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I forgot to RSVP.
To the wedding, to the baby shower. I’ve forgotten birthdays—important ones—like my cousin’s last week. I haven’t written freely like this in five months.
I’ve mentally stood in front of a podium with a spotlight shining in my eyes when I’ve tried to come up with the right things to say—so I’ve said nothing at all. I’ve sent nothing to the people I’ve thought of lately. I’ve left texts on “read.”
“You’re always so thoughtful,” my husband, friends, and family have said. Would they say that now? Surely the 2021 installment of me has been anything but that.
I don’t even want to spend time with me, so I find myself wanting to cancel plans when anyone else does.
I’ve been overthinking every social interaction I’ve had since I got vaccinated.
Oh God, why did I bring that up?
Was she annoyed with me?
Could they tell I was wrapped up in my own head?
My foot has tapped the floor at rapid speed while I’ve run through the gamut of my insecurities.
I’ve refrained from posting on social media most days. I look happy here, but I’m not.
I’ve swerved out of invitations whenever I could. Phew, one less day of pretending.
Why do I feel pressure? Pressure to be something I’m not right now, pressure to be a joy to spend time with?
Well, we’ve got a year and a half of make up to do. I can’t cancel. I can’t need time to myself. Haven’t I had plenty? Haven’t I maxed out my alone-time credit? How could I explain that I’m drained nonetheless?
Of course I love the people behind the plans. I miss them. I want to know what’s going on in their lives, what the best thing they ate was lately, where the house they’re looking at is—but I can’t give what I don’t have, and my capacity for conversation has dwindled.
As a society, we went from living in radio silence to a buzzing stadium in what felt like seconds. The transition was sharp, and it pierced my core. I’ve been spilling out ever since, attempting to plug the hole and hide the hemorrhaging “me” with a shaky smile.
Does anyone else have whiplash?
It’s hard to tell. Social media would point to “no.” Chats I’ve had with others would inform me that I’m on some miserable Misfit Island waiting for a weekend without plans so I can just be.
But then I can’t help but sense an inkling of a feeling that I’m not actually alone in this, that there are people who are recovering from the pandemic trauma—the trauma that’s still growing by the day. We might end up right back there again.
All of the deciding, the moral grappling of “live life or stay in,” the desire to protect our vulnerable loved ones—might all come flooding back faster than my “me-ness” has left me.
To confront that again would mean squaring up with all the implications underneath it, and the assessments we’ve run all of our life lines through: our relationships, our friendships, our jobs, and how we spend our time.
It was taxing then. And it was nowhere near the worst of what it could have been, and has been, for so many. We’re lucky we still have lives to evaluate—but that doesn’t remove the mental clutter around, well, decluttering it all again.
I want to tell myself that it’s okay to not be okay, that there are reasons to feel every brand of burnout on the market, and that I need to give myself time, grace, and compassion.
It’s harder to do that now, with everyone seemingly on other pages, in other chapters, of the same book. The wait and see approach feels lofty. The we’re all in this together mentality feels distant. In the meantime, all I can get myself to feel is indifference.
If you’re feeling like me, like you can’t show up as much as you want to, or at all—I don’t have anything I can offer you. I don’t have advice, or quotes, or wisdom to share.
Maybe we’re together in that.
Maybe we can just let ourselves acknowledge that this is where we’re at right now—and hey, at least that means we’re showing up somewhere.