Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Amo, Amas, Amat

 I'm a romance writer, and I've never read a romance novel.

Well, maybe I have, if you count all of the fantasy and horror novels which have both adventure and thrills and smooches and doomed love. And, heck, I've read my fair share of Shakespeare, and goodness knows he showed us quite a bit of passion. And maybe I've read the poetry of Pablo Neruda, and Lorca's plays, and Sharon Olds's "Sex Without Love." Maybe I've watched Moulin Rouge a million times, and Henry and June, and I know I adore Hadestown and Camelot. 

And, well, I spent nearly all of last year reading Harry Potter fanfiction, with its magic and tropes and will-they-or-won't-they. The slow burn fics, hundreds of thousands of words which had me on the edge of my seat, waiting for the big reveal and sudden declarations; the short pieces which were more about, uh, "intimacy," than romance. 

But no, I've thought. Romantic literature is not for me. 

I've written about love, here, and yet love has always been tricky for me. Without a doubt, I've loved my husband for fifteen years, and I love my family more than I can say. I was desperately hungry for love as a child and a teenager, and I looked for it in the typical stupid places, in my peers and my role models and (ugh) a teacher or two. I wanted the kind of love I read about in fanfiction, and I wanted, though I didn't know it, a best friend sort of love. I wanted the platonic just as much as the romantic. And I wanted parental love which was not particularly forthcoming. 

I was hungry, so hungry. 

I'm not sure that ever stops. 

We live in such a strange world, right now, and I think it's easy to feel a lack of love even as we need it more than ever. This country is just hateful, all the time, and the hunger for real affection and intimacy increases. We are isolated, cut off from our usual sources of closeness - friends and coffee shops and grandparents - so of course it all feels worse. Harder. It's very human to feel this way. We are pack animals, even those of us who are quite content with our own company. 

So I've felt that hunger, though there's still a part of me which doesn't fully understand it. I've written a whole darn romance novel, yet a few months into the pandemic I still found myself (oh, I'm embarrassed) googling, "What does it feel like to fall in love?" I should know the answer, right? I've got 80 thousand words on the topic - and, well, I am quite happily married! I guess I still have my own challenges with emotions, but I think that another challenge is the numbness of the pandemic. How is our internal narrative affected by the external - how are our identities, our reliance on others, informed by separation? 

I've realized, through my writing, that so much of love is about the little things. And little things are what we both do and do not have right now. We have this time where we can see little things in a new light - a partner with whom you can sing in the kitchen, or with whom you talk incessantly over a loved TV show. A new puppy and endless walks, or (thinking of my Grandmere's companion, here) an endlessly adorable and constantly terrifying cat. Trips through the Starbucks drive through with family members who just need to get out of the house, gosh darn it. Dinners by the light of a bonfire, togetherness which demands distancing but is still so precious.

A hot bubble bath, skin on skin, or board games, or crying with your closest friends, or giggling with your sibling, anything, anything to keep the connections going, anything to maintain love. To keep the little details which mean - with partners or family or friends or even pets - we are not alone.

There are little things we can't have, of course. I can't sit with my Grandmere, down in her apartment in South Carolina, and talk about anything and everything. I can't invite a weird assortment of friends to Christmas dinner (a family tradition I've been happy to keep). I can't give my best friend a hug. It stings, this loss. I miss those little things.  

I'm lucky, I know. For a girl who needed so much love to a woman who isn't always sure what love means, I am fortunate to have a lot of it. And I still need it, I'm still hungry, because I think it's the only way I'm going to get through the bitterness of the world. I need to learn these ways to love, to love without jealously, without regret, without resentment, without pride. I need to move forward from a foundation of lack to a future of abundance. 

Things are about to get a hell of a lot harder, I think, because the election is coming and who the hell knows what is going to happen. All I want to do is gather my loved ones to me. I want, next Tuesday, to have my people, my closest and most essential people, near, within reach. I want to hold and be held. I want to cook ridiculous food and wear a ridiculous outfit. I want the little things - from kisses which linger to scritches behind the ears of my friends' pups - while we are forced to go through big things. I want to say, yes, I know what love is, and I have it, here, now, always, no matter what.

