A phone conversation from last week, between me and my therapist:
Her: How are you doing with all this coronavirus stuff?
Me: Well, my grandfather just died. So, it hasn’t been priority one.
Her: I’m so sorry to hear that.
Me: It’s fine.
Her: How are you dealing with this and all the life changes with the virus at the same time?
Me: I’m fine. (Inner Monologue: To me, the world has always been on fire. It’s almost comforting that others have taken notice.)
There’s a meme I’ve seen a couple of times about how people with depression and anxiety are handling this pandemic a little better than expected because we’re used to feeling like the world is ending. Sometimes I feel like I am watching as my “healthy” people’s brains spiral out of control with worst case scenarios. There’s a sort of sick amusement in it, a dark laughter-maybe something you can only understand if you’ve been looking though the goggles of depression for a long time. They’re worried, but for once, I am not. What happens will happen. I will take precautions and all that, of course, but if I get sick or someone I love gets sick, I will deal with that. Because the world has always been on fire.
And yet here I sit on a Friday morning, consumed with anxiety.
Yes, Friday, not Monday when I usually write, but today, because today I am doing something kind of scary. This is generating anxiety, and it is interesting to me how something small can create such emotions but a worldwide pandemic is leaving me cool-headed.
I have written before about the monthly poetry reading I go to; at least I think I have. A brief synopsis: it is at a bookstore near my house once a month, and I started going in October. I was nervous to read, I am always nervous to read, but have been forcing myself to do so for a variety of reasons. Anyway, due to social distancing, this month’s meeting will be taking place on Facebook live. To which I initially thought: COOL! I can do this from the comfort of my own office?? No anxiety for me this month!
So, I decided to enter the poetry contest they were holding. You had to take a line from poet Sophie Robinson’s “Art in America,” and use it as the first line of your new poem. I chose “honestly, I am sick of helping Jesus count the days…” I wrote about 30 lines. I sent it off to the moderator.
Then she posts on the Facebook page saying that if we want, we can record our video for if we win the contest, and also for the open mic portion. So, I do that. I send it off. Then, I go to the event page.
There were 400 people invited, and at least 40 going. A quick scan of those attending found the editor of the poetry page of the Buffalo News. I choked on my iced coffee.
There have never been more than maybe 15 people at these readings. I was expecting 15 people, like 7 of which go monthly and whom I am comfortable sharing my stuff with. But no. When I panicked and told Sahar, she said she would watch, too. So, I’m sure I will be texting her as we go tonight…it’s a distant moral support, but its still support.
So here I am bugging out over something little. And tomorrow, when I write the second half of this post in which I tell you how it went, I am sure I will not be anxious about it anymore.
Monday. I didn’t write on Saturday as intended because I was in the ER, which was a whole story unto itself. They are setting up tents outside, there is a fever checkpoint, and no one would get near me. It was bizarre. I also didn’t write on Sunday because I was recuperating and hanging with the kiddos. So, here we are on Monday.
Halfway though the reading, Mark came into the room and asked to watch with me. This is very much not his style, and as we sat listening to the featured reader, Meghann Boltz, I could tell he was simply trying to be interested for my sake. However, when she finished and the moderator went on to announce the poetry contest winner, he held my hand and his breath as they announced that I won. We both let out unexpected cheers, and he hugged me. Then he made me play my video for him, and told me it was wonderful.
Since I won, my video was posted on the page and has received around 350 views. This is mind-blowing to me, of course, as I was so worried about sharing with the same small group I usually do, but ended up sharing my poetry with a much larger audience. I no longer feel the anxiety that plagued me on Friday. Not because I won, and feel validated, but because I did the scary thing and lived to tell the tale.
I guess it is easier, somehow, for me to look at the big scary thing right now. I have been looking for silver linings in all of this and have found so many. I am able to wrap my head around such a huge and terrifying thing, because I am used to wrapping my head around huge and terrifying things on a daily basis (of course, I make them huge in my head.) I am looking to reports out of China for hope, and I am finding little rays of it. I am looking forward to the day when I run out of my house and embrace every person I see.
In the meantime, I will do things like write poems and stories and blogs and lose myself in my words, because this is how I process life. Each of us need to find a way to deal with what is happening, and the anxiety it is creating in our worlds. Still, you must remember there is hope. There are bright spots. This will end. We just have to take it one day at a time. Or one poetry reading at a time, as the case may be.