The weather in Phoenix is beginning to cool. The 110 degree days are easing into the low-90s, and it’s a welcomed change. I’ve always loved autumn, despite the lack of changing trees and sweating profusely while trick-or-treating most years.
This year is no different. Yet, in some way I’ve yet to decipher, it does feel strange, as if there is an urgency, heavy secret, or invisible weight. I never had the patience to learn chess, but this feels like a stalemate. And I don’t know who, or what, I’m up against.
There is a crispness in the air and the farmer’s market has resumed for the fall season after its standard summer hiatus. My boyfriend was placed on the wait-list for a graduate school program that would begin in a short 85 days and, in a way, we are grateful. He was in the top 2% of applicants which in and of itself is an accomplishment. This was the only school starting so soon, so I’ll spend at least one more winter in Phoenix.
We left our home in March due to mold. Seven months have passed, and the HOA’s insurance is still feverishly searching for loopholes and evading our calls. In our time away, the local utility company ripped up the sprawling mesquite trees along the canal facing our front door. We may have a better view of the mountain, but my frenemies, the ground squirrels, are missing in action and my heart aches for the dastardly little rodents. Part of me hopes they simply went into hibernation early this year.
In March, my boyfriend ran for the HOA board to help repair years of mismanagement of a community that, ironically, we may never rejoin. Standard decisions have been met by livid residents who accuse the board members of “cooking the books” and collecting kickbacks. My boyfriend has had his car keyed and bludgeoned during the last several board meetings. Someone has dumped piles of dog feces at our door, and we’re not even there. This must be what Thomas Aquinas meant by, “no good deed goes unpunished.”
I usually love this time of year. I appreciate the cool weather and trips up north to see the vibrant leaves. I love the oversized sweaters, boots, and those artificially-scented cinnamon pine cones at the entrances of grocery stores. This year, however, feels hallow.
I’ve always been one to see the world through rose-colored glasses. I once believed that all people were inherently good, that every bad situation had a silver lining, and that there was beauty everywhere. But I can’t bring myself to feel that way anymore.
After I escaped the mold-ridden home and began treatment to excrete the biotoxins, I gradually regained physical endurance, cognitive ability, and my positive outlook. Yet, as my mind grows sharper, my heart grows heavier. Reflecting back on the last eight years, and especially the last two, it’s hard for me to reignite my belief that all people are good. From every possible angle, I see the heavy rain cloud but can’t seem to uncover its silver lining, aside from a brief glimmer here and there.
During my time of chronic illness, friends and acquaintances disappeared. I’m now largely recovered and desperately lonely. During the last two years, I’ve been called a liberal coward for avoiding social gathering and a selfish fascist for not being vaccinated. I was deemed a bad person by both political sides. I wasn’t allowed to be an immuno-comproised woman with a polyethylene glycol allergy whose partner had been hospitalized and almost died due to COVID-19 blood clots. I wasn’t allowed to be afraid, independent of the common narrative.
I’ve lost almost all faith in humanity over the last few years. It break my heart because, try as I might, I can’t undue all those hurtful, negative experiences. It’s no longer easy to see goodness and beauty in the world. I no longer trust people.
When I first became ill, but before I realized it myself, my best friend told me I had become a shell of the person I used to be and left. I didn’t understand what she meant until recently. The seasons are changing and I suppose I am realizing that I have, too.
While I know precisely what to expect of the weather this time of year, I don’t know who I am anymore. While I now know approximately what to expect from the people around me, I don’t know how it is I’m meant to respond. My boyfriend insists that I’m simply opening my eyes to the reality that was always before me. Willful ignorance is bliss, and I now understand that, too.
I knew exactly who I was eight years ago and I also knew who I intended to be by this age, but I have spent nearly a decade adrift at sea thinking about little more than surviving the day. In that time, I’ve known little more than crushing fatigue, the pain of repeated stabs to the back, and the undying affection of my boyfriend and parents.
What’s next if I’m not who I once was, and not sure who I’m meant to become? I recognize this as an opportunity to rediscover and redefine myself but, quite frankly, the thought terrifies me. I spent my early-twenties reading hundreds of personal development books, attending seminars, interacting at meetup groups, and constantly pushing outside my comfort zone. I’m feeling a bit too despondent to go through all that again. So, there’s my stalemate.
As the Earth spins, the seasons gradually ebb and flow with the perfect balance of effort and ease. And I envy her.