Telling the Truth, Continued: Choosing Silence over Honesty
This morning, this little gem passed by in my daily ten-second Facebook scroll. Being the closet a-hole that I am, my first impulse was to roll my eyes. "Another ranting, whining Facebook mom," my first reaction. (Yes, I do know that doesn't sound very nice of me.) But... eyeroll bedamned, this posting person looked very nice, like a high school friend of mine, so I read the whole post. I have no idea who this Glennon Doyle is, but I could relate to some of what she said, for sure. Things are hard now. She's feeling untethered. I get it.
I just couldn't see why one would bother posting about it, with no offering for the reader. Then I was struck by one little detail: "motivational speaker." She's a motivational speaker! And she's admitting vulnerability. It was a gift to her audience. "Maybe you don't feel well, either," she was saying, "and you're not alone." There's leadership. This malaise thing ain't her business, but she chose to be honest, rather than be either dishonest or silent.
Me, I generally choose silence rather than honesty. (Except at home. Just ask my family.)
My mother in law in Ireland frequently says, "Your health is your wealth." I nod slowly and agree over my cup of tea, but inside, I generally wonder if that's just a practical consolation for those of us who have very little wealth in the first place. "Hey! Can't pay my bills, but at least I'm healthy!" That particular form of self-soothing does actually work. And it's not untrue. I learned it this week.
This week, I have felt ill. I don't know what it is/was. Achy, light headed, general malaise. Probably a virus of some sort, but in these times—especially if you happened to be at an event ten days ago, at which no one among the small group who gathered afterward wore masks—one's mind turns to fear. Rest assured, we did practice social distance; we remained outdoors and we didn't stand as close as Irish/Italians normally do. We may not have kept six feet of distance every second of the day, but we came darn close. There were some slip-ups; there were hugs, because, you know... there was grief, we love each other, and we don't see each all that often. Someone special had passed away, and this was family and we all care about each other despite many stark differences.
I left that gathering feeling a combination of abject dread and a cozy sense of belonging, even in a crowd where I get made fun of heartily and persistently for my little red Prius. I also left carrying a massive dollop of self-loathing, right next to the meatballs on the foil-wrapped paper plate. How could I go unmasked and be so weak in the face of peer pressure? I wanted to mask, but it didn't seem like anyone else did, and I caved. Peer pressure, even at 51. Are you kidding??? Then, worst fear, two days later, I started feeling sick and stayed that way for several days afterward until I finally called the doctor. This is it! We're going to be the next family on CNN. "Family funeral traced to 150,000 cases of COVID and single-handedly brings down entire state of Massachusetts and results in nationwide closures." At the very beginning of this pandemic, I wrote an optimistic post about how, because I have loved and because I have shared music, I'm ok if I die today.
A week of lying on the couch. Feeling up and down. Denying the vociferous mutt of his morning jaunts. (The high pitched squealing and ear-splitting barking were the most painful of all.) A doctor's call. A dizzying solo drive to the drive-up COVID testing site a half hour away. Two days of hand-wringing and nail-biting, incessant googling of symptoms of COVID, of Lyme, of hyper- or hypo-thyroidism, texts to nurse cousin and nurse aunt, repetitive taking of temperature, and rescuing Dad's blood pressure machine from the basement and testing BP too, at least six times in a day. Everyone saying, "I'm sure you don't have it." But how would they even know? I mostly seemed calm on the outside if you met me, so you wouldn't have known how anxious I felt unless you looked closely for the quivering muscles in my clenched jaw. One evening, my exasperated daughter even asked me to just sit the heck down and stop obsessing about what the dog was chewing. What is wrong with you? she demanded.
Then the call yesterday: NEGATIVE.
Exhale. More than just your average "Phew."
Yes, I'm feeling better already, but not entirely well yet. Was it possibly psychosomatic? Um... maybe? Is it something else? Remains to be seen; last night's bloodwork will tell. Will I let you know? Um... Maybe?
Will I wear a mask at the next large group gathering? Um... yes?
Or, rather than be honest, maybe I'll just be silent and not go at all.
Don't judge. It's complicated.