Lately I’ve been having persistent, crushing feelings of being trapped. Sometimes these feelings are so intense that I’m nearly frantic with panic, like when I was in the final stages of labor, desperate to escape my body, to claw my way out of my skin, but couldn’t.
This trapped feeling stems from a number of factors, I think, but the biggest one is — drumroll, please — the heat. It turns my thoughts dark, it does. I think about India and the melting roads. I think about the ever-expanding desert and the shrinking rain forests and the oceans full of trash. My mother tells me about how air conditioning is just compounding the climate change problems — it’s a vicious cycle, she says: It gets hotter, we use more AC, it gets even hotter. Facebook doesn’t help. Everytime I scroll through, I see photos of wildfires and read reports of world-wide record-breaking temps and watch videos of children crying because it’s too hot. We’re being cooked alive, all of us. The suffering is just beginning.
Here, the heat dominates our lives, interrupts our sleep, sucks our energy, kills our appetites.
Exhibit One: My older son sleeps in the air conditioned trailer with the volunteers when he can. My husband’s spent the last two nights sleeping on the couch. I wake every couple hours all night long,
Exhibit Two: None of us are hungry anymore. My husband’s breakfasts have gotten progressively, worrisomely, smaller — he’s down to a small scoop of granola with some cheerios on top, and some mornings he can’t even finish that. I eat because the clock says I should, or for entertainment’s sake (it still tastes good), but rarely because I’m actually hungry.
And then, because I wasn’t hungry in the first place, I feel bloated, which, in turn, makes me feel even more uncomfortable. (Weirdly enough, no one’s losing weight, humph.)
Exhibit Three: Driving around town in an air conditioned van, I get bold. When I get back to the house I’ll teach myself to make Puerto Rican rice with sofrito and bacon, I think. Or, I’ll experiment with café colao, or, How about I bake a coffee cake to take over to the volunteer trailer! Or, Oo-ooh, I know! Pepperoni rolls!!! But then I pull into the garage, step out of the van, and the heat hits. The air is like blood — thick, sticky, hot — and suddenly all my great ideas are gone, nowhere to be found.
And then, as though all this wasn’t enough, I (stupidly) get sunburned.
Now the world really is on fire. My skin is actually burned. THE WORLD IS ENDING.
Actually, two nights in a row I dream about the end of the world. I wake up disturbed, hot, and in pain. I can’t kick the distinct feeling that the nightmare is real. We are doomed.
Now, to be clear, it’s not THAT hot. The pavement is still stuck to the roads. The fields only occasionally burst into flames. There are no children crying about the heat around here, only adults (clears throat).
To keep perspective, I remind myself that I’m not wrapped in a corset and bonnet, and I’m not selling bottled water on a street corner. Heck, I’m not even working on a roof like my husband and older kids. Truly, truly, in the big scheme of things, this is nothing.
Still, I am going slightly crazy, so it’s not completely nothing.
Heatwaves happen in Virginia, of course, and they give me weather-induced panic attacks there, too (because this is how I roll, apparently), but back home, the temperature fluctuations are bigger. Here, there is no real break. It’s just day after day after day of heat without end amen.
There are two other things that contribute to my feeling of being trapped. First, I’m just now figuring out, at the ripe, old age of 40-something, that city living is not my cup of tea.
Drowning in concrete, highways, and metal bars, removed from shade trees and open fields and grass under my bare feet and the garden (that I love to hate), I find myself slipping into the role of passive consumer. Since we’re not set up here for the at-home growing, producing, and making (that is, of course, boring and dull and tiresome in its own right, but boy, do I ever miss it something fierce right now), in order to have fun, we either need to go out (and spend money) or do something with people. Any solitary, at-home projects have to take place in the (hot) indoors which, in turn, only intensifies the feeling of being trapped. (Which is kind of a lose-lose situation for those of us who are active introverts, cue tiny violin.)
Second, for these four months, we are all — all six of us — focused on the same project, and even though it’s super special to get work together like this, after awhile the monofocus does grow a bit wearisome. The lack of diversity in our daily activities — because we have, for the most part, shelved our personal interests, projects, and goals — depletes our collective energy.
The kids are rolling with it.
The older two, especially, are quite ready to once again drive cars and muck out stalls and earn money and see friends and take classes, yet they continue to wake at six (cheerfully!) and put in day after day after day of hard labor in the blazing sun. Champs, they are.
I hesitated to write about this part of our work — the emotional and physical toll it’s taking on us — lest I come across as whiny (I am) or pathetic (perhaps, sigh). Maybe it’d be best for me to just suck it up and say nothing at all?
