There has always been a slowly simmering, low-and-slow kettle of hope and optimism at the base of me. It has nurtured almost all of my creative efforts, my love of holidays, my desire to play, and my comradery with others. 2016 dealt it a heavy blow, and the flame keeping it all going guttered. The last two years, and the last especially, saw it go out completely. I stopped writing, eventually gave up on reading, stopped reaching out to people, withdrew from a world that exhausted, depressed, and disappointed me.
I’m not going to lie. This is the direct opposite of how I always imagined I’d respond to a world altering threat. I always thought I’d be the one rallying people together, urging them to persevere and grow together. In retrospect, however, this is totally in keeping with how I respond to stress and trauma. My father’s death, the death of friends and other loved ones, the death of Owein, the collapse of Laughing Pan Productions, the fading of friendships…every single time something terrible happens I button up whatever horror I should be processing and get to work soldiering on. Ideally, and perfectly, by carrying others burdens. I push through my grief, my trauma, by helping others do it healthily. By letting it all out, by ritual and empathy and support.
I do not. I move on, in a way I suppose, but there’s no real catharsis. There’s no coming to terms. The emotions are just buried deep and life goes on. Now, obviously that isn’t healthy, for me or anyone…but it’s how I’ve managed to cope with loss up to this point. The pandemic changed all that, of course. Every day is a new micro-aggression, micro-trauma, micro-everything. And over the last year it’s become something…well, macro. Big. Unable to be suppressed. I know I’m not alone in this, there are lots of people going through very similar things, but this is my lived experience and I’m so dreadfully tired of putting on my humdrum, contented face and telling the world that I’m fine, it’s all fine, we’ll all be fine.
I have, at heart, a deep and burning anger at those who’ve kept this Pandemic raging and the society-taxing behaviors that have fed off the culture of this dire individualism. Every person I see maskless, wearing a mask but incorrectly, lying to me at work about why they are doing so…enrages me. Every person who works from home and complains about anything enfuriates me. The people who protest, who ignore medical guidance, and who encourage others to do so under the shroud of patriotism makes me want to scream. Forever, really. I’ve never stopped working. Not for one week. You all had weeks, months to process this new world. Every day, I just have enough emotional werewithal to respond to your reactions to it. That’s all. Nothing else.
Some of my emotional responses are entirely rational to feel, based on the real world we live in. Others are unfair to the victims of my silent vitriol. But I’m just so tired. I’ve worked, exposed to a public that clearly does not only devalue me and my coworkers, but does not treat me like a person. I am, instead, merely an extension of their complacent, entitled culture that views people who provide goods and services to them as nothing but conveyor belts in meat suits. Normally, I’d defend the public if someone came at them with claims like those I’ve just espoused. Like I said, I’m tired. Tired, but maybe not ready to sleep.
Tomorrow, I start my first day in my new position at my actual store for the first time–this, despite being promoted to that position back in August. I’m not back there full time, just partial weeks until everyone at the other store is fully trained. I’m quite nervous, actually. Lots of responsibilities and a mostly-new-to-me staff await me, as do a pandemic-reacting public to whom I have yet to really be exposed. I’m also thrilled. I’ve worked hard for this promotion, not just this past year through all the tribulations I (and we, I know all of us have so much!) endured.
I just set a reading challenge goal for 2021. I’ve picked up a new hobby, possibly, though times will tell. I grew my TBR pile by a factor of dozens since Christmas, just in books I’m waiting to be released. I cleaned today, and it didn’t feel like a burden, like one more thing designed to break me. This past week, I have had the tiniest of sprouts of story I occasionally think about. I spent this morning making spaghetti sauce from scratch, the first time in a year, and I love to do it. I’d forgotten that. I’d forgotten what life was like without the constant pressure of the public, my job, the holidays, my friends and family. What it was like to lose myself, even if just for a few hours, in activities I genuinely enjoy. To be honest, I forgot what enjoying anything felt like for a while now. I’m certain I wasn’t nearly as jolly as I thought I was being towards everyone this holiday season.
So, here’s to a new year, full of crisis already of both political and pandemic proportions. Here’s to roads covered in ice but new cars to traverse them. To new phones after waiting 6 years but needing to wait two extra weeks to get them. To the holidays, though I dread undecorating after them. To a year of trauma, but bravery in recognition of it. To carving out alone time, but having family (and cats!) waiting for you. To mental health, and asking for the help you need to get there for the first time. Here’s to a year that gives as well as takes, that gives me a chance–even a feeble one–to reignite the burner below that pot that’s grown cool but not cold. I’m tired, and the past few years have broken me a bit, but I look forward to learning how to mend.
Sometimes, the smallest of lights is enough when what surrounds you is dark enough.
May you find your light.