Hanging by a thread

Photo by Aliyah Jamous on Unsplash

Outside the professional arena, I have no qualms about admitting my vulnerabilities.

For weeks now, I have been a fierce critic of Puerto Rico governor Wanda Vazquez’s tyrannical, arbitrary lockdown measures that persist to this day absent scientific grounds therefor.

The prohibitions contained in her executive orders have been in place way more than necessary; the unconstitutional deprivations of civil rights that they entail have perpetrated upon me life-threatening mental anguish and irreparable physical damages, taking a devastating toll on my body and spirit.

Since March 16, gyms in Puerto Rico shut down along with the rest of commercial establishments denominated “nonessential”.

Ms. Vazquez deemed medicinal cannabis dispensaries as “essential”. Showing no indication of ever having exercised during her adult life, the governor doesn’t understand why gyms are more essential to the health of the people than the cannabis dispensaries are.

Sometime in June, Ms. Vazquez authorized a short-lived, gradual reopening of gyms. Before authorizing it, she demanded that owners make a considerable financial investment to ensure health precautions.

Within days of their reopening, devoid of data or scientific evidence to assert a risk of increased COVID-19 infections to justify ordering closing them again, cheered by her hired gun, Secretary of Health Lorenzo Gonzalez, Ms. Vazquez issued her mandate to shut them down.

Currently, no one forsees a date when the governor will authorize the reopening of gyms.

Hence, I have no hope of getting a chance at the only aerobic activity I can physically engage in at this time: indoor cycling.

Vigorous aerobic exercise has been an important part of all my adult life. It is particularly necessary now, because my health conditions require that I work out for 45 minutes, at least four times a week.

Although I maintain a heathy weight, I have to exercise aerobically to:

a) ward off stress and anxiety, particularly due to the increased emotional burden that being locked inside my home for six months, unable to work, derive an income, having lost my best friend a few weeks ago and being unable to have a normal social life has imposed on me;

b) raise testosterone levels to combat the resurgence of the estrogen-positive breast cancer I survied four years ago;

c) get a good night’s sleep;

d) keep my heart healthy and ward off my BP — the known silent killer of women.

Running or walking are not viable exercise alternatives for me. My right hip is extremely frail; it barely has any cartilage left to cushion it. For years, I had not noticed the weakening of my hip. It seems indoor cycling had strengthened the hip muscles to the extent that they held my hip tight within a protective grip, warding off any pain and delaying the need of hip-replacement surgery.

Thus, the only aerobic exercise that I can safely perform cannot entail impact on my joints; let alone involve the risk of falling and fracturing my hip.

My hopes for health through exercise have vanished. The last six months are a witness to how inertia depletes the muscles that take years to build up. Pain has slowly become part of my life.

My current inability to exercise exposes me to risks in the long run that far outweigh those of a woman with my ethnic background, age and physical characteristics becoming infected with COVID-19.

Preventing me from participating in the only exercise I can carry out has caused me and continues to cause me substantial harm.

I live with my cat Lucy and my dog Pelusa. Spending six months locked in with my furry roommates as sole companions has taken a severe toll on my resilience.

The already emotionally difficult burden of weathering this pandemic on my own became intolerable when my best friend of 13 years, whom I had not seen since March 7th due to the lockdown, passed away on June 6th. His weak heart could no longer bear the sadness of being away from me and all his friends.

At that point, what was left of my spirit was crushed. The only person that has been daring enough to offer me a hug was a young cashier at the health food store.

I squeezed her so tight and cried on her shoulder for so long that I actually felt a soothing sense of peace when we parted.

I yearn for the day that I can furiously pedal away my sadness and unleash the fury of having lost half of my self, locked up half of the time, watching the days go by without being able to live them to the fullest.

Ms. Vazquez has stripped me of my health, my civil liberties and my livelihood. She constantly attempts to destroy my sanity,

Although my temple, my body, my hip and my spirit are hanging on a frail thin line, she will not prevail.

Sooner or later, the greed and darkness that hover over Ms. Vazquez’s every move will take her to her own demise.



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Ana Toledo

Ana Toledo

Puerto Rican warrior & targeted individual; fighting for equal environmental rights, one pipe at a time”. “Mi nada, a nadie se lo debo.” Julia de Burgos.