Damned If You Do

Withdrew from several magazines a poem that’s funny and angry and profane and has to do with rage over a physical exam, which I had submitted weeks ago. Why? Because, at this point in time, it seems really inappropriate to have out for consideration something that is even jokingly negative about healthcare provides.

The worst thing about a surreal state (not unlike the morning after the presidential election of 2016, mind you) is damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

You must not pretend things are normal; if you do, you are blind or delusional or insensitive.

You must not focus on anything other than the train wreck du jour; if you do, you are blind or delusional or insensitive.

You must not spend all the time on current events; if you do, it warps your psyche and sends even the mentally toughest among us into a spiral of doom.

This all sucks and it looks like we’re in it for the next few months. What a mess.


  1. My current mood exactly.

    I was a bit surprised by how much this whole situation impacted me. I’ve been distracted by the news and my productivity and concentration took a nosedive. I guess it is only human, but I am finding out that a large part of what makes ME human is that I normally know what I am doing and where I am going in view of a bigger picture and long term trajectory and ALL of that is out the window. And yes, any attempt to try and maintain a sense of ‘normal’ makes me feel like a horrible horrible person.

    I wish could just take a break and read books instead of making my way down a to do list that seems to have been created in a parallel universe.

    If I had been a REAL doctor I would make a difference right now. If I had been stocking groceries or producing toilet paper I would be making a difference. If I had been a real artist I would have been able to capture this (whatever this is) in words or music. I don’t have engineering skills or a 3D printer so I cannot build/make anything. I am not a psychologist so I don’t understand the human condition. I don’t work on viruses so I am not expert enough in this new area. I am just a science nerd in a currently trivial area of research who is now focussing on trying to figure out what this ‘new normal’ is going to look like for the few people in my lab – taking care not to put on any pressure but at the same time trying to encourage people to get stuff done from home so they don’t feel like they are stuck in this situation – and I don’t know what the heck I am doing or supposed to do.

    Over here in Europe, the only thing to compare it to is World War 2, where ever since I was a kid I have always wondered: what would I have done? Would I have joined the resistance? Now I know. I would have been a deer in the headlights of the shit-storm that would have hit me, and I would have gone into hiding and duck under the covers and I would have tried to build a cocoon, hoping it would just blow over – because that is my gut reaction today.

    I can think of plenty of excuses too – because here I am, still dealing with deadlines and papers to grade and thus working on a Saturday. But the bottom line is that I feel useless and paralyzed and I am not proud of myself.

  2. @Biobrains, I think the very (non)-act of not going out and not spreading a virus is pretty important. Even if you just “read books”. That is way good enough. Meeting deadlines and grading papers is bonus.

  3. Ugh, unfortunately, yes, you are correct about the seeming requirement to focus only, ever, always on the Coronavirus. I did volunteer to help with the testing effort, but I’m all sorts of worried about the implications of potentially working with the virus directly…

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