The last thing I feel this year is Christmas-y. Not to deter anybody from feeling the opposite, but bless you: I don’t have it in me. My parents and I aren’t putting up a tree (because we’d have to go to my storage locker to pick it up and I have no desire to do anything associated with that or returning it later). We’re not really doing presents (stockings or books: choose your fighter!), and the only holiday movie I’m interested in is White Christmas (because I love dancing and Danny Kaye). I’m exhausted and drained and sad and deflated. I keep saying “Spring is just around the corner!” because delusion is a strong coping tool that doesn’t usually spark my flare for self destruction. This year has made indelible marks on our minds and our hearts, and as dramatic it is to say “And things will never be the same again,” they won’t be. Not at all. Which kind of makes me wish I’d have appreciated so much of the harmless bullshit to grace my pre-pandemic existence. (“So-and-so unfollowed me!”) Or at least bailed a little less on parties I could’ve just left early from.
But I mean, hi: we’re all having a terrible time. I’m not special in my upset or my grief, nor do I think this year is something that happened to only me. This year (and freakshow of a virus) happened to the entire world, and most of us are actively suffering. And not just from the incessant threat of dying from a disease or giving it to somebody else or losing people we love to this bacterial motherfucker — along with all that, we’re also dutifully shovelling our own personal shit piles, pretending that dealing with a montage of nightmares is normal and fine, and we should take to it with the smiles we see strangers flaunt on Instagram. (“Look! She looks happy! I must be doing this misery marathon totally wrong!”)
Except the thing is, Instagram and most of social media (and life!) is full of shit. At this point, in the year of our lord 2020, I equate social media to acting reels with the owner vying for particular parts. Homes are nice and clean and spacious, kids are cute, relationships are perfect, and everyone seems to have had their hair styled with Dyson tools. Which may be the case, but is usually not. Most people are just incredible set designers and makeup artists, and even more are combatting their own brands of despair. Yes, the person you’re looking at has perfect eyeliner, but what you can’t see is that after the photo was taken, it spent the afternoon on a couch cushion as its owner stared relentlessly at a blank wall. We’re all just trying to get through the day.
And yet, I hold myself to that social media standard. I may not post much (outside of the greatest screencaps ever made in the world), but I examine my own life under a microscope that’s free of logic or reason. In the last year, I’ve been in a car crash, gone through continuing physiotherapy as a result of that car crash, lived with the chronic pain of said car crash, re-sparked my dormant relationship with disordered eating, learned to cope with it in a way that frees me of all/nothing ways of thinking (so I can rebuild a real foundation, instead of one made of wet cardboard), begun to question my work and livelihood and professional future in a way that feels real and not reactionary, been visited by the ghost of anxiety past (who seems to get off on not letting me sleep well, and just! won’t! leave!), put up with this motherfucking pandemic, and combed through the ins and outs of addiction since, despite being nearly eight years sober, I’ve only recently come to understand that it’s usually a symptom, not the cause.
Like, fuck off, truly. I’m very tired.
But then, after trying to explain all this to my dad today (which absolutely came out as me shouting facts at him while he put on his shoes) (he said “I’m sorry you’re going through all this” and I said “NO, IT’S JUST LIFE! WE’RE ALL GOING THROUGH THINGS!” like a rabid mule), my furrowed brow and I gazed inwardly and thought, you know what? Fuck this. I’m doing amazing. (Sweetie.)
And not only me, but you. You, reading this, who is treading the murky waters of this hellscape we now reside in. You, who is being held together by Diet Cokes and Christmas chocolate between bites of Kraft singles. You, who is a mom in the cleanest house ever built, but has never been the type of person to share your real shit on social media anyway. You, who is by yourself and keeping your distance from family and friends even though you’re sure you’re seconds from fading into the wallpaper. You, motherfucker. A person who’s up to their neck in feelings of loneliness and despair and sorrow and rage. You’re here. You’re coping. You’re nearly a year in. And even if you’re falling apart, your very presence is a fucking success. So-and-so’s social media reality has nothing to do with you. As Bart Simpson told Lisa, the important thing is, *we* survived.
Of course, I feel far from amazing 99.9% of the time. Last night, the only way I knew I was going to fall asleep was if my mom crocheted next to me in front of Bake Off because I needed to not feel completely alone for a while. (My spin on that: how embarrassing is it that I need to be around people who love me. A theme I’m starting to finally unpack in therapy, praise the lords.) Earlier today, I caught myself reading the calories for the breakfast drinks I make . . . which are the drinks I consume to ensure I’m getting enough vitamins/minerals/whatever when I start to believe true willpower is eating only enough to keep hunger pains at bay. (Not recovered, in recovery — a smart phrase to remember.) Then, I looked outside at the snow and felt that crushing feeling of OH GOD IT’S ALL HAPPENING AGAIN, usually spurred on by the memories of winters 2017, 2018, and 2019 where I felt sad and sick and resentful of the incessant darkness and various disappointments in myself. As if I can really go anywhere or do anything anyway; as if I can outrun the past at all.
So I went into the next room and pet the cats because it was something to do that did not involve falling into old habits.
But the difference between this round of bullshit and the rounds we’ve all faced previously is that currently, we’re acutely aware of our own pain and shortcomings and realities we’ve been trying to outrun for a very long time. Though maybe the only way to get through this next stretch is to take stock of all that we’ve got on our plates and that our coping mechanisms (unless they hurt somebody else or hurt ourselves) are here to ensure our survival, and that looking hard and long at old and new wounds takes courage and guts and grit, and that even if you are reading this on your bathroom floor, crying because you just can’t do this anymore, you are still doing it and that’s no small feat. You have woken up today. You have moved a little bit. You have maybe had some water, and certainly a cup of caffeine. And that is your process. That is how you are moving closer to not feeling like shit. Look how far away from the worst parts of your history you’ve gotten. Look at the way you’re navigating a global fucking tragedy. Your best is enough. You are enough. Who you have morphed into is enough. Every single person you have interacted with is also grappling with the question of who they are when everything they thought they knew has been taken away.
And if you meet someone who says, “Just stay positive!” know that they are a robot, and are out to destroy the world.
We’ve never been here before. We’ve never done this. And it turns out that on top of having to face the truths that are so painful to work out that it’s physically painful, we also get to face truths like: oh, I guess I’m not really a Christmas person. Or, oh, I guess my sleep anxiety comes from a place of not being in control . . . which I am not, because this is a pandemic. Or, oh I have on idea who I am anymore. And do you know what? It doesn’t matter. Because the future isn’t something we can plan for, the past is stranded on the bridges burned behind us, and we’re all stuck in an emotional and mental boot camp we never actually signed up for. It’s a fucking mess. But you? You’re another day closer to its final chapter. And it’s gotta be said: you’re doing amazing, sweetie.
I truly needed to hear this. Thank you for writing it. <3
"stuck in an emotional and mental boot camp we never actually signed up for." perfect.
Read your essay - I get it. Hooray. I was surprised to find you left Donald Trump and the pummeling he's delivered to well over half the country (which the media proceeded to re-pummel us again with their "Have Some More Horseshit" take on all of it). I've had a shit year beyond all of the slings and arrows (including a long hospital stay) but nothing came close to the beating he (and his followers) landed on my head, heart and soul. We may, someday, have the last laugh (pretty iffy at the moment) but let's not lose sight of the fuckin' truth about 2020 - Donald won (despite the "permanently illegitimate" election results) and with little exception, he did it with his mouth and his mind (and some lightly applied force in the late summer/early fall). He caused Democracy to shake and he's coming back for more. Yup, we survived, for now but we will never be the same.