Content

I am content. I want to remember that this happened. That it is possible. How rarely can any of us say that? Are there still things I would change or things that rankle? Sure. I want to feel pretty and be skinnier. Who doesn’t? I want my parents and my brother to never grow old and to always be happy & healthy. I want this man to make me more of a priority. But I have him and I like him and he makes me so happy. For most of my life, I longed for this feeling so I’m going to revel in it as long as I can and try to keep pushing away the niggling thoughts leftover from heartaches past. Mostly though, I want the world to make sense, to be fair and equitable and safe. And I want to be proud to be an American again.

But for tonight, for this moment, I feel content. And that feels really nice.

Coronatine & anxiety

This is week eight of social distancing and working remotely full-time. I keep hearing people say some version this phrase “I have always had low-grade anxiety…” and I’m not sure why exactly it stays stuck under my skin. I fully understand the affliction, however, I think I bristle at the notion that this phrase to describe it has somehow become the conversational version of a hashtag. Is it now cool to have had an underlying condition of anxiety? Cool maybe isn’t the right word and, again, I cannot pinpoint why it bothers me. The faces of the people who have said it to me, how it was delivered, the tone and the context, as well as what I know of them as individuals — there aren’t a lot of commonalities. But it has bothered me every time and I’ve ruminated on it relentlessly, among a multitude of other things during the days and nights of this pandemic situation.

The truth is, I got myself off on a tangent already because that’s how I was going to start this post myself today. I have been feeling (off and on, waxing and waning, without a trigger or pattern) anxious since this whole thing began. What I was going to preface this post with though is that, despite my reluctance to embrace it as truth, I was kind of an anxious person in the “Before.” It’s not clear if I have always been this way but I think it’s most likely that I have.

On days like today, gloomy, melancholic and too quiet, it’s hard for me to remember feelings, moments or experiences in my life where I wasn’t overthinking. In my last role as a counselor in a high school, I had a colleague on my small, four-person team who was unequivocally and pathologically anxious. To the point where it rubbed off on and affected everyone around her to some degree, to the point of frustration or annoyance of those who frequently experienced her perpetual buzzing. Listen. I loved that girl but it was profoundly irritating at times. I keep thinking “I’m not that bad,” but I think I may have become that person on my current work team even though I don’t worry to that extreme. It’s all relative though and I can admit that I am anxious more than any of my current colleagues, at least verbally expressed. I do overthink. And on my “new” work team of one, in my living room while using the tv stand as a makeshift desk, I am definitely that person. That said, I’m also the strongest, smartest, cleverest, funniest, most likeable … and prettiest too! This new one-woman team isn’t all bad.

Joking aside though, I do feel anxious. At the beginning of these eight weeks, there was a lot of time spent relishing the freedom, the ability to “sleep in,” freedom from distractions during the work day, not having to wear noise-cancelling headphones all the time to block out cubby chatter, having time to cook multiple, healthy meals a day, freedom to be a hermit and not have to continually think of the excuses you want to give for not wanting to hang out or make plans with people (although you didn’t dare use them because you simultaneously hate excuses and flakes), and just generally relax. I still relish every single one of those positive things. I also love the concerted effort by many to share the positive each day, live for the greater good, and the incredibly unique and powerful feeling of literally everyone experiencing this crisis together, albeit differently. In the early days, I wanted to consume as much information as I could but I was also pretty disappointed in and terrified by the spectacle of our national leadership and his daily press conferences. I would frequently call my parents so we could watch together, not even commenting, just being together in some way while taking it in. While I was laughing and raging about the incredible nonsense spread over this very real and overwhelming global crisis, I was also growing increasingly more anxious.

From the very beginning, I have worried about the people in this world that are most susceptible to this virus, for all of the published scientific and socio-economic factors. I’ve also been worried about my family because, without question, that’s the thing I care about the most at my core. Initially, I discounted my parents’ suggestion for me to come home as just that, a suggestion that was mostly an expression of love and compassion. It is still that but at some point, I remember talking to my brother about how it was starting to feel like a guilt trip. I guess this was about the time that the DC mayor extended our stay at home guidelines through May 15 near the end of April. From that point on, it’s become kind of an ever-present internal battle in my head and my heart. I hate it.

I want to be with my parents. And my brother. I think about every other time since leaving home for college where I have cried at having to leave them to go back to wherever I was … college, MD, DC. Partially, it is going back to being alone, an environment that I enjoy and cherish on many levels but mostly, it is about change. Specifically, it is about never knowing what will happen before the next time you see them or if you will get that chance. Lord knows, I have experienced enough loss in my life to recognize where that fear and dread and terrible sadness and longing comes from. It seems I would be embracing the opportunity to go to their home, when it is not only sanctioned but required that I work remotely, at least through the end of next week.

