Issue #21: Vaccine Diaries
Despite being in a foreign land, we have been fortunate to be given the fair opportunity to register to get our Covid vaccinations. Our first shots had mild effects, a mere sore shoulder for a day or so. Our second shots, however, which we received a few days ago delivered a full package of symptoms, and more.
Being sick for a few days, we felt called to dedicate this issue to our experiences and reflections that emerged during this period. How was it for us to have an involuntary day of rest? Where did we go when we could barely move our bodies?
Here’s what we have for you.
Essay // Visions of a Present Future // by Daryl
Essay // Falling // by Rosslyn
Food for thought // Stretching your observation
May you be safe and well.
Rosslyn & Daryl
We received a love note from one of our readers and we wanted to share it with you.
Thank you, Jeff, for your generous feedback and donation. We are so happy you enjoyed our work.
“From the beginning, I have been a big fan of the Bridge Press. The format is unique and presents multiple perspectives (Daryl’s academic and Rosslyn’s introspective) of the same theme to contemplate.
They choose topics that you don’t normally see, so I’m always eager to receive the next issue and see what they’ve come up with.
Content-wise, these newsletters really make me think. I have to read them slowly and carefully. They are intellectually stimulating. Rosslyn’s poetry and creative writing have broadened my mindset, tastes, and commitment to experience beauty in other venues. Daryl makes me run to the dictionary to learn new words (at least three per issue). Each newsletter provides at least a couple takeaways – things to more deeply consider, practice, etc.
Rosslyn’s openness to tell her story is incredibly refreshing. Some of it is seen through the newsletter essays and poems, but it’s even more vivid and moving on her website and in her book. The serious reader can’t help but look at their own situation through a more honest and introspective lens after those readings.
Thank you both for this treasure. I’m grateful to receive it. Keep sending.”
—Jeff Parks, Performance Breakthrough Inc.
ESSAY // by Daryl
Visions of a Present Future
I’m writing this piece in my bathrobe with a blanket over my legs as I recover from the residual effects of the Covid vaccine Rosslyn and I received three days ago. We spent most of Thursday inundated by the full litany of symptoms—fever, muscle aches, nausea, headaches, fatigue—and it’s not until today that we felt well enough to venture out of our home. But what the vaccine aroused in me were the dreadful feelings of fear and anxiety. No, not fears concerning the purported side effects of the vaccine. Fears about the eventual moment when I’ll have to watch helplessly as my loved ones fight a losing battle against the ravages of time.
As my symptoms were a little milder than Rosslyn’s, I had the opportunity to be her caretaker. This meant I was there to witness the furrowed brows and winces that filled the interstices between fitful moments of rest. And it dawned on me that, in the foreseeable future, this is something I’ll have to undergo once more; not just for Rosslyn but also for my parents and aunt. It was in this moment that I experienced that sickening dread insinuating itself into my consciousness once more.
Once more because this dread would be a similar repeat of the time when my grandmother was hospitalized during her final days. Thinking back, those days replay themselves in a hazy mish-mash of events, partially due to the fatigue from shuttling to and fro the hospital, and partially due to being shielded from having to witness how my grandmother struggled with her condition since my mum and aunt were her primary caretakers.
But this time it’s different with the sinking realization that I am going to be responsible for my wife and my parents in the days to come. What did this realization feel like? As I’ve mentioned, there’s that creeping dread I can’t shake off. The gravity of my responsibility weighed heavily on me and my shoulders slumped forth, adding more pressure to the dull, vaccine-induced ache already pulsing at the base of my spine. My breaths became shallower as my heart beat faster, keeping pace with my racing mind as it frantically searched for solutions in an attempt to ease the perceived suffering. Reality partially melded with my imagination: my desire to ease Rosslyn’s suffering in the present mirrored the desire of my future self to ease the potential suffering of loved ones in the distant future.
A sudden rustling under the sheets brought me back to the present moment. The initial look of discomfort on Rosslyn’s face was now replaced with lighter breathing, her forehead smooth and her shoulders looser. I feel her forehead. It seems like her fever is subsiding. I lean back a little, breathing a little easier, and took the moment to appreciate this opportunity I’m gifted to care for her. Maybe this is what I should focus on, the opportunity to care for those I love. In all probability, I will not be able to ease the suffering caused by their waning years. But I can ease their emotional suffering by staying present to and with them when the time comes. I realize part of the art of easing another’s suffering comes with being able to hold their suffering with tenderness and kindness. I’m not adept at it right now but I hope to be when the time comes. Oddly, when I was able to see this, my heart was galvanized. It’s as if I now have confidence for the future when, moments ago, it was foggy from a dark haze that descended. What’s mine to do now is to cultivate my capacity to hold.
