Friday, April 10, 2020

Not Okay

I’m supposed to be at a virtual happy hour right now.

I’m not going, because there are mascara streaks on my face.

Wash them off, you say? Walk to the bathroom, clean my cheeks, and then sit down and shove a smile onto my face and pretend to a bunch of people that everything is fine and I don’t feel terrified, enraged and more alone than I thought possible, hahaha?

Not only have I run out of the energy to do that, I’ve run out of the energy to care that I’ve run out of the energy.

I’ve also run out of the energy to care about a work deadline, which is saying a lot for someone as neurotic about pleasing people as I am. It doesn’t help that I feel like some kind of insane bird muppet amongst my work colleagues, flapping my wings and making strange squawking noises about the world ending while everyone else proceeds ahead stoically, pulling turns of phrase and logos out of their asses while I change the same word back and forth again in the same paragraph 18 times.

I posted an article on Facebook about how for some people, this is a mental health crisis.

“For some, this is a time of mental healing,” one person retorted, in a comment.

I found myself wanting to hurt this person. 

That's what's going on right now. Small things, things about which I used respond to with "be kind" or "be compassionate" or "remember that person is suffering" are making me feel like I'm on fire with rage. Someone cut in front of me in a line at a shop and proceeded to order for three separate households, while I was just doing my shopping for one. She felt this was the right time to share her life story with the shop’s owner.

“Oh my gosh, that raspberry pie I got last time I came? I brought it home and it kind of fell on its side and the toppings went all weird? And I was like, ‘Oh no!’ But it was still delicious! Hahaha!”

I have never hated someone so much in my life.

I hate the people who are snapping at each other on social media about whether it’s safe to share jigsaw puzzles (if you leave them in the garage for a few days), or if you should disinfect your kids shoes after they come inside from your backyard, or for other people wearing scents when lining up socially distanced at the grocery store. And the best part is: I am a fucking Buddhist. I teach meditation. I LIVE by a devotion compassion. I would fight to the non-violent death in the name of peace.

Here’s the thing about living in a household of one. (Yes, I understand that living in households of two or three or six is no picnic, either. I am not here to argue.) When you buckle, there’s no one there to see you. When you don’t have the strength to reach out, no one knows you’re not okay. While people complain about their kids and spouses, you ache at the idea that it will likely be months or more until you touch another human again.

And today, after all the petty things that I shouldn’t have cared about but did, one really big, non-petty thing happened. A thing that I was looking forward to with my whole being… a thing out in nature that was going to help make sense what’s led up to this crisis … a thing that I had held for months as a light at the end of the tunnel (and a physically distanced way to spend time with other humans) – that thing got cancelled.

I buckled.

I curled up on the floor and sobbed, and wondered, for the first time in a long time, what the point was of being here at all. 

The shame came next. “You have nothing to complain about.” “You have a home.” “You have a dog.” “You’re not a healthcare worker.” “You’re not stuck in a hospital struggling to breath.” And definitely, "If this is how you're handling things, you should not teach meditation." 

At least know well enough to do this – I forced myself to reach for the phone. I called one of my own meditation teachers, who reminded me of this: 

1. Interacting with other humans and with nature from a protective membrane around our nervous system. Now, that protection is being denied to us. "The slightest touch," he said,  "and we’re wincing and recoiling."

2. There is a ton of research on the trauma of solitary confinement on the human psyche. (I am not comparing self-isolating in a suburban dwelling to being locked in a cell with no daylight. But the truth is, we do need people. No one who has made any kind of change in this world has done it even close to alone. We are tribe animals. Look it up.)

3: There is a tiny chance that I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Who might be in shock at the idea of not being able to hug another human for months. Who cringes when having to either fake okayness or skip almost every online gathering they're invited to. Who imagines stabbing strangers on Facebook - because they are, in their own roundabout way, talking about wanting stab other strangers on Facebook. 

Whether we should or should not be feeling this way is not the point. 
If someone steps on you by accident, it still hurts.

Here's another thing I've run out of the energy to do: pretend I'm okay. So instead of doing meditation, for the next little while, the teacher I mentioned, Derek, and I are going to talk to each other about how we as humans can be honest and vulnerable and actually connect, more than on social media, during this time. About how we can make real change. 

We're going to share some of those conversations, and invite you to join us. If it helps, great. If it doesn’t, that’s also fine. But if you want to argue and ramble about what a great time you're having, you'll probably want to go somewhere else. 

I hear Facebook is good.