But as this time has gone on, that battle inside has only raged harder. One) even though the chance of infecting them, them showing signs of sickness or, I can barely even think it but, succumbing to the virus, is infinitesimally small, I cannot help but think about it. I would never, ever be able to forgive myself for not just staying put. And two) yes, if I am being truthful, I know that I am also giving up on a rare and unprecedented opportunity to spend this time alone as I have done for the past seven weeks. But three) I don’t want to listen to my mother read to me from Facebook, I don’t want to perpetually watch the local news (at deafening levels), I don’t want to feel guilty when I have to do work or, conversely, when I need to pretend to do work as I have done intermittently for the past couple of weeks since my budget was cut. And four) I have a man here that I care a lot about and like spending time with. We are both careful enough that we feel comfortable seeing each other during this interminable lockdown and I am deeply thankful for it. He says his roommates are hyper-vigilent to the extent that it’s annoying. One of them Chloroxes the dishes! I don’t have to deal with that but it’s kind of comforting to know he’s safe because they are so anal. The human contact is unexpectedly necessary for my mental health. His hugs feel like home. I had also selfishly hoped that I would actually see him more often than the average once a week since our schedules are finally both pretty open. That hasn’t happened as often As I would like though and, as I’ve lamented ad nauseum here, I’m not stupid enough to push with this guy. That hasn’t gone well in the past and he isn’t them.

Anyway, I know that the pros of going home to spend this time with my folks outweigh the cons and, if the stay at home orders are extended again, I will go. I know that I will. I won’t regret it and, once I get there and surely when I am leaving to come back here again, I will certainly regret not having gone sooner.

I just wish I could stop feeling so anxious about it. Unease and uncertainty has become my fairly constant state of being during this weird time. I do believe, like many other opinions expressed in various spaces of the interwebs, that the “new normal” is already here and that social distancing will continue for much longer. I hope my body and mind and heart learn to adjust to it better over time. I hope we all do.

Music for the Mood: Anxiety – Jason Isbell

Legends

Kobe Bryant died today. It is completely and utterly devastating and surreal to even think those words. I have an overwhelming compulsion to record them though. For posterity maybe but probably because, like so many things, I am experiencing it by myself right now and it feels too raw, too close, too big and I’m just not sure how else to normalize the emotion.

This is 40

I was excited to turn 30. It was, and still is, to date, my best year. I’m not feeling any particular type of way about turning 40.

I have lots of feelings. Obviously. I am who I am, after all.

Introspection has become part of my daily life. It’s how I take care of myself. I walk 45 minutes each way to and from work every day and, although I listen to podcasts, my brain is constantly churning. Sometimes sparked or provoked by the podcasts but often in spite of or at least parallel to. John laughs at me for my overactive mind but he also helps quiet it. He might be the best part of this milestone.

Lately, for the past several weeks, through the unwelcome remnants of unsettling dreams or human apparitions of heartaches past, I keep thinking about exes. Maybe not so much them, as men or as personalities or even individual qualities, but their impact on my life, for better or, more accurately, for worse …… it’s hard not to imagine my 40 years of life within the context of the things that have shaped me the most. And, with the most brutal truth, shaped the absence of roles I thought I would be playing by this point in my life; roles that seemed and still do, to some extent, innate and inevitable. And yet, roles I may never and likely will never get to try on. Having a child of my own, with John, or g/God forbid, someone in the future, seems unlikely at this age. I’m not in a rush or, I guess, I am not in a place where it is feasible. I live in 385 sq ft. My guy still weirdly lives with roommates. I am not moving to the suburbs. Tiptoeing across the threshold of 40, these are the things I regret and yet, I do realize that it’s silly to regret something you really did not have control over. You’re allowed to regret missing out though, right? I don’t know. This isn’t like a trip to Cabo that I chose not to take.

Relationships, for me, have had the single greatest impact on my four decades as a human, particularly the past two, and I don’t know how to really sit with or accept that reality. Although, even as I type that, I know that isn’t really true. The first one in college, the one after college, the one when I moved here from Pittsburgh … they all still hurt. It isn’t hard for me to recognize or admit but I would guess that, to anyone other than me, even those that know me best, this statement would be utterly unbelievable or, at the very least, induce an eye roll or a casual shrug and a hair flip. To me though, looking at past relationships, and even many friendships, is like being stuck in a hall of mirrors at a county fair. Unpack that as you wish.

So, this is 40. Seems a lot like both 20 and 30 in my head and heart. Wonder if 50 will come with a wider lens. And instructions on how to use it properly.

