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by | Apr 25, 2020 | Voices of Davidson

From a painting by Kristen Feighery

Every day during this quarantine, I’ve found a different project to work on – a different area of the house that needs organizing, a new painting to start, a new art tutorial to write, a garden to plant, a room to rearrange – just trying to keep busy. I think what I’m really doing is trying to feel normal. And, after two weeks of wondering when I had showered last, I did actually wash my hair, styled it, shaved my legs (they were starting to resemble Sasquatch legs), and put on a little makeup. I even got out of my PJ’s and put on real clothes (okay, workout clothes). And, I did, indeed, feel a little normal.

Normal. Doesn’t that sound nice?

About a week into quarantine, I started to cry. I am really not a person who cries. I’m just not. Something has to be pretty bad. First, it was just a little weepiness. Then, whenever I saw a sad Facebook post, I would crumble. Then I would fall apart while simply walking into the kitchen. For two days I cried. I couldn’t figure it out. I mean, I know all this will pass. It will. But, I cried and felt emotions I seriously have never felt in my life. It was a deep sadness that just took over. Usually, if I get sad, it’s something very personal and often (embarrassingly), it has something to do with my pride. But this was so different. It wasn’t a depressed sadness, whatever that means. It was just sad.

I agree with this quarantine and social distancing. I’m in. It has to be done. It’s uncomfortable and it’s making us all a little nuts, but it’s a necessity, for sure. But, in all this, I’m thankful that I still get to take my daily walks. I desperately need to be outside and walking completely clears my head. I don’t even take it personally when the person walking towards me on the same path immediately steps off the sidewalk to pass on the road or even flat out crosses the road. It definitely adds a little gloom to my walk, but this is the world we have to be in right now, so I do not take it personally. It’s smart and I get it. I’m sure that person wishes he or she didn’t have to cross the street, too.

But, that deep hole I was falling into gave me a new kind of sadness. An unknown sadness.

Two of my best friends wanted to do a virtual happy hour, which was glorious. Except that as soon as I saw their faces, I thought I would melt into total despair. I hid it, but it was there, underneath the smiles and waves and sips of wine. It popped its head in and out of the 40-minute conversation, and I managed to keep it at bay. And my heart sunk even deeper when the conversation ended. And deeper still when flowers arrived at my doorstep from one of those friends with a card that read ‘I miss your face’. Sobs. Gut wrenching sobs.

A few days later, another friend sent me an article to read that she thought might explain how I was feeling. The title of the article? “Grief.”

Grief? How could I be experiencing grief? I know no-one who has died from this awful disease. I really haven’t lost anything ‘real’. So how could I be experiencing such an all-consuming thing?  But I read it. And re-read it. And yes, I couldn’t believe it. This odd pit I had fallen into was indeed what was being described.

That’s when I realized that I HAD lost something real. We all have. Many things that are real. I’m grieving not being able to see my mom and dad or sister or my sweet little niece. I miss my friends. I’m grieving for Molly who had all three of her sports teams taken away from her, and she doesn’t get an 8th grade graduation. For Lilly who can’t volunteer at a little farm she started visiting and fell in love with. That my Friday Wine Night with gal pals is gone. I miss family evenings out at restaurants and night time ice cream trips and running into people we know. I miss farmer markets and face-to-face chats. I miss dropping my kids off at school with kisses and picking them up with ‘How was your day?’.  I miss teaching art classes to new and returning students and the wonderful conversations we had. I miss going to church and seeing a vast amount of people I love and who love me back. These things may sound trivial, but they are not. We have lost everything that made our lives, OUR lives. I miss shaking hands with people, hugging people, MEETING new people. I miss people.

So, this is grief.

I try not to, but at least once a day I wonder how long this will last and when we can get back to ‘normal’. But, it could be that our getting back to normal will really be a NEW normal. No one has any idea what that is really going to look like. There’s a part of me that thinks our old way of life is probably not going to completely come back. This change has changed everything. And I can honestly say, in the three weeks since we’ve known the world is different, I’m realizing that I’m changing, too. And when all this is over, I hope some of those changes stick. The good ones. With me, anyway.

If I stop dwelling on all that is lost, I’m able to think of all that is new. I’m not trying to minimize what we are all going through. But, I am trying not to be so blinded by my own personal grief that I miss what is good right now. This is certainly not advice for anyone other than me. I can very easily get overwhelmed by my own misery and wallow in it for a very, very long time. But, I’m making the choice not to make life any harder than it already is at the moment.

I take two to three walks a day. I see a lot of the same people each time I go out and a lot of new faces, too. Never have I said hello to more people. Never have more people waved at me, smiled, and made a point to speak. Even from their porches or backyards. I decided not to wear my earbuds when I walk anymore. The other day I heard a duck coming in for a landing in the lake and got to watch while he landed, bathed himself, and then fished. While I was watching I noticed a group of turtles sunbathing on a fallen tree. I wouldn’t have noticed any of that if I were lost in my own head like I usually am. As I kept watching and looking up at the trees that were blooming, I saw an eagle, an eagle!!! It circled around me (which made me a tad nervous) and then off it went. It was breathtaking.

My family is, obviously, together all the time these days but now we are very intentional about family time, not just being in the same house while we all have our faces glued to a device. We take walks together and play games and make puzzles and do art projects and talk. We talk. I love that more than anything. And just this morning my youngest actually came and sat on the couch with me, so close I couldn’t move my arm. And she put her legs on mine and showed me something she was working on. Her head rested on my shoulder the whole time. That may sound silly but this does NOT happen with that one. It was pure magic for this mama heart.

These are the little changes that keep my grief at bay. And the craziest thing is this – never in my life have I been so separated from everyone yet feel so connected. My family, my neighborhood, my town – the whole darn world. This has been so eye opening in that we truly are all in this together. And, we truly are so much more the same than I could have ever imagined. We really are. If Prince Charles, Tom Hanks, every nationality, you, and I can all suffer the same things, then we aren’t so different after all.

So, I continue my daily walks (I’m up to three a day now), make my morning ‘family time’ lists, read the newest, funniest meme sent to me by family, grab a glass of wine and enjoy virtual happy hour with the girls, lounge outside to watch the birds on our backyard birdhouses, and allow myself days to just sit and breathe and grieve a bit, and I wait with the rest of the world. I continue to change in the waiting and see the goodness that is still happening and not bury myself in the terrifying and the bad. And through it all, I think of how glorious it will be when I can hug my Mom again. And eat at a restaurant. And shake a new friend’s hand. I remind myself that things are going to get better.

They really are.

Kristen Feighery

Kristen Feighery is a self-taught folk artist, originally from southeastern Kentucky. She spends her days painting anything not nailed down (and some things that are), chauffeuring one daughter to sporting events, having tea parties with the other, and writing a blog.  She's also married to a rather large Irishman and has a pub in her house. Really.

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