I am angry about the coronavirus. I am angry and I am grieving, and what I hate most is that I am made to feel guilty about those strong but honest emotions.
I get it about attitude. With your mind you create your whole world, said Buddha. Being grateful for what you have, as opposed to what you lost, does indeed lighten the soul, makes our lives healthier and our burdens lighter. I am, without a doubt, aware of all my advantages — I’m not denying either them, nor my luck. As a matter of fact, I jumped on the gratitude bandwagon early on, and am still on it. However, I now find myself in a crappy position, because my anger is threatening to boil over.
As an educated human, I am more than capable of holding two contradictory thoughts in my head. And I am more than capable of holding two contradictory emotions. It’s how I can understand the high suicide rate of survivors of concentration camps — those who survived, yet were broken beyond repair afterwards. What good would be pointing out to survivors that they should be grateful for their lives, if they are wrecked with guilt over that very survival?
I have decided to let myself feel that anger. I have decided that I am not unique in my feelings. Everyone I know is hurting, grieving in their own way, especially people who lost loved ones to this plague.
I am livid that I cannot do simple things I used to take for granted. Things like hugging my parents, my friends and even not worrying about hugging my children because they went out. Little things, like not worrying about whether or not I have a mask in my car, like always having to carry a pen because I am too scared to use a pen at a restaurant to sign a credit card receipt (well, that last one isn’t really different, I always have at least three pens in my purse at any given time, ’cause I’m a writer). And big things like eating out, watching a movie in the theater, working out in a gym, traveling.
Traveling. I was supposed to go to Scotland in May. It may sound like a poor little rich girl complaining, but I saved up the money, putting away whatever and whenever I could. It took me a few years. But, of course, like so many others, the trip got moved. I understand that it’s not cancelled, but whenever the second wave will come, it might cancel the trip in a year and a half anyway. And that thought hurts, it hurts my soul.
There is something called future-oriented type of catastrophizing — that’s when a person believes something terrible will happen, without evidence to support this belief. Yeah. How about with evidence to support this belief? I’m not making up COVID-19, it’s real and it will take a while (another year and a half, if we are lucky) for researchers to come up with a vaccine and distribute it world-wide. Because that is what it will take to stop this pandemic and to restore life to the sort of normalcy we are used to. This simply means that I’m not catastrophizing. I’m acknowledging that shit has been hitting the fan, and it is not going to stop anytime too soon.
And I’m grieving for the life I used to have — we all used to have. How easy it now seems, going about our daily lives, going to the grocery store, to the dry-cleaners, having lunch with a friend — all of that without a constant feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. This awful uncertainty, about getting sick & suffering, inability to help those who are suffering, this free-floating general anxiety, it’s all torture that was unknown a year ago. Our vulnerability was never the issue, we are, indeed, fragile. I miss not having to live with the unknown that is our present and our future (every single day). I miss that most of all. I miss just worrying about the mundane: things like being out of shape and what I should eat for breakfast. Because I still worry about being out shape, and I still wonder what I should eat for breakfast, but now breakfast is served with a dollop of mounting depression. Our future was never guaranteed, and we lived under an invisible sword of Damocles. Now, the sword feels like it is actually a ceiling of swords, and we all watch it gleam under the florescent light that is our lives.
It’s exhausting to live like this every day. I certainly understand people who don’t want to stay home, who don’t want to wear masks because denying reality seems like such an easy way to avoid it. But, I do judge them for it, and condemn them for both their selfishness and stupidity. I understand because fear, anger and grief are not sustainable emotions to constantly feel without breaking at some point. I condemn them because avoiding reality is not going to make it go away.
Confronting difficult emotions is unpleasant and messy. Unfortunately, it is also necessary for improving mental health. I mean, outside of the anti-depressants I’m also on. But I am going to go to the dark side, to anger and grief, and, hopefully, work my way through both of these emotions toward finding a balance of acceptance.