The Long Pandemic Winter

I admit the winter storm in Texas was almost too much for me even though we didn’t lose power for a significant amount of time and the plumbing problems we had after the freezing weather left were only the ones we had before the storm began. But this has been a slow-building punishment that effectively grinds the soul to grainy powder.

I admit that I have been thinking about death too much for an entire year. Flu season has never come and gone before without me getting the flu at least once. I have had some three-infection flu seasons in the past. Of course, those were all during my time as a working school teacher. Still, I fully expected to catch COVID and die during this pandemic. And I still haven’t been vaccinated and still can’t say I have survived it yet. But it came to our house when my son got sick with it from work. And I got by without getting infected.

I have not been able to do any substitute teaching or Uber driving, so there has been no extra money coming in because of the pandemic. And expenses have, of course, only increased. I still don’t know how much I will have to pay for the electric bill caused by the winter storm. I was smart enough to lock in the rate with a contract back in December, so I shouldn’t get any $16,000 electric bill. But it easily could cost me more than $500 because the space heaters we were using in most of the house were running and gobbling energy 100% of the time during the entire week. And taxes have been punishing me since the 2017 tax bill since, while most of you got $40 or so back from the government, pensioners are paying an increased amount that is going up every year and the Texas Teacher Retirement System tells me they can’t decipher the tax tables to adjust the withholding amount every year. So, I guessed wrong again this year and may end up paying more than $1000 for that.

So, this winter, this severe-depression season, is weighing on my soul heavily. The four of us in the house are living separate lives in our prison-cell rooms. We are not being very nice to each other. It has grown rather dark in our family where religious differences and money-handling differences were a growing problem even before the tidal waves of disease washed over our world. I feel like my family is disintegrating. As is my mental health.

The only thing I seem to have going for me now are the multitude of coping skills I learned over the last decade as the depression monsters set up house-keeping in our collective attic. I will celebrate where I can. I will draw pictures when arthritis lets me. And I will stop feeling angry or guilty when others take out their frustrations on me.

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