Turns out, when faced with a life-altering situation like a health pandemic, I’m not exactly who I thought I was. In fact, I’ve caught myself doing things that are so out of character in the last three weeks since being mostly housebound, stressed out, and ironically, surrounded by people during this social distancing experiment, that I barely recognize myself. And I’ve known me for most of my life. I’d go so far as to say that judging by some of my behavior lately, we (my old self and my new self) are practically strangers.
Not that I’d wish this kind of identity crisis on anyone, but I’m hoping that I’m not alone in this department — this feeling of no longer recognizing myself. Like, I forgot to wear deodorant for four or maybe 12 days; I really don’t know because I’ve lost count of days. And besides, there are no more days of the week, a friend of mine who lives in New York City told me recently; there’s only “yesterday, today, and tomorrow.” She said a friend of hers, who lives in L.A., told her that. When people in L.A. and New York feel like things are getting weird, that’s a definite sign the weird shit, whatever it might be, means business.
Yesterday morning, or maybe it was last week, I walked out of my closet where I had been sitting on a plastic bin, crying, and as I passed by my bathroom mirror, I glanced up and jumped! Some random person was looking back at me. She spoke first.
“Hi! Have we met?” the old me in the mirror said. I noticed her hair was brushed.
“Uh, no, I don’t think so,” New Me said, wiping away my tears with a sock.
“Why are you crying?”
“Um, well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Italy is dead and New York is dying and people will eventually die here in my town but nobody knows when and my job is on the rocks and I’ve lost my appetite and my house is full of college-aged young adults who don’t want to be living with their parents and 50-somethings who don’t need to be living with their kids and I’m spending all of my money on groceries and none on movies or spring fashion or the flowers that I love to buy every April and then stop watering in mid-July when I can’t remember to water them because it’s too fucking hot to go outside.”
“Um, is that a clean sock?”
“I don’t give a shit,” New Me said, giving it a sniff.
“Did I see you make a Bloody Mary in a to-go cup yesterday morning and take it with you on your walk?”
“Kind of sounds like a pity party to me.”
“It’s not pity! It’s anxiety and it’s got me by the tits!”
“Take care, New Me. I’m gonna go take a nap.”
“Fuck you, Old Me. I’m gonna go take a Xanax.”
That’s not even the weirdest thing that’s transpired around here lately. This morning, my husband had just finished eating breakfast when he opened the dishwasher to load his plate, fork and cup. I was sitting at the counter bar, wondering if Baileys and coffee was actually worth the effort.
“Who keeps loading the dishwasher wrong?!” he said, hands on hips, staring down at the bottom rack. Then he bent over and starting fussing and moving things all around, muttering, “Someone keeps putting the silverware rack in the wrong place and the bowls go here like this and the plates go over here like that.”
He stood up and looked at me.
“I loaded it last night. That was me,” I said, walking over to the dishwasher and taking my phone out of the pocket of my bathrobe. “Lemme take a picture so I do it right next time.”
And I was serious.
Then I walked out of the kitchen and climbed the stairs, where I found my sneakers right in the middle of high traffic area of our bedroom. I stepped right over them and kept going.
As I walked by the mirror, Old Me gave me the thumbs up and a big grin. New Me waved back, without using all of her fingers.