Discover more from Adventures In "Journalism" by Sari Botton
The Let-Down Effect
After a hard push.
The bad news: I am good and sick. My fever spiked this morning, even after two doses of antibiotic for the strep I was diagnosed with yesterday. I’m achy, I have no appetite, my throat is sore, and my right tonsil looks like something out of science fiction.
I’m so disappointed in this development. My whole life, I’ve always gotten sick a lot, mostly with upper respiratory infections—like three to four each year, although in 2016 or 2017, I got six eight times. Some of it is that I push myself too hard, and juggle too many gigs. Some of it is that I have a shitty immune system, as do many people in my immediate family. My late cousin Lenny’s theory: we are descended from inbred shtetl dwellers.
I often struggle to get employers and new doctors and acquaintances to believe me—to see me not as some hypochondriac, but as I person with an immune deficiency, who catches every fucking germ that goes around and then has a hard time recovering from it.
This time, even I’m a little bit in dispbelief. This is because during sixteen months of shelter-in-place, and masking whenever I left the house, I stayed remarkably well. I didn’t catch a single thing! It was unheard of. I was depressed and anxious and lonely as hell, but I wasn’t physically sick for over a year, for the first time ever. It deluded me into thinking my days of being a frequently ill person were over.
Then New York State loosened its masking rules. And I turned in my manuscript. And the combination of “Let-Down Effect” and being exposed to people’s germs when I visited family last weekend instantly did me in.
If there’s anything I can take away from this it’s that I need to create more balance in my life. Just the thought of juggling gigs as I have been for years tires me out. No, not more of that, my body says when I look at the to-do list I put together on Monday. I don’t really know how to find work-life balance at this time, when my field(s) are in free-fall, and I don’t have any other choice but to juggle lots of gigs simultaneously, taking every opportunity that comes my way.
This makes me regret so many of my career choices. I wish I’d committed to something deeply enough that I could now find some kind of job security. I was always pursuing too many career paths at once, keeping too many irons in the fire. It wasn’t all my fault; some shitty things happened along the way that led me to step off the career path that was most viable for me. But some of it was my impatience and fear of committing to the wrong thing.
There are moments now where I consider looking for a civil service job, and just doing a little writing on the side, when I can manage it. I’m not sure. Somehow or other, though, I need to create greater job and financial security for myself before I get too much older. Oy.
The good news: In my limited capacity to function right now, I’m finding it’s a good time to go through my closets to try and find things I’ve misplaced since I moved three years ago, and just stuck things in corners so that they were “away.” I’ve found a few so far.
The best find is my Gap “shmatta,” a dress I bought for maybe $9.99 on the clearance rack in like…1994? For going on twenty-five years, it’s basically been an old, worn rag that someone else would have tossed a long time ago. It has enormous holes in it, some of which are held together with safety pins.
But I just adore it. I love the way it falls on me. I love how soft the cotton has become. I love how summery it feels. In the spring of 2018, when we were moving from an apartment to our house, Brian tried to persuade me to part with it. He’s actually tried a few times. One time I placed it in the garbage, but then I fished it right back out.
As I established in an essay on The Billfold nearly a decade ago, I don’t easily part with clothes I like, even if they’re disintegrating, as this Gap dress surely is.
Finding it lifted my mood, which has been in the dumps all week. I was really looking forward to taking some time for myself after turning in my manuscript last Friday. Maybe next week, if I’m better, I’ll cancel some things and go sit by the water at Kingston Point Beach.