Congratulations. You’ve spent X number of days, weeks, keeping your act together during this unprecedented disaster.
You’ve cooked three meals a day, burnt the one of the three, watched your kids push their plates aside in disgust, blown $40 on a subscription to NYT Cooking, baked bread, cookies, cakes, eaten them all. You’ve dusted, vacuumed and mopped, you’ve ironed, decluttered every room, and hand-washed the car.
You’ve sat with the kids making puzzles and mosaics until you wanted to knock yourself out by banging your head against the nearest hard surface, but instead secretly stealing the remaining pieces and stuffing them in your pocket. You’ve taken walks around your neighborhood staring at the same trees and shrubs every day until they too are no longer beautiful. They were just trees. And shrubs. You’ve answered “when is this virus going to diiiieee, I’m so bored what should I do” so many times in so many different ways that you no longer remember what the truth is. But you may have found a cure for boredom.
You hold on to your job, as if it’s the greatest job anyone can ever have, even if it interrupts all the fun activities described above, just because it gives you a break from the above. Or at least, gives you something to do while performing the activities above. You’ve realized you don’t even like your job, and immediately smacked yourself with a ton of guilt because others have been left desolate. You keep smiling into the screen dotted with your colleagues’ blank faces and start stuffing small pieces of the cake you baked into your mouth and think about the online yoga class you’ve signed up for later. There and then you realized that no amount of exercise will keep your waistline from exploding over your jeans if you ever wear them again.
Obviously, you’ve overdosed on the news, had visions of assassinating Donal Trump at point blank, ironed sheets, had nightmares, listened to neighbors quarrel, thought of breaking up with your partner, fell in love with your partner, cursed the day you had children when they’ve walked in on you loving your partner. But you’ve also held on to them so tight it made them hurt because for a moment you’re convinced that they are all there is.
You’ve maybe gotten rid of your beard, shaved your head, given your split ends a cut, shaved your legs daily as if waiting for your lover to pop by, fixed your hair for a video chat with your friends, considered dressing up for a supermarket run, dressed up for a supermarket run, let your hair go wild, forgotten to look in the mirror for a few days, suddenly seen yourself on your laptop in that conference call, pushed back the urge to cry.
But you’ve really socialized. You’ve been in touch with your friends more than ever before. In fact, you’ve texted friends that you haven’t spoken to in decades. You’ve been proud of the multitude of new apps on your devices that provide you with endless options of communication, even if they mostly do the exact same thing. You’ve had so many video chats, text exchanges, phone calls, and House Parties that you are on the verge of never wanting to see your friends and family again.
You just want to touch their faces.
The last call for the night comes to an end, it’s midnight and happy hour has possibly gone on too long. Everyone is asleep, the TV is off, Netflix is done, you even consider hopping on the Tiger King wagon to keep yourself from going mad. But you don’t do it. You’re surrounded by Legos and crumbs which you start to pick up manically.
And suddenly, out of nowhere, you’re done. With the cooking, cleaning, working, socializing, keeping it together. The walls aren’t holding. The silence or lack of it is maddening.
You sit there in the middle of the night when nobody can see you, hugging yourself, rocking back and forth.
I have to stay sane
I have to stay sane
I have to stay sane
But people keep dying
How can I stay sane
They’re elderly, they were already sick, you whisper inside your head, face burning with shame.
What if they were my family
dying in a white sterile plastic tent
alone in a football field
You go to the kitchen for a sugar fix, decide against it, grab a sponge, fall on your knees and begin to scrub the floor.
Staying sane is relative. Keeping it together is not a must. Giving yourself a break, is. You’re not responsible for this. You cannot control it. Keep yourself healthy, feed your kids frozen chicken nuggets, touch your loved ones, look into their eyes, talk to your friends. For theirs are the hands, dirty and scarred, that you’ll hold as you together walk out of this dark and murky wave, it may be in pieces, but in pieces that will have to mend into a new whole. In daylight.