I went to The Bar last night for trivia. I did respectfully; I would have come in third except I blew the tiebreaker about how long wombats live in captivity. Silly me, I just assumed it was similar to how long echidnas live in captivity (roughly mid-fifties) and it turns out wombats are much shorter-lived (as in around thirty). Oh, well. I didn’t need another certificate for a pitcher of beer I wouldn’t use anyway.

I still feel nervous in the bar given the Delta Variant. People are supposed to wear masks, but they don’t. Or they get food and use that as the pretext for not masking, even when they are not eating. Hell, the bartender wasn’t masking.

I ended up taking a half tab of Klonopin for the anxiety. Formerly I would have had a double bourbon and Coke, but I have started taking a new med with which I am really not supposed to drink. Klonopin lasts longer, and if I only take a half-tab I can still drive.

Having had the booster helps, but only so much. If it is so stressful, why do I go, you ask?

My mother-in-law.

G. isolated herself from nearly everyone outside her family. Her loneliness (if she experienced it as loneliness) helped grease her slide into dementia. I can’t help but compare her with my mother, who stayed sharp and on the ball up until she died. My mother had a circle of friends – little old ladies who hit up bars on Thursday nights – and was very active in her church. She remained happy and cheerful and aware until her death at eighty-seven. G. died at eighty and was struggling with dementia for at least two years before. When she died, there were not many people with who she was still friends. Most of the people who came to her memorial were family members or their friends.

My grandfather had severe dementia due to atherosclerosis. I saw him about a month before he died. I do not want to die like that. 

And it is not healthy to be so isolated. It leads to loneliness, which can lead to depression. And in some sense, your emotions are like muscles – using them makes it easier to have them at hand. Not that I can “think your way out” of depression, but that it becomes easier for me to recognize good things when they happen. 

Using my brain makes me healthier, too. I worry about the effect that aging (and the bout of encephalitis I had in 2015) has had on my cognitive abilities and memory. I am not as smart as I used to be; I do not remember as many facts as I used to; I have much more trouble processing difficult concepts than I used to. Reading complicated books and articles has become laborious. Because of attention difficulties (caused by the encephalitis), I often lose track of what is said at the top of the page by the time I get to the bottom. I find myself rereading materials to get a solid grasp on them. Writing has become trickier too.

And so, trivia. I play as a team of one so that I am forced to answer the questions by myself. Think of it as pushups for the brain. It requires me to reestablish memory and thought pathways I might otherwise lose.

And I have friends. I have people who value me, who enjoy my company. That makes me happy. And I value them back.

So I’ll be back at The Bar next week. Probably. If I don’t get too freaked out by the maskless people.

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