Day who-knows-what of quarantine and I am finally starting to love and semi-understand the me I have struggled to embrace throughout this pandemic. I spent the first fifty-or-so days feeling completely lost. Immobilized. I couldn’t do anything except sit and shame myself for doing nothing. And then I felt like shit about that. And then I did more of nothing while contemplating the same feelings of shame over and over again. For a long while there, it felt like the cycle of madness and sadness and inertia would never end. And then I got depressed about those feelings and thoughts.
I was neither patient nor kind with myself as I struggled and fell and scraped my knees and failed, failed, failed to be my best self. Or even a mildly recognizable version of myself. I judged and berated and hated and threw up on myself for every negative thought, emotion, and reaction that came through me. And you know what that bred? More of the same gross feelings about myself. That damn cycle of doom and gloom just kept perpetuating itself; shoulders heavier, moods darker, outbursts over more of nothing in the big picture of life. I felt lost in an infinity pool of hopelessness. I judged myself against every achiever who seemed to be excelling while I continued to derail. Every post I saw of someone mastering a new skill in one way or another just made me feel more inept. You bake bread, I clip a hangnail. You remodel your bathroom, I pluck a whisker. You feed the homeless, I finally cook a meal for my family. My successes had pretty much boiled down to showering more than once a week, remembering to wash my face in the morning, and not shitting the bed.
A writer struggling to write. An artist struggling to create. A lover struggling to love. An optimist hidden beneath a shroud of negativity. I honestly could not find an ounce of comfort within my own skin, soul, body, mind, or home. The house too full for my quiet mind to find solace in itself; the fridge too close to turn away food that I numbingly shoved in my mouth; the day-drinking hour steadily encroaching upon hours that some may perceive more as morning than afternoon.
The feeling of immobilization has been the weirdest thing for me. I have never in my life spent so much time sitting on my couch wondering what to do next. And then wondering why I am wondering about it instead of just figuring out what to do with all the time in the world available to me. And then doing a bit more of nothing while thinking about the fact that there is so much I could do. And, alas, still sitting on my fat ass doing nothing and being pissed off about it. Does that not fall within the definition of insanity?
At the point I was really starting to wonder whether this cauldron of self-worthlessness was my new normal (a week or so ago, give or take), something started to change in my mindset. I’m not talking big changes here – I am talking the simplest act of being able to smile a genuine smile at life rather than wanting to flip it off. I started to see little glimmers of hope here and there in my crowded, cluttered, messy life. Baby steps leading the way to acceptance of this new and strange reality; baby steps guiding me to compassion for all that is; a somewhat recognizable path back to myself. I think, maybe, the change came about because I decided to get curious about my feelings and question why I was allowing myself to have them if they did not serve me or my family well. I had somehow allowed myself to get so caught up in what wasn’t that I couldn’t see what was, and my gains during this time of shelter-in-place have been and are exponentially larger than my perceived losses. For someone who thinks she generally adapts to change well, this experience of absolutely everything about your life changing at once has humbled me into taking a closer look at myself and examining the true pillars upon which I stand. With the disintegration of everything that once was I could not find my center. Once again, I have been offered the opportunity to test the core of who I believe myself to be and re-erect myself into warrior mode.
Truth is, the stillness bestowed upon us by this pandemic has allowed me more conversation and closeness with my teenage kids in the past sixty days than time and schedules (and likely their desire) have afforded us for years. Truth is, the crashing economy stymied my normally traveling husband to a new job with a home base and for the first time in eight years we get to share space together every day rather than only on weekends. Truth is, phone calls I never used to answer because I “didn’t have time” are now the phone calls that I initiate. And I can finally see all of these things for the beauty they are even though the world we now live in still feels foreign. And I am grateful.
I finally managed to plant a little garden of beauty with my own two hands, metaphorically and in reality. Both bring me joy. And both calm my soul.
But I might die if I have to unload the dishwasher one more time.