Chelsea, 31, New York, USA

 

QUARANTINE, 2020 MARCH 21

The city hums with sound. Even as we wait, wondering, pausing, holding strong, there is a noise. It's quieter than it usually is. There are less voices mixed in to the clamor, fewer trucks and cars blaring their horns. It's as if someone has turned the volume down on the entire city to listen closely to a sound in the distance, to see if what they think they're hearing is truly there, or if it's just a figment of their imagination, a hope for something out of reach.

Perhaps that's what is happening right now; a great and global collective hush. What can we hear in the distance? What are we hoping to catch wind of? Individually, I hope to see a quieter life, one where I am less keyed up, where I can appreciate moments of silence as something great, something to be treasured, rather than something to see as a failure. Where I don't take every moment as something that must lead to something, somewhere. Where I actually understand what being present really means. It's not an achievement that I want to check off of a list, rather just a sense of being. Of being appreciative for exactly where I am, who I am, at the moment that I am in. The appreciation that not everything I do has to have a success that I'm leading towards. That sometimes, I can truly do things just because I want to, to feel good, to enjoy them and then to let them go. That they can be fully mine, to be released upon wrap up, no need to be stored or brought up again.

Internationally, I hope to see a more connected world, one where we stop thinking of ourselves as a solo act and start seeing ourselves as a full ensemble. Where we realize that our actions and decisions, no matter how small, create a chain of events. We buy one Tupperware set on Amazon, how many lives are involved? We buy one gallon of milk in a plastic jug at the store, how long have the cows been suffering? Who made the plastic jug? I don't expect the world to stop consuming, but wonder what the difference would be if we start to be more mindful of the steps that came before the consumption. Would we think of the farmers and begin to understand that we have to help slow industrial farming by supporting those who can replace the machine? Would we think of how far the Tupperware has traveled, how large that small sealable container's carbon footprint is and instead, reorganize the drawer and find the right lids to be able to use what we already have? I would like to think yes, that with a greater consciousness of processes, we would alter our decisions to better the experiences of those along the path.

I think of afterwards and hope that what I hold on to is that what I long for most in these moments are hugs from friends, not the busyness of my normal life. That I remember how each day I am embracing the things that I love doing and practicing the art of finding joy even in a truly trying period. And that that joy has not been hard for me to tap into once the space and time was cleared for me. It's a weird and scary time. But the hum that I hear is calming. The sound in the distance is not threatening. We will come out changed, we will carry on.

 

MARCH 24

Do you ever wrap up what should be a bad day and think, Fuck, I am really happy? I am stuck at home. I am alone. But I am so loved. I haven't seen anyone face to face, but I've seen their faces, have heard their voices. I miss the physical contact and intimacy, but I don't feel that I am lacking right now in terms of emotional support. I can find hugs from myself, from the pets. The psychological layers of this isolation are going to come in waves. There will be moments like last night when I lie on the floor in a puddle, back arched, not particularly comfortable, thinking, this is FOREVER. Then sweep to a moment later, a voice lifts up, laughs, says 'fuck, Sillars, do you see yourself right now? Are you trying out for a film Noire pseudo heroine actual damsel character?' I am not that. I am laughter and lightness. But the darkness will ebb in. I can't force it to be silent. To be silence in the void of my effervescent joy. If I were to do so, I would diminish the quality and vibrancy, the honesty of my light. I deserve to fluctuate between hell and high, deserve to allow myself to feel into those crevices where I don't usually deign to shine a light.

I miss my life. I want it back. I keep thinking ' I want to go home,' when I am home. I am more home than I have ever been. I have the time to do what I can't usually do in the space that is home. So. Let me redefine home for myself, perhaps even re-lable it. I want my humans. I want my city. I want to have conversations that don't involve a pandemic. A fear of death. A certainty of disaster. But I also want all of these things with the awareness of the fleetingness of these luxuries. We have felt for our whole lives as if we deserve this kind of life, that we are for some reason superior and more deserving than our brothers and sisters in Darfur, the Sudan, in Syria. We are not. We are all delicate. We are all dependent on the fate of the collective good. The lifting up of the greater community. If the world wasn't getting sick, we would not see these expected luxuries as fleeting. We would not say 'perhaps we'll be together in Connecticut,' rather, we'd be picking a weekend in Connecticut amongst the other adventures, the hikes, the camping, the beach outings. All of the dates on our calendars that overwhelm, that entice, that shut us out of feeling into what we need want desire hope for. Right now, all I want is to sit in a room with the people I hold dearest. I don't care where we are. I just want them near. I just want to be able to reach out and hold their hands, brush a loose dust bunny off of their shirts, feel an arm slinked across my shoulders.

