What do you do with the days when you just can’t stop crying? They come out of the blue. Just at the moment when you think, “I’ve got this. COVID-19: bring it on!” You’ve mastered the grocery store or Instacart. You’ve figured out your exercise route and schedule to minimize contact with other humans. You’ve read the research and developed your own personal mask philosophy and made peace with the fact that others will disagree with you. You’ve cultivated a practice of limited consumption of reliable news sources. Maybe you even learned to knit or sew or make bread or grow things from vegetable clippings. You are having lots of quality time with yourself or your family and reconnecting with long lost friends. You are definitely rocking quarantine.
And then it hits.
Maybe something bad happened. A sick loved one. Death. Lost income. Maybe it was the news about these inevitabilities happening to so many friends and strangers.
Maybe it was joy—the electronic effervescence of a school play, concert, anniversary event, thesis presentation. The reminder that life goes on in this weird way. And underneath, the awareness that we will be in this weird way for a while. We may never go back.
Maybe it was the overwhelm. Sometimes in your face, assaulting you with a thousand gentle slaps and pokes. Sometimes sneaky. I’m lucky. I have a partner who carries more than his weight and handles the children’s education. We have flexible schedules. This leaves me to prioritize my own students and the mental and physical health of my family. So I’ve been telling myself it is not too much.
It is too much.
And on top of it today there are the chainsaws outside. Somewhere a tree going down. A big one from the sound of it. The sound slices across the birds singing and reminds me of all that we will destroy in the name of our own safety.
And then there is the voice inside my head telling me to get the fuck out of bed. Telling me I am too lucky and privileged to wallow like this. Telling me I an ungrateful. I wish I could say this was the voice of tough love, but I think it might be self-hate. On days like today it’s hard to tell the difference.
So I’m sitting in bed trying to remember what the first step is. And I freeze and start crying again. And at the same time, while I’m crying, I’m trying to run through the to-do list of things that have to happen today because things still have to happen. And I’m trying to remember what I need to put in the grocery order. And I’m trying to remember what balls I have dropped. And I’m trying to wrap my head around my nine-year-old’s complicated zoom schedule so that he doesn’t miss another meeting or get behind on another assignment. And at the same time I am afraid to get out of bed because the someone somewhere in this house is having a fight or they will be soon because everyone is just so annoyed all the time. The small child who lives inside me has decided to show up today and her stomach hurts because she is scared of yelling because it makes her feel like the world is ending. And maybe the world is ending?
And then there is the voice inside my head that tells me that I shouldn’t have days like this any more because this is day 55 and I should have figured it out by now. I try to remember that it is Spring. The azaleas are blooming. My children make me laugh when I’m sad. We have a house. Food. Income. Teachers that care. A loving family. But why isn’t remembering this making me put one foot in front of the other? Stop crying? Get out of bed?
Some days will just be like this. It doesn’t look the same for everyone. Some yell. Seethe with irritation. Have nightmares. Can’t sleep. Laugh maniacally. Binge on Netflix or Fortnite or bourbon or bread. Some move frantically, staying busy until they drop as if motion could outrun reality. And some of us just put the world on hold and cry for a while.
I have no perky advice. Just that some days are like this. We will have days like this whether it is day 55 or 78 or 367. If we are honest with ourselves, we will have days like this even if the world as we know it hasn’t ended and things return to “normal.” And when there is a day like this, remember, you have good company. You are not alone.