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When Hurricane Ian turned our lives inside out and upside down, part of me checked out. In those early days of using squeegees to push mud and filthy water out the front door, my husband and I felt like Sisyphus, pushing that damned boulder to the top of the hill, only to watch it roll back where it started from. No matter how much of the remains of the three feet of water we moved out, there didn’t appear to be any difference in the layer of muck throughout the house.

I found myself retreating from our new reality. My brain refused to believe what my eyes were seeing, and I proceeded to sleepwalk through the next weeks, knowing that at some point, my protective denial would have to shatter.

Normally, I would have turned to reading fiction, preferably crime fiction, to engage my attention and distract from whatever bad thing was happening. Not this time. I was unable to read for the first time in my life. My New Year’s resolution that year of 2022 had been to write and submit at least one new short mystery story each month. By September 28, I had stuck to it, with nine stories in the hands of editors. I never could have imagined I wouldn’t write again for the next six months.

What saved my sanity? Mindless romcoms and streaming mysteries. Nothing dark, nothing tragic. Reality was noir enough for me. My attention span was no more than 90 minutes long, and as soon as I reached The End, I retained nothing I had watched, but it had served its purpose by providing a respite from the lineup of our possessions out by the curb, waiting for the City to cart them away.

I was reminded of this recently when my husband tested positive for Covid. Playing nurse, chef, and housekeeper while trying to keep from catching it myself brought a whole new level of stress. Glimpses of the current news were more than I could bear. Climate change, politics, multiple wars, global misery. I ran out of bandwidth, so where did I turn for respite? Where else but Taylor Swift and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Married to a Kansas boy, and having watched Netflix’s “Quarterback,” I was more familiar with Patrick Mahomes’s career than with Taylor Swift’s music. Who could resist a real-life, Hallmark movie love story? Not me.

Even now, when Covid has left the building and I’m reading and writing again, the news grabs me every time there’s a mention of the lovebirds. I’m not looking forward to the Super Bowl because it will mean the end of those glimpses of Taylor cheering on her man. I just hope if and when I need to escape again, I’ll be able to find my next shelter from the storm.

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