Iris at her desk after a Zoom video call, photo credit Iris Gonzalez

‘Sea Legs’ During a Pandemic

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Week 5 of Stay at Home in San Antonio, Texas

I woke up today unsure what day it was. Saturday? A work day? If so, which one?

Only after I walked around my house a bit did I remember it’s Friday.

My young teen hit the wall this week, too. My “terrible, horrible” day this week was Monday. Listless, exhausted, headachy, I was fuzzy-headed all day until I went to bed. I was utterly useless.

My boy’s bad day was Wednesday.

“Mom, I just can’t do it anymore, I can’t sit in front of that computer and work on school anymore,” he told me.

“Let’s go for a ride then, come on!” I said as I pushed him into the car.

Even though neither one of us wanted donuts, we drove a short distance to Krispy Kreme and ordered donuts through their drive-up window.

Afterward, he volunteered to walk in our neighborhood and pick up our mail. (He never volunteers. Never.)

Our “caveman” brains are used to hunting for new food sources, spotting new animals, connecting to the people in our tribe, moving to new territory, searching for new dangers.

That primal part of our minds is starved, I tell you. STARVED.

While I get that we’re all Zooming on video calls now, it’s just not the same. It’s like eating cotton candy when what I really want is chocolate ice cream with chocolate chips in it.

(This is me at my desk after a video call.)

When I was a defense analyst, one of my adventures was to live onboard an all-male U.S. Coast Guard ship for several weeks to observe a series of naval exercises in South America.

One of the crew told me he hated deployments that had many port calls which baffled me.

“You get into a routine and get your sea legs from the endless days at sea. But when you go into port for a few days, all that’s thrown off. Then, it only makes it harder to readjust to being at sea again. I prefer long stretches. At least when it’s over, you’re done and can go back to your life on land.”

I suffered terrible seasickness and had to take pills every day to endure it. Still, I didn’t understand what he meant until we pulled into Panama City, Panama for a couple of days.

At the time, I lived in Panama which was where the US Southern Command headquarters was located (and where I worked). I thought to myself, “Sweet! I get to switch out stuff from my seabag of clothes for the rest of the deployment and take a couple of real showers.”

But as I sat at my desk at work, it hit me hard.

I felt dizzy. It felt like the ground was shifting beneath me, even though I wasn’t moving. When I tried walking to the bathroom, I almost fell over.

My sea legs weren’t working well on land! By the time I reboarded the ship 48 hours later I had adjusted to walking on terra firma.

And then, I endured a wretched new bout of seasickness all over again.

I share this cautionary tale about “losing your sea legs” for when pandemic restrictions are lifted. As tempting as it might be to binge on crowds, it might be best to take it easy at first

A mental health expert said on a webinar last week to reintroduce social mingling slowly. Start by inviting a couple over for dinner at your house, for example.

Given we might have to tighten social distancing conditions if new COVID-19 cases flare up, go easy partying on your “port visits.”

We’re in for a long deployment in a sea of uncertainty.

Featured image is of the author at her desk after a Zoom video call, photo credit: Iris Gonzalez.

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