The queen must die. Her loyal subjects will be given to a rival kingdom where they will work themselves to death. That is the best path, the right path, this time.
No, this isn’t the outline of a new fantasy novel. I’m talking about my bees.
One colony is much smaller than the others. My mentor came by a few weeks ago and confirmed – they won’t make it through the winter. They don’t have enough workers, they don’t have enough drawn comb, they don’t have any honey stored away. So. One must be sacrificed for the good of the many. Kill the queen, put her workers with one of my other bee colonies, spread the comb between the remaining two hives so the bees can fill them up with honey. Done.
I have loved this queen from the beginning, the Gold Star queen. She was the first queen bee I every saw leave the hive for her mating flight. So healthy and well formed, mahogany and brown, she left the hive as workers excitedly ran about the entrance, wishing her well.
But she failed before she began. The break in broodrearing needed to grow a new queen – a month or so – put the hive behind. Regardless of how amazing a queen she could have been, there was no time to catch up in Vermont’s short summer. Large numbers of bees are needed to draw comb, gather pollen, and store enough honey for the colony to make it through 6+ months of winter. And she just didn’t have time to produce enough bees, so she had to die.
The first time killing is always the hardest for me. That stepping over the boundary from where I am someone who does not kill that being, to someone who does. It is difficult, emotional. A lot more emotional than it would have been pre-injury, a lot more difficult. I don’t have that helpful distance from life anymore, both an energetic buffer and the emotional muting that make the unpleasant actions of daily life easier to navigate. When I kill, I feel. Sometimes I feel so much I can’t feel it then, and it is only days later, far from the fated moment, where I can allow myself to let my emotions flow again.
When I first used Round Up (ever) this spring to help control invasive bishops weed in the perennial flower beds, I cried. It felt deeply wrong that I had the power to so casually destroy something living. Death isn’t quick, not like pulling up the plants. Rather, it is a chemical action that causes the leaves to wither and the plant to die, starved from being unable to produce certain amino acids. Not pleasant for a small vegetative being. I cried after the second and third applications, too, although less. By the fourth time, it was just a tool I was using to bring about an important goal. I no longer thought or registered the deeper experience of what I was doing. It was routine, it was normal.
Next time, killing the queen will be easier. With repetition, anything can become easier, feel more natural. That is one of the great things about humans, our deep adaptability.
Even this limited life recovering from two mTBIs can feel normal, be normal. I certainly fought against that truth viciously, tooth and nail, with all my heart, for as long as I could. I wanted it to be different, so dammit it was going to be different! But, unfortunately, some things won’t bend to a strong will, and brain injury is one of those things.
The limitations I live with casually now were once painful, difficult. They were worth tears and anger and yelling and hopelessness. They were worth cursing and shaking my fist at the sky. With enough time, though, enough repetitions, something changed. Or, correction, I changed. Something had to give, and since my body and mind couldn’t possibly do more than it already was, I had to. My expectations, my beliefs, my hopes and dreams. They all had to give way to make room for the new reality of my life.
And so now when I have to cancel an appointment or social plans because I scheduled too much for the week, I just do. I have a twinge of irritation, a twinge of embarrassment, but that’s it. When I stutter and misspell easy words when I write, I just take a deep breath, calm myself, and push on. If I drive somewhere and find my head buzzing from over-stimulation, I just stare into space for 10 minutes until I can focus again. I don’t get angry, I don’t beat myself up for needing that time… I just take it.
It isn’t painful, anymore. It isn’t heart-wrenching. True, these impairments and the accommodations I need aren’t what I want – not by a long shot – by they are what is. I’ve adjusted. I’m use to it. It’s just another day not at the office. In truth, I’d much rather spend all that energy I once use to fight my life, to live it.