Pleased Protoplasm

I didn’t plan to become a blob and I certainly didn’t imagine I would enjoy the experience. Like much of my life, it happened accidentally. 

I had literally sailed off the grid into remote Alaska and Canada to relish hiking and kayaking. I spotted whales, grizzlies, Orcas and eagles daily, happily absorbing more wilderness than I’d been able to do in the past several years of Covid restrictions. 

On the seventh day of the trip on a small ship with thirty-nine passengers, I assumed I had a bad reaction to a new sea-sickness medicine, a slightly itchy throat and low energy. The next day, after a long walk to chase the meds out of my system, so I thought, I felt worse with lower energy, a decidedly scratchy throat and headache. I admitted to myself I’d come down with a cold. A Covid test from the ship’s doctor was negative, as I knew it would be. In the midst of all this fresh air, how could a Covid germ survive? I settled down to a day of rest, which, being out of cell phone and internet range, meant reading and writing. Keeping the headache away with Tylenol, I thoroughly enjoyed a quiet time, knowing I’d feel better the next day.

However, when morning came, the world felt very different. I simply wanted to lie still on my cabin bunk. I didn’t think or plan or analyze, all my favorite normal mental activities. I experienced perfect contentment being stationary. I quelled the increasing headache with Tylenol, lay back and let myself be a piece of protoplasm. I felt good and complete, a happy blob. Seven hours passed in this peaceful and idyllic, yet wide-awake, state. Later, it occurred to me that Buddhist monks might call this experience one of “emptiness” or “void”, free of all ego and attachment to phenomena. At the time, I loved it and never wanted it to end.

By one in the afternoon, I finally realized that, lovely as it was, being a drifting piece of joy constituted a highly abnormal situation. Yesterday, I’d spent my time mentally stimulated, reading and writing. A day later, I lacked the mental or physical desire, and perhaps ability, to do either. However, I felt so good, I hadn’t considered a negative interpretation to my new reality. Now I remembered another symptom people commonly mentioned with Covid: exhaustion. That’s when I knew I needed another Covid test. This one proved I had the disease.

Deep inside, I recognized the truth of my diagnosis. Without Tylenol, I had a killer headache and a throat on fire. I accepted my Covid as real and appreciatively took the anti-viral medicines offered. By now, many of my friends have had Covid, so I didn’t feel alone. I joined a larger community in our common vulnerabilities. The ship’s rules kept me in a five-day quarantine, but the crew spoiled me with gourmet meals, daily health care, stimulating scientific lectures piped into my room, the world’s most beautiful scenery floating by my large window, walks outside when the rest of the passengers had disembarked at a port and the crew’s sincere concern and desire to give me anything I needed. I couldn’t remember a time when I’ve been so spoiled.

Luckily, I healed within the usual couple of  weeks or so once I got home, like many of the people who’ve had the latest iteration of Covid. I felt extremely grateful to have avoided the disease in its earlier, more lethal forms.

However, I remembered those unusually serene seven hours I’d spent before the positive Covid test.  As pleasant as it was, in reality, my inactivity in a tranquil world may have provided more time for the virus to expand. Maybe the sneaky bug excreted knock-out chemicals into my system, rendering me unwilling to fight back. If so, my clever enemy gained seven hours’ advantage in its siege on my system.

On the other hand, I’d never heard anyone refer to a “Covid bliss” stage of the virus, so perhaps those hours were unique to me, a gift of calm abiding from the great unknown. I normally spend time each day in meditation, so perhaps my mind and body intuitively knew to take advantage of my hours in quarantine. Whatever its source, I treasure the memory of seven hours of pure peace, fully conscious and satisfied to enjoy simple existence.

Cate Burns is the author of Libido Tsunami: Awash with the Droll in Life, in which she unearths the ludicrous in the emotional live traps surrounding us — in families, friends and disastrous romances. Get it on Amazon today.