I have been a huge Stephen King fan since I first read ‘Salem’s Lot in 1974. The Stand came out in 1978; think on that 42 years ago, and I was forever enthralled. It remains one of, if not, my favorite books ever; so much so that I made it a point to acquire a first edition of the 1990 version where, now a very successful (read; wealthy and powerful) author, Mr. King was allowed to issue an updated version restoring cuts the publisher had demanded 12 years earlier when he was just getting started. I’ve reread it multiple times, listened to the entire 36 cassette audio book on a trip to and from DC to attend a conference, and have watched multiple times, the decent mini series they made in 1994.
I began with this because never did I expect to be living inside that well crafted work of what I always expected to be fiction. Granted it’s not the work of a biological experiment gone awry, though we are currently being led around by our very own version of Randall Flagg, though in orange tones, mostly sedentary, instead of being “The Walking Dude.” What is similar however, is the chaos, the isolation, and the wondering how it will all play out. The discomfort and disruption to our formerly comfortable routines and again, it’s not as drastic as Mr. King wrote. Our utilities are still fine. Even the supply chain seems to be in really good shape. However, the isolation in the sense of social separation is staggeringly difficult to deal with.
I am 67 at this writing, by age, in one of the “high risk” categories. However, there are no underlying health issues. Prior to my sleeve surgery in 2015, I had massive sleep apnea, hypertension, and simply breathing normally going up a single flight of stairs was a chore. If I had not taken the steps I took, and still had those issues, I would truly be in the higher risk category and would be even more concerned than I am. Currently I run and/or walk the dog daily weather permitting, and that alone alleviates some of the cabin fever I am feeling. It also feels good to be active and, while I have zero medical training, am pretty convinced that it helps keep my immune system functioning at as high a level as is possible. Teaching, as I continue to do, is, for me, a very, very social occupation. The heartbeat of a good classroom is based upon the daily social interactions and exchanges. “Distance learning,” while a necessary and ever evolving protocol simply does not replace the daily back and forth with kids and colleagues. While this represents a daily challenge, what I am finding is that I continue to listen to my body. I’ve managed to not return to the stress eating that I used for comfort for decades. I’m maintaining the routine I’ve been very successful with these past almost 5 years. I eat when I’m hungry, making sure to get enough hydration and protein in first. Yes, we very much look forward to our 5 pm happy hour, but that is part of our normal routine and it has not been a crutch then or now.
This is a strange time and the isolation from all but my lovely wife is tough on both of us. But, as almost 1200 pages later in The Stand, we too shall come out on the other side, and I, for one, am looking forward to the first time we can again gather as a group of friends and clink glasses and give some hugs other than over a Zoom meeting or a FaceTime call.
Love will abide, take things in stride… sung by Linda Ronstadt written by Gary White 50 years ago…was true, still true.
Kevin Fitzpatrick, Dr. Neil Floch’s gastric sleeve patient with over 180 lb. weight loss