MARCH 26

Quarantining alone has forced me to peak at wounds that were previously buried away in various pockets of my self and soul, with the thought that I was able to just leave them there, forever, un-mussed. I currently have the gift time and space to address what was happening this time last year, all of the compounded ache and suffering that I numbed myself to at the time in an act of self preservation.

On this day last year, Will left for the first time. We stood at the entrance of the 2/3 train outside of the Brooklyn Museum, both of us crying over the uncertainty? the pain? the unfairness of the whole situation? He placed his hand at my heart and promised that he was 'right here, mouse. I'm right here. I'll always be right here.' I got on the train in a state of shock, realizing that yet again, my whole projected life was being taken away by someone else's decision or indecision or confusion or identity crises or whatever the fuck he wants to say to justify it today. And why do I know this date so well? A date that I hoped at the time would just be a blip of fear, part of the buttresses used to make a duo stronger? Because the following day, Dai died. My soul twin. He died amidst my life falling apart, Will leaving, my grandmother dying, my sense of self-identity fleeing the scene. He died at a time where all I was was a state of shocked mourning. This blonde, charming, happy beacon of light in the world that I had in my back pocket as someone who could relight my personal flame when it was snuffed out, which let me tell you it was being aggressively snuffed out daily by Will's words and actions, was gone. A liferaft that I didn't even realize I so heartily believed in and relied on was..gone. And I didn't go to his funeral. Because I wanted Will to say that he'd go with me, that he'd support me. And when he didn't, I couldn't go because I would have to admit to myself that I was wishing for a life with someone who would not be there for me.

I miss my friend every day. I miss him in my full self. I don't miss my relationship. I feel that since its ending, I have flourished in all layers of my being. But I really miss my friend. I'm still filled with anger that Will was able to take away from my experiencing Dai's death. I am sad that I let the death of the relationship eclipse the death of someone who I loved through and through and who loved me to the end of the world. I'm sad that Dai will never be able to meet the next fellow, if there ever is the space in my heart to really allow in the next fellow, since his opinions, raw, honest and harsh, were always the ones I needed to hear the most.

I know that I have kept myself closed off to a lot of what happened last year. I sealed away my heart, toughened up, jutted out my chin, and carried on. It was the only way I knew how to step step step forward each day. The first day that I felt a crack in the walls of my fortress was the day that a spiritual reader stopped mid reading because someone who she identified as my deceased "brother" would not stop tapping into her spiritual space so that she would pass on the simple message of 'Hi!' 'Hi, Dai.' Eye- roll, laughter, tears, a realization that that was all I needed to hear to feel that mischievous spark light up, like a lighter that's low on butane, a small sparkly flicker of who I am was back. That flicker helped me put the hopes that weren't supporting me away. It helped me close the door to Will in my heart. It allowed me to be brave enough to not run away from what I was feeling, it allowed me to stay in New York. It allowed me to see what I needed for me; a new home, a few months of moderately reckless behavior, time to be quiet, time to be loud, and to sing whatever, whenever and wherever I wanted.

But I still have a lot to face. How does one approach relationships after a double whammy of abandonment? On first dates, I size up what the likelihood is that this person in front of me, this stranger, will fall in love with me and then change their mind once I've settled into the comforts and securities of that love. Let me just say that this is NOT the thought line to be following as you're hearing about their childhood escapades or how much they want to start 'their own thing, creatively,' ..of course. It also keeps me from seeing how I actually feel about the person, the stranger. I don't even know if I like their taste in music, yet I'm afraid that they'll leave me once they've made me feel safe, once they've gotten the treasured trust of my heart to feel real. Healthy... How do I let my most authentic me be the outer, most visible layer, when I've had two people who say that they'll be with me forever leave once they REALLY get to know said layer? Did they both decide it wasn't enough? It was too much? Will it ever be the right amount? What even is it? I am aware that these experiences of loss have really damaged my ability to trust, to feel settled, to just let things take their time and progress in a non-frantic way. I am cognizant that I have to take a more selfish approach to starting and forming relationships, to really look at what is there in front of me in the singular rather than immediately jumping to the duo. But, it's the duo that I fear the most and that is constantly nagging at my thoughts.

