Diary of a Cockeyed Optimist: Today Sucked

Today sucked. It started around four in the morning when I woke up from a physical distancing* nightmare. People were everywhere and they were too close and I’d ask them to please, please back away and they’d look at me like I was the rudest person they’d ever met and then they’d get closer.

I fell back to sleep. It was fitful. More nightmares. They were so vivid, so real.

*A friend of mine prefers physical distancing over social distancing, and I concur.

When I got out of bed around 8:30 or so, which until a few weeks ago was incredibly late for me, I was exhausted. Lethargic. Sad. Angry. Fearful. I asked my husband if we could go for a walk today in a way that meant he could only answer yes. The parking lot at the first conservation area was nearly full, so we drove to another. Not only was it nearly empty, we also knew that the park had wide trails.

We walked, on a beautiful, sunny, 60-degree day, to a picturesque waterfall and an arched wooden bridge. We encountered very few people, and everyone made plenty of room. On the way to the second conservation area we passed an industrial building with a full parking lot. “Looks like they’re essential,” I muttered. Jim suggested I look it up.

It was a medical supply company.

I thought the walk would help. I suppose it did. I can imagine what I’d feel like if we hadn’t gotten some fresh air and a dose of beauty. It would be worse. Much worse.

We got home and I made lunch. I had grand plans for the afternoon. I’ve a multitude of videos from the last few years of travel, and I’d like to share them regularly, create a virtual tour of sorts, and I was going to select some footage to edit. I began watching recordings from our road trip to San Diego and back, the trip that birthed my first book.

Oh boy. What a mixed bag of nostalgia and loss. It’s like I’ve lost hope, like I don’t believe I’ll ever get to do that again, and I began regretting that we didn’t take an epic road trip last year. I watched video after video after video, until I finally had to stop. My body ached. I kept coughing. Breathing wasn’t so easy. I knew it was because we’d hiked hills and I hadn’t slept well, but it didn’t matter. I looked up symptoms, even though I know what they are. I tried writing the intro for a recipe so I can get my new cooking site launched. That didn’t work. I’ve never had writer’s block in any meaningful way until the last few weeks and now a blank screen mocks me as if to say “Who are you to write about food? Who are you to write about anything? Don’t you know it’s already been done and your voice doesn’t matter?”

I went downstairs to plant some herb and vegetable seeds. I do this every year. One of my great pleasures is eating food that I’ve grown, nurtured from seed, lovingly watered and fed until the seed becomes something that feeds us.

Today felt different. It wasn’t an effort of love. It was an exercise in survival. We had our last salad today for lunch and I don’t know when we’re going to get fresh lettuce again. Sound dramatic? Maybe it is, but Sunday morning, the last time we went to the store, I waited for a woman who was looking at some items I wanted to purchase. When she stepped away, I stepped up. She came back. She stood right next to me. I asked her to please back away. She looked at me, confused. I asked her again. “Could you please back away?” She did, but I was already shaken. Jim was shaken. I don’t want to go to the store again. I don’t want to order from the store. I don’t want to touch anything anyone else has touched.

I’m rudderless. Today’s Thursday. For the past fifteen years, maybe more, I’ve sent out a weekly things to do in Chicago newsletter. The past two weeks have been things to do at home. Last week’s went out on Friday. Looks like this week’s will, too. If I send it at all. I know I should. My subscribers have thanked me for it. I will. I will. I promise. I will.

I have to redefine what I do. How I navigate the world. We all do. I’m disgusted by the “leadership” of this country and the lives lost because of greed and sociopathy. I’m scared and I can’t find my voice. I think I’ve got it, and then it disappears again. I don’t want to have nightmares that people are getting too close. Already. I’m already having them. This pandemic hasn’t been going on that long, but with the constant glut of information, it’s hard to remember a time when Jim and I could stand in an open car of a heritage train surrounded by people, or when I could pass my neighbors on the sidewalk, or hug a dear, dear friend.

Today sucked. Not because of what I did. I did good things. I did things I love. Today sucked because I let it. I made it. I allowed a bad attitude to sour my whole day. And right now, I feel like every day is even more precious because there’s so much uncertainty and fear. I can’t afford to lose one.

But, I can’t afford not to have a day like today, either. I’m going to allow myself this day of pain. I’m going to make dinner and we’ll eat after ten o’clock at night, again, and that’s going to have to be acceptable. I’m going to let myself wallow in my bad attitude. And then I’m going to go to bed and I’m going to wake up tomorrow and I’m going to realize, once again, how very fortunate I am, and that I can make a difference, and that I do have a voice, and I can help others by using it.

Expecting myself to be happy and optimistic all the time is unrealistic and frankly, delusional. Every few months I’ll get sick for one day and one day only; I realize it’s my body telling me I need a break. Today, my mind needed a break.

Today sucked. Tomorrow won’t. One day at a time.

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