UPDATED! Cracked Tooth; No Blog

I have not been to the dentist in over two years, of course, because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. So when I started to develop a very painful toothache over the course of last week, I finally made an appointment and went to the dentists’ office yesterday.

It turns out that I have a cracked tooth under one of my dental fillings—no doubt due to all the teeth grinding I have been doing over the past couple of stressful years of pandemic living.

Because I cannot chew anything, I am living on a diet of various flavours of Boost and extra-strength painkillers, until my next dentist appointment tomorrow morning (with probably a few more visits to follow). I am NOT a happy camper, people.

So, unfortunately, the RyanSchultz.com blog (and the Metaverse Newscast show) will remain on hold for the foreseeable future, at least until I get my dental issues fixed. With the addition of a cracked tooth to the workload I was already trying to juggle, something has to give. Sorry, folks.

UPDATE April 21st, 2022: I had my cracked tooth fixed yesterday, but it’s going to take a few days to see if it’s completely better once it heals. I still might need a root canal (hopefully not!), and either way, the dentist wants to put a crown on top of it eventually. I still have partial dental coverage through my full-time paying job as an academic librarian, so I’m going to go with whatever the dentist recommends. Better to do it now than after I retire!

And I go back Friday for more dental work. Once all the work is completed, I will be fitted for a mouth guard, to protect against any further damage from my tooth-grinding!

Blog is still on hold for the time being. There’s no shortage of news to report on, and stories to write about, but I just don’t have time right now. Sorry!

UPDATE April 22nd, 2022: I’ve had four separate appointments with the dentist this week, to work on four different teeth. The good news is that I can chew food again without pain, but I still have a dull ache in my jaw tonight, where he patched up my cracked tooth.

I’m exhausted, completely worn out. Like I said, I’ll be back when I have time to post.

Pandemic Diary, February 20th, 2022: Everybody’s Getting COVID-19 (Even the Queen!)

Today is officially day 707 since I first began working from home for my university on March 16th, 2020, and the number of days that I have been back on campus since then is still in the single digits. (I will finally be returning to campus full-time on February 28th, 2022, when all the University of Manitoba Libraries will reopen. The university has a mask mandate and a vaccine mandate, going so far as to deregister those students who have not uploaded proof of vaccination to a special website. They are not messing around!)

Here in my home province of Manitoba, our government has started to lift the public health restrictions that have been in place, despite the still-alarmingly high number of hospitalizations and ICU admissions of COVID-19 patients. A Feb. 11th provincial government news release stated:

New public health orders will come into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 15 that will move all of Manitoba to the Yellow (Caution) level under the Pandemic Response System. Capacity limits will be eliminated in venues such as restaurants, licensed premises, entertainment venues, indoor and outdoor sporting events and casinos, as well as gatherings at private residences. Capacity limits will be removed for outdoor public gatherings but will be limited to 50 people indoors unless proof of vaccination is required. Young people ages 12 to 17 participating in indoor sports and recreation will no longer be required to provide proof of vaccination or recent testing. There are no changes to retail and personal services.

As of Feb. 15, close contacts of a person who tests positive for COVID-19 will no longer be required to self-isolate. Public health continues to recommend self-isolation for people who live in a household with others who have symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19 but it will no longer be required.

Many people (myself included) are questioning why the Manitoba government is moving so quickly, and seemingly against the advice of scientists, doctors, and public health experts, in lifting these restrictions. Premier Heather Stefanson has announced that Manitoba will, as of March 15, 2022 remove all mask requirements and all other COVID-19 restrictions, a decision that is also proving to be divisive. Some people are fully in support, while others feel it is still to risky.

As for me, I have essentially barricaded myself in my apartment since the start of the Omicron wave of the pandemic, only venturing out to visit my mother and stepfather (who also rarely leave their life-lease condo), and to pick up the groceries I order online via Walmart, picking a timeslot to avoid contact with other people as much as possible (Sunday mornings between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m.). I have also been wearing an N95 facemask every time I step out of my apartment, and practicing elaborate social distancing as much as possible.

