Hollie Grimaldi Flores: One thing too many
Not to pat myself too soundly on the back, but I thought I was managing the whole “world is coming to an end” saga relatively well. I found ways to survive the shutdown last March and the subsequent fall out – from strained relationships with friends and relations — to my all but nonexistent social life — to the general rising discourse within the community I love so dearly — to all but 24/7 companionship with my spouse — with a relative sense of confidence that all would be well.
Just at it all started to feel like it was too much for even the most mentally stable among us to endure, I focused on the light at the end of the tunnel coming in the form of a vaccine. While not my favorite thing to do, it seemed a small inconvenience in the face of an international health crisis. By late spring, I was feeling surprisingly good, thinking of secondary uses for all the masks I had collected, making plans to organize a few large gatherings, and dreaming of visits to family and friends across the country. Then things, once again, began to take an ugly turn.
I had all but turned off the mainstream media stations out of sheer fatigue from the hype. I took a deep breath and moved forward. I muscled up some joy in the little things, planted flowers, took a trip to visit a dear friend, focused on the reopening of the planet just a bit further down the road.
Then came the realization that getting the vaccine was a point of contention for a far too vast number of people. I thought it a bit annoying and dare I say, ignorant, but still, I was even OK with that, thinking if they wanted to put themselves at risk, so be it. But it only got worse. Hospitals began filling up. My world was closing back down.
The underlying stress my body had been holding onto was growing. That bright light at the end of the tunnel suddenly took a left turn and the idea of tossing masks, attending festivals, even enjoying an evening at the theater, began to dim. My rose-colored glasses seemed to be slipping off the bridge of my nose a bit, but still, I soldiered onward.
I counted my blessings. My family remained in good shape. A grandchild was born. This thing was bound to get under control and the fun and frivolity of a life well lived was surely on the horizon.
Then came the fires. Just over a week ago, for the first time, I packed up my treasures in the off chance the flames raging a few miles away escaped the efforts of the firefighters. I sat (well, paced) at the ready, at the ready is a better description and felt more stress building throughout my system.
The next day, I drove through smoke-filled skies to pick up some meals. I parked, and dropped the only a quarter I could find, in the meter. A half hour later I came back to find a ticket on my windshield. Surely there had been a mistake! I could not have been gone more than 30 minutes, but the meter was empty. I noted the time and saw it was the same as that on the ticket. Finding that odd, I looked around for the person doling out these expensive pieces of paper and saw him meandering on the neighboring block. Approaching him with evidence that my ticket must have been a mistake he replied, “It doesn’t matter what the time on the citation reads, your meter was empty,” and he moved on to the next victim.
In a surreal state of calm, I walked back to my vehicle, unlocked the door, put my keys in the ignition and…I. Just. Lost. It. I don’t know why, but that one little thing on top of all the other little and not so little things, proved to be one thing too many. All the fear, and sadness and uncertainty; all the loss and perceived loss; all the disappointment and loss for myself and others over the last 17 months just poured out of me. Not any one single thing. Not the loss of home or life. Not the loss of friendships or favored establishments. Not the loss of my life as I had come to know it.
It was all those things and more. I think of myself as a fairly stable individual, but in that moment, holding onto what was effectively a $33 piece of paper, it became just one thing too many. The straw that finally broke me. There we were, a community in utter distress and this municipality decided to hand out parking tickets. It was enough.
My poor husband got the brunt of it after I returned home and began to vent, trying to find solace and comfort from my life companion. “You know, no one said the end of the world would be pleasant,” he said as we discussed plagues, fires, floods, and the biblical similarities. I was, I can admit to you now, just a little bit out of my mind.
It took a while, but I found my way back to my version of stable. I did it by focusing on the good and the positive. I took a little personal inventory of all that I have and decided to focus on gratitude. In the grand scheme of things and in the darkest of days, I don’t have to look far to see how fortunate I am.
It’s easy to get caught in the vortex of negativity if we let ourselves. The work right now is rise above it. Do our best. Dole out grace. Give others the benefit of doubt. Look forward. Be part of the solution. Know there are brighter days ahead. And I have buckled up, as it is, indeed, a bumpy ride.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire, as well as a podcaster at HollieGrams. You can hear her episodes at https://www.buzzsprout.com/1332253. She can be reached at email@example.com
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