I’m Alive and Dead Simultaneously: The COVID Diaries

Dear Diary,

It is four days after Christmas and three days until the New Year, and I have done everything this month, and also I have done nothing at all. I did the Necessary Holiday Things; there was stuff in stockings, there were presents under the plastic tree, I was wildly grateful for my ridiculous gaggle of loud, obnoxious, sweary humans, and I also felt like a lump who accomplished Zero… a lump who maybe should have done more? Been more? Like there should have been more hot meals prepared with my hands and perhaps some mopping of the muddy floors? Like I should have made cheerful Christmas cookies for the neighbors and peppermint fudge. Or written a few letters by hand instead of shooting emails into the ether. 

I don’t know quite how to describe this “Being a Human in 2020” phenomenon. It’s like a forced rest with no rest at all. Like sleeping without being refreshed. Like someone took an ice cream scoop to my brain, turning it into an homage to Swiss cheese and causing random system failures. The ice cream scoop is stress, I’m sure, but an exacerbated variety that causes me to Fight, Fly, and Freeze all at once, instead of choosing just one of the Lizard Brain responses. As a result, this year feels like I’m nervously standing still while running screaming into the dark. Like I’m Schrödinger’s Cat and 2020 is the Box; I’m alive and dead simultaneously. 

Is it strange living through a global pandemic? For absolute sure. It’s surreal to pause so many parts of life and not know when to reboot while other parts proceed, full steam ahead. And it’s particularly odd knowing this year will be a formative memory for my children. This—this right here, right now—is their childhood. This is what they’ll tell their children and grandchildren. What feels like a holding pattern to me is the actual journey for them.

But at the same time, I feel like my weird, wild family had a jumpstart on Living in Ludicrous Times. We, after all, have been Very Bizarre for decades now, eschewing what’s Normal whenever Normal failed to deliver joy. I just didn’t expect that to give me a leg up, easing our transition into the After Times.

I keep wondering, especially during the holidays, what magical fairyland people lived in before 2020, because it seems that Chaos and Uncertainty are entirely new to some folks. On the one hand, I’m sympathetic. Chaos and Uncertainty are hard and heartbreaking because they inherently carry elements of loss; it’s not a simple thing to mourn How Things Were Supposed to Be. On the other hand, Chaos and Uncertainty can be gifts that rip through our carefully constructed boxes and, if we dare to look, show us a whole world beyond them. A world that’s more flexible. A world where we’re more compassionate to others and to ourselves.

In small ways, I’m starting to see some constraints crumble and freedom leak into the cracks. There was no real debate this year, for the first time I can remember, about when trees and lights can go up and when we’re allowed to sing about Rudolph and Silent Nights. Instead, everyone was all, “IT’S ALL EFFING CHAOS, PUT YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE UP IN SEPTEMBER, TAKE IT DOWN IN MAY, LISTEN TO CHRISTMAS MUSIC WHENEVER IT MAKES YOU HAPPY, EAT CANDY CANES ALL YEAR LONG.” Like this year we collectively decided light and joy are invited on all the days in all their forms, and it doesn’t make sense to ration or confine them.

I find myself nodding along and saying, “Yes, yes! Welcome to the Wilderness, friends. Our rules out here are Compassion, Love, and Joy. The end. Anything that helps further those aims is encouraged.”

 

 

 

ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
5 comments
  1. I find myself nodding along and saying, “Yes, yes! Welcome to the Wilderness, friends. Our rules out here are Compassion, Love, and Joy. The end. Anything that helps further those aims is encouraged.”

    YES!

  2. Had my first major-ish panic attack in a long time today, in the middle of the grocery store, with the baby (of course).
    My husband was with me, which would have been amazing, except I couldn’t find him and his phone was dead (of course).
    Fortunately I ran into a friend and her husband, which gave me the strength to hold it together (can’t lose it at the grocery store in front of the woman who’s due any second!), and he saw my husband and called him over. God sends us the help we need when we need it!!!

  3. I just announced to my husband, “I’ve hit the COVID wall finally”. I’m done but at the same time grateful for the forced slow down, the time home, the extra snuggles with my girls…I can’t imagine going back to our chaotic on the go busy lives while at the same time craving some sense of the old normal for my family. You have put into words all the mess in my head as we just canceled New Years Eve plans with one of our only COVID bubble families.

  4. Love this. Love you.

  5. both/and, right? Contained Chaos, that’s how I live. Now it’s restrained chaos. We reflected on how our dating years had us driving to so many houses (divorces so families grew) on Thanksgiving and we’d be watching the clock to head to the next… now they live in different states and it was just us for Thanksgiving. And Christmas. No cross country trip to visit Grandma, we facetimed. Both different, and okay – not the chaos of packing and sleeping in a different bed, kids not being able to connect via xbox with buddies over “break”. Find the joy. Find the time to live in the now instead of the what’s next. Reflect back on busier times and enjoy time to catch your breath. I did. And don’t listen to the darkness saying you “could/should” have. You lived and loved. Truth – that is enough. ♥

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