Creating a new normal from debris

This morning, while the husband had gone to the grocery store on the URC bike to get the few things we need to supplement the dinners here, I spent a half hour singing.

With Kate Wolf, on Green Eyes.

And with Gordon Lightfoot, Sundown.

The first I had never sung; the second, I remember singing so many times back when it was new, I was in college and grad school, and had joined the Columbia Record Club, and had several of his records.

It is easy to let things slip when under a pandemic

I didn’t realize how long it had been since I sang.

Apparently, going to church on Sundays, plus starting an hour-long, twice a month folk-singing group here at URC had been enough to keep my vocal chords in working order, even tired. Each time, after an hour, I had used my voice, and it seemed okay and I was happy with the quality of the sound, happy enough not to give it another thought.

Well, it has been months since I did that kind of regular singing (forgive me, Carol, singing teacher, for not singing every day).

And when I tried to sing about a week ago, it was as if someone had stolen my vocal chords and left someone else’s unused ones in their place.

It was scary. The singing voice was almost paralyzed, and nowhere near what I had come to depend on whenever I wanted it.

So there’s one more thing I have to maintain consciously

The list is getting very long.

Every day, before I can get to sleep, I have to put all my joints through my little stretching and range of motion exercises – or I twitch so badly sleep is impossible. Literally. For hours. Lying there in bed, twitching as if hit by a cattle prod every 5-10 seconds. And now I also have to get up and eat something so my stomach will let me go to sleep.

None of this body stuff used to be my responsibility (except weight: as I’ve said many times before, I do not understand why I should have anything conscious to do with maintaining the right body weight – I don’t have to remember to breathe or make my heart beat!).

I’ve given up complaining – it doesn’t help. When I realize I’m twitching because I didn’t do my exercises, I force myself to lie there – and do them.

When I realize what has woken me up at 3am is that my blood sugar is crashing, I get up, eat a half cup of cottage cheese, and then, while my brain’s blood is diverted to digestion, quickly lie down and get back to sleep.

The demands of the body are nonnegotiable



And a pain in the neck.

But I develop another heuristic, another shortcut for dealing with the new problem, pay attention for a few days or weeks, and put it on the list of ‘things that must be done.’

And I fear when someone else must take care of me, because they’re not going to have the ability to do the necessary actions the instant I need them, and I’m going to spend a lot of my time uncomfortable and not able to do a thing about it.

What a life!

One more consequence of the lovely gift we’ve all been given is to watch it go away.

How to deal?

ME/CFS? Aging? Luck of the Irish? Who knows.

I try to let it take as little of my time and life as possible.

Not complainin’, just sayin’.

And I do whatever I need to keep writing.

While watching the appalling stuff burbling out in our society that has long been suppressed. And trying not to cry.

What is on your list? What are you in charge of that you never had to worry about before?

Thanks to Stencil for the ability to create graphics that are more interesting than the words I throw into them.


19 thoughts on “Creating a new normal from debris

  1. joey

    I knew that bit about singing, as there was a time, a few months of mono, wherein I did not sing, and it actually took me twice as many months to get my range back. I actually sing daily for my own pleasure. At best it is uplifting and when it’s not, it’s comforting to have an outlet.

    Physical limitations make me appreciate what ain’t broken yet, and yet, I do get mad sometimes, so I can only imagine how you feel. Glad you keep writing, moving, living. Sing on!


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      And singing – even by myself – at least every couple of days.

      I just tackled Abide with me after seeing in in a TV series – lovely. Youtube is a huge help – you can find so many versions, with and without other singers. At any time of day or night.

      As long as I don’t wake the spouse or the neighbors.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jeanne

    I like the way you put it, that “One more consequence of the lovely gift we’ve all been given is to watch it go away.” I think a lot of us are waking up to the fact that we ought to plan ahead in case we have to watch it go away quicker than we might have before the pandemic.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      For some, like Mother (but we don’t know for sure), that fading is accompanied by a fading of the noticing. For others, like Daddy, it is present in its full awefulness (and I spell that deliberately).

      I wonder what’s in store, and how soon, and then get to work even in the middle of a pandemic and erupting civil unrest over long-maintained injustice.

      Our plan is to stay in quarantine as long as we can – because we’re in our early 70s, and our parents all lived to their 90s, and we might have a bunch of years left, and I intend to write as long as I can.

      But our plans are made, the kids know where stuff is, and my bags are always packed for when I’m called home.

      As you say, anyone who doesn’t do that is leaving a mess for others.


  3. Sharon

    Trying to stay fit as we age is the constant battle, but I feel very lucky that I have what I have and just appreciate what I can do. ME is a horrible disease and I do think unless people have known someone with the condition they do not appreciate just how debilitating it is.
    Wish I could sing but afraid I sound like a tortured cat, so I try to sing silently to myself, cannot inflict that on the world.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      The thoughtless solution to everything is ‘lose weight and exercise.’ I eat to stay alive – what my body will tolerate, WHEN it will tolerate it, and strictly by the quantities it will deal with.

      I move when I can – and always pay for it.

      I can’t deal with heat.

      So I try to avoid the ‘common wisdom’ but you can’t get away from it. Every single piece of advice tells you to lose weight – as if you could wave a wand. And it can’t be done quickly, but must have constant discipline to happen at all.

      I have days I can’t make myself brush my teeth. If my body says eat or I will wipe you out with low blood sugar, I eat.

      It is that constant battle, and you don’t get to choose.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. acflory

    For me, the trick is to remember /not/ to do certain things. A few years back I was diagnosed with osteo arthritis in the middle part of my back, and a bit in the lower back. I tried to go on as normal and suffered three, agonizing flareups that left me terrified the next one would be permanent. When I get these flareups, I can’t roll over in bed, and getting out of bed is agony. Once I’m upright it’s better, but any thoughtless action can cause immediate, sharp pain.

    I’ve worked out that repetitive bending and twisting motions trigger these flareups so now I try very hard not to do them. I can still do heave gardening like digging and lifting, but only if I suck in the gut, use my legs and do. not. twist!

    Staying relatively fit and healthy at 67 is a constant tradeoff between things I can do and those I can’t. The one good thing is that both you and I are young enough to hope for some medical breakthroughs before we turn into toothless, doddering fools. -hugs-

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I wouldn’t wish the coronavirus on our world.

      But if a lot of people end up with something like ME/CFS, those of us who have had it for decades may finally see research solve this mysterious illness – and make us better.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. acflory

        I agree, but first we have to take the profit motive out of research. Big Pharma will always be more interested in a new, ‘improved’ something that it can flog to the general public [whether it works or not], so governments have to step in and fund independent research again. They’ve done it in the past, and historically, most of the best discoveries have come from small, independent labs, not large corporate ones.
        I’m enough of an anarchist to hope that corporates will founder. Unfortunately, I don’t think they will. Even so, something good may come of all this.


        1. acflory

          Me too. Mostly I hope that we’ve learned that there’s more to life than consumerism. Okay, I don’t have a lot of hope for that, but the pandemic isn’t over yet so…who knows.


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