Pulling the comforter more snugly around Rosslyn, I pray.
ESSAY // by Rosslyn
Darkness awoke to dimness as the rising sun strayed in through the window slits. I laid in bed, weak in my limp body, now sore and tender from the inflammation caused by white blood cells engaging in a valiant battle against the simulated intrusion introduced by the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine I had yesterday. Return me to my slumber. I closed my eyes and tossed to find a comfortable position, intimately in touch with the fatigue and aches of my physical self especially in my lower back, buttocks, and left shoulder where the needle punctured. I am indeed made of flesh and blood.
The aftermath of the second shot proves to be a pretty amazing experience, as I regain a renewed sense of my abilities which pose a challenge for me today. My aches showed me which muscles support me in sitting and standing upright; my laboured breathing reminded me, again, how life-giving a breath is, and how much I still take it for granted; the relentless squeezing in my head and my tiredness revealed how much I depended on my brain to function. And now, I cannot even withstand a gentle spring breeze without shivering. So I see, my body was strong before this.
I spent almost my entire day in bed, waking up only for the necessary functions of food, water, and waste. This vaccine package is a license to rest. Drifting in and out of my drowsiness, fragments of my childhood memories of falling sick surfaced. As a child, I used to dread falling sick. Despite having responsible parents who took care of me, I was chided for not having taken care of myself. It was as if I had a choice, and I had chosen to fall sick just to add to their burden. Before I was old enough to care for my own needs, whenever I felt unwell, one of them had to take leave from work to bring me to the doctor and nurse me. Coupled with perhaps the cost of the doctor’s consultation and the helplessness in making a sick child feel better, their displeasure was apparent. Was their displeasure with me? I do not know. I used to be certain it was since I received the scolding. Now, I am not sure.
Since beginning my inner work, I have revisited memories like this to recover the truths of my experiences. For some, I have been able to slow down the frames and broaden my view to see my parents’ love and pain. They were unable to express their love for me in the way I had hoped for because they too did not receive affection. My grandparents showed them tough love. We cannot give what we do not have. If my parents were not held in a kind, compassionate and holding way, there is no way they could hold me like this until they experienced and learned it. It is true they cared for me, and it is also true their care—expressed through harsh words and energy—landed negatively on the young impressionable me .
Giving my little one (and the frozen feelings) a voice
To process my own healing, I ask myself, what were the true feelings of my little one, then, if I allow myself to express them now?
Scared, frozen, I dared not breathe much nor cry even when my body was in much discomfort. I did develop the habit of whimpering alone in bed though. After falling sick a few times, I grew terrified of being scolded, of losing their love, of being abandoned. Over time, I internalised the critical voices of my parents, and even as an adult who fell sick, I used the same words back on myself, “Why are you so weak and troublesome?” I had wished for a tender-loving presence to scoop me into their arms, empathise with how uncomfortable I must be feeling, and assure me I will be fine. Most of all, I wanted so badly to be assured I am still loved even when I am ill and unable.
From fear and self-blame, to self-directed anger, and now to sadness, I watch myself transform my relationship with falling sick. I no longer experience the fear and anger, but I still carry some sadness regarding my perceived loss of love and for my little one who had to take on all these in her small sick body. I cannot rewrite history but I can be here for myself, and appreciate those who are here for me.
Today, I am sick and unable, and I am also loved by me and my husband who suffers similar symptoms yet still cooks for me. I allow myself to rest in his tender care, and sink into this bed. I allow myself to reschedule my appointments with my teacher, and friend.
Today, I allow myself to fall into the arms of my world, releasing my sadness along with it.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Stretching your observation
When we are present with ourselves, we are able to perceive more of our experiences. Even in unpleasant or uncomfortable situations, we can still approach them with wonderment and curiosity. In our case with the side effects of the Covid vaccine, it gave us an opportunity to pause from our daily busyness and mental clutter, and be with what arose in us. In our sickness, we got in touch with our humanness again.
Stay a little longer with yourself in your experience, and observe yourself in it. See if you can discover something new in it.
Are you MIND-CENTRED?
If you are someone who tends to pay attention to your thoughts, try giving your attention to your body or your heart: what’s the emotion or sensation arising?
Are you HEART-CENTRED?
If you are someone who feels a lot, try giving your attention to your body, and/or the thoughts accompanying it.
Are you BODY-CENTRED?
If you are someone who senses changes in your body acutely (e.g. temperature changes, tensions), try giving your attention to your heart or your mind.
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And if you have a topic you’ll like us to explore, do drop us a note. Thank you! 😘