I am cocooning, metaphorically turning inward and tucking my hands between my knees until the craziness abates. I am too listless to write anything worthwhile, and I refuse to allow any stray pandemic energy to sneak into my artwork. Never have I felt so barren.
I am empathic by nature and have always been keenly aware of other people’s emotions. For the most part, that served me well because I knew when to offer comfort for an unspoken ache and when to disregard a spoken untruth. Children and dogs seemed to like me, so I felt like I did okay as an introvert in the outside world. I even convinced myself that I could find common ground with almost anyone. Be it puppies or coffee or yesterday’s sunset, I believed that I could find a shared appreciation for something that would spark a meeting of the minds. But these days, I am completely nonplussed. None of my assumptions apply anymore, and I am so confused that I cannot decide whether I am grieving or angry.
I suspect the latter.
The past few years have stolen some of my dearest friends. Five passed away before COVID, and another passed last summer. As painful as it was to lose them, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to mourn them — to savor fond memories — to imagine them unfettered by illness and exploring who-knows-what in the afterlife — to make peace with how much I miss them.
I cannot say the same for others I have lost, hence the anger. They were not taken by illness or accident. I lost them to self-inflicted delusion, which has rendered them immune to critical thinking, truth, and common sense.
I say "self-inflicted" because they chose, day after day after day, to click the links that took them to the darkest crannies of the world-weird web, where they found a new raison d'etre and lost the essence of who they used to be.
We no longer talked about anything interesting or uplifting. Our conversations devolved into increasingly bizarre soliloquies that sounded like excerpts from a B horror film. The diatribes screamed of trafficked children in underground bunkers, blood-drinking world leaders, and politicians who are really shape-shifting reptiles. According to my wayward friends, the only real news is found on sketchy dark websites, and absolutely nothing is what it seems to be. Everything, literally everything, is a deep-state plot.
Before I go further, it must be said that I do not discount the evil in this world, nor do I believe everything that my government tells me. I do, however, understand the difference between metaphor and reality.
My lost friends evidently do not. They are suspicious of everyone who does not see what they see, and their paranoia is palpable. Folks who used to take pride in their ability to communicate are now so convinced that the deep state is after them that their missives have become a we1rd KombOnayshun ov mizpellingz to throw the bots off their trail.
Things were already dire enough when the pandemic struck and brought a whole new banquet of terrors. Whatever remained of my friends' erstwhile logic evaporated with the need for a social conscience. They mocked me for wearing a mask and hoping for a vaccine that would save lives. I was going to be micro-chipped, 5-G'd, and tracked forever by shadowy entities. But it was me, they said, who was living in fear. And I would see, they said, as they strapped on their Glock to go buy eggs.
I have always wondered how so many "good Germans" managed to turn a blind eye as the trains rumbled by or to pretend that they didn't smell the stench from the ovens. Alas, I see that same dead denial in the eyes of lost friends as they equivocate and fool-splain their patriotism, their faith in their heat-packing version of Jesus, and their pity that I will be left behind while they save mankind.
I cannot describe the ache of grieving for people who are still alive but unreachable. No wonder I prefer my cocoon.