I’ve had the weirdest feeling lately. Now that the country has loosened up on pandemic restrictions and I have more access to people and activities, I’m lonelier than ever. This new world is tinged with blue.
Not so surprising when you think about it. We’ve all lost a lot in the past 15 months, including people that we love.
The world has more in it now. Some things that we’ve missed are getting added back in. But it’s like a badly crafted puzzle. The pieces don’t quite fit. They should, but they don’t. The edges are irregular and the interlock is weak. The picture is impossible to solve: a solid sheet of blue.
I don’t quite trust this new world and hesitate to join in.
I do join in, though. I make myself join in. But I’m not fully present in the present. I keep referring back to the restrictions and fears that started in early 2020. Taking part and letting loose feels unacceptably risky. A friend of mine put it this way: It seems that people all around her are doing fun things now, but not her. She doesn’t even want to join in. A wee touch of adhedonia is how she put it: the inability to feel pleasure.
Honestly, it feels like my early days as a widow. It’s hard to focus. There’s a PTSD quality lingering in me, a bunch of “thou shalt nots” that got necessarily ingrained during the pandemic which, as we are constantly reminded, is not over.
When experiencing the loss of a loved one, there’s a phenomena of mental fogging- -forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, emotional numbness. Some call this Widow’s Fog. It happens because the loss and the confusion about that loss, the inability to make sense of it so we can function again, is constantly running in our minds. We’re exhausted, don’t have the energy to be present or the bandwidth to process what’s happening right now.
Blue. So what do you do?
You make it into something funny.
Interesting suggestion, 9. Several years ago I played a game where you find your Blues name by picking items from three lists: physical disabilities, body parts, and names of US generals and presidents, assigned to your first, middle and last initials. At the time, my last name started with ‘A’; my Blues name was Blind Legs Jackson.
Do you prefer Ms. Blind or Ms. Jackson?
I’ll get back to you on that, Lily. These days, I’m Blind Legs Lee.
Can you see where I’m going with this? Good, because I can’t either. But I sure would like to find the key to enjoying life again.
This will take time and deliberate effort on my part, according to The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M. D. According to the author, when something (such as the 24/7 news cycle) reminds us of past traumatic experiences the right side of the brain, the intuitive part, takes over and reacts as if past traumatic events were happening now. It’s how our brains reconfigure themselves to help us survive. The left side of the brain, the regulator part, stops functioning properly. One of the things the left side of the brain handles is speech. Have you ever been so scared or so angry you can’t find words to express what you’re feeling?
That sounds really scary.
I think so, too, Lily. And I don’t want to live my life getting derailed by forever reacting to something bad that happened in the past, something that stops me from enjoying life right now.
I think you should eat more snacks. Fun ones, not cottage cheese with pepitas.
Food is definitely part of the recovering from blue puzzle, 9. It’s become hard for me to enjoy what I eat. I’ve turned into a “food as fuel” person. Make it, eat it, clean up after it. Get that meal down and get back to the serious work of survival. I’ve haven’t joined friends for meals for so long that I’m resistant to doing so now. It sounds scary. It sounds wrong.
I’m working on turning my perceptions about this around. In the meantime, I trick myself into enjoying meals more by eating them outside. That way I can watch the birds socialize, admire the bright blue spring sky, notice how things in the garden have grown. Plus, fresh air! My senses are engaged much more than when I hover over my plate at the dining table, listening to NPR.
It’s not just the economy that’s recovering: everything is recovering. Time to be patient with ourselves and with others, to be kind, to reach out even when it’s scary.
Beating back the blues with baby steps.
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