Like a lot of other people, before the pandemic I had all kinds of creative plans for myself going forward. Now, of course, everything outside of my own small home – radius has to be pre-planned and executed strategically. “Essential activities” only. I haven’t hit full on mental and emotional exhaustion yet, but I can understand why so many are feeling like caged animals. Pacing the perimeter of our enclosures; depressed or aggressive; bored or fearful; not hungry, but eating whatever’s in arm’s reach. This situation is taking its toll on my mojo in ways that continue to unfold. I’ve totally released the desire for things to return to “what was”. At this exact moment, I’m just looking for what feels better. Our collective mental health is being tested by powerlessness & uncertainty. Reaching for better feeling emotions as a daily practice seems to be helping…

Before the pandemic, I was planning to move to another city. This persistent dream of mine was finally beginning to take shape as more than a fantasy. I could see the steps, and feel the joy of already being re-located. In March, when The Virus broke loose, I took it in stride. I reasoned that we (here in the U.S.) would meet the challenge with typical American gusto and determination. I truly believed that the delay of my personal desires and plans was definitely temporary. Fast-forward five months. I’ve had to accept that our collective reaction and response here in the U.S. has been disturbingly blasé. We’re at a standstill. Adrift at sea. In The Doldrums.

Has it been only five months? It feels like a year at least. Television and Youtube comedians quip that we’re all living-out an episode of “Survivor”. That’s one way of coping I suppose:  humor. Others seem to be in grim hunker-down-mode:  holding out for a “return to normal”. ‘What was’. Sitting in an outside restaurant venue the other day, in sweltering heat (the fans and mist-making system creating more of a tropical sauna than a cooling effect), that’s what the waitstaff chirped. “It won’t be long ‘til we can get back to normal!” Really. In my mental metaphor of a ship far out at sea:  ‘Normal’ feels like the landmass that’s disappeared behind us. Long ago. What lies ahead, and how far ahead, is panic-inducing Unknown.

I haven’t given up my search for a new home (closer to the sea), and have been looking at properties and talking with realtors all this time. But I’ve realized, just as with all the other adjustments I’ve (and we’ve) had to make lately, that a more important search is underway. A daily journey inward, for better-feeling thoughts, while I struggle to keep this holding-pattern in proper perspective. After all, I remind myself, I’ve got a roof. I’ve got food. I’m not sick. Gratitude. But I need more than affirmations. I need action I can take. The brilliant, gifted, but profoundly-depressed poet Sylvia Plath shared her own way of dealing with anxiety and uncertainty:

“There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. Whenever I’m sad I’m going to die, or so nervous I can’t sleep, or in love with somebody I won’t be seeing for a week, I slump down just so far and then I say: “I’ll go take a hot bath.”  ~ “The Bell Jar”

It might seem super-simplistic during a momentary or persistent depression. But sometimes a simple, easy diversion breaks the spell — the monotony of negative emotion. Whatever it might be:  an entire carton of gelato; a nap; a walk outside, or some other something that makes me feel better – no matter how short-lived ‘better’ is. I’m going to weave those little moments into an emotional blanket. I might burrow down deep under that blanket for a while. Or, like a toddler, just drag it from room to room day or night. Better feeling emotions are in my grasp, or always within reach:  whenever, and wherever I decide to look for them.

The What Was that I, and you, have gotten used to as Normal is for sure behind us, and almost certainly not coming back around on our journey any time soon. If I’m really honest with myself, I’m starting to feel kind of good about that.

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