I guess - it seems like I have sort of figured out the love thing. At least a tiny bit. Enough to get me through - well, I hope it will. I'm trying to squeeze whatever lessons I can get out of the pandemic, and maybe this is the most important and essential of lessons. Because I have to meet the hatred in this country with a deep well of love. Love for my people, for myself, for acquaintances and strangers, for any positive future. I need this. We need this. 

So, heck. Yeah, I read romance, and watch it, and write it, too. I've got love in me, and right now, as our world is falling apart - 

What else do we have? 

     

Friday, August 21, 2020

Grief

 I've been crying every day for a month.

This is neither to be alarming or an alarmist. I am, for the most part, doing quite well. In many ways I've actually been incredibly happy, which has made this daily crying thing all the more vexing. I've been trying to figure it out - I've thought of so many reasons, all of them valid, but it's been very hard to pin down. It is, to put it bluntly, annoying as hell.

I've been doing so many good things. I've begun working out nearly every day, treadmill and strength training. I'm writing, some of it passable, and I'm eating, some of it healthy. I've been spending precious time with my husband, talking and holding and supporting. I've been able to see some friends, albeit at a distance, and have phone calls with others. I've been reveling in love, familiar and new. 

But I've also been feeling a profound and unrelenting grief, and it is so hard to bear. 

I don't know how much grief I have actually experienced in my life. I don't have a lot of practice, and sometimes I'm not sure if I am fully capable. I mourned and continue to mourn the passing of my grandpa last year, and I miss him a lot. I have felt grief for him, I think, and for our family, for the time we won't get. 

I've experienced other deaths and felt many strong feelings but I'm not sure - I don't know if those deaths inspired grief. Sometimes death is just the next step. Sometimes illness is so substantial that death is the best path forward.  

I think there's a page missing in the book of Alice, maybe, which gives the instructions on how to grieve. There are things like that, normal human responses, which don't always make sense to me. I need the step-by-step; I need directions. There's a disconnect between my intellect and my body - I feel pain but I'm practiced at putting it away. And, though I am intimately familiar with my emotions, there are times when I don't really have the words to process what they are or where they've come from. 

So I've been crying for a month and I don't really know why, but it was my husband - not an overly emotional fella himself - who reminded me, Alice, there's still a pandemic on.

Oh. Right.

And it's not just COVID, is it? Our country is a mess. It's horrible. It feels impossible to keep moving through the avalanche of cruelty, impossible to look towards the future with hope when our present threatens to end that future entirely. As I have written before, it's just too big. It's all the time. It's relentless.

I've been doing so many wonderful things in this messed up, in-between time, and as such, I have so much more to lose. And I think I am truly experiencing grief, preemptive, because I'm looking at my life and seeing all the things with which I am unwilling to part. Disaster seems too close, maybe the end of the whole darn world, and I'm thinking about my loved ones and my writing and my treadmill, for goodness sake, and I'm thinking that being so happy hurts.    

Maybe grief can only exist when you know how good life can be. When you are happy - all the way happy. 

I think that grief is probably not an uncommon emotion right now. We're all missing things, silly things like coffee at our favorite cafes, big things like birthdays and anniversaries, routine and delicious things like the Renaissance festival (that would be me) or a family vacation. And in that missing, in that lack, we might be realizing how beautiful life really is. Really should be. It's hard to notice the good stuff when we are living it, and we are - or at least I am - discovering how hard it is to live without it.   

I just don't know how to do this, and I'm not sure if any of us do. It's so prolonged, and it's the world we have to live in every day. It doesn't stop and we cannot stop it. And I - I need directions. I need to know how to make do. Crying every day is just rotten and useless and I hate it and -

Is this what it means to grieve? Does it really feel like this - a pain so deep you can feel it down to your fingertips? Like a bad breakup, like a diagnosis, like a death?

I'm so happy in so many ways, given gifts I never would have imagined pre-pandemic. God, I am so darn lucky. But it seems that one of those gifts is a bitter one, and undesired. Because the pandemic is teaching me, maybe teaching all of us, about loss. About waking up with loss every day, about trying to fall asleep as we long for so many things which are out of reach or gone entirely.

