This pandemic, a horrible bringer of painful illness and lonely death, has changed our world forever. Long waves of global devastation will ripple through generations.
Unique personal change will come to us all.
With many lives already lost, thick grief emanates daily from digital screens, big and small, as we witness tales of loss. The fortunate, escaping with our health and families intact, will move on, spared from life-altering personal trauma and grief.
Of late, constant, personal reflections of what I’ve learned about myself, my life, and most troubling, my seeming complete disconnection from this globally shared experience has distracted me. As nothing but a silent observer and noticing no substantive change in my life, a troubling question emerged.
Am I that emotionally detached from humanity?
A few nights ago, unable to sleep, replaying an overheard conversation about someone’s emotional pain of isolation, I saw the root of my personal pain. I isolated long before Covid-19, but witnessing other’s distress, sadness, and fear, forced me to judge myself as abnormal.
The pandemic isolation hadn’t bothered me because it was my normal. It saddened me, releasing a torrent of undeniable guilt.
My life, gifted and re-gifted, and how I’m living it, has become unacceptable to me.
I’ve written much, perhaps too much, about my experiences with untreated trauma, mental illness, alcoholism, and an ultimate brush with suicide. Writing, a dependable partner in self-exploration and healing, has helped peel back lifelong onion skins of denial and confusion.
Some writing, inappropriate for public consumption, is often a most illuminating but disturbing mirror. Recent anger, an unwieldy old emotion I detest, has burrowed itself between the lines of unrelated drafts. Odd word choices, strange deflection, and bitter tones show up during emotionless editing.
Today, I know why.
While considerable recovery time has passed and rebuilding life is well underway, I’ve strayed little from my small, safe life, once designed for emotional protection.
I’m living, but not, thus disrespecting the gift of second chances.
I’ve struggled to accept this, and yesterday, I felt like an emotional powder keg, fuse dangling behind me as I walked through open flames of societal triggers. When I got home, locking myself away seemed the wisest choice — my usual bomb-diffusing strategy.
As I write this, the acrid stench of selfish anger, old resentments, loneliness, and negative self-judgment, has drifted into calm winds of reflection. I feel none of those today.
Today, I feel guilt and emptiness, knowing I’m cheating life by choosing this isolated existence. It seems so disrespectful to those no longer experiencing the gift of another day.
Defeated words I uttered to an attending hospital psychiatrist years ago have a different meaning today.
“I want to live, I just can’t live this way.”
I’m living, but can’t keep living this way.
Arrival of small epiphanies in recovery, regular but surprising, remain a mental mystery. Days, weeks, or months into mental funks, a brighter mental sun rises, delivering clear understanding and powerful enlightenment. I never understand the subconscious process churning change in my head, aware only of extreme discomfort and mental turmoil, until I do.
Time decides when change is necessary.
When the curtain of confusion rises, exposing the need for change, stage lights illuminate the players of my discontent. I see my life playing out through troubled plot holes and ineffective dialogue, preventing a smooth, graceful progression through scenes.
My story isn’t moving.
Realities of my circumstances have turned from ignorable annoyances to unbearable frustrations. My hard-fought patience seems replaced with a loud drumbeat of need for action.
Under this spotlight, I stand stage center knowing I’ve outgrown my situation, and to stay here means accepting less than my growth and recovery deserve. The anger, bubbling under the surface of recent weeks, targets the fearful part of me choosing safety over fullness of life.
Fear, a cunning trickster, has returned.
Fear is driving my daily bus, steering it clear of every perceived emotional risk. This attempted protection, appropriate before, is stifling growth, preventing forward movement, and frustrating the rest of me ready to travel alternative routes.
The growing edge of recovery, where personal boundaries expand with personal growth, requires constant inventory taking — a taking stock of where I am. I haven’t done it with enough rigorous honesty to recognize the abundance of understocked life experience.
Where my personal brush with suicide and overwhelming grief failed to illuminate the blessing of second chances, the pandemic’s effects on people around me have.
Divine intervention, or plain old blind luck, gifted me a bonus life.
The conflicted committee of selfish assholes in my head must find gratitude for my current progression and honor life’s blessing by engaging in courageous living.
I can blame my past, places, people, and things for endless barriers present in my journey, but much is well within my control.
Of all times in my life, today the Serenity Prayer’s first stanza is most appropriate.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Do I possess the courage to change now and when the virus wanes?
Of course I do.
Through ugly messiness, deep rock bottoms, and whisker-hair survival, I’m blessed with a resilient, stubborn will to carry on. I may be a painfully slow learner and change resistor, but I don’t quit.
I know this truth in me.
When I thought I quit years ago, something inside acted in the last moments, allowing a life-saving intervention. Even mired in semi-conscious, inhuman alcoholism, my lizard-brained survival instinct prevailed.
I must dig in again, summon unbridled vulnerability, hold my own damned hand, and walk courageous steps into an unknown world.
Am I scared?
Yes. I’m terrified of personal and professional rejection, of facing some demons in wait, and of complete failure. Though empty, there’s strange comfort in this detached, simple, and risk-free existence.
I’ll do it anyway, my own way, on my timeline, learning again what real fearlessness means.
My belief the pandemic isolation didn’t bother me was untrue.
It’s forced me to acknowledge the gratitude I should have, see my bonus life as a powerful blessing, and shift from stagnated settling to honored living.
Many would love the opportunity of a new day.
I can do more for me, for others, and for whatever or whoever kept me here.
Maybe we all can.