I would like to meet the person for whom this pandemic has not been an utter mind fuck. Really. I would.
The past almost eight months have been strange, to say the least. As tired as I am of hearing them described as “unprecedented” or “unusual,” the fact is that nothing is normal, obviously.
In early quarantine, I don’t think I was alone in my desire to use the time to reevaluate my life and priorities. Prior to the world coming to a complete and total halt, I had committed to writing a book and I wanted to spend this year restructuring my marketing business. I had planned to do that in the margins of working between the three clients that kept me busy full time, growing my wine business, and managing a teenage daughter as a single parent.
People always wonder out loud how I do it—how I juggle all of the things I do, and manage to keep the outward appearance that I do it easily. Before the pandemic hit, I did it by sleeping as little as possible and saying yes to absolutely everything.
I often spent my weekends so overbooked that I would do all of the math to figure out exactly how long I could stay at one event before I had to leave so that I could make it to the next (mostly) on time. I was overwhelmed and forgetting things left and right. My anxiety was out of control as the few nights I managed to go to bed at a decent hour, I spent laying awake worrying about everything I needed to get done.
Once quarantine was announced, I had the idea in the back of my head that life would slow down and it excited me. I thought to the book outline that I had yet to start and all of the research I needed to begin and I lit up with hope that I could get going on this project. I looked at my stack of books to read with longing, believing that this year, I was going to hit my reading goal, no sweat.
Not yet ready to let go of my social life, I agreed to every single Zoom happy hour that was offered. We played games. We did karaoke. My “commuting time” was filled by catching up with friends and seeing how quarantine was treating people. It took about three weeks for the Zoom fatigue to set in before I reserved that time for only the people I really wanted to spend time with, which eventually waned to be almost exclusively my book club.
The slowing that I was expecting never really happened. I took on part-time position with one of my clients, but was still working more than the ten hours a week that I had told my other clients I needed to limit myself to. I still wasn’t prioritizing myself or the things that I had decided early on that I wanted to get to.
By a month in to quarantine, I was exhausted. Emotionally, I was stressed out about getting sick and frustrated dealing with a teenager that did not think that COVID was that big a deal. I was tired at the end of the day and everything irritated me.
I’m not sure if it was the pandemic or just my usual spring bout of depression, but I stopped being interested in pretty much everything. I struggled to get my work done each day and I went from barely getting any sleep to sleeping every spare chance I got. I went days without leaving the house, not even to check the mail.
I watched my writing come to a complete halt. I stopped reading. The only thing that brought me even a little bit of joy was sending letters to my pen pal. A friend made a post asking if we were making the most of “all the free time” that quarantine gave us, and I snarkily asked her, “what free time?” I was working more than I had been before and still not sleeping.
I had one night at the end of April where I just sat up in bed and started crying uncontrollably. It was then that I realized that I was in full-blown grief mode. And it wasn’t about the pandemic. My tears had nothing to do with what we have collectively experienced this year.
It was about my challenges with raising a teen with trauma.
It was about being a single parent to said teen.
It was about almost getting evicted.
It was about getting cruelly dumped by a man I fell deeply in love with and expected to marry.
It was about getting completely beat up by the court system.
It was about getting fired.
It was about losing the half of the family that I spent so much of my daughter’s life trying to gain.
It was about my child being abused by her father.
It was about my parents getting divorced.
I realized, as I sobbed, that I haven’t grieved any of what has happened to me for six years.
At the beginning of 2014, when I whisked my dad off to a fun-filled trip to Boston that was overshadowed by my mom screaming and yelling at me for doing it (along with some other horribly inappropriate things that made my therapist say, “what the fuck?”), I had no idea that the year would end with my dad in jail and my entire family completely broken. I also had no idea that I was on the cusp of living life in survival mode for the foreseeable future. But it was what that year put me through that has made the strangeness of pandemic life bearable.
As the year closes in on its final sixty days, I don’t know if life is going to get any less crazy. I’ve found myself wondering if I will ever be in the right mental state to finish the dozen books that hang out on my nightstand.
I have begun writing regularly again. That always seems to be my salve. No matter what has been thrown at me, processing it with my written words has managed to be the one thing that helps me to deal with life itself.
Read other writers’ take on this month’s theme: An Examination of Life
A Day in My Life by Laci Olivia
An Ideal vs Actual Day in the Life by Ashleigh Bowling
What Makes a Life? by Amy Rich
A Real (and Imagined) Examination of Life by Sarah Hartley
The Things We Carry by Jenn Norrell
An Engineer Writes Fiction by Christi Hurelle
An Examination of Life by Danni Brigante