Brass Tacks

When it comes down to it, I think the frustration for me is that it never felt casual. It never felt all that serious either. And I liked it. Just the way it was, before the past few weeks when you were abnormally less communicative and I saw you twice in what, a month and a half? Leave me alone with my thoughts for that long without any acknowledgement that I am on your mind, that I matter to you, and I will pull that string until it unravels us.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d have been happy if it were more “serious” or whatever but that conversation four months ago kept things in perspective. Maybe that is more problematic than I’m giving credence to; did it give me perspective because I had to continually acknowledge it or did it prevent me from accepting what didn’t serve me? Unclear. It’s not the first time I’ve pondered that. The point remains though that wherever it was on the casual-serious spectrum, it was working for me.

But I mean what I say: it didn’t feel casual. And, by the flip side of the same coin, I wonder if that “serious” conversation months ago didn’t do the same for you. You had to continually acknowledge that this was less casual than you wanted because it’s what I was comfortable with but that maybe you also chose to be somewhat blind to where on the spectrum we fell. I don’t think I imagined that we click, that you feel something for me that is more than casual sex and that whatever was going on was nice. But four months went by since that talk, John, so again, after maybe some initial weirdness on my part masking an internal battle for trust to prevail, whatever was going on was good for both of us. What I don’t know is whether something recently changed for you. And that is my brass tacks … it’s at the root of what I can’t make sense of.

I didn’t call you my boyfriend because you are a grown ass man but, if I’m being honest, I considered you my guy and I hoped you considered me your girl. But recently I started to wonder if anyone in your life even know about my existence. Several people in mine know of you, even if they didn’t know many details. I feel like I know the people in your life even though I haven’t yet met them. I like talking about you. I like having you in my life. I like our banter, our texts, our time together and, really, our friendship. I don’t even care that much that we rarely do anything outside of my house. I like us just fine.

In recent weeks though, it felt like I wasn’t even on your radar. It hurt. I worried if you were okay dealing with the winter blues or if something had happened with your mom. I sent up a smoke signal in the form of a text last week though and, even then, it wasn’t clear whether you had even noticed I’d gone missing for an entire week. That is the primary source of frustration, ultimately. No one wants to feel like they don’t matter. I feel like I do a good job of making sure you know you matter. Maybe it actually makes you uncomfortable? I never considered that. Is it just because it’s so close to Christmas and you are way more social than me (even though you don’t think you are)? Or do the holidays make all men feel imaginary pressure?

On Friday night, after not seeing you for two weeks, I wanted you to show up at my house after your work holiday thing (as you said you would) and I wanted you to say it was good to see me, that you’d missed me, that you missed sex, that I mattered. That didn’t happen and it was disappointing. But it also made me feel … unwanted. Unimportant. Desperate? That might not be the word but I felt like it was emblematic of a larger problem when you said “sorry to disappoint.” What does that even mean? You could accurately recognize that I would be disappointed but it was the first time that I questioned the sincerity of your words.

You saw and talked to one of my friends at that work party and even that feels weird. That she talks to you, adores you, and tells me this during and after the party. But I have to send up a smoke signal to know if you’re coming over or heading home. It’s honestly just weird.

I don’t want to throw in the towel here but if you are sleeping with other women or have started seeing someone else and that’s why you’ve stopped being as into me, then I need to know that now. I worry about that only because I truly do not understand why anyone would go so long without sex. Two weeks? Sex is so much better the more you’re having it with someone. How else do you ever learn what works? So if you’ve just lost interest in me period, you really should tell me that too.

If this moves forward, I don’t want to have to put effort into making sure we are talking. That’s silly. It wasn’t like that until the past two weeks and I don’t know what changed or why. I also don’t want to have to schedule time to be together. That’s so dumb. We are not an agenda item but I also recognize that you have a very busy social life. I have never asked you to give up one practice or open gym or game though you have skipped those things many times to hang with me. I always appreciated that and it did make me feel special (and also a little guilty). Maybe you don’t have time for any someone in your world and it has nothing to do with me? In my world (and I would argue anyone’s world), I make time for what matters and the message I have received recently from you is that I no longer matter. I did matter more but, at some unknown time, I ceased to do so? And maybe you just thought I was fine and I didn’t do a good job of telling you I felt neglected because I fear being perceived as anything less than fiercely independent.

Our thing always felt pretty equal and, at the end of the day, regardless of how you want to define or label it, that’s all I really need. I want to be part of a relationship that I enjoy, that I feel part of but also where any effort required is equal.

So, how do we move forward from here? What do you want, what do you need, and can both of our needs be met?

Music for the Mood: This Year’s Love – David Gray