{Diary of a Semi Anchorite} A Year Later

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I have a dead sparrow in my freezer.

I had initially promised that the dead sparrow would not live indoors.  This was agreed to by all parties because it was a clear indicator that I had not completely gone off the deep end.  It was a bad day, Sister Queens.  I was sick already from the first dose of the vax and I had just been told that I needed medical testing and a completely different form of birth control for like the four viable eggs I probably still have rattling around in my cobwebby ovaries.  I have also learned that I am about the worst candidate ever to carry a baby for a wide and exciting array of reasons.  I was trying to cheer myself up walking to my door that it would be okay when I found a very young dead sparrow on my door step.  He was so little, my heart would not stop breaking and I could not stop crying.  I didn’t know what to do, so I got a plastic bag and did not touch my new dead friend and put him in a little ziplock and then a nice box and then another ziplock bag.  I left him outside until we could determine what to do with him.  I covered him with snow and when I got too sick from the vax and new birth control to do it, Jow did.  MFHG sent crystals for my small friend.  G, A1 and A2 agreed as long as I didn’t touch him and didn’t try to bring him back to life, I could keep him.  JohnM asked to go to my sparrow funeral.  My friend J. made the mistake of sending me a v. funny and v. spot on impression of Moira Rose and I got to impress him with my friend skills by immediately asking how do I preserve my new friend.

The snow melted and I got my second vax on Saturday.   I was trying to make myself put the sparrow in the ground but I wasn’t quite ready and I had then decided I wanted to preserve my new friend.  My friend from Scotland said I should hold onto him until my test results came back anyway.  I was planning to solider forward and bury him anyway but I got so distraught that Jow made room in the freezer for my friend after we bagged him again a few more times.  He is now neatly and safely tucked in there while I await test results.

I had never experienced anything like receiving the vaccine.  The shuffle through the convention center, national guard and fema present to efficiently send people through the process.  It was the most people I had been around in a year.  I thought maybe I wouldn’t have a reaction to this round of vax because I was fine for the weekend but on Monday, I got to enjoy a complete fibroflare.  I was hoping today would be better because usually now that I have my med card, I can get a flare down to one day and be fine the next.  No dice.  So I slept all morning and I’m bored and cranky.LittleMan will be going back to school full time soon, a prospect that he’s not particularly excited about.  I worry because that’s what I’ve spent the last year doing – worrying and writing and trying to figure out this new life.  Jow is now a hospice nurse, which had been his hope all through nursing school and he’s adjusting pretty well to that.

Spring is starting to happen here and most of my podmates are at least half vaxed if not more.  It’s hard to contemplating “going back” to “normal”.  Mostly because life doesn’t really work like that.  There is no going back.  We can’t be the people we were before all of this, that would require us to have all not experienced this past year.  There’s a definite tinge of anxiety in the air.  That push-pull of, oh god I just want to go back to my old life/ oh god I cannot go back to my old life.

I have learned a lot during this year, where nothing made sense.  Love still made sense, though the language had changed fairly significantly.  How grounded keeping house can keep me.  All the books I’ve listened to.  That my body can be a refuge.  That even on the scariest days, there can be donuts and friends and gallows human.  What it’s like to become close to LittleMan.  What it’s like to be worried about not having enough food.  What it’s like to worry about accidentally killing everyone I love.  What it’s like to see my local area change seasons.  What it’s like to learn more about so many topics, including finances.

There are things I don’t want back – my old corporate gig, being completely overscheduled all the time, spending too much money at restaurants, not being outdoors ever, so much bustle that it feels about impossible to really connect with anyone, my complete lack of appreciation for important aspects of my life, an inability to see all the small things that make posies of my life. my disregard in managing my finances properly.

There are things I desperately want back – parties, community, hugs, cuddles, idle flirtation, travel, adventure, events, happy hours, brunches.  But I’m also now deeply afraid of these things.

Before a year ago, how often did you put “trust” and “hug” in the same sentence?  Or “trust” and “go to a friend’s house”?  These were not deeply intimate activities pre-pandemic.  But now they are.  And there’s something both beautiful and stifling about that.  Beautiful because you have made an unspoken (or sometimes spoken) sacred pact with your podmates – I love you so much that I would willingly possibly die with you as we gather here together.  We all go down together.  All the prying intimate questions we would ask and share just to get a few of us in my little rabbit burrow to eat take out together.  We had no secrets, we could not afford them.  Keeping secrets meant you were willing to kill the people you loved best.  If anyone was intimate with anyone else, if anyone had a sniffle, if anyone’s podmates tested positive or were being tested, if anyone went to a mall or ate indoors, if anyone’s mothers had a cold.  Whatever it was, we all had to know.  There were no secret trips to Starbucks to browse on your phone.  There were no secret Tinder hook-ups.  There was no “I just wanted”.  Any of those transgressions could kill.  No one wanted that on their conscience.

Because of that level of intimacy that was required to simply breathe the same air together, it was also really stifling.  Gossip was just about an impossible commodity to come by.  Meeting new people to become friends with or flirt with was as rare as a shooting star.  Actual parties and events remained nonexistent.  The winter dragged on forever.  Little Women suddenly made sense to me as a book in a way that it previously never had.  Money became iffier, produce changed to winter settings, being outdoors became rare, everyone was sick of virtual anything, travel was almost impossible, there was nothing but endless winter.  For me, a treadmill of tutoring, finishing writing my second book and spin classes.

When I think about coming out of a chrysalis, I think of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  Where TVHC goes into the chrysalis, goes through the process of having all internal organs thrown in a blender and pop!  Beautiful butterfly.   Like, I would be the first to say, okay!  You are a butterfly now!  You cannot go back to being a caterpillar, it is literally impossible.  You can miss being a caterpillar, you can need help figuring out your new butterfly wings and diet, you can make mistakes because wtf do you know about being a butterfly from being a caterpillar, all of those things are valid!  I relate to this picture of TVHC – eating all the comfort carbs all pandemic so currently a bit extra fluffy in case of more food shortages and vaguely afraid of what the chrysalis will mean.

But we don’t have such a clear trajectory here.  We’re sort of in chrysalis from quarantine but sort of not currently.  So do we cuddle now or eat indoors or?  The current guidelines read something like, Idk?  I think it will be okay?  Probably?  But if it’s not okay, then it’s your problem.  How do you decide how to step forward when it’s been a spectrum of trauma over the last year?  What do you need to live a full and satisfying life?  My answers are tentative and different than this time last year.  It’s easy to want to close our eyes and be dismissive of this last year of exile.  To pretend we have always been at court and we will always be at court for the rest of our lives forever and ever, amen.  But after you have been exiled to the woods, you changed in ways that we are just starting to learn about as your bejeweled toes make their first determined steps back into the throne room, your furs and your face carefully arranged.  What happens now?  Who are we now as Sister Queens?  What does our rule look like now?  What will we accept?  What has been cast out?

I don’t know.

This is no great illusion
When I’m with you I’m looking for a ghost
Or invisible reasons
To fall out of love and run screaming from our home
Because we live in a house of mirrors
We see our fears and everything
Our songs, faces, and second hand clothes
But more and more we’re suffering
Not nobody, not a thousand beers
Will keep us from feeling so all alone
But you are what you love
And not what loves you back
That’s why I’m here on your doorstep
Pleading for you to take me back
“You Are What You Love”, Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins
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.  

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2 Responses

  1. I don’t know either.

    Half my girlfriend’s household, in DC, are vaccinated. My wife’s GF should be eligible… next month, maybe? But my wife and I won’t get poked until September, if not later.
    I miss my girlfriend. I’m also scared to have her visit. It’s been over a year since we’ve been in the same country. I don’t know how to manage my much-more-work-heavy time in a way that will also let me have catch-up time with my girl.

    There are things about our collective past life that I’m glad to see go – in my case, a whole lot of body pain that turned out to be due to my modeling work, plus a whole lot of economic insecurity – but the ecumenical admin I’ve morphed into is one heck of a weird butterfly. My wings are still wet, I’m flailing a LOT, and I’m anxious in at least one of my work-places.

    I love having all this extra cash, love watching my debt go down, love being able to buy Pretty Things on the internet and actually pay cash for them at the same time.
    But I miss having the extra hours to cook predominantly from scratch, to treat writing as a regular act of contemplation rather than a rush job, to do religious and magical stuff in a way that’s not crammed into spare moments.

    I love having my social/arts life on zoom, believe it or not. No commute, no bus schedules or budgetting, no having to dress for the weather when I can just dress for the party (even if it’s only from the shoulders up). But I miss my friends who, for the most part, live in my old neighbourhood, and I’m not sure if I’m going to just turn out to be That Friend Who’s Never Around now that I’m not walking distance from most of them.

    I don’t know either.
    Ms Syren recently posted..New Year New You 2021 – Week 2: GoalsMy Profile

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