Well, shit. You know that whole e=mc squared, what goes up must come down thing? Fair, one is energy and has something to do with how fast I am eating my cake and the other measures how hard I fall down after drinking too much wine, and by the end of quarantine I will likely have my own integrated theory of what happens when you eat your cake washed down with wine. Genius, that is what! Which brings me back to gravity, and my important theory of EMOTION, formed by years and years of working with it, which is that big emotional impacts actually IMPACT us. Gasp. Some happen right away, with audible immediacy, like my sister slipping in the shower this morning and nicking herself with the razor at the exact moment the water went cold and if you’ve never heard my sweet little sister swear it goes something like M!@#F%!**S!*%B$%!! Then there are other impacts, like me in the car accident in my twenties when I was like, well there’s no blood, off I go to aerobics class, and a week later I was in a sling on disability with permanent nerve damage in my arm and neck.
Well the whole business about an unprecedented event of global magnitude is that even those of us who are emotionally healthy (which is NOT the same as having a high EQ) do not have a precedent for the emotional impact of fear, heartache, loss, illness, death, upheaval, freedom, heroism, connection, isolation, loneliness, and confusion taking place simultaneously on a global scale.
This is a GLOBAL TRAUMA and, like it or not, WE ARE ALL IN SHOCK. And, as we process some of the shock, NEW IMPACTS keep rolling on out. We’re junked up on adrenalin, I’m thinking Patricia Arquette in the fight scene from True Romance. We can take a punch, and we’ve got a solid FU for C19 but as much as we glam it up, when the juice wears off we’re not looking so pretty.
And we are attracted to the drama. Crazy coach lady been drinking too much wine say what?!!! MOI??!!! I know you’re giving me the side eye and bristling like Fluffy that time she met the vacuum. Yes, you, me and Mother Theresa. Not because we are messed in the head. It is simply because we don’t want the adrenaline to wear off. We want the sheer protected feeling of the shock high. We don’t want to come down. This effect may be intensified to the degree that catastrophe was normalized for us as a child, but even the Waltons and the Brady Bunch are not wrapping this one up with a bow or a yoga class. We don’t want to face the sickness, death, financial ruin, loneliness part. We want to stay in the unified holy shit safe space where we are holding hands with the world. And sister to that emotion, we don’t want to come back to all of our ordinary stupid problems and our own personal isolated burden of solving them, alone. Not as they were, and certainly not now that money is threatening to run off with her secretary and leave us with three hungry children and a crop in the field. It feels better to have one inglorious bastard enemy whom we are all united against, than to return to a world of frenemies, to be pitted against each other, compared to one another, and left fending for ourselves and against ourselves.
THERE IS A DEEP AND HIDDEN EMOTIONAL SOLITUDE THAT HAS BEEN CRACKED OPEN BY A WORLD WIDE EVENT. And every time statistics run higher we are protected from the eventuality of returning to it, so we have a renewed stab of panic juice. But then also we stab ourselves with a reality check that says “What the douce, Ian you sick fuck, these are people’s lives at stake here. These numbers are lives.” Well, Ian, I am here to tell you that you aren’t sick in the head, you’re just having an inappropriate reaction to trauma, which it turns out is quite appropriate. But also confusing.
Add to this our social shaming of ALL EMOTION as Dramatization, the baseline of our conditioning, which has us all minimizing the pain we really need to be answering, neglecting ourselves, and then Jonesing for a drug strong enough to escape all of that we minimized, shamed and suppressed. Then BAM it’s real and it’s affecting our lives, or its surreal and we spend our days in an emotional soup that feels like someone melted your favourite holiday in a pot with a funeral, getting fired and being stranded on a desert island.
For some of us the first wave of shock comes to an end when a loved one has been lost. Or when we wake up alone again and the triumph and heroism is giving way to fear or sadness. When we have worked our asses off for something and it’s tenuous now.
