Yesterday, I was Tired. Tuesday was fury. Wednesday was grief. Yesterday, I felt like my head was too heavy for my shoulders.
I found myself distracted, unable to settle. Stuck between tasks. Unsure why I left one room or entered another. Backtracking to try to remember. A recipe halfway completed, then abandoned for reasons I couldn’t recall. Clothes gathered to take a shower but left as bathroom floor decor with bathing forgotten. Water boiled for tea, then boiled again, then boiled again, and tea unmade.
My brain was foggy. I wasn’t surprised. I understand exhaustion is part of trauma and grief, and that, Diary, is what the world is collectively engaged in right now. So I tried to be kind to myself in the midst of the mental puzzle. I succeeded, and I failed. I was gentle with my state of distraction at times, and, at others, I felt that I could have Done More. Managed Better. Completed More Tasks. Been More With It. Had My Crap More Together.
I feel, Diary, that uncoupling ourselves from earning self-worth by Doing Things is one of our biggest American challenges. We don’t know how to be quiet. We don’t know how to wait. We don’t know how to be still inside our minds and our hearts. Yes, we’re living a collective trauma right now, so we’re anxious and stressed. But also, we’ve lived inside the trauma of hyper activity for years. Decades. And, forced to stop cold turkey, we’re realizing we’re addicts with jitters from withdrawal.
I’ve spent three days with a pressure washer, cleaning our driveway and patio and sidewalks. Are my bathrooms clean? No, Diary. Of course they’re not. The toilets could use work, and the floors are sporting muddy paw-prints, and I don’t want to work at my desk right now because it’s sticky. But I was jonesing for a job. Not little things that need to be done. Something Big I could complete that would make me feel Useful and Worthwhile. Something with discernible progress that would prove I’m not Wasting This Time. I have never — not in the 17ish years we’ve owned this house — washed the sidewalks. What does it take to get me to wash sidewalks? Apparently a global pandemic.
I don’t regret the sidewalk-washing, Diary, even though I understand it’s a symptom of a larger issue. I can envision washing sidewalks because they need to be washed rather than in a frenetic bid to Stay Busy and Distract Myself from Thinking. Washing sidewalks — washing anything — because they need to be washed sounds healthy. But I’m not going to berate myself for distraction right now. I’m going to be kind, instead. Acknowledge that my motives for sidewalk-washing might be a little wonky, but also that it Felt Good. Acknowledge that I need to practice being still, but also that bouts of maniacal productivity are a Coping Mechanism, and Coping Mechanisms are OK when they… you know… help us cope. Acknowledge that I need to be mindful not to allow the Coping Mechanisms to take over and become Everything as though a Frenzy of Activity is the Solution for feeling helpless and a little afraid… but also recognize that Agitated Action is just a part of the equation for now.
I don’t know if any of that makes sense, Diary, but it’s where I’m at. It’s what I’ve got. Well, that and clean sidewalks.