I'm so happy. I'm so impossibly sad. 

And I don't know how to live with that. 

Monday, August 10, 2020

Milestones

Four years.

It's coming up in about a month and a half, so I'm jumping the gun a little, but I'm so excited - I'm hitting four years sober in September. 

It seems like hardly any time at all, and it seems like a lifetime. It's an entire high school or college career, and it's time that goes so fast and days which, sometimes, feel very long. In those four years I have dealt with massive challenges, and there was a time in my life when I thought I could not handle anything on that scale without a drink. I hit six months just as my biological father started home hospice, attended his memorial service a week after eight months, and in the ensuing years I have lost and found myself again and again. 

I didn't know what it was to endure without alcohol. Alcoholism is progressive, and it took two years - ages fifteen to seventeen - to go from a glass of wine with dinner to splitting bottles of vodka on Saturday afternoons. Curing the same-day hangovers with more wine, cheap stuff, jazz on the radio, food on the grill, the muddy purple Baltimore sky, boundaries perpetually crossed. Alcohol was a problem and it was my solution to everything, especially to the deep pain of knowing it was a parent, a guardian, who was passing this problem on to me. Alcohol was love. Alcohol was forgetting.

I've heard, and said, that I'm powerless over alcohol, and it's true - but there's a snarky part of me which thinks, hell no, I was kicking alcohol's butt. I was chewing it up and neglecting to spit it out. I couldn't stop and for a long time I didn't want to, and gosh it was powerful, I felt untouchable, the first drink always tasting like the promise of the next, and the next. I could handle it, another thing I frequently said. I was better than the drink - how else could I drink so much and feel just fine?

But I knew. Of course I did. Because from so early on, drinking was the only thing which made me feel human. I could drown out the bad things, and the anger, and the utter loneliness, because there was the person I loved the most in the whole world, and he mixed a fantastic martini. It was easy to slip into it, a slow slide that felt so elegant, and I just did not have to think. It was a relief. And I knew.  

I'm responsible for all the drinks I took after that, without a doubt. I'm the one who bought vodka and scotch and rye, and I'm the one who drank all that beer, and I created my own world of brewery tours and trips to vineyards and cocktail mixing and anything, anything to make it look better. To make it look fun. That was all me. I was the girl at the party with her own bottle of Bushmills which was nearly empty at the end of the night, the girl who always took her shirt off or kissed other girls or said terrible things. I'm the woman who cried when there wasn't alcohol in the house, when there was no numbness on offer. All of that is my responsibility. I bought the drink, I poured the drink, I drank the drink. 

Again. Again. Again. 

And I had no idea how damned wonderful life could be.

Sobriety is fun. It's hard work, and there are moments when those pains come back, the loneliness, the fear of being unloved, the power dynamics of me against the looming purple sky and looking up to the people I adore, and I think that I know what would make it easier. And then I remember that all things spring from my sobriety. The health of my marriage, and my relationships with my family, and my enjoyment with friends, the words on the page, the tears I finally let fall, the trauma I sit with and allow to heal. All things come from that. From being awake - being fully alive.

My sobriety is a commitment to my body and its functioning, and to my mind and its continuation, and to my raw and wounded heart. My sobriety is the way I laugh with my husband and remember, the next day, what he said, and can smile in that remembrance. My sobriety is taking my sister to see shows on Broadway, no longer counting the breaths between each drink, no longer itching with a need I feel I can't control. My sobriety is evenings spent with my best friend when I tell her every stupid feeling I have, when she shares her life with me, and it's healthy, and it makes me whole. My sobriety is vacation with my in-laws, and weekends in Baltimore or Philadelphia or New Orleans, and quiet days on the back deck when my husband and I share the best bits of our favorite books.  

It is sobriety, now, which is love.

And I have so much love. I'm boiling over with it. It hurts, sometimes, to face love, especially when it used to come from the bottom of a pitcher of martinis. Especially when it was permissiveness; especially when it was abuse. It hurts to trust that I'm worthy of love when it doesn't come with such a terrible price, with hangovers, with a desperate acceptance that it will never, ever, be enough. With the knowledge that it is sickness. Sickness was what I knew, and it was easier, and I wasn't at risk in the way I am now - a self exposed, a self unbound, a clarity of focus, an admittance that yes, I love, and I love, and I love.  

