My body hates fresh air

I have been brought low by either a cold or allergies.

I can’t really tell which it is. My head is full of motor oil, my throat is relentlessly sore, and my voice is a raspy croak an octave or so lower than what I’m used to hearing from myself. The fatigue is thick. I want nothing more than to lie in bed and listen to audiobooks that, ideally, include trolls and wizards and spaceships.(Note: This usually means Terry Pratchett, but I’ve listened to all the Discworld audiobooks I can get hold of so far.)

A couple home tests insist that this is not COVID, even though I seem to have the symptoms. It might be a cold I caught somewhere. But it’s most likely my seasonal allergies at their finest. Some air quality warnings I remember reading earlier this week, and the shroud of yellow dust that has been accumulating on my car all suggest this. It seems that the spruce and maples in my yard are, once again, trying to pollinate me. My body has responded with a full-out red-alert panic, the kind where Commander Riker feels the need to put his foot on something elevated and a red-shirt bystander is probably going to bite it.

When my body reacts this way, my brain always wants to step in and mediate. Look everybody, my cerebrum pleads in a voice it doesn’t realize is super patronizing, let’s all just calm down a minute. Trees: perhaps you could blow pollen in another direction? Your generosity is wasted on humans, who can grow neither cones nor flowers. Immune system: look, pollen is a nuisance, I agree, but it’s hardly a mortal threat. How about we focus resources on RSV and flu instead?

But nobody is listening. My brain is a junior diplomat, in a paisley bow tie it can’t quite pull off, trying to shout down a war that started long ago.

Closing the windows has helped. This breaks my heart a little. It’s the time of year when I really want the fresh air drifting through my house. I want the smell of flowers and rain to replace the stale funk of winter. But I can’t have that right now.

My phone pinged this morning to let me know that a hat I ordered last week for running is on its way. Sigh. Right now the thought of going out for a run exhausts me. I miss it: the sunshine, the wind, the smell of the forest, the hypnotic rhythm of flowing along a trail once I’ve warmed up. But all that feels as unreachable as a past life.

I’m being dramatic, I know. But grumbling about it helps sometimes, too.

While I’ve been laid up I’ve been listening to a series of audiobooks I stumbled across on Libby called The Lunar Chronicles, by Marissa Meyer.(Note: I especially love the cover illustrations on the new editions. I’m not sure who did them, but they’re really lovely portraits.)I’ve been really enjoying it. A YA series, it recasts fairy tales like Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood in a futuristic, cyberpunk-fantasy world that’s super fun to hang out in. There’s all the good stuff: mind control; lunar colonies; genetic engineering and cyborgs; repressive Orwellian politics; interplanetary warfare; sociopathic, megalomaniacal villains; and young people having Big Feelings about it all. I especially like the way the books twist their namesake fairy tales in new and unexpected ways, while still hitting the major beats of each story. It’s made me think a bit about how folk tales reflect emotional and mythic realities that are maybe timeless — or at least offer spaces we can endlessly unpack and mine for new relevance.

So: I’ll put my headphones back on, lie down, and get some rest. This too shall pass. When my new hat arrives, maybe I’ll feel ready for a run again.