I am, as I have been for the past year, tired. But this tired feels different somehow.
I’m willing to bet you can relate, because a lot of us are hitting a pandemic wall right now, reaching an inevitable breaking point nearly a year in the making. Sure, we’re finally turning a corner — hopefully — but it feels as though, at the very same time, all of the wheels are coming off. The old ways are no longer working, and it’s become blatantly obvious that no one is coming to save us. Despite the tenuous optimism of 2021 (my own included), I feel like my personal orbit this year has so far been seeped in tragedy and sadness, people running out of options and out of steam, and the pervasive sense that we just cannot catch a break.
It’s this sick sense of deja vu, too — a 2020 2.0, with yet another impeachment trial (this one with the added horror of death and destruction), botched stimulus checks, and a haphazard vaccine rollout providing barely a tourniquet to the staggering loss of life as we march steadily onward toward 500,000 COVID-19 deaths, a year into this slow-motion disaster.
Mothers, essential workers, people of color, people with disabilities, the poor, teachers, students; all have been laid bare by this pandemic and hung out to dry by our government. I am none of those things, impossibly privileged in my exemption, and still I feel myself hollowed out. Still I feel there are only so many salves and stopgaps that we can use to obfuscate the horror before everything that allowed this tragedy to rage unchecked must be gutted and rebuilt from scratch. What more do we owe of ourselves to the systems that have failed us so catastrophically?
The American government may not be better than this pandemic, but the people it is meant to serve sure as hell are. I realize I’m stating the obvious and preaching to the choir, but we should not be rationing our PTO and sick days to recover from a life-threatening virus, we should not be GoFundMe-ing our medical care and our COVID funerals, and we should not be expected to operate at a normal capacity as everything crumbles beneath our feet.
I don’t know what the answer is, other than acknowledging that there is no roadmap for how to survive a pandemic in a country that was already running ragged before it. And so where there are no right answers, there are no wrong ones, either. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are not coping properly, or functioning sufficiently, because we are all still living through — lest you forget — un-fucking-precedented times.
“Self care” has become so hopelessly co-opted and commercialized that we’ve forgotten it doesn’t just look like face masks and bubble baths and Chardonnay (although sometimes, for me, it does look like that, and that’s okay too.) But stillness is valid, and so is numbness, and grief, and despair. Feeling everything, or feeling nothing, whatever it takes to get by. Crying can be incredibly cathartic, as can nature and animals and yoga and walking and tuning back into your own physical being, however you possibly can. Sleep when you need to, try to eat well, drink your damn water, put your phone down, take time off before you burn out. Above all else, take care of yourself, and your loved ones. Some wells can be replenished. Others cannot.
I am trying to find stillness where I can. In a much-needed week off work and a cottage on the Olympic Peninsula. Trying to replenish myself with a hot tub under the stars, lilac sunrises over snowcapped mountains, the tide taken out so far at night that your eyes lose sight of where it meets the shore. Getting lost in Olympic National Park, a hushed fairytale woodland so empty and otherworldly it felt like stepping into Narnia. Sorting through trinkets at antique stores and crystal shops, indulging in strong coffee and fresh seafood and baked goods, foraging for mushrooms as the snow fell, searching for instruments and making music and a little magic wherever I could find it.
And I am finding solace, as always, in the celestial and the spiritual. Watching “The Midnight Sky” and falling asleep to the soundtrack to “First Man” after a calming session of Yoga with Adrienne. Parcast’s Virgo Today has become something of a daily ritual for me lately, providing affirmations and pearls of wisdom that kickstart my thoughts for journaling. During a spontaneous visit to Powell’s the other day, I entered into a fugue state of literary lust and walked out an hour later with Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s Origins — among other books — and have been enthralled reading it so far (see above). I’ve also gone further down the rabbit hole of Carl Sagan’s work, thanks mostly to this excerpt that writer Aminatou Sow posted to her Instagram Story, an incredibly prescient passage from Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark:
“I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time -- when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness...
In a time when it feels like our need for answers guided by science and for spirituality that helps us find peace with our own mortality has never been greater, I found this quote from the same work equally illuminating.
“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light‐years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.”
As far as the more earthly aspects keeping me (relatively) sane, I have become a little addicted to thrifting; mostly costume jewelry and Depression-era glass (what can I say? I like bling). I’ve also become obsessed with the escapism of scents; my Christmas gift from my mother was a rollerball of D.S. & Durga’s Radio Bombay, a perfume I’d held out on purchasing for a year since first smelling it at a boutique in LA. It’s earthy and musky and sexy and easily my favorite fragrance ever, and I highly recommend ordering a sample set of D.S. & Durga’s distinctive scents for an instant sensory pick-me-up. Thanks to them, I’ve become a bit of a perfume sample fiend, my latest acquisition being a tester set of Dedcool’s Series Two (Rocco smells like LA when the jasmine blooms in spring, one of my most happy-making scents ever.) My childhood best friend and I went in on these friendship bracelets engraved with the coordinates of our hometown (because why not), and I highly recommend this diffuser/nightlight combo infused with a few drops of lavender for an especially soothing yoga experience. I’ve also found comfort in the absurdity of Squishmallows, these absolutely gigantic, ridiculously soft stuffed creatures certainly intended for children (but who’s keeping track?) Baby Yoda has become my newest prized possession, and inspired an affinity for other childlike interests that have since reinvigorated a bit of playfulness and joy in my life: a sensory bin full of water beads to squish when you’re feeling stressed, a dazzling, nostalgic glitter tube that makes me smile every time I look at it, and this cosmic thinking putty that really does sparkle like glittering galaxies when you illuminate it with a blacklight.
And as always, there is solace in music. These are just a couple of my recent finds, but with more newly-discovered gems and old favorites than I could reasonably highlight here, I figured I’d go ahead and share my current playlist, too.
All this to say, we’re all in uncharted territory right now. Cling to the people you love, be kind even to those you do not. And don’t forget to send a few Valentines this week; whether that be a gift, a card, a voicemail — a little goes a long way these days.