Thing is, talking about the hard stuff often strips it of its power. And wouldn’t you know, just writing this out, I feel better — a little lighter, a little freer, a little stronger, whoo-hoo!
Or maybe I just feel that way because today is overcast and a balmy 92 degrees?
Who knows. Either way, it’s an improvement. I’ll take it.
P.S. While writing this, my younger son came out of his room to proudly report that he’d figured out a way to have two fans blowing on his top bunk: there’s the one that he’s dangled by a rope in front of the window, and now he’s placed another one — a standing fan — on top of the bedside table.
The struggle is real, people. REAL.
This same time, years previous: the quotidian (8.1.16), kiss the moon, kiss the sun, babies and boobs, a birthday present, dam good blackberry pie.
You aren't crazy and you aren't losing your mind it just feels that way. Trust me on this . After living in one of the fire zones in California with excessive heat 105 plus with an inversion layer that is like wearing a blanket plus dealing with the stress of my community living under siege from the Carr fire and add to it for the last two weeks having no cooler as our off grid system is in need of a make over you only think you are.
I do know this to be true it is getting hotter. I don't know why but I do know I can feel more of a burn when the summer sun hits my skin and I have noticed this for the last several years. I think the anxiety is caused by not knowing exactly what is the cause and not knowing how to fix it.
Plus external stress from the situations around us that we can't control and bingo their goes our emotional stability and potentially brains with any logical thought.
I do know that we will get through what we are all in and find a way to make it better. It may not be today or tomorrow or next year but it will come. I cannot think of or accept another alternative.
Our missionary kids in Germany are having the hottest summer in 47 years in Europe in 4th floor apartment w/o A/C. And they live downtown so no relief. Daughter is feeling trapped, too.
On our recent trip to BC and the west coast I finally experienced low-humidity with summertime temperatures. It definitely makes a 90 degree day easier to deal with than the high humidity we are getting here at home in PA. I’m working inside and when I am doing something strenuous I can be soaking wet in moments. Working outside at least often has air movement. I don’t envy you though, I remember building houses in the summer when I was younger.
To get a real break from the heat without ac, step into the shower with your clothes on and get wet, then park yourself in front of a fan. It's temporary but super cooling. In Chad I watched our friends wet their t-shirts after a hot day and stand in the wind. I did a little experiment in the bakery…..take a thermometer and register the temp I'm front of the fan, then dip it in water and check. It drops 10 degrees instantly and you can actually feel chilly. Kind of re-sets a person.
Whew. I feel panicky just reading about the heat. I don't know how you can stand it. In my opinion, if I'm going to heat my house in the winter, I'm going to cool it in the summer. Same thing in my book. I'd get a few window units if I were you. 😉
I love summer, but that is summer in Upstate NY, which is very comfortable, even though I do not have air conditioning. And living in a city….sounds terrible!!!! The good things about summer are home-grown tomatoes and corn, barn swallows and other song birds flying around, lightning bugs, and making good hay. So you and your family are doing great things down there, which I greatly admire, but I will breathe a sign of relief when you are all safely home!
Guess what? I am getting a new Border Collie puppy, and he is coming from Virginia!!
A PUPPY!!!! I just asked my younger daughter if she'd like to get a dog when we go home. She's not sure, though — she's still so sad over losing Alice….
I hope she decides she wants a pup!
I do think it is the double whammy of intense humidity plus city living. Humidity in rural Virginia is intense (and OMG this year is really bad), but somehow you can sort of sink into it when you're surrounded by trees and grass. I mean, it's still not pleasant, but you don't get that choking feeling the way you might in a city, surrounded by concrete.
Seriously, though, I am usually really stubborn about turning on the air conditioner; but we have run it more this summer than ever before. Humid doesn't begin to describe what we've been experiencing here. I wonder how you would do in dry desert heat? I find it not as soul-sapping.
I, too, wonder about dry heat. I don't think I've ever really experienced it, but I just can't quite believe it'd be as bad as humid heat….
Humidity makes it worse I agree. But 117 is HOT dry or not. You just don't leave a layer of skin on everything you touch.
I live in Idaho and can say that dry heat is WAY better! So, so ,so thankful to not have humidity. And thankful for your blog!
Physically, I could not function in that continual heat. My husband couldn't handle it emotionally because that's how the heat gets to him. His head gets all crazy and he says he can't think. Maybe a good idea we live in northern Minnie-soda, eh?
P.S. Really admire what you and your whole family are doing. What a great learning experience in so many ways. Kudos to you all!