Journal Entry September 20, ‘22

Hey Jeri! You said “Lightness of Being” was going to lead you. I don’t see much of that in your last entries. And humor? That’s nearly extinct. Today I direct you­­­––at least try–– to make me laugh. If we can’t laugh at ourselves… what? We’re depending upon someone else to tickle our funny bone?

What about Milan Kundera’s novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being? Lightness of Being as unbearable, not as joyful. Did he refer to the fleeting, ephemeral aspect of our lives, our experiences? That nothing lasts, good or bad? So maybe there’s a reason my desire for Lightness of Being is challenged by my tendency toward sadness. Or, perhaps Kundera ponders that taking things lightly is what’s unbearable, while serious contemplation brings joy. By not researching deeply what this author means by his book’s title, aren’t I being “light”? Still, a quick google into his possible meaning informs me I am not completely off about this.

Whatever––I’m looking for a way to introduce humor into my writing today. What if I take a serious event and try to find some lightness, some humor in it? Thus serious and lightness can be friends and compatible. I’ll try, but without much faith and I’m not sure about the grace part. At least I will bring in irony and shock and you never know what will happen next.

Here’s the deal: I’m preparing to query agents, an arduous process that takes Will and Power and Vim and Vigor to accomplish. I’m trying to decide––should I use the term Ms. or the new gender neutral term, Mx., which does not appeal to me. However, fully aware that every word and punctuation mark in a query letter has serious consequences, I better take a break from this unbearable task, and calm down.

I’ve found a meditative place near my New York City apartment where I often go to be in nature with other quiet folks. Here I find my inner calm as well as a place to space out for a while. My spot: Joan of Arc Park with the majestic statue of the 19 year old warrior that never ceases to make my spirit rise up with her raised sword as she moves forward in her struggle for justice. I head for my retreat.

I’d been sitting on the stone wall that encircles half of this stage-like-area––not minding that rain was falling lightly as I had an umbrella––telling myself that I did not have to use Mx., when wham bam ala Kassam, out of nowhere came an army of invisible creatures whose stinging swords were piercing my skin, not only on bare hands, arms, face, but on my shoulders and head.

The sharp stings were real though I hadn’t seen the attackers yet. Not until I stood crying out to no-one, as only two other meditators were there, at some distance away, absorbed in their own cares, did I feel the small, fragile body of one of my assailants. I saw a flash of yellow as a wasp’s body disappeared with my whack even as it’s comrades continued to go at me with their painful jabs. “Why me?” I cried out to Joan, who, of course, was too preoccupied to notice me.

Granted, there is nothing comical about this scene; but isn’t it ironical that I who have never gotten bitten by a single wasp or bee––wait a second––maybe once when I was about six and secretly planting a bee into my baby sitter’s sandal. I thought the insect was dead, but why do I remember a tiny prick on my finger? Anyway–– isn’t it ironical that at my age, and just when I’m in need of quiet concentration, I would be treated so badly?

I continued to swat at my stinging body as I walked back to my place, glad that my partner would be there to tend to my wounds. “Something unusual happened to me in the park, honey, when I was with Joan.” I spoke calmly because she was working at her computer by the window in deep concentration. When she looked up at me, I felt my shock deeply. “A swarm of yellow jackets attacked me. I didn’t see them before––they just appeared suddenly. It’s never happened to me.”

Janet was at her i-phone immediately googling how to handle this attack medically. The Mayo Clinic had specific directions. She sponged the bitten areas with warm soapy water, then applied ice packs, watching for an anaphylaxis reaction (a severe allergic reaction which would mean calling 911 and going to the emergency room). She gave me Ibuprofen, Benadryl, applied cortisone cream, all directed toward reducing pain, itching and swelling with the directions to go to my primary care doctor the next day and get a tetanus shot as I hadn’t had one in the last ten years.

Now here’s the really funny, well ironic, part. (I’m thinking of irony as a way of ironing out the wrinkles of too heavy.) You aren’t supposed to scratch at the infected areas. But of course, that’s exactly what you want to do. If you itch, you scratch. Janet has covered my hands and arms with the cortisone cream, instructing me to keep applying it all night. Well, all night I felt as if my hands and arms were burning red appendages. I tried to imagine them as gloved with red velvet while I focused on my breathing, a hopeless endeavor. Thankfully the Benadryl and Ibuprofen sent me into bouts of sleep, just when I thought of amputating my limbs for relief. My need to scratch was at times almost uncontrollable, but I lightly patted my hands and arms instead, trying to do the right thing, knowing that scratching made the burning and itching increase.

Okay. Maybe this isn’t the funniest story you’ve heard in a long time––at least I know what to do when an army of yellow jackets decide to attack again––and now, you do too.

PS. Jeri, write about Warriors for Justice next. Don’t worry about the humor. Or, be like Wanda Sykes and Hannah Gaddy. Use humor to attack injustice.    

One thought on “Journal Entry September 20, ‘22

  1. What a nice surprise to receive your journals. I can identify with so much of what you’re saying. I am fortunate to live in a place where I can use music for my own benefit and the rest of my community here. It is music that keeps us going…doing it and hearing it from others. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with me.

    Nancy Charles


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