It’s late. We should already be in bed. But you’re working yet another long day. Doing your best to help. Like always. That’s always been you. No matter what, you feel better if you’re engaged, if you’re doing something. And especially if you’re helping.
It comes out in little ways, in everyday life. You’re content at large parties so long as you have a duty. You’ll often ask the host what you can do to help, and unlike so many others who say the same thing, you actually mean it. You end up manning a grilling station. Baking and frosting cupcakes. Making drinks.
So it’s no surprise in a stressful uncertain world, in this abnormal that passes for the new normal, that you’re obsessed with work, with finding a way to help.
But I’m worried about you. Because you worked 19 hours yesterday. And I want you to get some sleep.
I’m tired, too. But don’t know how well I’ll sleep. Because a million fears are spinning around my head. Some big, some small.
An immunocompromised relative is back in the hospital. Again. Treating a chronic condition, a known quantity. But the timing couldn’t be much worse. The pandemic spins, it whirls. He’s in there. A sitting duck.
I have other fears, too. Fears of becoming a burden if I become sick. Worries about what will happen to my pets.
As we’re finally settling into bed, I burst into tears. It must shock you — because it certainly shocks me. I haven’t cried much since this whole thing started. A stress switch decided early on that it was all too much to be able to be felt, and so I’ve mostly been battling with a persistent numbness.
But not this time. This time I’m crying. And you hold me and ask me what’s bothering me.
I feel like a traitor as I tell you what’s on my mind. Because I’m supposed to be the resilient one. You called me that the other day, and it meant so much to me. You said that I was very resilient. Perhaps the most resilient person you’ve ever known.
And here I am, allegedly resilient, crying. Worrying. Dumping my parade of small and large fears onto you.
You hold me as you address my concerns. “Okay,” you say, “well if that happens, here’s what we will do.” We come up with plans. Plans that make sense, even if we both wish we didn’t have to make them.
I tell you that I know I’m supposed to be practicing mindfulness, that it’s our only real weapon against stress, but that I don’t know how to do it right now, with the world like this.
That I know the techniques but they’re not working. For some reason, I can’t stop my mind.
You don’t have any words of wisdom, but you hug me. We continue talking. And it honestly makes me feel better.
As I’m falling asleep, I realize… that maybe part of mindfulness in this situation is accepting I’m struggling with mindfulness. Maybe part of it is knowing that even if I’m failing, I shouldn’t stop trying.
I remind myself that working on a problem is different than feeling like you’re making progress on it, even when you actually are.
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