BREAKING NEWS THIS JUST IN: Right now I am working from my bedroom, aka, new apartment. I have been interrupted in my creative process about 8 times if I resist hyperbole, in the past two hours, because one daughter has an important study to participate in and her computer is not working and she has to be on video and needs her hair cut and wants to use my computer and I am in UN level negotiations with my other daughter to borrow hers so I can NOT have my creative process interrupted yet one more time and this is upsetting for her because she wants to play the game she got for her birthday in quarantine which is her small joy right now and not give up her device for the evening which makes her feel mean but also there are questions of privacy and standards of equipment care and by the time I have counselled all parties, including the dog, drafted the twenty three page contract with appendices and arranged the transaction my irritability is up and I am hyper aware of the fact that I am actually sick right now and while I don’t have a fever I do feel a smidge gross and really need to get on the stationary bike and get some circulation going in my body before I can say anything more meaningful to all y’all and my current forecast for getting this blog out has moved from on schedule to approximately eleven at night which means that my plans for this evening are shot and I can’t for the life of me figure out how anyone has time for anything when it took me 2 hours to vacuum 2 days ago on my hands and knees with the shop vac, leaving the disgusting smell of pine and vomit all over my house, because the central vac is broken and no one is allowed inside to fix it, and now I can see that the dog hair is already back, and if you’ll pause five minutes I’m going to go cut my daughter’s hair, light the carpets on fire, work out and then finish helping you understand the hidden emotional impacts of the world pandemic #theanswerisinthequestion.
We are moving and breathing under water right now friends.
Practically, it takes videos and pictures and instructions and recaps and confirmations to accomplish an errand. I feel like I am either the surgeon walking the civilian through a tracheotomy (oh Lord that was unintended don’t let it come to this pls), or that I am the civilian and I’m like, sure I can land a plane once I am done cutting the hair and setting the carpets on fire.
Emotionally we don’t know what hit us. Some of us still don’t know we have been hit.
I sure don’t say that to scare you. I say that to offer protection. To give you a prophylactic hug, because in my experience and I have some, you need one. You need to throw out the rule book for what to expect of myself or how to be a perfect citizen right now, because there is no such thing as a perfect or practical response to trauma.
I am just going to go ahead and give you permission to feel whatever it is you’re feeling or not feeling or don’t know you’re feeling, yet.
And I am going to remind you, because you ask me to, it’s my raison d’etre and my day job.
You don’t have to be a hero. You already are one.
You can’t force an epiphany, even though it’s not wrong to want the smashing open of one reality to reveal a better one.
If it helps to put on your Eye of the Tiger theme song and practice your sumthin sumthin at dawn, great. Just don’t do it at your own expense.
Allow some silver linings, but don’t go crushing yourself with the force of a thousand alchemists because you’re afraid that if you don’t come out shining like a diamond you have somehow fucked up pandemics 101.
They’re telling us to treat our symptoms like Covid, well I want you to treat your emotional symptoms protectively as well. Assume that this is affecting you, because the laws of emotional gravity tell me it is, and DON’T RUN OFF TO AEROBICS CLASS WHILE YOU’RE IN SHOCK. I mean emotional aerobics class. There are not real aerobics classes to run off to, we all know, not just because Covid, but also because, and I am sorry if you’re not ready to hear this, it’s not 1985 anymore. WRAP YOURSELF IN A BLANKET. TREAT YOURSELF GENTLY. CHECK YOUR EMOTIONAL TEMPERATURE OFTEN. Not because you’re fragile but because it’s okay to feel your feelings.
SLOW YOUR ROLL.
And now I am going to conclude with something very very important.
Not only are we not fragile for feeling, we are NOT weak erasable things. We are not dots, or specs, or drops of universal matter or ocean. We are more than this. Big, eternal, significant. And while I will never try to console your grief by telling you your loved one is not a body and therefore what’s to cry about if their body up and disappears –I get that we are very accustomed to finding each other at the exact coordinates of a 5’6 brunette named Erin, or a 5’11 grey haired gent named Dad, and no part of me is okay with having to light candles and get out my Ouija Board to ask you or my other beloveds how your day went. But we need to HEAR, DIGEST, ABSORB, ASSIMILATE AND KNOW, that we are not this virus. We are not ruinous or ruining or temporary, whether you would like this delivered in spiritual, emotional or philosophical language. What we really are is LOVED and LOVING, WHOLE and STRONG, GOOD and PURE, and that is unassailable. It’s a little bit of what we feel when we unite even if in the movie plot we are currently NEMO in the fish bowl, and “Dad” is out there and wants us to come home, and we have lost the way a thousand times because we hired Dori as our scout.
Today, let me join Ellen and be the 1001, the 51’st date, the tipping point, the push over the threshold. Let me help us all hold hands until together we can remember where we are going because together we remember who we are.
We can’t fuck up LOVE. Turns out we’re made of the stuff.
— Love Erin
P.P.S. One of the kindest things you can do for me is to share my writing. If you enjoyed today’s Monday Musing and know someone else who would please forward it to a friend.