Like many of us, my anxiety is through the roof right now. So much is up in the air, so much scary news hits us with a daily tidal wave of fear. I am doing my best to hang on, doing a long walk/run with Marley most every day, often heading up to Birmingham’s beautiful Vulcan Trail. We are fortunate to have a place in the heart of the city that gives the feeling of being transported to the mountains and away from the craziness of life. Being in nature, running with my dog, helps to ground me and calm me, though it seems like it is taking longer and longer distances to have the same meditative effect.
I have always been a worrier, even though intellectually I realize that it is a supreme waste of energy- it changes nothing. Even so, right now I feel like I’m juggling bowling balls of worry, with far too many “what if’s” floating around my mind, keeping me up at night and distracted during the day. Doing battle with an invisible enemy is taking its toll on every aspect of our lives, and each day of isolation and lack of any sense of normalcy only makes it seem more and more surreal. As a musician and educator, it’s difficult not to worry about the real change that seems to be coming to the arts. The thought of darkened concert and recital halls, of not playing in an orchestra or chamber ensemble, of not traveling to conferences around the world, of not teaching my students in person…it makes me deeply sad. It feels that life as we know it is gone for good.
This virus has already taken so much from us all in such a short time; security, the ability to safely gather together with family and friends, careers, incomes, and for some people, their health…or their lives. While our state and many others are rushing to return to normal life, I still don’t feel safe going into public places. Many people are refusing to wear masks or follow basic social distancing protocols, and so even trips to the grocery store can induce a panic attack, especially with the addition of seeing empty shelves that used to be stocked with basic necessities week after week. I don’t like feeling like my survival or that of my family and friends’ survival is in the hands of people who are so cavalier about the realities of the virus and this pandemic. The virus has been in my home and I don’t ever want it back again.
I can’t change the awful situation, nor can I change people who refuse to treat it with the gravity it deserves. All I can do is to be safe, to work on myself and try my best to grow through and past the stress. Dan and I continue to work together on our old house, I am doing my job online as best I can, and I will continue to burn off some of the anxiety up on the trail or in the neighborhood with Marley. I am in no rush for ‘normal’ life to return- not until it is safe to do so. To be honest, at this point I don’t even know what ‘normal’ means to me anymore.
I continue to return to gratitude as a method of survival, constantly repeating the litany to myself; I am grateful that Dan came home from the hospital, that COVID-19 didn’t take him from me. I’m grateful that I still have a job, even though it is very different and unsettling right now. I’m grateful for our home and the companionship of our animals. I’m grateful for my family and friends, even though we can’t be together for the foreseeable future. So many wonderful gifts to remember during these days that seem to blur from one to the next, feeling eerily similar to the movie, Groundhog Day.
I don’t know what the future will bring; all I know is that I don’t want to feel this awful anxiety, like my chest is being crushed by some giant vise. I want to be able to take a full breath of air again, to not be constantly worried about bringing COVID home with us after a simple trip to the grocery store. I want to feel normal somehow again, but I know that normal is going to mean something very different at the end of all of this.
We are living a moment in history- not a pleasant one, but a moment nonetheless. We all have our part to play in what happens, and I only know that I want badly to be a part of the solution, somehow, some way. I am grieving for what was, but I’ve got to find a way forward to whatever the next chapter will be. I guess that’s we all have to do…one breath at a time.