Grief, Guilt, and Frustration

These two entries show how I use writing to understand better what I’m struggling with and that helps me to be more resilient.

from my journal for Sunday, July 12

Today I found myself virtually immobilized by grief.  At first I made my usual mistake of thinking I was “feeling sorry for myself” and making myself wrong for it.  But fairly soon I understood that I was grieving for the planet — the species dying, the oceans warming, the villages drowned, the water polluted, the soil killed by industrial farming, the trees that give us oxygen logged for toilet paper…  it goes on and on.  The people dying of COVID, the health workers giving their lives…  but about that I’m also angry.  I’m angry at the idiot in the White House who, by exploiting the pandemic to serve his own selfish desires, failed to use the time of lockdown to generate more tests and more protective equipment.  We could have opened safely by now, but instead it’s gone on too long, people can’t pay rent or feed their families, people have gotten impatient and behaved in ways that have created a new surge in illness that is worse than when it started.

Meanwhile, here I am in one of the safest possible places to be, a retirement community that has managed to keep us without a single case.  Our administration has paid attention to the statistics and the scientists instead of the politicians, and slowed down a possible lessening of restrictions.  It’s still true that if you leave campus for any reason, you have to self-quarantine for two weeks after you come back.  There are people who have been careless, who aren’t careful about wearing masks, who walk down to the Co-op and shop, but most of us do our best for each other.  Our part of New Hampshire is showing fewer cases, but I fear that won’t last.  Trump was supposed to have a rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which could have brought in supporters refusing to wear masks, but they cancelled, giving the excuse of the tropical storm coming up the coast.  I also heard that our Governor Sununu, a Republican, said he would greet Trump wearing a mask, but he wouldn’t come to the rally.

The downside of this for me is that certain aspects of social distancing bring out a major drawback of PTSD.  I’m finding that not being around ordinary people in an ordinary way for at least a short time every day is leading to severe apathy.  It’s not depression any more, but it functions like depression in that I lack both motivation and energy for getting things done.  Thank god I am able to walk Mocha with my friend Dulany and her dog Toby.  We get outside for an hour so I get that much exercise.  It’s not much fun in the heat, so we go late in the day.  I think without Mocha and that walk, I’d be ready to lie down and die.

The other thing that I’m having a hard time with is being unable to lessen my impact on the environment.  Before COVID, I could put all my leftover food in a yogurt container and take it to Quaker Meeting and contribute it to local compost-making.  If I got a meal here in takeaway containers,  the plastic ones could be recycled and the paper ones could be brought back to the café and sent to the kitchen to be ground up and composted.  Now, we have to bundle all that up in a plastic bag and throw it in the garbage.  The paper bags that are used to deliver food when we are in quarantine also have to be thrown away, not recycled.

Monday, July 13

3rd cup. coffee.  I realize, as I wait with slight impatience for the coffee to finish dripping, that it’s a ceremony to make full use of the coffee beans.  That washing my fabric masks is a ceremony for the good of the community.  That adding up my charitable deductions is a ceremony to contribute as little as possible to the military machine.  Maybe that understanding will help me actually get my taxes done.

Realizing that my feelings are a complex mix of grief, guilt, and anger.  Grief for species eliminated, for marginalized people dying of COVID, for warmed and polluted seas…  Guilt that I now have to throw away much that used to be recycled…  Anger that Trump & cohorts used the pandemic as an excuse to line their pockets, instead of creating tests, masks, and protective equipment, so the lockdown has gone on too long, and impatient states are opening too soon, and COVID numbers are spiking…

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