

The air has been frigid these past couple of weeks. Near zero degrees. Sometimes it rises all the way up to the 20s, sometimes a warm winter front comes through and dumps two easy feet of snow, dragging a hawkish train of more bitter coldness.

I do not get along with this weather. I fight it, stand up for myself. Here’s how:

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  1. Thermals under my pants. My coat isn’t quite long enough to cover all of my legs, so these help.
  2. Two pairs of socks, because there’s nothing I hate more than cold feet. I can’t sleep or work properly when my toes are frozen. I get mad at Frontrunner more easily when my toes are frozen.
  3. A wool layer is good for shielding the cold and trapping heat. I’ll wear this over a shirt, which I’ll usually wear over thermal tops. When I say I like being warm, I don’t mess around.
  4. TWO scarves. I unfold one and wear it like a cape over my shoulders. I’ll wrap the other one around my neck then over my head so that it covers my ears. I also hate when the cold pierces the insides of my ears.
  5. Another layer, usually waterproof and looser-fitting, over my pants. It helps to shield the wind that tries to wrap around my legs. In your face, winter weather!
  6. High, insulated, waterproof boots. These come just below my knees, and I pull my snowpants over them. This combination prevents my feet from getting wet. I’ve had to plow my way through foot-high snow on the sidewalk next to my work building.
  7. The coat is the final layer. I zip everything up and seal everything in. I’m ready to wait for the bus and/or the train. This picture looks like there’s an alien creature pushing through my stomach, but no, it’s other layers that keep me nice and warm.

Not pictured:

  • Gloves: Having cold hands is almost as bad as having cold feet.
  • Earmuffs: Again with the ears, but they ache if they’re cold. And then I cry.
  • Aliens keeping me warm from the inside.

The ultimate goal is to layer up so that I’m like Randy from A Christmas Story and I have to say, “I can’t put my arms down!”  and Reilly will say, “Well, put your arms down when you get to work.”

So far this system of layering has worked this winter. I haven’t yet gotten sick, and it seems that my fist just now shot out in some sort of reflexive action to find the closest wood-like surface to knock on. Bring it, January. I’m ready. Dementor, I’m coming for you.

I hope everyone else is keeping warm.

Open Letter to … Oh, Who Cares

To Whom It Does Not Apparently Concern,

I know that no public transportation system is perfect. Things happen. Trains break down or even get stuck on the tracks in the “narrows” between Draper and Lehi like the southbound train did this evening. I don’t even know how that kind of a thing happens, but I’d like to understand why it did. Because seriously, if trains were running every hour southbound all day without incident, I wonder what happened. Was there a snowdrift? Could the train’s momentum not push through a snowdrift? I guess I could just jump onto a news website and find out what happened, but it’s so much more fun right now to vent.

The conductor did say that “bus bridges” would pick us up from the Draper station and drop us off at the stops farther south. I was fine with waiting at the stop, because I texted the situation to my husband, and he offered to pick me up.

I was fine waiting in the warm train, away from the frigid air, until the conductor announced (and apologized) that the train would have to go back north. He said that everyone would have to get off the train and wait for the bus bridges. I even bundled up and felt prepared to wait in the cold. Somewhere between zero and ten degrees Fahrenheit. Reilly found the address to the station online, and he texted me that he would pick me up soon.

That text came at 5:44pm. We got kicked off the train at 5:58. Draper’s not that far away from Orem, and northbound rush hour traffic isn’t as busy as southbound, so I guessed Reilly would arrive in about 20-25 minutes, which meant 6:05-6:10.

The wait went beyond that range of expectation, which means that I got that much colder for every minute that I waited past 6:10. I was perfectly cozy in my many layers before then. And then somehow my toes froze inside my insulated boots, which means the insulation worked the wrong way.

So Reilly didn’t get to the Draper Frontrunner station until 6:27, which means it took him 43 minutes from Orem. The station looks to be quite in the middle of nowhere, and I wondered if people who’ve never been to the station could easily find it. The answer is easily no.

Thing is, dear Emersonian eyeball of public transportation: Just because you name a road “Frontrunner Boulevard” doesn’t mean the Frontrunner Station is automatically easy to find. Online, the station location is 12800 S 500 W, but the street names do not follow this grid address system near the station. That extra 17 minutes in the cold really isn’t anything to whine about, but if public transit in Utah is to be efficient and comprehensive:

  • Mark Frontrunner (and bus) stations with signs at the freeway exits
  • Use signs en route (from the freeway exit) to clearly direct public transport commuters to Frontrunner stations
  • Provide better online maps/links for Frontrunner station locations
  • Update the website immediately with alerts or route changes

It could have been worse, definitely, but no one should get lost looking for a Frontrunner station, especially if so many people rely on Frontrunner to get to and from work, and especially if another situation like today happens and people don’t want to keep their friends and lovers cryogenicizing out in Siberia because uncoordinated or lacking streets signs have caused the station to David Copperfield. Poof.

Things could be worse. I could be in Florida, stuck on Blanding Boulevard or the Buckman Bridge. I could be in Manhattan, in a Zipcar on the Westside Highway on the Friday before Labor Day.

But things are better now. My feet are warm again, and I can feel my toes.

So, I guess as long as the mercury doesn’t freeze, there will always appear to be a silver lining.

Thanks for letting me vent,

May

Winter’s Dawning

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I’m sorry if this photo looks like something Thomas Kinkade would do. It’s noisy here, but the scene was amazing and clear and took my breath away in person. This is what the park looked like this morning at 5:45, with the lamps peeking through the trees and the shine bouncing off the snow. I thought about writing up the obvious metaphors about today’s inauguration, but I won’t. I will say that I might be getting a bit more accustomed to the winter. That, ladies and gentlemen, is an historic moment. Times are a-changing.

Saturday Night Post. Huh?

The weather. People. It’s not the funnest time of year for me. I wonder if any blogs exist that solely focus on the weather. Even more specifically, only complain about the weather.

I didn’t go to seminary Tuesday morning.

I didn’t work out all week. I used the weather as an excuse.

I did exercise this morning. I went into work for a few hours, then I decided to release some steam.

My roommate, Marin, had a dance concert last night. I love to watch people dance. Modern dance to me is a lot like modern art. I look at shapes and movement and color and transition. It doesn’t have to “mean” anything, but it does, always, elicit some sort of reaction, and it’s usually strong.

Dancers’ bodies are so controlled, so strong, so graceful, but they can lumber about if that’s what the routine calls for. I love the definition in their arms. I love their strong feet and extended fingers and toes.

It was a great performance. Will I be a snob about art and culture if I end up living somewhere else in the country?

It’s cold in this apartment.

I can’t focus.

Specsulation

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These are new glasses. It had been about/at least three years since my last eye exam, and I wanted to make sure my eyeballs were still in good shape. Working for a corporation has made me very grateful for the excellent employee benefits. Huge discount. Plus, the lady whose job it is to help people pick out flattering frames also let me see how much I saved with my insurance. She’s nice. She helped me decide on these frames. I like them.

I’m squinting not because the prescription is bad, but because outside it feels like a special freezer made for the entire earth and an evil martian empire’s chryogenic experiment. It feels like 14 degrees. I hope when my body thaws I can walk around and do jumping jacks. Yes. The first thing I’ll probably do is jumping jacks.

They say hell is this hot place, the all-consuming fire that tortures the soul. I have to wonder if it could also be a cold place, where the absence of warmth prevails. Hell for me would be a very, very cold place. Tomorrow night the low will get down to 5. Tomorrow night will be hell.