When Everything is Not Fine

duck pond before the crash

It has been exhausting to pretend that everything is perfectly okay during this pandemic. I can’t do it anymore. I need to start telling my truth about what’s really going on, to lift the curtain on the social media white lies. I hope you can find safe spaces to tell your truth too. My pandemic truth is I’m not fine. I’ve been not okay in my life before. This is not my first rodeo.

After my first marriage ended 21 years ago, I was standing in the aisle of a grocery store, totally paralyzed and unable to choose what food to put in my cart. I lost the ability to make even the simplest decision. My poor young kids (then ages 4 and 7) ate Kraft Dinner for months as I figured out a way to get my head screwed on tight again.

When Aaron was diagnosed with Down syndrome, I tried a different tactic to deal with my stress. I became busy. Like really busy. Busy getting him into therapies, busy taking him to appointments and then busy advocating and trying to change the world. Soon the busy became a badge of honour, until my ovary randomly burst one day and I was forced to slow down.

When I had breast cancer, I walked around a slow-motion muddled mess, slowly suffocating with fear. I got lost driving to familiar places and again couldn’t decide what to have for dinner. (I’m grateful to all those who brought us prepared meals because we sure needed them).

This pandemic has brought another wheelbarrow of stress into my life, and I’m sure into yours too.

Grocery shopping decisions have been hard, so I just order online. This minimizes the stress of choosing. There’s nowhere to go anymore, so I just take the same walk with the dog over and over again. I wear the same jeans every day with a black or grey top. There’s comfort in the familiar and easy when the world is swirling in chaos.

Now, over 18 months into the pandemic, our son Aaron withdrew from public high school. I took this loss and sudden end to his school career hard. Over the summer, I had signed up to be involved with many different health care projects and was in the midst of finishing my manuscript for my second book. There was an allure to having time to work when my kid went back to school and I got caught up in the busy life again. I said yes to too many commitments and generally overextended myself.

Yesterday, I woke up agitated after a restless sleep. I dropped Aaron off at his private class and went on a rare trip to Costco in my heavy-duty mask, zooming up and down the aisles as fast as I could. Back the car, I tipped the deli chicken packaging in the trunk, fatty liquid oozing everywhere. I could feel my heart racing and my jaw clenching. “Calm the fuck down,” I kept telling myself, which of course never makes me calm the fuck down.

“I’ll go visit ducks in the park,” I thought to myself. “That always helps.” It was peaceful to walk in the forest and look at the mallards and wood ducks paddling around the la