|Photo by Adrian Pereira on Unsplash|
Checking my notifications by touching the hard surfaces of my computer, it was likely around Friday March 13th, the day that friend and I went to curbside-pickup the small chest freezer I had ordered as part of my pandemic shutdown prep.
I am staring at that white rectangular appliance's clean, clinical, efficient, and almost silent lines right now. It represents survival and a relative level of privilege I am acutely aware of. It is instrumental in helping to nourish and sustain me given the limitations of the small, dorm-style fridge I am stuck with for the time being (I live in a small studio).
Something about the fact that the freezer's job is to create Arctic conditions and transform soft food into hard blocks seems very much on the nose these days. I can always defrost the raw materials and make meals with them, but no matter how many memes declare that Food Is Love, I can assure you that food only provides the foundation of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
Every single individual on the planet is experiencing COVID-19 and its extensive collateral damage in some way or another at this very moment. That, plus the awareness of that, creates a double whammy of existential stress. If we had even a crude device to measure anxiety emissions, and if those were an actual trackable thing, it would likely yield a global predominance of ratings from medium to acute. I picture our Earth almost suffocated by a fog of orange and red data visualization pixels, with various patches of green thanks to all the meditators.
I am reminded that these events invaded my non tabula rasa life. I am so bored and tired of telling people I have had cancer three separate times. I wish I could erase that past, and the past that came before that. All those traumas. But that is not how life works. No matter how hard we work on ourselves, nothing short of a total brain-ectomy can undo what has been done, what we have lived. I have worked with a therapist, and continue to do so. I have made so much progress. I have come so far. But I have deep scars. I am riddled with them. Maybe they and the work I have done to manage the fallout have made me stronger, more resilient, have proved how "brave" I am and how "strong." But none of those so-called achievements can completely stop the effects of previous, repeated post traumatic stress injuries when there is little to mitigate them.
I eat chocolate for the sweet, comforting oxytocin simulation it provides. I share laughs and tears through devices and screens — years of isolation and a relatively early adopter's embrace of technology as a tool for deep connections and friendship-building have given me a head start in this regard. But nothing can ever come close to the soothing power of touch between two sentient beings, the skin to skin, or skin to fur transmission and confirmation of love, affection, and belonging. I know this because I was already touch-starved long before this pandemic was born.
Panic — throat-constricting-to-the-point-of-almost-suffocation-so-I-have-to-force-myself-to-take-painful-breaths — rises as I type these questions: How many more months (years?) until I can hold someone in my arms again? Snuggle with a dog? Kiss a person? Will I ever again get to sit with and hug my mother?