What I grew up with wasn't love. 

What I deserve, is. 

And I couldn't understand that until I got sober. 

So yes, everything springs from that. I'm hitting four years, and there are some days which are so dreadfully long. I have a catalog of moments when I'm so scared and angry and broken, and I think I can't keep going, but I know, of course, that I have to. There are times when I look at my loved ones and I think that there's no way they could possibly love me the way I love them, and I taste absinthe in my mouth - and there are horrible hours when I feel like I'm such a monster, because how else could this have happened to me, and I remember the burn of citron vodka. 

But most days are such incredible joys. Because I have my husband, my darling partner - and my sister, and my friends, and such beautiful family. Because I'm here. I am alive. And some of that impossible, all-powerful, agonizing and indescribable love - 

I keep that for myself. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Joyful Nihilist

It's all too big.

It's easy to feel right now that the world is ending, but that feeling is in some ways incredibly naive. The world has been ending for quite some time - by which I mean that systems of oppression and injustice have always existed, and the deep selfishness and anti-intellectualism of conservatism has always been there, and the religious right has always been dreadfully wrong, and the rich want to get richer, and whiteness yearns to preserve itself, and on, and on, and on. It's been like this. 

Right now we've got this... pandemic situation... which has highlighted the entire unholy mess. Communities plagued by inequality are hit hardest. People who cling to Evangelical nonsense trust their fictional white Jesus more than they do living, breathing scientists. Conservatives foment the hatred they've bred into the populace with shoddy education and dishonesty and racism and every other damn thing, every method of subjugating the people who seem to vote for them, anyway. 

Oh, hell. If you haven't caught on, I am just really, really done.

It's too big, and I'm done with trying to say this stuff in nice ways. It's beyond our capacities to comprehend, and I'm not bothering with the layers of politesse which have covered up my true opinions. My anger. It's so damned much, and I seem to have decided to live my life with integrity. Heck. 

I feel like we are really on the edge, folks. I know I am, and yet I'm deadly calm - I can't tell if that's a bipolar thing or a PTSD thing or simply a decision I've made to put things away. My husband goes to work, mask on, and I have the opportunity to worry about COVID, and I tuck that into a little box and type my overwrought romance. I spend some time with family, and I'm so happy to see them, and I'm worried, worried, worried, and I bury that somewhere under a giant rock, a label scratched on, here lies anxiety. It went straight to hell. I see my best friends at an appropriate distance and God, how I've missed them, and it's sad, and I put that sadness at the end of my pen and I scribble it away in my dreadful handwriting. 

I have my little bubble of people, some of whom I can call, some see, some touch, and under it all is this swift current, this voice, this whisper, here we are at the end of the world, and wouldn't it be nice to just... 

Be. 

I wonder what that's like?

I'm done, I've been done. I just don't have it in me to care about stupid things anymore. I don't have the energy. I've spent so long trying to detach from toxic people and I thought it was so hard and here I am and I just do not, cannot care. I've struggled with elements of my identity, some public, some private, and I've been mad at myself for things I can't change, and dear God, yes, this is who I am, so I'd better live it. 

I don't know how long I have. I do not know how long our country has. Our world. Does that sound extreme? How could it? Between COVID and climate change, white supremacy, fascism, voter suppression, honest to God secret police grabbing people off the street... Yeah. It's not that crazy to think that whatever we've known about our lives is about to change. 

In some ways, it had better. 

I didn't know who I'd be on the other side of the pandemic, and I still don't know. I can tell you that I am already a fundamentally different person while also being the most "Alice" I have ever been. I love more; I know I have so much more love in me than I realized. I'm a bigger person on the inside but with better boundaries. I've written ridiculously romantic dreck and called some of it good. I've had so many more deep conversations with my husband - which is just flat out amazing, I think - and I've forged other bonds which nourish me. I'm lucky. I'm extraordinarily privileged.

The world is ending. 

The world is ending and I'm here, I'm living it, I'm so damned fortunate, and I'm always taking my meds, and I put my worries in a box, and I love and make love and I write, write, write. 