Yes, I am so sick and tired of all this after seven hundred and seven days. Yes, I want this to be over as badly as the next person (although just declaring yourself “over COVID” ain’t going to make it happen!). But I honestly don’t believe that the pandemic is finished with us just yet, not when so much of the world’s population (especially in the poorer, Third World countries) hasn’t been vaccinated yet. There’s still too much chance of the coronavirus mutating again like it did with Omicron, and causing us to shut down all over again.

But I still want to evade the SARS-CoV-2 virus as long as possible, especially at a time when so many other people are getting sick, and Manitoba’s healthcare system is stretched to the limit! Because of my underlying health conditions (obesity, type II diabetes, hypertension, and asthma), even though I am triple-vaccinated, I still worry that I would have a severe case of COVID-19 if I were to become infected.

Today, my mother telephoned me to tell me the news that I have been expecting but dreading: two people among my family in Alberta have developed COVID-19. Fortunately, although both are sick, they are not seriously ill, and are thankfully not experiencing any breathing difficulties. (In both cases, it has been like a very bad case of the flu, with muscle aches and pains. One has a sore throat.)

I know that eventually I will catch COVID-19. My goal in 2022 is to avoid getting COVID-19 as long as I possibly can, so that when I do get it, every single possible healthcare support is readily available to me, including a good supply of anti-viral medications like Paxlovid, just in case I do land up in a worst-case scenario. It is extremely unlikely that I will be in that situation, but I still so worry.

And if that means that I will still be face masking and social distancing long after other people stop (and getting most of my socialization needs met via social VR and virtual worlds!), then that is a price I am willing to pay for my own peace of mind.

Photo by Tai’s Captures on Unsplash

Postscript: My friend John Facetimed me this afternoon and told me that CBC news has announced that Queen Elizabeth II has tested positive for COVID-19. I have seen pictures of the Queen looking so frail recently, so I am concerned:

She reminds me so much of my own beloved grandmother, who coincidentally was also named Elizabeth (she passed away well before the pandemic started). I would not call myself a monarchist by any stretch, but the Queen is still Canada’s head of state, and I wish her a speedy recovery.

Everybody’s getting COVID-19, it seems. It’s just a matter of when, and how bad.

Stay safe and stay healthy!

Pandemic Diary, January 26th, 2022: Why I Am So Goddamned Angry

My father (God rest his soul; he died when I was just 21) had a temper. There were times when I was on the receiving end of that anger, and they were terrifying. I swore that I would never become him, but then I fell into a different, but perhaps predictable, trap: both suppressing my anger (which led to my lifelong, chronic, clinical depression, a dragon I still battle today), and projecting my anger onto other people (becoming a compulsive people pleaser, particularly to bosses and other authority figures). Neither tactic helped me.

It wasn’t until I had a textbook-classic case of hit-the-wall burnout, circa 1997-1999, when I had to come face to face with the fact that how I was dealing (or more accurately, not dealing) with what was making me angry was undermining my life and, essentially, killing me. That painful realization was the start of a long journey of healing, which is still unfinished.

I would get into my subcompact car and drive around Winnipeg’s Perimeter Highway, screaming myself hoarse in rage, with all the windows rolled up. I had inherited a brown corduroy recliner of my father’s after his death, and I would kneel in front of it and beat the seat cushion with my fists in rage, until they bled. And I did a LOT of therapy, talking things through with the psychiatrists who prescribed different kinds of antidepressants to help me heal from my debilitating waves of depression, my suppressed anger. I also talked with other counsellors and wise people through the years. It all helped.

And, for the most part, it worked. Today, when something happens that make me angry, I can usually respond by actually feeling and being aware of my anger, within a reasonable time frame (minutes and hours, not left to fester for weeks, months, or even years). I can feel appropriately angry, identify what (or whom) made me angry, try to parse the situation intelligently, and get some sort of handle on it. This is all progress, good progress.

But the fact remains that today, I am angry. Let me tell you why I am so goddamned angry. I’m going to create a list.

