All of these long days, I slowly grieve for my old life, like longing for a lost lover.
My grief unfolds in delicate layers. Spiraling, not linear.
I am “fine.” I am healthy. I am alive. I have so much to be grateful for. That is what I tell myself.
And yet…the grief washes underneath it all. Like a tide relentlessly ebbing in and out. Some days, it is quiet and private and manageable. Some days, it is a crashing tsunami, threatening to drown me. To drown everyone. To engulf all life as we know it.
But I am “fine.” I can go out into the sunshine. Drink in the healing power of nature. I love where I live. I wish their parking lots were open so entry wasn’t so precarious, but we can still get to the parks. We can make it work…we are making it work.
And then the grief rises up in me again. A passing memory of a favorite restaurant, filled with the calming din of laughter and conversation and clinking glasses. Thick with bodies. With proximity. With humanity. An inane experience, but now remembered like an illicit romance. What I wouldn’t give.
My children are now practiced in the art of staying six feet away from everyone they see. A skill I never would have dreamed of teaching them. Their little social bellies are so hungry. They are starving for people. Any people.
They grow increasingly weary of this new, strange, confusing way of being. Without the language to express such complicated feelings (I mean, do we adults even have it?), it comes out sideways. In their oppositional, agitated behavior. In their extra crying and neediness. (The less I have to give, the more they need from me.) In their refusal to follow the bedtime routine they have followed for years. In their thrashing with nightmares night after night after night.
So we all cling to nature. We cry in the woods. We grieve at the ocean (just not between 11 and 5, when access is forbidden). And we cling to the daily news bulletins. Is there anything that indicates our lives can return to one tiny slice of normal? When will we be allowed to see our friends? Will they even want to see us at that point? Will they be offended that we asked—because we are not being safe enough? When will seeing our friends be safe? What a horrible question.
I never thought I would have to choose between physical health and mental health. Aren’t they the same thing? Shouldn’t they be?
I’m so angry. But who can I be angry at? Whose fault is this? So I take it out on my family. And then I hate myself for it. Where can I go with all this rage?
I’m so sad. Every time I think I have reached the bottom of my tears, another full well springs up and spills over. Where can I go with all this sorrow?
Where can I go with all this grief?
I wear it now, this grief, like a second skin. Like a shadow. My constant companion. Even when I am “fine.” It is still there, a dull ache. A unrequited longing for the way things used to be.
There is no surgery for this pain. No cure. All I have is the salve of my words. If I can name this thing, see it laid out in front of me…perhaps the throbbing will abate for a moment.
So I write.
And I play the same game with my kids for the 100th time. And I fight and make up with my husband for the 100th time. And I cook, and eat, and clean up after the 100th meal.
And when someone asks, “How are you?”
I say, “Fine.”