Time has expanded into an eternal present, engulfing the past and the future like a large two-way tsunami. I guess that’s how it always is, really, but mostly, when I’m bustling about going from work to more work to making dinner to worrying about bills/upcoming taxes/my disengaged daughter [insert frantic worry here] it seems like I’m always living in a waiting room of a possible future, a perpetual purgatory.
Paradoxically, I have also been living a lot in the past in these last few years, trying to forensically piece together the ruins of my marriage to determine what the hell went wrong and why I find myself here in this new life.
Essentially, I’ve been living on an existential teeter totter vacillating between past and future, rarely finding the balance to hover in the present.
Except for now, during this pandemic, where it feels like the teeter totter has been frozen in the middle, and it’s stable enough to stand up and walk around.
Here is what I discovered in this new territory of the present.
That given some space, I hardly think of J at all. That the anvil on my chest has gotten lighter without me knowing it, the anger less. I always noticed my pain and hurt got more pronounced the more stressed out I was —about making ends meet, about my daughters—mostly feeling panicked and disoriented because I did not sign up to do this alone, but with him. His absence is most notable when I am overwhelmed and scared.
But with a break from these stresses (I know they are still there, they have just been paused like everything else in the world) comes a break from feeling cratered. It has been nice—surreal— but nice to remember how it feels to be me again without the heaviness, like a pleasant dream where I’m playing myself.
I know these times are very hard for most people. Hell, if I let myself think about it, they are going to be very hard for me to get by without my supplementary incomes. But because there is nothing I can do about it right now, I just can’t get myself to worry about it. Instead, I find myself healing in a deeper sense than I have in the last five years, which has been all trauma and tragedy and work and survival. I feel like a wound that has finally been un-bandaged and finally allowed to breathe.
I haven’t been doing a lot of thinking, just a lot of being. I sleep eight hours a night (I think it has been more than twenty years since I have been able to accomplish that). I am not drinking very much—except for when my daughter makes me a delicious Aperol spritz! I am learning how to take a weekend day to sit and read and do nothing else. This is a big accomplishment, as I have not been able to concentrate on fiction very well in since J left. I am retraining my brain to be able to immerse in story again. It is wonderful.
The life I want to live, the one I make vision boards about, the image I have had in my mind that has kept me going through this half decade, looks a lot like this life (sans, the social distancing and people dying of course). It is about working from home, about having the time and space to go for walks, read a book, write as much as I want, sit in the sun. It turns out it was a lot more in my reach than I thought it was. As we flatten the curve and begin to contemplate life returning to normal, I find myself wondering how I can sustain it. What can I cut out of my life? What is non-essential? How can I continue living in this strange, double-edged gift of a perpetual present?
Because I for one, don’t want to go back to the way it was.