What is the word for having so much hope when there is none?   

I'm going to do what I can do. Donate, vote, have tough conversations, educate myself. I'm not saying goodbye to the idea of a better world - I am invested in this one - but I've realized how many things I've needed to give up, how many layers to unwrap, in order to really live my own life. The image I had of myself was incomplete. Disaster has forged a newness I'd been craving for such a long time. 

It's just all so big. All the scary things, and the bad things, and the worries down under heavy rocks. I'm so small in comparison.

But I won't make myself small. Not for anyone. Not for myself.

Not anymore. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Who We Are in the Quarantine

I like to talk to cashiers at the grocery store.

Ask anyone who knows me, and the first word that might come to mind when describing my social habits would probably be, "introvert." And it's true - I am quiet, and shy, and I get pretty drained by spending time with others. I thought introversion was an unchangeable part of my personality; I grew up alone, a lot of the time, and loneliness is sometimes more comforting than togetherness. I tend to protect my soft heart with a hard shell of long-accustomed isolation. It's easier that way.  

And people - even the people I love - are exhausting. This isn't a complaint, really, but an acknowledgment of the rich complications of everyone's existence. Everyone has their own body language, their own speech patterns, scents, subtext, subconscious insecurities. And I'm a sensitive person. I pick up on all of those little nuances and my brain tries to interpret them - I want to get it right, say the right things, offer the appropriate emotional response. I want to be able to give up what people need. 

Social exchange is difficult for me, especially when there's not some pre-approved script. I think that's why I like chatting to cashiers. I can make conversation within the allotted time, maybe throw in a few compliments, genuine interest in their day, and the exchange is successful. I am not responsible for the remainder of their shift, but maybe I can give them a little smile, a little warmth. My tender insides are untouched, and I've remained safe in the shallowness of small talk. 

Now, of course, the world has been ripped apart, and my social habits are totally thrown off. I don't go to the grocery store, or the mall, or the dry cleaners, and I've realized how much I have come to depend on that feeling of, yeah, I've talked to someone, and it went well. And I've been surprised to learn how much I need people in my day, in my ongoing existence. 

I've found myself chatting with three to four people a day - friends, family, my husband who is lucky enough to be able to stay home. Sometimes we talk about nothing in particular, and sometimes we share our fears, our hopes of how and when this will end. My mom and I trade funny pictures and comments about our eating habits; my college best friend coaches me through my anxieties and I listen to hers; I hear from other friends about what it's like to do this quarantine business with their kids. I've grown closer to people who entered into my life right before this all began; there's an intimacy to this enforced separation, as if we can and must share the deepest parts of ourselves. There's still this abstraction of distance, but in some ways I am open and raw. 

It turns out that maybe I'm not such an introvert, after all.     

Identity is a tricky thing. I thought that my concept of who I am was based on this structure of introversion - I thought that being alone was my natural state. But the quarantine has revealed another part of me. And it makes me wonder how many of us have uncovered new facets of our identities. We might be confident in who we are when the world looks as it should, as it always has; but maybe when everything is so vastly different we find within us very different selves. 

Who are we when our lives are normal? Who do we become when they're not?

This sense of captivity has made me rebel against myself. In isolation, I desire connection. A friend commented that I might really be ready to go out and have fun when this is all over; I think she's probably right. At least I hope so - I hope I've learned this lesson. I want to be with all of those complicated people with their own secret lives, secret selves, and maybe I won't worry so much about "appropriate social exchange." Maybe I'll let myself think that my friends and family want me in all of my weirdness just as much as I want them. 

And there are parts of me which have remained very much the same - Star Trek and long philosophical conversations with my husband, and complex makeup looks to start my day, dressing up and taking ridiculous selfies, strong coffee, loud music, holing up in my playroom (the guest bedroom that houses my vanity and gowns and garb) and writing overwrought nonsense. Those bits of me are unchangeable, it turns out. 

But I've made an incredible discovery - this need for other people. And as scary as the world is, I'm grateful. I've got so much love to give, far more than I knew. I'm not Alice-the-introvert anymore. I'm a friend and a daughter, a sister and a granddaughter, a wife and a partner. What a gift, this lesson. Such a wonderful thing to learn - that I don't always need to be alone.  

