No guidelines for a new way of life.

“On the surface, we’re still doing what we were doing before the world changed …”

Last night I cried. I was pouring myself a glass of wine and debating whether to watch TV in bed or play games on the computer. Mid-pour, I was surprised by the tightness in my throat and the hot, fat, tears streaming down my face. I rarely cry. I don’t know why I did last night. Nothing happened, nothing changed. There was nothing heavy on my mind, it was just another day coming to a close.

Last night I cried. Suppressed grief or fear or anger or all of the above more than likely. My life hasn’t undergone any major changes, at least on the surface. On the surface, we’re still doing what we were doing before the world changed. I still work from home and my husband still goes to work every morning. Even though his company has set him up to do his job without having to interact with anyone, I worry. The only visible disruption is a severely limited selection of available groceries and concern about our dwindling supply of toilet paper. There’s a constant barrage of bad news, but we can choose what we read or listen to. Although I’m not one hundred percent certain we’re actually choosing to continue, it’s more like we’re compelled.

Last night I cried. I’m an introvert. I’m content staying home for days without going out, I’m at my happiest when I know I don’t need to be anywhere. But after ten days, I need a change of scenery; I crave human contact with my friends and I want to go shopping. Now, other than driving my husband to his office to pick up his truck, I have not been out of this house for more than two weeks. And there are still another two and a half months to go. I talk with others every day, some via Zoom, where I can see them, others by email, phone or text, and some by Facebook Messenger. But I’m missing all of the ways that we are with others, that subtle shift in energy. I’m missing the human touch.

Last night I cried. There are no guidelines for this new way of life, no instruction manual. We have no experience or training for living in a prolonged lockdown. Living in a constant state of not knowing what to expect. The death toll is mounting. The number of unemployment claims is astronomical. Many businesses will not be able to withstand the financial loss of keeping their doors closed. Grocery stores can’t keep their shelves stocked. I’m afraid of the riots and looting that are sure to come. And we have no reassurance that this is only temporary. Or that we won’t catch the virus and die. There are no answers.

Last night I cried. I’ve lost the freedom to live life on my terms, the life I’ve worked hard to create. I’ve lost the security of knowing I can run out and buy whatever I want and can afford. I’ve lost faith in my ability to tough it out. I have lived through the deaths of my children, my brothers, my parents, my friends — so many significant losses and I’m terrified there will be more. I’m losing hope that I’ll be able to embrace the changes that are coming because we can’t go back to who we were. We’ve all lost our normal.

Last night I cried. I’m so tired. The constant state of fear that rides just below the surface is exhausting. I feel unmoored, I can’t focus, my brain is constantly searching for a way to reconnect to complacency. I’m not strong enough or brave enough or smart enough. I need to know what to do, what action I can take to protect myself and my loved ones. I need to know how I can keep us all safe. What is this feeling? I’ve heard it called anticipatory grief, but that’s not it, not really. I think maybe it’s despair.

Last night I cried.


Paula Boyland is a writer, proofreader, and paint-pouring addict living the life in central VA with her husband and three incorrigible dogs.