Of course, it popped up in my memories today. All of them. Facebook, Google Photos, Instagram…they all found it absolutely imperative to remind me that, one year ago today, my little corner of the world shut down–just like everyone else’s. First, school closing was announced until April 13. Then, this morning a year ago, it snowed. Snowed heavily enough for my daughter to go out to play in it and for me to take a snowy tromp out across the field behind our house. The next day, I took my last dinner and a movie outing with a bestie. Then the world screeched to a halt, and I haven’t done it since. I may miss it but this is not a post about what I miss. Not really. Not entirely. More like it’s about what’s missing.
A year ago, I posted about stopping. Could I just stop? Stop and embrace the unknown of what was next? Stop and rest? I decided I could, and I did. I found new avenues of connection, encouragement, and expression. I held hands with dear ones, students, and strangers across the digital gap, turning my talents into new strands of gold. Despite the hardships of lockdown, which I detail out quite honestly in my personal journals, I don’t remember being afraid. I don’t remember the paralysis of worry and fear. In fact, in some ways, I thrived in that odd spring.
Here we are now, a year later. Progress is being made, medical measures are now available for safety, the world has begun to move again, in some cases very quickly, and, now–NOW–I feel as though I am in survival mode. The avenues I had discovered and thrived through last spring feel barren and cold to me now; they have become things that I no longer have time or energy for. Tricks and emotional hacks that have lost some of their efficacy; the shine has dulled, the gold seems to have flaked off.
And that hurts. It hurts more than I care to admit at times.
A year later, I am honestly avoiding people. I am avoiding socializing. A friend messaged me the other day to let me know that they were glad to see me on a Zoom gaming session last week and, as grateful as I was for that and as much as I did have fun for the most part, I felt an internal balking at making it a consistent thing. It takes so much to participate in life now. So much energy, so many spoons, so much emotional risk. I find myself hesitating at things that I would have leapt at in the Before Times, such as seeing friends in person that I haven’t seen in a long time. I find myself thinking twice about saying yes now; so much so that the hubby has taken to telling me, “Say yes. Yes is your answer,” when I bring up invitations. So I am trying to say ‘yes’ more. Do I always say ‘yes’? Absolutely not. Sometimes I just cannot handle the idea of sitting with someone in person and talking; other times, it’s all I want in the world.
A year later, I feel depleted, shrunken rather than grown. I feel hunched and inward-facing rather than outward-facing, though I still pour out out of sheer habit sometimes, which is a very strange dichotomy in which to be. I am hesitant to hope, to look forward to things, because disappointment looms. Large changes drain me because this last year has been one full to overflowing with them. So, like Tony Stark, I concentrate on what I can do. (“You’re a mechanic, right?” “Yeah.” “So build something.” “…Okay.”) I am giving everything to the point of exhaustion to work/teaching, because that is what I can do. It’s frustrating as all get out. I will not call it rewarding because that is not where I am right now, but it’s my job. It is what I have to do, and the kids in my classroom need something I can hopefully give. We are all closed-off to an extent right now but…I can try. I will cry and curse and collapse, probably, but it is what I can do right now. So I do it. I am unsure as to whether anyone truly understands the withertos and whyfores for me in this, but…it is where I am. I don’t know if it is helping me, I know it is not a long-term answer, but I cannot help but hope it is helping. Someone. Somehow.
I was not emotionally prepared to be this emotionally unprepared a year later. I feel more fragile than I did last spring; more hesitant, shyer, and more anxious. I feel less seen and, in some cases, less willing to be seen. Like I want to hide and hibernate until I am ready to be in the world again, when the climate is right again for me, whenever that may be. But, as I am not a tardigrade, that is not an avenue that is open to me. So I will keep on. I will try the avenues that are open to me and try to give myself and others a fighting chance at making it.
If you are in this place of emotional unpreparedness, too, you aren’t alone. Know that. The world has not ended; this struggle will, though, I hope. Just hold on, okay? I’m right there beside you, holding on, too. Even if it is just by our fingertips. Feel that? That’y my pinkie touching yours. You aren’t alone.
If you are struggling, please do not hesitate to reach out. There are avenues open for you, friends.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Live Online Chat
If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential and toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.
SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.