I find people to be both intriguing and exhausting. I love hearing their stories. In fact, it’s how I often engage with a new acquaintance. “How did you wind up here?” I usually am able to make someone feel comfortable. I truly like people. But . . .
The burden of other people’s transgressions sometimes weighs me down. Nonsensical dribble travels my synapsis and seeps into my amygdala like a plague. Call me Alice, as trivial lamentations suck me down the rabbit hole.
I recognize when it’s time for me to self-care by hibernating at home until my psyche is restored enough to accept and encourage. And so, when we were all asked to remain sequestered, I thought shelter-in-place should be easy-peasy for me.
Having nowhere to go, I can just be. Sit in silence. A plethora of opportunity presents itself. I can write all day. I can read the mountain of books precariously perched on top of my bookcase and tilting my Kindle carousal. My journal will be my comfort and confidant. I don’t need to conversate.
With all of those prospects in the offing, the first day, I pour my coffee and sit down on the couch to watch the latest reports. My plan is to sit until the coffee is finished. And then move on to one of those other tantalizing choices.
I live in upstate New York, the State with the most infected and dying. Our governor is straight-shooting what needs to be done. My coffee gets cold as I listen. Several hours later, I’m still on the couch scrolling through page after page of information and reading posts on Facebook. Will this stealthy enemy infiltrate my rural community?
A few days in, a veil of sadness shrouds me in despair. I find it difficult to concentrate. In fact, this essay has taken me several days. Usually my writing method is to go at it in one sitting. Now I stop and start. Start and stop. I haven’t been reading. The sofa comforts my derriere, and television consumes most of my day. When I retire for the night, I vow that the morning will bring a renewal of opportunity. Much to my dismay, this does not happen. Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours deleting ads on Facebook.
I realize how fortunate we are. Our home is comfortable and we have enough food and resources to get more when we need it. Our retirement income is not impacted. Other than the fact that we are limited in our choices for activity outside of our home, our daily routine is not significantly altered. So, what is it?
I’m savvy enough to realize that I’m in mourning. And if I wasn’t, there are enough doctors on the internet telling me so. But I also realize something else. Conversation is missing. We can Zoom away, but it’s not the same as sitting across from someone and sharing coffee and a scone. Zoom doesn’t offer the same intimacy. I know you’ve heard this before – we often don’t miss something or realize its value until we no longer have it.
All of that external stimulation, that I sought refuge from, was nourishment for my brain. I could capture the pieces, and in the sanctity of my home, examine them like the innies and outies of a jigsaw puzzle. Where exactly do they fit in my ponderance? It was fodder for essays and self-introspection. It was compost for my ever-developing cerebrum. I’ll never take it for granted again. Or will I?
Linda McKenney is a Story Teller, Writer and Actor, bringing historical women to life. Her most recent work is published in Silver Birch Press, 101 Word Short Stories, The Survivor’s Review, The Rush, and Helen: A Literary Magazine. She has an alter ego here.
This essay so perfectly captured my inertia and gave me words to understand it. Thank you for expressing it so eloquently yet succinctly. Can’t help but wonder who I am now.
God Linda, I feel like you’re telling my story! Your eloquently and brutally honest picture of what I believe most of us privileged enough to not be overcome by financial insecurity — although my husband had to shut down his practice, and funds are dwindling — I know we will be taken care of. But it’s the grief, the mourning, the paralyzation, shock and disbelief in trying to come to terms with what has happen. Thanks for expressing this for me and countless others.
Eloquent as always Linda. I feel exactly the same. Plans and paralysis are my daily companions. The only thing that keeps me sane are weekday online art classes with my grandchildren and their cousins and neighbors. The minor upside to this global nightmare.