For the last four weeks, I usually cried on Sundays. At least once. No clue why; maybe because the grocery stores are closed. Last week, I cried so embarrassingly loud that my son heard me from the furthest room of the apartment. He ran over, assuming something catastrophic had occurred, but when he asked me if I was okay, I covered my face and choked out a sobbing laugh. Am I okay? A perfectly reasonable question. Lately, my answer depends on the day, but regardless of whether it is yes or no, there is a heaviness to my emotional state that remains persistent, strangely familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. Familiar because I have been feeling sad on and off in the last couple of weeks, so I know what it is like to see everything faintly slick with gloom for a while. Unfamiliar because it took me a while to realize that this is all really happening, whereas right now I am sharply conscious of the descent. The urge to cry had been hanging over me for days like a shadow. I saw it coming from a distance, the culmination of absorbing so much crushing news about how the virus is impacting the world every morning and egged on by the looming reality, that, yes, I will probably have to postpone anything planned. Am I okay? On the one hand, I am super happy and okay. My son and I are physically healthy, I am only spending time with people I love and am able to quarantine safely for the indefinite future. Things that I certainly don’t take for granted right now. On the other hand, my mental health has suffered. Is suffering. But, of course, I am not losing it, won’t give up or sign myself in at a mental institution.
What does giving up even mean? What am I giving up? Self-maintenance? Who is self-maintenance for if not, uh, the self? Me? I don’t feel like I am giving up. I am actually taking pretty good care of myself. I am working out daily. I am eating pretty healthy food (for the most part) that I am making for myself. I am washing my hands voraciously.
I listened to a podcast this week that rocked me to my core. It was a conversation between Brene Brown and Glennon Doyle, the author of Untamed, which is the name of a book that has caused me to question whether the real power of a woman is to live recklessly if actually, the most audacious desires among us are not reckless at all. While I listened to it, my attention faded in and out. I wondered where my son and I would be eating our meals hadn’t my mom suggested to buy a kitchen table. Carrying all the food in the living room every time? Eating around the coffee table on the floor? Then I zoomed back into the podcast at the call of such lines as, “Maybe imagination is where we go not to escape reality but to discover it.” Hey, this podcast is really good. You should listen to it because I am not doing their conversation the spiritual justice it deserves at this point. Because my son wants to play with Lego for another fifteen hours. While I played with him I thought about making a gigantic salad for lunch with arugula, salmon, avocado, pumpkin seeds and anything else I can find in my fridge. Yum! We will probably eat it for dinner, too. My thoughts are all over the place but I kinda like it.
Are you enjoying any element of the quarantine? Maybe if you live in a village, with a garden, in nature. But in the city? I am afraid to ask this.
And you might actually never see it because there is a good chance I will delete it. It is a dangerous question because I am not really asking if you like quarantine, I am asking if you have discovered anything transformative. The kind of something you may never have seen, won’t want to forget or have never experienced before.
Currently, I think I am settled into an adjusted state of reality and am pretty impressed by the natural, human inclination to find patterns, attach meaning to them, and create new routines. My weekdays are falling into this new kind of rhythm. My weekends, too. Yesterday I had a thought that I might even like it more than the rhythms of routines past, then I realized that actually, I am just wearing blinders to get to the end of every day in spirits pleasant enough to sit down and write something like this. I haven’t forgotten the superior rhythms of the past and I can imagine the rhythms of the future. Is this what being present is like?
While I wiped away my tears last week I also realized that staying present with my son is great, but 24/7 for weeks and barely another child around to play with him is a challenge. Honestly, I can’t wait for him to go to bed so I can write, read, have time just for myself or spend an aperitivo hour with my friend. This is another new rhythm I have come to look forward to. Him being around. There is this awesome bottle of white wine that we will share. A wine with a rose-like floral aroma. We will enjoy it with crackers and dips in the kitchen. Setting all this up is soothing. So is washing dishes by hand and not using a dishwasher. I totally get it, there is something so reliable about knowing exactly what you are setting out to do and then through the function of your own effort, doing it. It is so simple. I think that makes it satisfying, too. The simple things.
Today, I did not cry. Today, I feel loved.