There comes a time each night, each night of the past almost 11 weeks, where I get this empty feeling creeping up from my belly. Creeping up into my mind. It could be anxiety, or sadness, or depression. It almost doesn’t matter what it is…it matters more what it isn’t. It isn’t a sense of purpose. It isn’t a feeling of meaningfulness. It isn’t a reason to keep going.
This feeling has been my one faithful companion here, unless you count the plants. It is there when I turn off the tv at night and am not quite ready for bed. This feeling I was also just on the cusp of paving over with intention and drive, with action and desire to take a step towards finding some meaning and purpose back in February.
My memory has been a bit foggy for some time now, so I can’t say for sure that the Current Global Situation has not been a significant contributing player to my mental state over the last couple months. But right now, on Day 60- or 70-something, I’m feeling like the Current Situation, while sometimes awful, impacts me more deeply by holding me back from moving forward through my grief.
And it pisses me off. Because I’ve been stuck in my grief for a while. Years. And this past winter was a new level of hell. And six weeks into working on healing, finally feeling some freedom and movement of the grief, at last able to stir up some genuine motivation to do something significant for myself…lockdown, isolation, quarantine.
Not only has it put an indefinite hold on any plans I had found a spark of interest in, it removed the last of my remaining social interactions I had in real life.
It is no secret* that childless women suffer a massive die-off of social connections once we realize the path to motherhood has faded: a mass-extinction like no other. I tried my best to be open and help coach my friends as I was confiding in them…They’ll see and understand! I thought. And my words fell useless as they talked over me incessantly repeating the Chant of the Lucky Mother-Friends Who Can’t Handle Your Grief: “Have mine! Try Hinge! I won’t invite you to my baby shower! I know a woman who… Don’t become bitter! I’m PREGNANT!”
Without the regular invites and opportunities to socialize, I had become reliant on my commute (bus drivers always say “good morning”) and my coworkers. And I was just getting ready to put some of my earnings towards travel to start to invest a bit more in some new childless friends to rebuild that social circle.
And so I stay at home alone. Visiting with the friends that survived the social die-off is now even more tricky – their children and husbands are stuck at home with them, which means any video calls are an even more stark reminder of what I don’t have. To see people pop in, even so briefly, into a video…knowing there is no one that is going to pop into my screen…do childless women need more exposure to things they can’t have? I know I didn’t.
So I don’t reach out…and of course, neither do they.
And I wait, each day, I wait for something to come up to ease this empty feeling. But I’ve learned that I can bake a batch of muffins and once they are out of the oven, there that feeling is waiting for me. I can figure out how to sew a mask, put it all together, and then there that feeling is waiting for me. I can plant seeds and watch them grow, and there that feeling is waiting for me.
And what can I do? I cannot move my life forward, none of us really can right now. I have to wait. And I waited so long in the grief, waited until it got so bad that there wouldn’t be much left of me to heal if I waited any longer. And so I started healing. And it was working. But what is this time now? Waiting and surviving for what? Finding something new to bake, something new to put together, something new to buy…something to keep this dark pit of emptiness, meaninglessness, and vast darkness at bay.
So much of being childless feels like finding something to keep the awful feelings at bay for the rest of my life.
*to childless women.