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Stepping Out of the Twilight Zone

By Lori Welch Brown

Stepping Out of the Twilight Zone

It’s officially against the law to write about anything other than COVID, fear, and angst.  I jest, but I mean what else is there?  The election?  No thank you.  Oregon fires?  Scary.  RBG’s death?  Depressing.  Is Beth Dutton coming back next season on Yellowstone?  Mind boggling.  On the bright side, Keeping UpWith the Kardashians is finally ending, a sure sign that God hasn’t forsaken us in 2020.

My creativity is in the weeds, and my writing is all white woman whining.  I haven’t been to the salon since March, I had to remove my own gel nails, and I no longer feel safe strolling through Nordstroms.  Blah, blah, blah.  What has the world come to?  Just this past week I momentarily considered watching a Youtube video on how to make my own dirty martini.  I’m being funny—or at least attempting to be.  That’s how I respond to grief and anxiety, by making inappropriate jokes and laughing at the absolute wrong times.  I’m the person who snickers nervously at funerals and cries at birthday parties.

The crux of it is that we are all grieving our sense of normal and floundering to find some darn joy.  We want 2019 back—no matter how crappy we thought it was, it was better than this bag of doggie doo.  My normal wasn’t even the same as your normal, but I want to find it, wrap it up, and gift it back to you.

Instead, it’s as if the universe is playing a really bad joke on us and thrust us into an episode of The Twilight Zone.

There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge.- Rod Serling

I keep expecting Ashton Kutcher to jump out and tell us we’ve all been Punk’d.  Not funny, universe. During the past few months, I’ve witnessed—from a safe distance—some of my strongest, funniest, best friends struggle with depression.  People who had no history of depression are suffering.  People with a history of depression and anxiety are really hurting.  For me, it has come in waves.  In March, I was freaked out, but like most of us, I was distracted by trying to find toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and Clorox.  As of October, I’ve still only found two out of three.

April showers brought tears for everything and everyone.  By May, I had fallen into a rhythm.  Writing became my secret hideaway, and my world expanded a tad. I enrolled in a few online classes, set goals for myself, and even managed to configure a new workout routine. I felt productive and purposeful, and the jiggle in my caboose started to tighten up.

By June, I was over it.  Dad took a fall, ended up in ICU.  On the bright side, with appropriate HAZMAT clothing, I was able to see him.  The high bolstered me through July when I began to embrace my inner Bohemian.  My husband was somewhat frightened by how effortlessly I shed my usual grooming practices for a more al a natural look.  My make-up bag laid untouched as did my tweezers and razor.  I bolstered his spirits by reminding him how much money we were saving on hairdressers and manicurists.    

By August, I was sullen and smelling something funky under my pits.  It was all I could do to lift my tweezers to my chin, let alone a razor to my arms.  I was exhausted and tired.  Why was I sooo tired?  My mind was spinning and I couldn’t stop the constant buzz of thinking.  Thinking and worrying became my hobbies. I woke up thinking about all the things I had to do, the things I couldn’t do, and the places I couldn’t go.  Worrying about dad, climate change, homeschooling, wine reserves, riots, the next season of Yellowstone, etc. became my pastime.  How will John Dutton recover?

By September I had a new strategy:  Denial.  I went out to a couple of ‘risky’ restaurants.  I hugged a friend.  I didn’t wash my mask every day.  I became wild and reckless, rogue even.  The dog days of summer were gone, and I swaggered into the wild west of COVID armed with nothing more than a cocky attitude and a dirty mask.  It felt good to release anxiety and fear for a fleeting moment.  It felt good to feel ‘normal.’  Then one of my dear friends became depressed.  Scary, dark depressed.  I washed my mask and snapped back to reality.  My friend is strong and funny.  How could this be happening? This person is the person who cheers ME up.

I’m riding into October with a new outlook, a fresh perspective, and possibly a new pair of boots.  I’m taking a hybrid approach of self-care sprinkled with a lot of check-ins.  Typically, my self-care takes a bit of a nose dive this time of year.  Swim suit season is behind me so I begin to add an extra layer of fat by way of a steady diet of pimento cheese and chili.  Exercise becomes a sport in procrastination.  Wineries call my name, and I embrace a bottomless glass.  None of that leads to a healthy, mentally-sound me so I’m on high alert.  I can’t lift my friends’ spirits if my own are in the cellar.

My struggle to make the perfect dirty martini can’t be compared to your struggle so no use in trying.  We are all trying to find a way to carve out a new normal in this alternate universe or at least figure out what to do with our hair situations. Regardless of our outward appearance—mine closely resembling a cross between Loretta Lynn and Einstein at the moment—we are all contorting ourselves to find our safe space in this fifth dimension.  Some of us are doing a better job than others. One of my brilliant friends started a weekly online happy hour where people log in and ‘buy’ drinks, the proceeds earmarked for different charitable organizations.  Another friend is guiding weekly meditations. As always, I am in awe of those who find light in the darkness.  People helping people—now that’s a great strategy for stepping out of the Twilight Zone.

Lori Welch Brown is a self-proclaimed late bloomer, practicing yogi, writer and artist whose mantra is “Laughing More. Judging Less.” If you would like to read more of Lori’s work, follow her on Medium at Lori Welch Brown.

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