Before I begin, I want to say, categorically, that I’m not going to pick up a drink. When I think about the escape that alcohol provides, I can’t help but remember the emotional prison where it held me hostage for so long.
But I’ve been thinking.
Thinking about drinking.
Mostly it’s grieving. Grieving for things I can’t have right now.
I’m remembering the times when booze was fun. When I didn’t really have a problem with it. My 20’s. That sweet time after college when I had few responsibilities and just enough money for a little fun, when a spring day meant a mountain bike ride around Loch Raven culminating in a spontaneous barbecue in the alley in the Charles Village.
I’ve been thinking about these things, because COVID-19 makes them impossible. I can’t have friends over. I can’t go on a mountain bike ride with friends and have a barbecue afterwards. I can’t even see my family.
And while booze is something I’ve decided I can’t have (and I am quite certain about that) I have found myself going back to memories of easier times — fond memories of spring days like the ones we’ve been having here in Maryland and those memories involve beer and friends.
But the grief really isn’t about the beer. It is about the lack of connection with friends. It’s about how absolutely awful things are right now. The days blend together making every day feels the same. Every day has a background buzz, a continuous stream of bad news. Every day is more news about death, the spread of the disease, and our federal government’s abject failure to respond to the crisis appropriately.
Thank God for our governors. Real leadership is taking place at the state level and filling the vacuum created by the current federal administration’s complete and utter failure to lead. One shining star in this crisis has been my state’s governor, Larry Hogan. Today he announced that he’d brokered a deal with a South Korean firm to get 500 thousand test kits for Maryland.
In all of this, my mental state has been deteriorating. I’ve found myself sleeping later and longer than usual. I’ve found that I’m not motivated to do the things that bring me joy. I haven’t written a post here in over a month. I’m not playing the guitar. I’m less motivated to cook. I haven’t been running or cycling.
I recognize these as classic signs of depression setting in.
So today I made a bit of a change. I got to the end of the day, things felt incredibly heavy. My wife had picked out a dish for dinner that was in the latest Bon Appetite. I was feeling kind of grumpy about making it to be honest. So, at 5:30, I did the one thing that I know will make things better pretty much every time.
I went for a run.
I went out for a run with no specific training regimens in mind. Not intervals. Not a specific distance. No fucks given about my heart rate. I just ran.
And it did make things better.
When I got back, I talked with my neighbor for a few minutes, and that made things better too. Then I went inside and cooked these amazing shrimp tacos. We had a great dinner and I hit the shower and then a Zoom meeting.
I’m making a commitment to myself to do more runs. To make some phone calls. To cook more adventurous meals rather than subsistence cooking just to get calories in the body. I’m going to work to make life as close to normal as it can be while things are decidedly not normal.
And at the same time, I’m going to work to go easy on myself and my family. To wear life as if it were a loose garment.
We have to recognized that things are not normal. We have to recognize that we need to be gentle with ourselves. We have to give ourselves permission to not be firing on all cylinders every moment of every day.
And we have to be able to grieve. Even if that grief is for things that we no longer really want — because this is a fucked up time that we’re all living through.