“What does a woman fucking have to do in this country…”
That buttoned the snotty, messy, tear-riddled conversation E and I shared while making our coffee and tea this morning. Last night, when she came home at 1am, I was still on the couch, pale-faced but dry-eyed, silently pleading with the screen to shift reality.
I can’t articulate to myself the full scope what these election results mean. I’m on my tenth straight day of working — pushing my body far beyond the boundaries it normally allows me. I have two major deadlines looming. It’s raining outside, which hurts my bones. Some machine is digging at the concrete in front of my building, again, which is like nails on the chalkboard of my sensory overload issues. My grandmother is in the hospital and I’m feeling unsettled by the absence of someone and my body hurts and I’m trying to stay focused on my right pinky finger because of a journaling-on-a-body-part exercise done in a writing workshop the other night that helped me realize it doesn’t hurt, and so to think of it when most other body parts do.
The world is dark and gray today. But I am safe, for now, in this moment, within it. And I’m trying to focus on that.
But here’s the relevant thing to the “no sugar” study.
Eight years ago, I watched the election results come in with my boyfriend of nine years and his brother in our apartment in Queens. I was much sicker than I am now, but had made calls campaigning and proudly voted and went to sleep contented. It was a quiet victory amongst people I love. The next morning, I took a ten-hour train to Virginia and spent two weeks in an ashram, sleeping and meditating and walking in the empty woods , far away from people, with the time and space my body needed to be completely alone and heal. A satisfying memory overall.
Last night, I was alone in my apartment. I’d been invited to parties all over town but knew it would be dangerous for me to attend them. Any extreme emotion — high or low, victorious or defeated — uses energy and leaves me depleted. Being around people wipes me out when I’m already this weak. No — I’d make myself tea and light candles and revel in the introspective, introverted part of myself.
But as the night went on, my self-imposed sobriety deemed that ritual laughable.
My jaw ground in tension, my stomach turned in knots. Alone, I scanned social media and — amongst much more relevant and crucial information — was flooded with images of what people were drinking or smoking to get them through. I can’t drink or make cookies or nibble chocolate; I cooked healthy food and made cup after cup of tea, instead. I watched, and hurt.
I felt lonely. I felt frustrated that I couldn’t physically be with others, angry at no one for being with me, disappointed that one one who knows I’m often alone because of my health wasn’t checking up on me, and then even angrier with myself for a) blaming friends for nothing and b) throwing the “I have an illness” card on a universal human experience.
I wanted alcohol. An entire bottle of wine, or a few fingers of whiskey. A cold, stiff martini. Something to self-soothe. To take the edge off. To wrap me up in a hug. I wanted someone’s skin hugging my skin and someone’s hand in mine, four eyes staring at a screen, together.
Is this entire year about studying companionship? About how we fill in the gaps of loneliness with things like social media, and material goods, and alcohol and sugar? Am I just learning how to truly survive alone?
I made more tea. I took Mitra for a walk, and breathed the quiet, warm air, and looked at the sky.
Eventually, I shed a few tears and just went to sleep.
I feel almost indifferent about the fact that I was “sober and solo” for this election. But I’m glad I exist today. And that I get to sit at my desk — alone, now, in my apartment — and process for a few minutes. Without a hangover. Without being extra depleted by who I saw or what they did or how I might have acted. Because I don’t get to board a train and run away this time. I’m eight years older. I’m single and in a different career and financially independent and healthy enough that I get to work at all — very big changes from where I was this day so long ago in Queens.
No Sugar or Alcohol. Day Five. Keep going.