There’s really nothing like dual pandemics to invite in some reflection, is there? There’s really no escape. Nowhere to go to reset. No friends to visit. No hugs. No water cooler to gather ‘round. No community to be in and with. Not a whole lot to do to occupy the mind, except for all the things that occupy the mind. . .
You feel me?
I have nothing with which to distract myself, but also everything distracts me.
Though I know better, I can’t seem to keep my thumb away from the infinity scroll of bad news. Processing the persistent and insidious unearthing of the hate that we stand on and among, the rapid and painful death of democracy and the planet, the catastrophic wave of natural disasters shouting their warnings at us, and a death toll that’s now exceeded a quarter of a million people has shaken me so hard I think my personality may have just, well, fallen out of me.
Do you think it will come back?
Eight months into this quarapocolypse and I legitimately feel less intelligent than when it began. My optimism has quickly faded into cynicism. I have lost nearly all faith in humanity. I am grouchy almost all of the time. All drivers irritate me. I am perpetually exhausted and my daily headache is gone for less of the day than it is present.
I drink water constantly and I’m still dehydrated all the time. I drag myself out of bed with my three year old every morning at 7:15am and wonder how the hell I ever used to be on my way out the door with three kids at this same time in the before times. I scowl at the dogs and scold myself for not finding the time to train them properly while I whisper scream into the dark morning air for them to be quiet.
In the early months of quarantine my nervous system was so overloaded with information and outrage I was on constant edge. Every little thing startled me and most things made me fully spiral. Now, though the edge is still present and has changed the way it shows up, I mostly just feel bitter and numb. I’ve moved through the cycle of grief so many times it’s practically an hourly occurrence. I’ve stopped fighting my emotions and pretending them away though. I just let myself feel what I feel.
At least there’s space for the emotion to pass that way, right?
But life persists, and I’ve got to keep participating in it and showing up for the people who are counting on me. And so as much as I’m struggling, I’m still trying to find ways to keep going.
I used to write almost every night, but that’s felt like too much mental effort lately. There just hasn’t been the space left available for me to produce a single additional thing. So, instead of writing, I watch an entire series in a week, exercise a lot, load up my work to-do lists, bake, rage scream into the internet, volunteer for more committees, lead or join study groups, make comprehensive resource documents, sign petitions, donate to campaigns and local causes, make calls to some politicians, write letters to others, and repost, repost, repost.
I’ve poured myself into The Work within my spheres of influence. I read, and listen to, watch, and share a lot of antiracism and equity content daily. I am constantly evaluating my own behavior and thoughts. I’ve had to learn to be so efficient at my job that I can now fit the tasks of a seven hour work day into the four hours I have childcare for my three year old.
There’s a sort of intellectual torture at play where I’m constantly cleaning but nothing is ever clean. The washer and dryer run round the clock. We seem to have lost more of the small forks. Where do they go? Why does everyone eat so much cereal?
How do I lose a shoe I just put away five minutes ago? Why does Ethan have so many questions? Is that crying or laughing? What does the puppy have?
WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT SMELL?
If it’s not clear by now, my brain is on constant, incessant, high alert, and I am tired of this shit.
Now, I don’t mean to suggest I’m giving up on change because I’m tired. I’m a straight, white, middle class, cisgendered woman chock full of access to a world I have the unconscionable privilege of pretending doesn’t exist when it gets uncomfortable for me to acknowledge. My struggle is neither unique nor novel and is still very much padded by my whiteness.
I also don’t mean to suggest that the solutions to our problems are easy and we just aren’t using them. Today’s crises will need continued and urgent attention if things are going to change for the better and I am here for all of that.
But I can’t be here in the way I need to be when I’m in this state of eternal panic. I’ve got to get my anxiety down to a more functional level so that I can, well, function. Aside from figuring out how to get in more time with my therapist, being very mindful about how what I do and consume impacts my mood and body, I’m also doing a lot of reflecting on the origin of my anxiety. Maybe if I can understand how I got here I can find a different path forward.
There’s a lot to unpack. But right now I am going to choose to rest first.
See you back here soon.
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