I light my candle, from my neighbor whom I can no longer see. I pour myself a portion of my allotted water allowance for the day. It tastes so good that I realize I am now drinking as an act of prayer. Water. Life. Taste. Joy.
But the water is never enough to slake my thirst. And it won’t be. This is now my life and I must come to bear thirst. I am not so self absorbed that I do not recognize that I am blessed to have a supply of clean water. The water is here. It is my body that cannot tolerate the water. What a strange, strange time.
I cannot be with water as I used to. And I love water. I love to drink it. I love to be in it. I lived on an island for many years, surrounded by the sea; In those days, I pushed the season of swimming (both lake and ocean), trying to get into the water from the end of May to the first of October. Six hours north of Boston, this was quite a feat. My first novel was entitled, “Water All Around Me.” I always had a tall glass of water or green tea beside me. Coffee each morning. Water, water, water.
But, no more.
Also No More is life as we knew it. We are inside, save for walking the dog. (Thank heavens for the dog; he and his kind are perhaps the sole beneficiaries of people staying home.)
I have been startled by how difficult this time is for me. I’ve been isolating longer than others, yes. So that could be part of it. Yet, I am trying to figure out the rest of it.
A couple of weeks ago or so, I gave up my morning coffee; to benefit my kidneys, I switched to water only. I missed it. It had been my morning ritual for so long, albeit decaf since heart trouble began. No problem. But when I had to stop seeing my coffee-drinking-writing-compassionate-intelligent neighbor, that hurt. I told her: turns out I can give up coffee, but not you. We now take short walks, six feet apart. It’s better than nothing, but it is also akin to my water allotment: it is never enough; it does not slake my thirst for connection. I miss the rest of her family, too.
And then there is the behemoth of my loss: I miss my grandson and my granddaughter. My Grandson is an infant. At least I can content myself that he doesn’t know I’m not there (though surely he does know when I am). But I miss his smiles. Oh I do. My granddaughter is old enough to miss me and to ask for me. She is not, however, old enough to understand why I’m not there. She asks for me. She longs for me. As I do, her.
The only reason I don’t go see those children is that I want to be there for the long haul. Otherwise, I would risk all for them in a heartbeat.
So there’s that. Reason enough to be handling this isolation with difficulty. But, there are many grandparents who don’t live near their grandkids, and they find a way. I know this. What’s really going on here?
I think what might be happening is that I was already employing all of my coping mechanisms to contend with my illness. As my physical illness has worsened, I’ve been really skilled at adapting and finding joy. I guess I mistakenly assumed that I had an unlimited reservoir of coping. A reservoir. There’s that water imagery again. It now appears that my coping reservoir, like my water allotment has shrunk. I was dipping into it time and again; now there is not enough left to slake my thirst.
I must learn to be thirsty, emotionally and physically.
Back to the basics I go. Counting my joys and there still are many. My steadfast husband, my great love. My dog. My water allotment. Walking six feet apart from my neighbor.
I will weather this, I think. But I am not at all sure.