27 January 2022

I continue to test negative

Covid continues to knock on the door of the Pihlajas of Harborne. Every day since last year when it came the first time, it seems like you can deny it and deny it until finally, it's back again. The kids' school send letters almost every day — another kid has it, the kid your kid sits next to. It goes on and on. Now all of us have had it once, and my number feels like it is up again, like we've batted through the order and are back to the top. Unlike the days of Covid Classic, back when having Covid meant something, back when you didn't really know you had it until you had a proper test that you couldn't actually book, now we have daily testing that you trust. I say that you trust it, and you do, but sometimes you shouldn't trust these tests. They can be wrong, they are wrong sometimes. This is still better than reports I hear from the States where people have to buy them: here you just get them, someone just gives them to you on the street, or at Asda, or the security lodge at the University. I have tested negative today, but I know I won't be negative much longer. It's inevitable. 

You can see it this way: your body is bound to betray you at some point. On Saturday morning, I got up and did the thing I have been dreading for a year, the thing I'd put off because I couldn't face it even though I knew what sort of truth was waiting for me. I pulled out the scale, set it on the tile, and stepped on, like a sinner returning to confession. Forgive me, it's been four hundred and twenty-five days since I last confronted you, my body weight. If you're an expert dieter, you know already how much you weigh before you weigh yourself. You know what the number is and then you inflate it a bit, so you will feel better about the actual number, the number that is the true number. 

On Saturday the number was eighty-three-point-six, two-point-four less than what I had prepared myself for and I felt two-point-four points less like a failure than I might have otherwise felt. The trick had worked, thankfully, in part because over the last three weeks I had been starting to confront the problem of thinking constantly, obsessively about what I was eating or not eating. Of course, that's always been the problem, I've known this for many years, but hearing the right thing at the wrong time is as useful as not hearing anything. You don't need to try harder, the TikTok advice-givers I've watched for a year will say, you need to be intuitive. You need to trust your body. This is right, of course, but it's like telling someone who obsesses constantly to stop obsessing. It only leads to more obsession. I have obsessive thinking about my own obsession. My body just wants to eat white bread. That's what it wants. If I intuitively eat white bread, I will eat so much white bread. I won't stop eating white bread.

No, trust your body is not great advice for me, in this body: we all know our bodies can lie. Mine lies to me all the time when I'm running, stop now, it says, go eight kilometres not ten, slow down, you're not going to make it. When you don't believe it, you find that actually you can go ten kilometres at that speed and you can match whatever speed your watch thinks you can keep up for a given distance. The watch knows, it's been monitoring things for the last year and has the data. You just need to press through the pain, trust the science, overcome the urge to quit. My body tells me I need to eat white bread for days and days. I know in my mind that this isn't true, but something will unsettle that knowledge and whatever lie I've told myself from before I can remember will reappear like an apparition. Eat it, just eat it, if you don't eat it, I'll make you think about it until you eat it. The ten kilometre lie can be disproven. The white bread lie is harder to disprove.   

All of this is silly, really, given everything else going on. Perhaps you could just be kinder to yourself, I think, looking at reflection in the mirror after I wake up. I feel like this is the other truth I've never heard at the right time. What relationships have I destroyed by not being kind, what relationships can be saved still by being kinder. The TikTok woman acts like this is so natural, that you can just be at peace with yourself. That you can just love yourself — she says it like it's just a thing you can do. I do have love, I want to say back to her, but it's not that easy. My body is lying to me about all sorts of things, it won't just stop all of a sudden, I won't just suddenly be okay. I don't have to try harder, I get that, I accept that, but I do have to keep trying. I say something like that to my colleague: I have to go running, and he calls out my modality: it's not have to. It's want to. It's get to. You're still alive, you're still here. You get to keep trying.