Last night I lay in a hot bath in the bright lights of my bathroom, watching a woman on TikTok, a stranger to me, a blond therapist with a soothing voice, assure me that in her lifetime, and in the lifetime of her parents, who are also therapists, none of them can remember a time like this.
And so if you’ve been feeling tired or foggy, she continued, her eyes resting on me, if you find yourself drifting in circles around your house looking for the list you’re sure you set down somewhere, and which will dictate your next move. If you’ve veered from some sense of purpose, she says, if you find that your appetite for conversation and company has dwindled, and two hours with anyone is just about all you can muster…
If you find yourself, I murmur aloud, as I lay in hot water, eyes closed against the brightness, if you find yourself declining dinner invitations because you are speechless, and there’s nothing left to say, if you find yourself at home alone, night after night – not because you’re afraid of a new variant, but because these last two years have taken the chat right out of you. How last week, you found yourself speaking aloud to yourself in the car as you drove to meet your friend, Laura, for a walk around the lake. “I’m well,” you practiced saying, “you know, working and…” the words stumbling out of your mouth as you readied yourself to be with another person again.
If you find yourself looking forward to another episode of Bridgerton so you can get lost in the world of candy-colored dresses and exploding bodices, if you find yourself opening emails from your friends at William Sonoma reminding you that Easter is upon us, and by the way, here’s a recipe for carrot cake, and some pretty easter bunny plates you won’t want to miss. If you find yourself downloading the recipe because you want something sweet, and because you’re going to need it for the email that comes next: 50 people killed at a train station in Ukraine, bags packed, this close to getting out of town.
If you find yourself spending three full days last week reading opinion pieces and watching TikTok videos to help you understand why Will Smith slapped Chris Rock, and all the layers of that heartbreaking mess, a welcome distraction from the podcast about how Russia is the biggest supplier of fertilizer in the world, and how, because of the sanctions, that fertilizer is stuck in Russia and farmers around the world can’t feed their cows, which means less meat, which is a good thing, you think, less meat, except, what do you know, you’ve never milked a cow or killed a chicken or depended on your very hands to survive.
Then again, maybe this is a good time to give up meat, and you’re remembering that time at dinner when someone offered your friend Billy meat and he declined. “Are you a vegetarian?” our host wondered. “No,” said Billy, who meditated 10 hours a day throughout the entire first two years of the pandemic, “I’m just doing my part to save the planet.”
If it’s becoming clear that everything is connected, and that farmers in Ukraine can’t farm their wheat because farmlands have become battlefields, and farmers have traded pitchforks for guns. This wheat, which is estimated to be 11.5% of the world’s wheat crop and which also feeds the poorest countries in the world – the people who will go without before me and you. And there you are at 2 am thinking about your taxes and where they go, or wondering how long until you fill your gas tank again, or whether you should put a hot tub in your yard given the climate crisis, even though the salesman reminds you that you only fill it up once. And what about the tree in your garden that, if you brought it down, will bring so much more light into the yard.
Will the tree feel the axe? Will the yard feel the sun? If I stop eating meat can I help save the planet? How many children were on the train platform in Ukraine?
If you finally leave your house at the end of the day and are surprised by how balmy it is, and that even amidst all the horror, someone has managed to grow lilacs on your street, so you stick your nose into the blossoms because beauty is beauty wherever you can find it. And because yesterday when your mother Face Timed you she looked more tired than usual, the way she spoke to you from her bed in the middle of the day, eyes closed. How you found yourself memorizing her face; her still rosy cheeks, the white of her hair, that beautiful patrician nose.
If you’re still wandering around looking for the list that might tell you how to live in the world as it is, with everything you know, and everyday is an excruciating attempt to pay attention because it matters, even if you don’t know what to say about it. “Don’t worry,” the TikTok therapist tells me, “you are not alone.”
Listen to Laurie read the post here …
For the last 100 weeks, I have been writing alongside a community of people called the Wild Writing Family, folks who have been Wild Writing with me for 100 weeks straight – since the pandemic began. Generally, we only open registration three times a year, but to celebrate 100 weeks of writing together, we’re welcoming new folks in for the next 10 days. If you’d like to join us, we would love to have you. The Wild Writing Family is an opportunity to throw your nets into the water, and to write through these times together, as a chorus of voices, speaking into what matters.