ON IRRATIONAL COMFORT and VACCINATION
In balance to the irrational fears I’ve carried most of my life,
I’ve decided that I can also have “irrational comforts.”
This came to me as I processed my feelings about getting the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
After listening to days of news about this vaccine
(its perceived inferiority, the skepticism of it being sent to communities of color, the fast track to approve its use),
I noticed a child-like irrational comfort:
it’s made by Johnson and Johnson so it has to be safe.
Made by a company synonymous with
pink lotion pungently sweet
and yellow shampoo that won’t cause tears
and bars of pale soap that rivaled
the floating Ivory in a sink
and white powder that I knew not to breathe in…
surely only safe people make baby products.
I think this “irrational comfort” is an evolution
from the coping technique of “meaning making,”
something I mastered at a young age.
A mere few years ago my therapist invited me to consider
that not everything has to be a sign for me to decipher,
not everything has to be a warning or a hint of reward.
I now live with the bliss of allowing things to simply be
and the parallel ability to see magic in it all.
All my ages stand somberly tall as I know how this came to be.
I was so little,
but called a “big girl.”
The memories are as real in my body
as they are vague in my mind.
They’ve been coming like storms
that can only be described when they are over.
As a small preschooler,
I learned it wasn’t safe to grow up.
I had resigned to this by the time I was three.
When we flew on airplanes or went in elevators
(both terrifying traps to me),
I would scan the lines of folks waiting
hoping there would be a baby.
If so, my body settled
and I felt peace
like bubbles in sunshine.
Through at least grade 6 (according to a specific memory in Mr Potempa’s class),
I would fall asleep each night going through my entire day as it was but with a baby with me.
It was bliss. I was both the baby and the current age self.
The baby was silent and content with all needs met all the time:
in a basket under my desk,
in a carrier on my back,
wrapped in blankets on a chair next to me.
No one realized she was there and that was fine.
I got a one-piece snow suit as an elementary age child
and wanted to wear it all the time.
I wanted to wear it into the back yard
where we were burning leaves under the apple tree.
It wasn’t cold out.
I wore socks on my hands and feet,
tucking my clothes into them-
like a newborn baby’s outfit
with the mitten flaps built in.
I would kneel down
in front of the screen door
and peek out with only the top portion of my face
and my fingertips showing,
trying to trick cars
and people passing by.
I carried my dolls around
and tucked their plastic arms and legs in
so people might think they were real.
I’m still sure the table next to us at ChiChi’s
thought she was real.
I drew elaborate plans
of houses with hidden rooms for the babies,
always at the center of mazed hallways.
I drew the stroller that held six of them at once,
varying ages but all under eighteen months.
I honed a quiet retreat into myself
that wasn’t obvious to those around me.
I encapsulated myself
like a living Russian nesting doll,
the tiniest one the treasure.
If someone loved babies,
bent to smile at them,
took care of them,
they were safe.
So follow the path with me
and see how easy it was
for the preschooler in me
to leap with irrational comfort:
if the company that has been making
baby lotion and baby soap and
baby powder for over a hundred years,
then the vaccine they are making has
to be safe and I am comforted.
I get immunized today.
I will then pick up an order of groceries
a bar of Johnson and Johnson baby soap.