QUARANTINE, 2020

With this new thawing of these thoughts, even that the awareness that these thoughts were still quietly swirling around, waiting for the gift of quarantine to allow them to start speaking in whispers, comes the realization that I have in a sense kept myself numb this whole time. Now, faced with endless time, I am able to try to crack through the casings that I have had sealed around my heart, protecting it from all of the pains that consumed me on these days last year. I am able to see these questions of trust and loss and heartbreak and devastation and missing so much missing. I don't know what the answers will be to the questions, but at least the questions are there. Clear. Letting themselves be heard. So that maybe, the answers will start to spark in the dark, led by the support of a mischievous soul who will always help me to relight.

 

MARCH 29

'Today, I woke up and decided that it was a great time to touch base with the ex who's heart I broke under the guise of checking in during this global pandemic. That sounds super fair and like a flaw free idea!' said every male ex ever in March of 2020 in New York.

I'm more flummoxed by the theory that this is an appropriate time to reconnect than anything else. Sure, it's an easy and excusable in, but what is the purpose or expected outcome. And...why? Why would it be a supportive or kind time to reach out to me when clearly we're all in a state of delicate nerves? When more than likely he knew that I am by myself? Does it really seem like, after nine months of absolutely zilch nada nil contact, that I would be open to receiving an email containing his status of health and wellness, his current virus action plan (which turns out to have been twisted to make his situation seem more favorable in my eyes), and sentiments of love and care? To me, it does NOT feel like a good time to take off that shoe, open that door, air the fucking stink. It feels selfish. And like he saw an opportunity to show how good he is, to try to mend my very broken opinion of him. Deservedly broken, but still, for someone who's vanity rules all, the fact that there might be someone in the world who thinks that he is less than gold...it must eat away at him. To which I say, good. Let him have this time, the time between hitting send and seeing a reply in his inbox, if I ever choose to reply, to sit with the sting of someone who once was the center of his world choosing not to interact with him, not to buoy his heart, opting instead to show through silence that I really don't care and really don't want to allow him back in in any way. We are not friends. I would not choose to be friends with someone who chose to do what he did. (Which is why I pass judgement on some of the people who are closest to him for staying close and rallying around him, but whatever. They're not important enough for my thoughts.)

And then. The ICING. I find out that no, he has not been alone in Brooklyn, self-quarantining so that he can eventually go spend time with his dearly beloved family in Vermont, poor stoic boy, taking strides to keep everyone healthy. Oh HO! He has been staying at a woman's home until the day prior to reaching out to me. As melon surmises, he probably was given a good taste of spending an extended amount of time with someone who is not me and in turn, realized that I am fucking fabulous and that he might as well chop his dick off now and call it quits for fucking that treasured opportunity up, but that's just one theory. One pretty solid theory... If that is the case, I do understand. After a weekend upstate with a fling, I felt crippled by the weight of missing him for a few days, as if this lack was reaching into my chest and squeezing at random, reminding me that someone had chosen not me. But when I faced that feeling, it wasn't him I was missing at all. He has ruined the possibility of feeling that kind of sweetness. No, I was missing the ease that comes with a companionship that has lasted for years. The softness that exists between two people, the ability to orbit around one another harmoniously, effortlessly.

So now, what do I do with all of this information? With the lovely fact that he has casually weaseled his way into the forefront of my mind, yet again, after months of furiously batting away any thoughts of his stupid face? At a time where I have so much time, time galore. Super cool, Will. Do I let this knowledge make my progress and strength derail? Make my self love become akimbo and shaken? Nope nope no thank you nope. I get to take this information and grow and get super pissed off about it and wonder why instead of crying or folding up like a gerbil, I am physically unable to sit still. In fact, I feel a surge of energy propelling me forward, letting me run faster and more furiously than I have ever ran before. I want to write, stream of conscious-style, to allow myself to feel clarity and re-read what's bubbling up with curiosity and attention. I want to paint and for once, I don't want to use blues and greens, but blacks and greys and yellows and reds and let it be messy and uncontrolled. And I want to carry on exactly as I have been. Using this time to practice yoga, to feel physical strength, to connect with the people I love as often as possible, to feel little pings of excitement when I think of a new sweet romance, to play with my pets, to read, to meditate, to burn piñon and drink tea.

Most importantly, this email and the information surrounding it is showing me how far I have come. It's like my progress is almost tangible, like this is a touchstone I can use to look back and see what I have evolved from. Just a few months ago, this would have knocked me flat. I would have become puddle- esque, forlorn, glum, defeated, shelled. I would have seen this as an opportunity to get a projected life back, even though it’s something that I do not want. I would have leaned into the fear of living the solo life. A fear that Corona-isolation has helped eradicate. (Note: I still would be around humans and feel more autonomous over my life, but also, I am more autonomous over my life than ever.) I still believe that I will find a partner, but the gripping feeling of needing a partner has melted. I can hang out in a 700square foot apartment by myself for weeks and feel fully satisfied with who I am.