I'm looking towards the future, and I'm anticipating living up to this change in who I am. I think that when the doors open and the world is healed and we are set free, I'll set myself free, too. I won't worry about doing it properly or perfectly with a script pre-approved.

Because finally my hard shell has cracked, my soft heart is exposed, and I've found a new self to honor.      

And I am ready to yield up my love.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Hope and Hospitality

I keep thinking about a party.

I'm a bit peculiar, I guess. I have this strong urge towards hospitality - some latent Irish genetic code making itself known - and I crave the sweetness of using the beautiful dishes and silver passed down through my family, from my Grandmere to me. I like doing things well; I love hostessing, my outfit just as ridiculously over the top as the mounds of food I want to serve my guests. My cheese boards alone could make a grown woman weep. Anyway, maybe I'm some housewife stereotype, but without a doubt, I'm an odd duck.

Five weeks - that's the number I've got stuck in my head for how long I'm supposed to be sequestered in my house. Maryland is shut down through the end of April, and while I'd like to believe the world will have righted itself by then, I know I have to mentally prepare myself for the possibility - probability - that there are more weeks of isolation to follow. The virus won't magically go away, and as long as there are foolish, selfish people determined to flout safety measures, all of us are at risk. But I'm clinging to those five weeks. For now, five weeks are the difference between me feeling trapped and me delighting in anticipation.

Because I do anticipate - I keep making plans, places to go and people to see. I think that's the only reasonable course of action, the only thing that'll keep us sane. We should look towards the future. We should hold onto the things we love. I miss my family so badly, even though they're a five minute drive away; I need a big hug from my closest friends. But I'll see them, I will, in the future which simply has to come.

So I'm thinking about a party. I'm thinking about grilling steaks and broiling mini crab cakes, and making my killer ghost pepper dip, and serving brightly colored mocktails, and playing my favorite albums. Doors and windows open, the whole house flowing with fresh air. I'm thinking about a mismatched conglomeration of friends and family and the hunger that we'll have, maybe, to socialize when we haven't for so long. My husband's board game group, my college companions, old friends and new friends and my nineteen year old sister and my extremely introverted parents. People I fall in love with more and more as they seem, now, so much further away.

And right now - now I feel grief, though I'm adjusting. I already had plans, you know? Just a few weeks ago I was meeting new people and doing new things, and I had enough focus to dig into my fiction. I'm not trying to shove myself into the very real grief of those who have lost loved ones to this vicious virus. I just... I think there is mourning for all of us. For the future we thought we'd have. The months spent caged by circumstance and anxiety. Powerlessness.

And idleness. There's a sort of consensus among the people I've talked to that we are experiencing a constant state of arousal cocooned in an unrelenting nothingness. The world is scary, and we are on alert - at the same time we are locked in our homes with not a whole hell of a lot to do. It's strange. We're not meant to be like this, as if we drank far too much coffee and then downed a couple Valiums, experiencing both to their full extents. And there's so much love, so much passion, so much desperate care, and we remain divided. Separate. All the feelings and none.

A very real threat of illness and death. Netflix, junk food, time spent on the couch.

Life continues. We pray that it does.

So in four weeks I'm going to polish all the silver. As soon as the weather turns, the screens are going in the windows, and I'll keep the house open as long as I like. I'll clean off the decks and wipe down the outdoor furniture. I'll plan some menus. Hell, maybe I'll iron the napkins (okay, Alice, let's not go too crazy). I need these things. Beautiful things, living things, nonsense that is a part of me.

Because I want to have a party - a big, no-holds-barred, high heels until they hurt, so much food I could burst, John Coltrane and David Bowie mess of a party. Laughing and maybe crying and choosing not to hide in the kitchen, for once. And it may seem shallow, but these things, this mad planning, this simple and sweet hope - that's what's going to get us through.

I hope you'll make plans, too. And pencil me in, whether it's in five weeks or a few months -

Because you'd better believe you're invited.         

Friday, March 27, 2020

Bad Darn Day

Man, this stuff is rough.

