The Hardest Time, Unmasked

This post is going to be very, very bald, even for me. Because this is the first Monday in January 2021 and o man does it feel hard. Almost but not quite unspeakably hard.

I was speaking to a dear friend–one of the last I’m still in good touch with (I said this post was going to be bald)–and we both said we are not really posting at this point because it feels like yelling into the void. More energy than we can spare given how drained and disconnected we feel. Then I remembered that often I can’t even feel my feelings until I write them down and press send, and so–selfishly, desperately–thought I’d share them here.

I want to pretend my back is all the way healed because this drama has gone on for two months already. But the truth is I am still in pain every day. The suffering has abated, yes, but what remains moves all around my body since the underlying issue is not local but global. I still can’t sit for any length of time without pain, can’t drive my stick-shift car, can’t walk more than a mile or two, can’t lift my laundry or groceries. Definitely can’t read for others or write or Zoom for any length of time. So I am not independent financially or physically, and freedom was all I still had until recently.

I know the problem is as much about general despair as it is about any physical dysfunction and that makes it worse because I don’t know how to fix that–not in myself, anyway. I have teachers and healers and supporters (not to mention a great reserve of self-pity). But none of it helps the fact that, on Month 1,000,000,000 of Pandemic and A Truly Next-Level Fascist Regime, I am awash in my childhood sense that there are no true grownups in charge and no forest for the trees.

I’d be lying if I said this was just the state of the union. I am turning 50 two weeks from tomorrow and can’t stave off the absolute worst feeling in the world: That I have not merited the time I’ve taken here. That I’ve not offered enough back to the world and do not have the real estate, relationships, professional achievements to merit my consumption. During this year so many friendships have fallen by the wayside because none of us have had the bandwidth for our own shit let alone anyone else’s. I also have cycled through many old loves that ended the first time around for good reason–not to mention a new one that should never have started. The last affair–the oldest one, the origin story of all my failed and fucked-up romances–ended over Christmas week with a whimper rather than a bang on any level.

All this failed love has only better acquainted me with an existential loneliness that drove me into the wrong arms in the first place. Behold the sorrow I’ve carried my whole life. A solitude that has become acute, positively shrieking its its silence, over this very very lonely year and even lonelier holiday season.

Here at the beginning of a new calendar year and only two weeks from a new decade in life, I do not see the future as an open horizon so much as a frightening abyss. It’s the worst feeling–nothing to dress up or for. I am scared, I am lost, and–the only gift–I am still here. On this Monday in what I pray is the last month in the worst chapter of America’s history as well as my own, I am not asking this rhetorically: Is there still a happy what-next?

I send hugs. More than that–who am I kidding?–I need hugs. But only from people I both love and like.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy