{Diary of a Semi-Anchorite} Breathing Together

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It took me until two weeks ago to hit my first for real pandemic slump.  Which, if you hit yours much earlier, must be annoying to even read but we are who we are.  I had been thriving, really.  I think now some of the underpinnings of that thriving was that I had begun to have some magical thinking about what would happen after (?) the pandemic.

I didn’t let myself think about how long this could stretch out.  I didn’t let myself think about all of the things I missed.  And honestly?  It made for a pretty happy pandemic for me overall for the first four months.  I was taking long walks and getting strong in my body.  I was cooking and budgeting well.  My house was a thing of beauty.  I was plugging along in the class I was giving.  I was getting even closer to the people closest to me.  I was reading, I was writing, I was creating.

And, if there was a little wishful thinking under the hood, so what?  Wasn’t that what we were all supposed to be doing right now?  This relationship will magically become what it was prepandemic again post-pandemic!  This part of my body will magically manageable!  I will obviously be going back to my job in the fall when we start rolling again!  Like many people during the pandemic, this person will obviously get some therapy since telemed is being handed out like candy right now and is affordable with or without insurance!

And then about two weeks ago, I had to face that none of those things were going to be true for me.  I was filling out COBRA paperwork, I was tossing out old incredibly expensive bras, I was having hard conversations.  I was starting to realize that I don’t know when I’ll be able to have a party again.  I don’t know when I’ll be able to go to a party again.  I don’t know when I’ll be able to envelope my inner circle into one of my pillowy hugs again.  I don’t know when I’ll be able to travel again.  I don’t know how long the cases at Jow’s facility will be down.  I don’t know what winter be like when outside isn’t so much of an option.  I don’t know when I’ll get to meet new interesting people in an interface that is not internet based.  The days were starting to drag.  The sameness was starting to get me down.  All the things that gave me some pep, I was now losing interest in.  It all felt like too much work – taking pictures, writing, trying to find new and interesting things to cook, new places to walk, new additions to my shop.

I was hitting a wall and I was really cranky about it.  I can promise I was not a lot of fun to interact with and I was definitely not great to live with for Jow. I felt strangely betrayed by myself.  Like, c’mon!  It’s been four months into pandemic and you have midwifed the shit out of this for using it as a method of personal growth and being there to support the growth of your inner circle.  You’ve been growing and changing and evolving and now, now while it’s gorgeous outside and there’s the chance to get your hair back in order at the very least and have a few socially distanced outdoor get togethers and be near water and go for a cocktail outside at a restaurant during an off time of day once in a very blue moon, this is where you completely lose your shit and become a tiresome bitch?  Now?  Now?

Yeah.  Now.  Or at least for the last two weeks.  The whining was goddamn near endless.  Like L Word levels of unbecoming whining.  Because while this part of the pandemic had started to become a slog, if you were looking from the outside in, it would be hard to have a ton of sympathy for me.  I’m typing this at my gym’s pool with like amazing levels of social distancing for the most part.  Who is getting to do that right now?  I’ve got three or four parks with different walks for different moods.  G. is willing to pound sand with me on her days off at the shore early mornings.  Jow cooks dinner for me on days that I cannot handle my shit after dealing with nursing olds at work all day (the Covid unit isn’t being shipped many cases from the hospital right now for the moment).  A1 goes with me for a really well managed socially distanced brunch at one of my favorite places where there’s a vodka popsicle that they melt into a splint of champagne.  My mom gets us paella and sangria.  I walk with my sister who tells me I can get a paddleboard and keep it at her house.  My (less tiny now) nephew gently asks how my book is coming, confident that’s what I’d be working on right now of course.  He listens when I try to explain in language he can understand at nine what I’m trying to write.  MFG takes (virtual) tea with me and listens to me whine and helps me pin point my dissatisfaction.  Our friends host me and Jow in their backyard for homemade bread and a fire pit.  Miss Spice and I commiserate over managing our widowed moms during all of this.

Every part of me is screaming, what the fuck could you possibly have to complain about, bitch?

And that makes it really hard to share.  It’s hard to write now that I know it’s a book and I know what I want to accomplish with it.  It’s hard to increase the wares of my shop now that it’s not just a momentary whim but the life I’m stepping into.  It’s hard to keep walking and keep managing my routine myself when there’s no one to impress. Barely anyone sees me.  I’m also getting used to my new body and I’m finding myself even shyer than usual about Instagramming and putting myself out there for the internet to see.   Some of my real garbage animal habits have been tempting me again lately because fuck it, who knows how long we’ll live like this?  Six months, a year, two years, longer?  I don’t know.  No one does.  Not really.  And no one knows what a winter with this will be like.  It makes it hard to be present with the good parts of summer, that maybe I’ll be allowed to swim again soon and dive into the barely used lap pool and swim until I feel tired as much as I can.  That I can have little ad hoc picnics outside our place.  That I’ll hopefully meet Cat this week (a friend of Jow’s) outside.  Maybe there will be more fire pits with other friends.  Fall will come and me and A1 will drink hot spiced booze on the porch of our favorite brunch spot wearing sweaters.  Maybe I’ll see Alx, MFH and Miss Spice in October if the world can hold space enough to make it safe enough.  G. and I will wear boots and pound sand and find shells and feel the warmth of the sun on our faces.  I’ll read audiobooks with V.  I’ll write long ambling emails with Alli.  I’ll learn to cook a full roast.  I’ll start dyeing things again.  I’ll dream and write and write about my dreams.

I think of you, my Sister Queens.  I think of the pain of holding this particular exile.  I think about what it is for us to hold this space together.  I imagine us panting and wailing together through the pain, like the girls in Midsommar.  I didn’t see it in the theater, I had no one there to ruin what holding that kind of space together could look like.  It doesn’t even have to look like that – it’s just an evocative image.  Sometimes, when it’s hard to write like it is right now, I make myself do it anyway.  I offer it to you so we can breathe together and try to figure out how to get through this moment.  This hour, this day, this month, this completely unknown future.  It’s my way of breathing with you.

Sometimes though, all I can see is winter, looming with a grey endless sky and I don’t know what I’ll do.  All I can see is the virus.  All I can see is everything we don’t know.  All I can see is the sameness of everything.  And I falter.  Even here, in the warmth of the summer during the day.  Clouds in the blue sky, the sound of water in a pool.  I’m still stumbling.

Deborah Castellano
Deborah Castellano's book Glamour Magic: The Witchcraft Revolution to Get What You Want is available for purchase through Amazon, Llewellyn and Barnes and Noble.
Her frequently updated catalogue of published work is available on Author Central.

She writes about Glamour Magic here at Charmed, I'm Sure. Her podcast appearances are available here.

Her craft shop, The Mermaid & The Crow specializes in old-world style workshop from 100% local, sustainable sources featuring tempting small batch ritual oils and hand-spun hand-dyed yarn in luxe fibers and more!

In a previous life, Deborah founded the first Neo-Victorian/Steampunk convention, SalonCon which received rave reviews from con-goers and interviews from the New York Times and MTV.

She resides in New Jersey with her husband, Jow and their cat, Max II. She has a terrible reality television habit she can't shake and likes St. Germain liquor, record players and typewriters.  


One Response

  1. I’m scared of the coming winter.
    We passed Summer Solstice, and it was lovely, but I’m increasingly aware that the days are getting shorter, that I’ll be turning the heat on in a few months, that I may not have any modeling work before 2021 and I’ half hoping that’s the case because I don’t want to risk the buses I’ll now have to take to get to all the work I could formerly walk to.
    My wife’s been able to move her workshop into our (New! Normal-Height Ceiling!) basement, so she can keep working from home most days. But once there’s ice on the roads, she’s going to be relying on chancy-at-the-best-of-times public transit to get to her PT outside-the-house job, and that’s scaring the hell out of both of us.

    Part of me – introvert that I am – is honestly loving all the reasons to avoid social interactions. Reading and sewing and enjoying the CSA I treated us to. Working on poetry with some kind of a schedule. Going for walks around my new neighbourhood, visiting the river, getting to know where the wild fruit trees are. But this is summer and I can go outdoors and not be afraid of falling down. I can cut my mom’s hair in the back yard, or have an outdoor dinner with my metamour or visit my one neighbourhood friend on her back deck.
    I don’t know what it’s going to be like, once the temperature drops.
    I remember the year I spent two months unemployed in the middle of winter, and how unreal the world outside my window started to feel.
    I’m glad I don’t live alone, or this would be terrible.
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