Everyone writes on themes of reflection or resolution when a new year rolls around. Since before the holidays commenced I wanted to do the same. I’ve always enjoyed celebrating the symbolism regarding the passing of time. There was a lifetime’s worth of material existing in one year, but I ended up spending far too much time brainstorming about what to say and how to say it. Nothing struck as unique. I let my ideas spin wildly, tighten around my creativity, until they suffocated it enough to bar any words from getting out.
I don’t wish to be an echo chamber reciting what we all know to be a universally challenging time. But really, what else is there to talk about except everything that turned our world upside down? I decided to swallow an often-repeated pill to wash down my writer’s block: Write what you know.
I know that I have been tested relentlessly, more than I remember experiencing in previous years of my life. Sometimes I fought bravely to keep things together. Other times I sunk beneath the sheets of my bed, too defeated to do anything more than sleep, eat, and be swept into the vortex of online mindlessness. My eyes and ears and heart beyond capacity of understanding the barrage of ugliness.
I know that it was necessary to take risks, as we all did. I navigated valid fears and ever-changing circumstance to survive as best I could week by week. No, that’s a lie. It was often hour by hour. I kept all friends at a distance except one. I had groceries delivered until I didn’t. I disregarded caregiver assistance in the name of health and safety, but not sanity. I went on three dates. I wore a mask and crossed streets, avoided inhaling when I couldn’t help but to pass someone whose face was bare. I agonized over decisions that suspended between selfcare and potential hazard. I protested injustices that weighed heavier on my subconscious than my fear of getting sick. Other times I stayed home and pitched in with time and money and patient, yet aggravating conversations. I evacuated before wildfire experts deemed it absolutely necessary.
I know that I contorted in obtuse, sometimes unfamiliar ways, to survive. I had mood swings and brain fog. I was forgetful and disorganized. I was at times so stressed that my body literally ached, muscles clenched tight enough that it became painful to walk or lay down. I cried. I cursed over and over, foolishly begging the world to challenge me again. I painted blame on others, plunged into the tar-like substance myself until I laughed at my stupidity. I choked on disbelief. I held my breath each time someone disappointed me, then violently gasped for air when my face, violet with upset, couldn’t sustain the frequency I encountered those that bred the disappointment. I wondered if I could ever forgive anyone that cartwheeled over thick lines of morality. Do I even want to? I threatened to give up three-hundred-thousand times, but at all times I had one toe wedged in the sliver between door and exit.
Inexplicably, I haven’t had a single panic attack since the pandemic began.
I know that I need more help. In the last ten months I’ve only had one full day off from caregiving. I’ve worked so hard and sacrificed so much to keep Mom safe from Covid that it feels reckless to welcome help into our home until vaccines have been more widely distributed. I know the finish line is nearing, but I don’t want to acknowledge it yet for fear of it being pushed back in the way that was learned by the pandemic. Dates of change are not guaranteed.
I know myself better than ever. I’ve enforced boundaries, drew a line more times than I can count. Even when I feel like I’m a stranger to myself, I at least know who and what I am not. I am kind and thoughtful. Bitter and exhausted. Terrified and unafraid. Hopeful and fearful. Sometimes I am unwilling to compromise, and yet in certain circumstances I will hold the velvet rope up for you to stroll under. My introverted tendencies both saved and suffocated me. I am stubborn and less agreeable. I am grateful to be alive.
I know what it is to find joy in the minutiae. I drank wine and tore off half-portions of edibles with my teeth. I danced, and liked it. I braided hair and painted nails. I whitened teeth until they ached. I let the hair on my body grow as free as it was able, then unceremoniously removed it for no sake at all except to slide fingers over slick skin. I cooked elaborate meals. I ordered takeout as if my life depended on it. I fell in love with my goddaughter and the meaning she brings to the future. I talked on the phone for hours with friends. I said “I love you.” more than was expected. I played games. I walked for miles around town late at night with my best friend. I took naps, sometimes back-to-back. I smiled at the wind, at the breath on my tongue and the dirt between toes. I cuddled dogs. I gladly understood how I am both insignificant and eternal depending on the lens of perception. I gave into temptation. I forgave myself, time and again. I was gentle with self-flagellation. I allowed myself to be spoiled on occasion. I relished in the purging of material things and parallelly lapped at the lustful taste of retail therapy. I took pride in physical labor and alternative means of obtaining education. I accepted the goodwill of others. I meditated. I worshiped the power of salt water: ocean, tears, and sweat.
But what I know, above all, is that I am still here, and so are you if you’re reading this. We did it. We survived yesterday and all the days before. We may not be able to comprehend exactly how or why, but the fact remains that we did. I don’t know if I’ll see you tomorrow because life is everything but predictable, but just know that there is much to be proud of and even more to fight for.