So thank you, Will's stupid email. Thank you for allowing me to swell up with pride for the work that I have done, that I doubt that you have done, that I have committed to, that I have woven into the fabric of the new me. Thank you for reminding me that solo me makes me feel infinitely better than you made me feel about myself. Thank you for choosing to bend the truth of your email, reconfirming to me that you'll never be an honest person. Thank you for letting me see how honest I am, how abundant I am. And thank you for forcing the reigns into my hands all those months ago to start evolving into this version of myself. I'm really happy to have gotten the opportunity to know this girl.

 

MARCH 30

Today I feel un: untethered, unmoored, uninspired, unseen, unmotivated, undone, unhopeful. I want to wrap my arms around my head covering my ears, curl up into a ball, and crawl into a small space and scream as if I were being bombed from above. I feel like I'm being bombed from above. The rain. The exes in my mind. The extension of the statewide Pause through my birthday (I really love my birthday). The cone that Newton has to wear now. The slashing of our salaries. The layoffs. The loneliness. The lack of human touch. The hash marks on my wall calendar, as if I'm a prisoner, adding up adding up relentlessly adding up.

The energy in my body is pinging. It feels as if my blood is not flowing, rather its raging, as if there are whirlpools and cascading waterfalls inside of my veins. My heart is just pounding pounding pounding. And my hands just want to shake no matter how much I try to steady them, like caffeinated toddlers. I am fully aware that this is anxiety taking hold in a physical form, but fuck man, it really sucks. I can self soothe, I know I can, but I should not self-placate. I can action all of my distractions to find my way back to calm, but what am I turning away from with the busyness? It doesn't serve us to sit in anxiety and fear, but now that my physical self has begun to show the signs of breaking down, that there is something unraveling me that my brain wouldn't allow me to see, it seems that I need to look at the cause head on and give it density, give it definition, give it a face that I can combat. The truth that the FaceTimes and phone calls and runs and tidying up and scheduling and texts and projects have distracted me from. I am afraid. I am afraid of what is on the other side of this all. I am worried about a whole world having to simultaneously pick up their pieces, financially, physically, from heart-break. I am fearful that the isolation will become permanent, that we won't take this as a beautiful opportunity to unify, that our selfish leaders will continue to navigate the ship towards selfishness and corporate greed rather than helping us form strength from support and care that casts a wide and all inclusive net.

I am afraid of what this much time unseen is going to do to me. When I was chatting with Julie and Sam the other day, we were talking about my actively ramped up Instagram presence to which I said, without thinking of it, 'It's so that people won't forget I am here.' That is scary. No one is going to forget me. I have pals and family and a yoga community checking in. I see my familiar Greenpoint faces as I walk Newton, neighborly eyes smiling over their face masks. My dog walker even checks in on me. I have fucking exes touching base. So clearly, I am so thought of regularly every day. But... I still feel like this. I feel like I am becoming diluted, fuzzy. Like a far away memory where the edges of someone's face have lost their definition. For years, I found Insta-Stories of one's self/day to day life to be a totally self-indulgent, egomaniacal platform, but now I am using it as tool to wave to people I can't see. To bring a little bit of sparkle or joy to someone who may need it. To know that there are people who have seen me, literally. I am scared that at some point, I'll let this tool eclipse the simple things I long for out of fear that they'll be taken away again. The simple things like eye-contact during a conversation with someone I love, or making people linger in laughter instead of a quick chuckle followed by seeing their memory immediately tug them back to the terrors of now.

I am afraid that this will stall me in my life's progress overall. It’s like every time I hit a confident stride and feel strong enough to dive off the cliff and fly, a hurdle pops up that makes me step back. I am feeling impatient, which I know is absurd, as the whole world stands still, who am I to think of moving forward? I'm searching in this time for the key to unlock the next step of my life. And maybe that is where all of this anxiety is coming from. This feeling that I have to capitalize on this time or normal life will return, and it will be just that, normal. I won't have found the inspiration to change. Forcing me to admit that perhaps I'm just too weak to change. Too fearful of change to change. Too vanilla, plain, average, diluted always. Perhaps that's why this unseen feeling is currently wrecking me so; I'm afraid that it isn't just temporary.

So. Today is not a good day. Today, I will search for the strength to replace the un's above with a new set: unafraid, undeterred, unstoppable. If I can't find these words today, I will continue to search for them tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. Until the rivers within calm, the hands steady.

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©2020, Courtney McMahon & Anna Kasnyik