  • I am angry that, despite having had the foresight to see that a pandemic was coming (to the point that I began blogging about it, exactly two years ago!), and despite preparing logistically for such an eventuality for years (even stocking up on canned beans and rice and N95 masks!), that I was as mentally and emotionally unprepared as anybody else when the pandemic did strike. No amount of prepping can prepare you for the actual moment when the shit hits the fan.
  • I am angry that so many people refused to listen to me between January and March of 2020, when I was telling anybody and everybody who would listen that we needed to prepare, collectively and individually, for a pandemic. I confused and upset people when I took a blog which heretofore had been about social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse, and starting posting item after item after item about the pandemic. I wore myself out, and I honestly don’t know how many people were actually helped or convinced by that frenzy of posting.
  • I am angry—no, make that incandescent with rage—at all the people who chose to listen to the misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories regarding the pandemic and vaccination, attacking the very scientists and healthcare workers to which they should have been paying attention. I am furious that, at a time when we could have all pulled together for the public good, during a public health crisis, we as a society instead chose to descend into divisive, argumentative factions, and that diviseness only seems to be getting worse instead of better. Who the fuck thinks it is okay to assault hospital workers, or send people like Dr. Fauci death threats?!??
  • I am furious at the collective failure of all levels of government—national, provincial and state, municipal—to provide humane, science-based responses which could have prevented so much needless suffering, sickness, and death. I am angry at all the politicians during this current Omicron wave of the coronavirus pandemic who threw up their hands, and walked away from the people who looked to them for leadership, and instead gave empty sound bites. (Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson, I am looking at you. The next provincial election cannot come fast enough to toss your entire sorry government out on its asses.)
  • I am angry at how negatively my depression and anxiety have impacted my life, my career, and my beloved work on this blog and the Metaverse Newscast. I could have done so much better; I could have done so much more. The pandemic has just been beating the absolute motherfucking shit out of me lately, and I hate, hate, HATE that. Hate what two years of unrelenting stress and anxiety has done to me, hate what I have become as I barricade myself yet again in my apartment, practising elaborate social distancing when I do venture out, picking up my fucking groceries between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m. on a Sunday from the pick-up at my local Walmart, standing well clear of the car while it was loaded up. I fucking hate it and I want to scream in frustration and rage, just as I had to scream out my anger at my father, only this time I don’t have a convenient target for that anger.

I am lying here, typing all this into my iPad, on the verge of angry tears which won’t come, which won’t break through. I am so angry of being scared and so angry of being tired, and frankly so angry and fed up with being angry. And yet, the situation calls for still more patience, more forbearance, and more forgiveness, than I can seem to find within myself. I’m not sure how much more I can stretch, today.

I am angry at every twist and turn and disappointment and heartbreak of this pandemic, and angry at all the collective suffering, pain, and chaos it has caused.

I am just plain angry.

I’m angry

And maybe that’s all I can do today, is just be angry. And perhaps use that anger as a fuel, to somehow, someway, propel me into tomorrow. To a day when I’m not so angry.

Pandemic Diary, January 2nd, 2022: A Playlist of Uplifting Music for Pandemic Times

My new playlist for Omicron times

It is now officially 658 days since March 16th, 2020, when I began working from home for my full-time paying job as a science librarian at the University of Manitoba.

Suffering from a wicked case of insomnia, I finally got out of bed around 2:00 a.m. and started working on a playlist of music, using a previous playlist I had created to get me through a five-week strike at my university as my starting point.

I just finished, and I have been listening to these tunes on loop all morning and afternoon, and I am feeling immeasurably better! These are songs about finding strength in the face of adversity, hope, resilience, never giving up, etc. I now share them with you in hopes that they will help you get through this pandemic.

I named this playlist after two of the songs on it: Invincible (by Kelly Clarkson) and Overcomer (an absolute BANGER of a Christian song by Mandisa, with an inspiring video; see below). Yes, I have included a few songs by contemporary Christian artists, which I still listen to even though I now consider myself an atheist (or perhaps agnostic); I hope you don’t mind! You can always skip them if it offends you. 😉

Invincible, by Kelly Clarkson
Overcomer, by Mandisa

Stay safe, and stay healthy in these unprecedented times!