I woke up this morning like I did every other day the past three weeks and will wake up for the foreseeable future. Today is Saturday, but I had to check my phone just to be sure. It could be Tuesday or Easter—it really makes no difference.
But today I felt a new sort of heaviness laced with agitation clouding my mind, the kind that neither coffee nor a morning shag on the counter of my boyfriend’s kitchen could cure.
It’s anxiety; it’s boredom. It’s all of it in between. It’s the thought of not leaving this house until June, maybe August. And it’s what those thoughts incite within me—I’d say a stomach ache mixed with a longing for something just a little more.
I’ve seen these walls, felt the cold, unforgiving tile beneath my feet every day, all day. And every day to come. They are part of me and I them. I’ve lost my identity in these rooms—that or my sanity. But honestly, what is the difference?
I’ve breathed in the air of the surrounding valley, partly covered in scorched fauna from the fires, mostly covered in nature prevailed. I never saw myself living here, a stone’s throw from Los Angeles but removed from the hustle and bustle, one I couldn’t live without, but now I have no choice. This is my home, at least for now.
My boyfriend and I retreated to his childhood house, leaving our apartments in the city to ride out the quarantine in suburbia. I welcomed the idea of more space and added luxuries. The mere idea of moving “back home”—an option I haven’t had since I graduated high school—felt quaint, not a feeling often experienced in the city.
I’ve unloaded my bags into my boyfriend’s childhood bedroom, clad with middle school basketball trophies and a Mickey Mouse stuffed animal, his eyes always watching no matter where you go.
I make coffee every morning in the same kitchen he heated up Eggo waffles before he left for school. I most likely sip it at the same table he did his homework at. Ah, how I welcomed the penetration of quaintness into my body.
Like people all over the world, my normal is new. It shifted beneath my feet quicker than I could keep up; I thought I was swaying with it just fine. In recent days, I’ve realized I was wrong. Things are slower, quieter, anxious, thought-provoking, silent, numb, everything, nothing.
Gone are the days of walking down the street to grab a long black—the equivalent of an Australian americano—from my local coffee shop, the smell of the robust aroma shaking life into my body. Gone are the days of observing everyone around me, like the professor getting riled up as he describes his reading of an article on stem cell replacement to either his daughter or girlfriend—you can’t be too sure in the city. Like the barista flirting with a guy whose style I envied and would later emulate when I bought a pack of men’s long-sleeve tees as my quarantine uniform.
No longer can I battle the internal battle of whether tomorrow will finally be the day I start up swimming again; yes, my body yearned for movement, but the thought of waking up for the pool’s ludicrous hours of 7-9 a.m. always won out in deterring me. But the battle is gone because there’s no pool. It’s closed. Along with everything else.
With limited options on what to do, I feel madness seeping into my bones. I imagine I am on the tip of understanding how Shamu and the other wild animals forced into small spaces feel—confined confusion, wondering when, if ever, I’ll be able to leave.
At times I wander the house, unsure of what to do. In manic states, I’ll dance around the living room in socks and slide into my boyfriend’s line of vision, Risky Business-style, with less coordinated but all the enthusiasm still there.
Then there are the times I’ll lay out in the yard, my body splayed across the ground, soaking up the warm earth, staring at the rose bushes. My eyes have no real focal point. I forget I’m even staring at anything; I forget I’m even existing.
I’m no stranger to the feelings of melancholia. I’ve grappled with depression since I was in middle school. I remember the first time when I felt like I didn’t want to live anymore. The feeling consumed me, and I kept it deep down inside, like a secret that was too heinous and messed up to share.
And though I know this isn’t my depression, rather circumstantial sadness, I feel the need to resort back to my arsenal of coping mechanisms. I go for walks. I talk to friends. I do things I enjoy. I fuck my boyfriend. I open up. I express my feelings, even if they’re heinous and messed up.
It wasn’t until yesterday, as I stared out the window like a golden retriever guarding the premises, that I remembered a specific thing that helped me during a particularly dark time two summers ago. A single question. A single mindset shift.
What if this were enough? What if this time, the lockdown, were enough?
Don’t get me wrong. I see the pain. I see the worry families are feeling that their loved ones might not make it out of this alive. I see the endless hours and self-sacrifice doctors, nurses, grocery store workers, delivery drivers, and other essential workers put in every day. I see the anxiety of the individuals that lost their job, not sure if everything they worked their entire lives for could crumble in a matter of weeks. I feel the uncertainty. We all do.
It’s part of our reality, and I’m not looking past it.
But what if we came to terms with the fact that, for now, this is life? As messy and fucked up as it is, this is our new way of living. For each person, it looks different, but for each person, it’s not what it used to be.
You can act like I have these past few weeks, existing with sadness just beneath the surface, mourning a life once had.
Or you can take this less-than-perfect present and believe that, for now, it’s enough. That you may be living out your days between the same four walls, but at least you have those four walls. That you might be scrounging together meals from items shoved in the back of your cabinets that haven’t seen the light of day for months, but at least you have food.
And it extends beyond just being grateful, it’s a matter of shifting the way you see things. The mind is significantly altered by our perception of reality. So if we see ourselves as a victim to a force completely out of our control, our attitude is going to follow. If we accept the present as all we can have, we’re given the change to be okay with it.
We’ve all been caught up for so long in a fast-paced world that makes us feel like we always need more. And maybe we could function that way in our old lives, but we can’t afford to now. That kind of thinking will make anyone lose a bit of their sanity.
I still hope for a day when we do have more. When the cinemas open back up and we can go out and enjoy the company of our loved ones. When lovers can be reunited and new ones formed. When everyone can enter a supermarket and not worry that a person coming close to them is a potential danger. When people can stop to chat with their neighbors again.
I look forward to the day I can go back to my apartment or wherever I want without reserve. I look forward to the day when I can do something as simple as eavesdrop on people around me while I sip a fresh cup of coffee I didn’t make.
But for now, and for the sake of my sanity, I’ve decided that this is enough.