I am losing. my. shit. This Corona-quake-alypse is going to kill me. You know when you feel, like, really overwhelmed and just sort of hope that you’ll get in a tiny car accident or break just a very minor bone in your body so you can have a little break? (I’m looking at you, parents of small children who you love and adore and can’t get away from.) Yeah, I joked about this being a nice break from life 10 days ago- now I’m at my breaking point. Because this is not a fractured phalanx, this is a pan-freaking-demic.
And what about all that extra time I thought I’d have on this “break”? It’s invisible, because kids. But still, they sleep sometimes, and I could be writing my thesis, or painting my gross 90’s oak cabinets, or finally learn how to play that guitar Gregg bought me for my 22nd birthday. A black-like-my-soul Fender CD-60, perfect for learning on. It has followed me around the country, sat in the corner of my bedroom, and been periodically picked up here and there before being put back on its stand again. But instead of tackling my list of things to do or pouring my energy into becoming a rock star, all this extra time is being eaten up by just trying to calm the f down. My reaction to what’s happening in the world is putting me in a panic. I know I’m not the only one in this boat, but I feel very alone in this boat. Alone without Gregg.
AND, most of the ways that I cope when I’m particularly stressed/griefy/anxious/crazy are shut down, postponed, or otherwise not available, all in the name of social distancing. Fml. Going to the gym, going to concerts, getting frequent babysitters so that I don’t spend all my nights in a quiet, empty house after the kids are in bed. Going to new restaurants, travelling, getting out of my comfort zone and doing things like rock climbing and aerial yoga. Admittedly, all of these things involve some level of escape and avoidance, but it’s healthy avoidance. Everyone knows that distracting yourself from uncomfortable emotions is the best way to make them go away, fight me. And I’ve learned such effective ways to do this. Because you just can’t think about all the emotional turmoil within you when you’re trying to move a (moderately) heavy weight. All you can think about is moving that weight. When you’re swinging upside down from a piece of fabric that certainly doesn’t look like it can hold over 1,000 lbs., you can’t think about that how much you hurt, you can only think about how much you need to puke. But now, the only thing I can do is sit with the stress/grief/anxiety/crazy, and write about it.
In some ways, all the uncertainty in the world has brought me right back to when he died. It’s put me back in that place where the little things don’t matter anymore, which is actually soo freeing. Right now, it doesn’t matter if my laundry is folded or if I have split ends or if my kids are eating cereal for the third meal in a row. I give zero f’s about those things, and it’s liberating. It’s like watching a train go by that you missed, but that you didn’t ever want to be on in the first place. But now that the little things aren’t there taking up space, the big things are center stage. Big things like making sure that we have food (even if it’s only cheerios) and trying to keep us healthy and safe and alive. Those things feel like an unbearable weight, the same weight that I felt so intensely after Gregg died.
And the loneliness in that big, empty boat… It’s not that I’m alone, because I have the most kick-ass support system a widow with my lack of survival skills could ask for. I’m just alone. I don’t have a partner to game plan with about what supplies we need, or what the best way to kill a zombie is, or to help me calm down when I’m being completely irrational. I have friends and family I can do this with, but not Gregg. And like all the other changes we’ve gone through, this is just another thing, a big thing, that I have to navigate alone, without him. I’ve been fine through those, and I’ll be fine through this, but I miss how… certain he was. He was so sure of him himself, so confident that he could rearrange the universe to fit his needs, which he often did. It was comforting to see, unless his needs put other people at risk.
I have this romanticized version of what it would be like if he were still alive. First, he’d tease me about overreacting and then hold me until I felt safe. Then one of us would go get a reasonable, normal amount of groceries while the other one stayed home with the kids, because a grocery store with two kids under 6 is a shit show on a normal day. He’d take care of the kids when I was working from home and distract them before they made it to my “office” to spit on me during a Zoom meeting with colleagues in order to get my attention. Yeah, that happened today. Luke is losing his shit, too, and pulling out all his tricks in order to get attention when he wants it… Anyway, then Gregg would check our home protection system for soft spots, clean the guns just for the fun of it, and fall asleep like it was just a normal day. He’d wake at any sound in the night (except a crying child, obviously). He’d problem solve with me when new challenges arose, reassure me when I was reaching my breaking point… That’s what I want to think would happen. There’s another version that’s just as likely, though. It goes something like this… He would scoff at me, roll his eyes, and tell me I was being irrational. Then he’d say we didn’t need to go to the store, we could just order in food for the next two weeks. So I’d go to the store, but I’d take the kids with me because he’d be high. When I’d be fighting my way through the aisles, my chest would tighten in panic not just because of the crowds, but because most of our grocery budget had already been spent on pills and I wouldn’t be able to buy more than the bare minimum to get us through the next week. Then I’d come home and if he was awake, he would load all the groceries into the house in one trip, and that would give me the small window I needed to see him, not the addict, through the fog. It would give me hope. Then I’d cook and he’d still order take out. When I worked, I would keep the kids corralled downstairs and work from the kitchen while he slept upstairs, and fume about it because I’d lose myself in the fog and turn into a crazy person… Neither of these hypothetical situations brings me comfort right now, but it is helpful to play out different possibilities. Because it reminds me why uncertainty is so uncomfortable, yet familiar. It’s the same feeling I had after Gregg died, but also the same feeling that I had for a long time while he was alive. I could count on Gregg, but I never knew what Gregg the addict was going to do. Not knowing what was going to happen from one day to the next, bracing myself for the worst, not knowing when things would level off. Constantly having to adapt to new challenges. Constant survival mode.
Someone said to me once that you can’t count on addicts to show you that they love you the way non-addicts would. Usually, we can, and should, look at people’s behavior for clues about what’s really going on in their head. With addicts, it’s different. Even when they love you, they will lie to you and run right over you to get to what they feel like they can’t live without at that moment. But I’d like to think that if he were here right now, he would love us- and he’d show us. And he’d kill every freaking zombie that came near us.