I chose to make a spontaneous trip to Geneva to surprise an old friend upon her retirement from the International Red Cross and then take a quick hop over to Podgorica in Montenegro to visit another long-time friend, who is beginning a six-month electoral mission with the European Centre for Electoral Support. What could be more adventurous, more exciting—until it wasn’t?
The pain started deep in my inner thigh, waking me from a sound sleep three nights before my scheduled departure from West Virginia. By morning, it had turned into an ache that moved down toward my knee and a slight burning sensation up near my groin. Damn arthritis, I thought. For several weeks before the advent of the pain, I had felt a bit off—flat and mildly depressed, which I attributed to the onslaught of relentless crazy coming from the Trump White House. This trip was just the boost I needed to pull myself out of that malaise.
I left home on a Wednesday evening. I spent the day Thursday in bed, sleeping off jet lag. Friday, my one sunny Swiss day, I roamed around Rolle, got sticker shock from a sixty-dollar lunch of perch and fries, and then, feeling a bit tired, caught a phenomenal Swiss train (got to love Swiss infrastructure and chocolate) to Lausanne, where I was hiding out until the retirement party on Saturday evening.
I felt good on Saturday; my knee ached, but the discomfort was manageable. I dressed in my new leatherette skinny jeggings, black leather boots, and a très chic designer blouse. I helped with the flower arrangements, tried out my minimalist French on the other guests, and waited to surprise Kathleen. It was a triumph! But by ten o’clock that night, my thigh burned and my knee ached again. The boots were replaced by sneakers, and my bra was unsnapped and thrown into my bag.
In the middle of the night I woke to use the necessary room, only to find that my entire thigh was covered in a mean red rash. Frig! Frig! Frig! Not arthritis, but shingles.
Doctors, meds, bed rest—no, not bed rest, but rather a plane ride to Podgorica! Finally, after a twelve-hour journey home to West Virginia, I came down with muscular tendonitis in my right shoulder and the index finger on my right hand became swollen. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
According to everything I’ve researched on the Web, any and all of my recent maladies are most likely stress-related. Apparently, at seventy-five, my shock absorbers have failed. I can no longer roll with the punches thrown out on an hourly basis by our current government. I cannot substitute good thoughts for worry about World War III, or daily needless deaths from gun violence, or women coming forward by the hundreds—the tip of the iceberg—to report sexual abuse and harassment by men we are supposed to trust. Nor can I set aside my concerns about the opioid epidemic, the plight of refugees, the betrayal of Dreamers, or just the daily insanity of the president’s tweets.
I’m taking my car in to have a bulge in my right front tire fixed. Do you think the mechanics can repair my shock-absorbers too?