I got up at 6:30 this morning, did my usual stumble to the kitchen followed by the caffeine-addict clutching of my moka pot, checked the internet while it bubbled away. I went through the typical motions, wrapped up in my Harry Potter bathrobe (Slytherin green, of course) and tucked under the beautifully crocheted blanket given me by my mother in law. I did everything in order - Facebook first, then twitter, then tumblr. It's been like any other morning, nothing remarkable about it.

But, you know, the world is on fire.

I'm feeling "hung over" this morning. I got triggered by something I watched last night and had an hour long meltdown, of which I am not particularly proud. Crying used to be a lot more common when I drank - now I can go weeks without getting to that level of upset. So perhaps I've formed some sort of association: if I cry at night, my body and mind think I've been drinking.

Thank God I'm not. Everything would be so much worse.

Anyway, I feel horrible. I know I'm not the only one. I've seen a lot online from other people dealing with PTSD - this social distancing, plus the feeling of impending doom, feels a lot like trauma. It is trauma, really; the world is falling apart. We're forced into a posture of grief.

I keep thinking about the role of our leaders - cough, Trump, cough - and how I feel particularly powerless. The people who are supposed to care for us simply aren't, they don't, and that's pretty damned familiar. So every day ends up feeling like - like we're back there. In the unsafe place. Our political "father figure" is... a person too well-known.

I spend a lot of time feeling as if there is poison inside of me, a toxicity planted there against my will but staining my insides all the same. I'm a carrier of this thing, the sick thing - gosh, that sounds a little like what's going on now, doesn't it? And most days I carry it with a sort of pride, a strength, or at least I try to; I make different choices, choices to love and care and preserve, and I recognize the beauty in those acts of compassion and grace. Humanity.

But right now I feel the poison in me. I wonder if I'm already carrying the virus, and I wonder if, in moments when my mental health suffers, I'll spread a different kind of sickness. I wonder if I'll hurt other people, my greatest fear. I wonder if I'm capable of love, even though the proof is there - marriage, family, friendship. I don't feel like a person. I feel like a pandemic.

This stuff is hard for everyone. No matter how well we're handling it, this is a huge change in our lives. We probably all have morning routines - coffee or showers or hitting the snooze button - and we're probably doing our best to stick to those routines. We've got Zoom meetings and happy hours, and phone calls, and texting. We exercise if we can. We adjust; we are adaptable. And heck, maybe we're doing more creative cooking, or journaling a bit more, making little bits of progress we didn't have time for before.

But I think I can safely say that there are some parts of us, even if they're little parts, which are suffering. I watched an episode of one of my favorite shows - something I've seen, what, maybe six times before? - and had an emotional flashback from hell. The day before I woke up from a nap and smelled the place where I grew up, and I was terrified. Every day I worry that all of that will arise from within me and harm the people I love. Typhoid Alice.

I meant to write about something else today - still on this topic but with a more optimistic spin. I wanted to write about the idea that trauma is an explanation for behavior but not an excuse, about the anger I have to accept and then release, about the hard work that I'm happy to do to be so easily kind and sweet and responsible. And of course I am those things, I'm just...

I'm really struggling today. I've got a hangover from a virus I can't control and a childhood I wish I could forget. I see the president's face and it looks like someone else's. And other days will be better, no doubt; other days may be worse, but I sure as hell hope not.

I do have friends and family at the other end of the telephone, and I've got pretty much the best husband in the entire universe; I've got Star Trek and Miss Fisher and Kushiel's Dart and so much glittery eye shadow, I swear to God. Music played at maximum volume. Chocolate and Cheetos. Pajamas and lingerie. Perfume. Bodices. Corsets. Hot baths with coconut oil.

I'm just, right this minute, a bit of a mess. I need to accept that, give myself the compassion and understanding that I'm always giving to others. I need to write even if it's an act of processing rather than creation, and I need to keep eating even if it's junk, sometimes. I need to convince myself that the sickness I feel inside was not my fault and that I am not in any way giving it to others.

But man, this stuff is rough. It is probably going to be rough for months. Me and my coffee and the routines which keep me grounded. Keep me safe.

I'm doing my best.