Round and Round in Circles
January blew in with gusts of 20 degree days and dimmed sunlight and a lingering cough that probably isn't COVID but you never know.
We've all been living in trauma for two years now. The trauma of not knowing. The denial. The optimism that gave way to pessimism. The finding of new hobbies and new friends and reconnecting with our childhood selves. The return to normal life with changes and noting that the changes made no sense but just having places to go to was the greatest mercy of all. The part where it got bad and we didn't care. The part where it looked like it was going to get better. Then the time where it got really bad, we still didn't care, but it felt more like we would break.
It feels like we are going in circles and we'll never make it out. And the therapists of the internet are all discussing this "prolonged trauma" that makes it hard to find joy, be kind, or simply be without the crushing fears and dread.
I know a little about going in circles. My life has a few circles that I can't seem to move into a linear narrative.
I date. I usually dump him or he dumps me. I feel the way I feel about it. I wait. Another resume comes. It's good. I imagine the possibilities. Then I date.
And in between there are all of these feelings that echo the COVID feelings: hope, optimism, fear, despair, and shutting down.
All leaving me with the nagging dread that feeds my anxieties and keeps me living in a state of trauma which will of course, destroy my mental health.
So then I am also on the mental health carousel: have a feeling, analyze the feeling, put the feeling away knowing that this isn't a mental health emergency, let it fester and rot and mold and mold everything around it until everything is crumbling, feel despair and seek to escape, find a stopgap, rely on the stopgap, calm down, feel relief, tell yourself that you are strong and can get through anything. Have a feeling.
So now I have the stress of feeling like my friendly neighborhood global pandemic will never end, the stress of my personal pandemic of loneliness feeling like it is also unending, and the feeling that no matter where I go in my brain it's a circle and all I can do is make that circle bigger.
But I've been in my shidduchim pandemic for awhile. So here's what I know about prolonged pandemic trauma.
The beginning is fun. It's scary and exciting and new. You can throw all of your worries into it and that feels safe somehow. After all, this won't last too long. There's no way we'll still be dating/in quarantine in a year. And you can handle anything for a year.
Then, the time when it's clear that this won't be over quickly. The despair sets in. The anxiety mounts around each date. The fact that no one is making good suggestions feels like a personal affront.
And the weddings.
Somehow all of your friends are getting married all the time. Why you have so many friends you don't know but it was a mistake because now you're at a wedding every night and it's stinking a finger into a wound and twirling it around and around.
And then a birthday passes and you'll never be someone who got married before they were 23. And each date feels like a weight on your back, part of a story you'll carry rather than a journey that leads somewhere with a satisfying conclusion.
And there are the times that feel neverending and that no matter what you do, no matter what rules you follow, you're stuck and you have no control.
Right now I am feeling that with COVID. I thought, perhaps we were moving toward being done with the pandemic and that my brain could finally relax and pretend to have control again. And once again the rug was swept out from under me.
But I've had lots of rugs swept out. I have the bruises on my knees, but I've stood back up. Bruises heel. Circles get bigger. And I learn to live in my circumstances. I've learned to live beautifully as someone who hasn't found their person yet. Currently, I'm trying to juggle my hopes that I'll find someone with the cynicism that protects me.
COVID is not something I want to learn to live with. I want it to go away and leave me back in summer of 2019.
But I've learned to live with other things I didn't imagine.
And eventually, after years, the trauma stops being trauma.
I can't escape the anxiety of being a person in the world right now. But I can know that I've gone through prolonged pandemics before. And I've learned how to live in them.
So please stop me before I quit civilization and move into a van to travel the country.