Chelsea, 32, New York, USA
Yesterday was the first day of a new month. My favorite month. My birthday month. The clear definition of time's passage has caused a jolt in my internal narrative. Or maybe it's just that I'm being forced to realize that this is not just a pause. It's how it's going to be for a while... I'm finding myself crying - and I am not a cryer - at strange intervals. I'm finding that I am less motivated. Less inspired. Just a little bit deflated. Perhaps that's because spring is blooming its usual hopeful blossoms and for the first time in my life, I don't feel like I'm riding along with their growth.
Flipping the page of my wall calendar made time's movement cease, made time's movement accelerate. What the fuck is going on... Has it really only been 53 hours since March? What did I do with all of those hours? It's as if time is spiraling, each hour repeats, each hour rides time like a rollercoaster, hurtling along at a shockingly fast pace of inactivity, and then slowly creeping forward forward, ever so slowly forward. I get anxious at how time falls away while I have nothing tangible to show for it.
I have this constant desire to always be proving myself to someone, but who am I trying to prove..what.. to..? There is literally no one paying attention to my actions. There is no one besides the beast of my own critical judgement marking each success of the day, if successes they can be called. There are no deadlines. There are no fitness instructors. There are no new pants to fit in to, new guys to meet, no beach trips planned, no work debates to be held. Everything is on hiatus. So. What is this drive, this urgency, still doing here? Is it that I have had it beaten into me that, after almost a decade as a New Yorker, the only way to move forward successfully is to have no space for inaction? That every day is a hustle and if you're not hustling you're falling behind? And...BIG question: is this a bad way to live...? I really like doing. I like feeling as if the hours in my day were used to their full potential because, in theory, that means I have been used to my full potential. But sometimes, that self competition is, frankly, exhausting.
The constant go-go-go is one of the reasons that I love New York. One of the reasons that when Dad asked why I didn't go to New Jersey for this period, on a night when I called him totally defeated, I said 'I Can't.' 'Well, you actually can,' he replied. But no, there is truly no way that I could leave. I have to feel tethered to the energy that has motivated me to grow up. I have to be here for this big, beautiful, beast of a city, standing strong as an ally, I'm addicted. Willingly addicted. With no intention of ever going clean. The pride I feel when I hear the cheers and claps at 7P for the folks on the front lines, the way my heart swells when I see the restaurants providing free meals to the hospitality workers currently unemployed, it's all worth it to stay in the belly of chaos. I cannot leave the city because she inspires me to be the strongest version of me, and I don't want to take any ounce of strength away from her in her time of need.
On the other side of this crazy and bizarre portrayal of time, for the first time ever, I have the chance to see delicate features of my city, my home, that I haven't had the space to recognize before. Like the birdsong that starts early in the morning, tempers midday, and then ramps up as the day is quieting down. I don't know if their voices are heightened since their sounds aren't competing with the cacophony that is usually a constant or if its me who has changed, who has a little bit more space to look from the top of the rollercoaster and hear what else is out there past the clatter of my agendas. When I notice myself noticing these subtler things, I notice within myself that I don't notice the not doing. Maybe my drive to do has adjusted somewhat after-all. Maybe the anxiety that I have about not having the tangible evidence of progress is distracting me from the immense progress that I have, in fact, made. Each activity that I do is quieter. Each moment of creativity feels less rushed. Each time I sit down with a book feels like a treasure, with no looming final subway station to cut off my time floating in the words. Every single thing that I do, I choose to do. I am working, of course, but it is a very different way, with the realization that once I finish up what I need to finalize for that day, then time is mine, so I get done what I need and then I get to explore days laid out for me by my own desires. I'm happy with what those desires reach for, that I can see what areas captivate and motivate me, and what topics aren't holding my energies.
As April begins, there are no questions answered. There is no fact that we can hold on to, no end date, no destination. For someone who is always rushing towards the finish line, the lack of planned end point should be crippling, demoralizing, a killer. But it's not. With the new month, I'm starting each day excited to see what new quiet secret is revealed to me. I am able to use all of the hours at my disposal, but without the panic of their looming end. I'm appreciating that even with a calmer approach, I am still doing and am proud of that ability and drive. And while, yes, the malaise is real, it also is not permanent. It will pass. And I know that the parts of this experience that will stay with me are these tiny discoveries that I make within myself and my city.
Hugs. Why are we compelled to mash our bodies into each other, throw arms over shoulders and under armpits, nuzzling up, and squeeeeeze? Oftentimes with a murmur or sigh of relief or squeal of joy accompanying the action? I know that there are scientific explanations that go back to our evolution: sense of safety, mating, etc., but my question right now is why, when I don't have access to a warm embrace, does it become the only thing that I can think about? I would do terrible, horrible, outrageous things for a hug right now. I would trade in privileges and luxuries to hug my best friends, my siblings, my mom, my dad... anyone who I love and who loves me and allows me to feel safe.
This is absolutely the longest in my life that I haven't received the comfort of a snuggly body smash. That I haven't been able to give someone the support of my arms. (A personal fact that I acknowledge is something to feel eternally grateful for - I expect to leave this experience cherishing this luxury to a new degree). I miss the mutual affection that hugs offer. You give while you receive, you receive while you give. You share warmth, a heartbeat, the feeling of someone's chest rise and fall with their own unique breath. And germs. You share germs. Clearly, we all knew that this was part of the equation, but now it is the focal point. The reason that we cannot reach out and hold those we care about, that we cannot be held by those who lift us up. The sharing of germs has eclipsed the support and shared love. And for me, that feels like a huge loss. Will we be able to go back to a time where we run up to someone and throw our arms around them without thinking 'shit, when is the last time I coughed? Is their grandmother frail? I should have purrelled my body!!' I'm clearly happy to forgo this luxury for the safety of the world during these scary times, but... I miss hugs.
When I walk Newton and let my thoughts wander, they inevitably fall into a montage of all of the people that I would hug, that I will hug. Not just the people, but detailed imaginations of how the hugs will be. There will be some that include jumping while embracing and laughing, there will be some with swaying, and there will be some with tears of joy, relief, loss, love. I am sad that these imaginations are starting to turn into the kind of imaginations that fall towards the more nefarious side of my inner thoughts. It's as if I'm being trained to believe that hugs are bad. And I do not want to believe that. I don't want to rewire my knowing to define hugs as something to be afraid of, as if they've been weaponized. I want to remember that they are an expression of all of the connections that I hold so dear.
I hug my pets and they hug back in their little critter ways, but I miss, to my deepest core, hugs from my people. So, if you're reading this and you have the luxury of being with someone at this time, go and get a squeeze for me, a big, appreciative, wiggly, loving hug. And if you're reading this and you're alone, know that there is no possible future where hugs will not be yours to hold again. Just know that.