“Not saying it’s easier to feel it all or nothing at all.”

I am the model student of a pandemic. I have always been germophobic. I have always had a healthy distrust of others getting too far into my personal space. I am naturally introverted and being home alone is not a punishment for me. I’m 14 months in and haven’t been bored yet. I have been doing life on my own for a long time that reading a book, binging Netflix, takeout, web surfing are how I normally fill my time. Aside from the long term health effects and death stuff, I couldn’t have been happier this year. Everyone has always treated me like the oddball and this past year, they had to enter my world and try living it.

When we went into quarantine, I had still been going back and forth about booking my annual vacation to another continent. That was traditionally the same week, every year, that I pulled out the credit card and made the commitment. I gave myself another 2 weeks to watch the pandemic play out, somehow thinking it might show signs of resolving itself and I could still squeeze that trip in.

I also had outstanding concert tickets for the Motley Crue/Def a Leppard/Poison Fenway show in a August. $600 no less. I also had tickets for Greg Dulli’s new album release in September. Not to mention, hadn’t decided which show to fly to Red Rocks for in August. I don’t think I believed all of that wouldn’t happen. I started to feel really bad for my favorite indie artists because they aren’t exceptionally wealthy off club tours. When Dulli refunded my concert ticket I actually wanted to send the money back to him because I felt like he needed it more than me.

I learned to enjoy working from home. I was afraid of it at first. For some reason I thought I lacked the discipline to manage a full day while in my house. With depression, I get extreme exhaustion and have found that if I am not constantly busy, I can literally just doze off. I worried that I’d fall asleep at home and miss all my meetings because I had never had “down” time before. “Down time” in the office was somehow a beacon calling everyone to drop by, unannounced and leave a dumpster fire on my lap. Admittedly, my first day home, I did fall asleep on the couch for a couple hours and panicked that I’d keep doing it.

Turns out, that seemed to just be an isolated moment of my body catching up from all the anxiety of that week. I got sent home before everyone else did because I had learned of potential exposure. Literally got sent home immediately; allowed only to grab my purse and laptop then March right out without saying a word to anyone. It was creepy.

After the initial couple of days, I started a routine. I stayed true to work all day but between meetings would do one household chore a day…like throw out one bag of trash a day so I could prepare for possibly moving and try to reduce the overwhelm of leaving all the projects for the last minute. Doing one small thing a day was extremely manageable and helped immensely when I did make the overnight decision to move to the Cape.

I started to enjoy working from home. I actually liked the routine and having something to fill my days with. Additionally, in the absence of in office chaos, I discovered I had several massive anxiety and depression triggers occurring in the office which were preventing me from performing at my best. At home, I grew into the person I believe I may have been meant to be without anxiety, depression a PTSD and ADHD. It led to the most productive part of my career. Relationships with coworkers grew to deeper levels. My confidence sky rocketed. I started raising my hand for all sorts of things I wouldn’t have thought of in the office. It’s been so healthy that my doctors feel very strongly I remain remote long term.

I took my last drink in December of 2019. 3 Blue Moons which led me to buy cigarettes that night. I quit smoking 15 years prior but have dabbled with it when traveling. I hadn’t planned on that being my last drink. I hadn’t considered quitting drinking ever. But, I don’t drink at home alone and January/February were quiet, blah months. I got really sick so even the few concerts I did go to, I stuck with soda. Then, quarantine. I didn’t have any beer at home and I didn’t want to go out and buy it. So I just didn’t think about it. Before I knew it, I was 6 months sober. I told myself I hadn’t entirely quit and might drink again someday, but, for now, I was committed to keeping it going. I had dropped 2 pant sizes and was loving that which motivated me.

As of now, I’m about a year and half sober. I’m thinner than ever and look super good for my age. I enjoy being clear headed all the time. While I can be a very fun, adventurous drunk…I also act like a bonehead and it’s embarrassing to look back at how I acted and the situations I put myself in. It was nice not waking up with post binge drinking anxiety…”did I seriously go out without underwear on, fall in a bar and show everyone my vadge?” Yes. Granted, it was a gay bar so they were unphased and were hitting on my boyfriend all night. Still, it did happen and I grossed them all out. Not sure what’s worse….turning on an entire bar of gross dudes or turning off an entire bar of grossed out, gay men. Either way, the boyfriend and I broke up within a week of that. We couldn’t survive that night.

Everyone loves me during the pandemic and is rooting for me all the time…except Trump supporters. I spent a good chunk of time vilifying them on social media up through the election and called them racists. They didn’t appreciate that. But, I would have done that drunk too. There just would have been a few more spelling mistakes. And, I might have given in and still slept with one of them if we had been hanging out at a bar. They LOVE the challenge of “turning” a woman to anything she says she doesn’t want to be. I learned that 8 years ago with a married man. The second I said I would never sleep with a married man is the moment he thought “challenge accepted” and pursued me like a hot mess.

Overall, I really, really like this me. I love my advocacy and civic engagement. I love my job more than ever. I love that my friends and family don’t have to worry about me at all. But there are some things I have had to do to manage myself. For one, I adore music. I get all the feels from music. After I listened to the Greg Dulli album for the first time, I realized the feelings were too intense to process when there was no light at the end of the tunnel for getting back to concerts.

My music also carries lots of flashbacks and reflections associated with specific time periods and people in my life. It’s painful to think about people I have lost and it was painful to think of people I loved and couldn’t see Indefinitely. Anytime I listened to music I felt overwhelmed so I stopped. The sheer fact I am writing tonight is because I accidentally opened Pandora’s box by listening to a live performance which popped up in my feed. I have now spent the last 3 hours listening to my favorite bands and watching clips of live performances. I am having so many feelings of sadness and longing right now. These feelings can be so intense they frighten me and make me worry I could slip into a depression very quickly. I am feeling that all right now.

I have loved 3 men in my life. 2 of them were decent relationships with good guys and we just didn’t work. One of them I am still friends with and cherish. The third was really, really messy and bad for me. I had dated him in high school when I was rebelling against always being a “good girl” and he showed up again 20 years later right after my dad had been diagnosed with cancer which completely gutted me. I didn’t want to be a good girl anymore. I was so tired of always doing the right thing and still ending up in pain. I was actively looking to be around people who would not hold me accountable. There he was.

He encouraged my recklessness and riskiness. My poor choices were turn ons for him. He liked to “win” at breaking me against my own rules. He is a deeply damaged person. Not his fault at all. But, he has never taken healthy steps to own his issues and improve himself. He needed the validation of breaking me down to behave at his level in order to feel good about himself. Despite all my drunkenness, I was fully aware of this dynamic. Still, I loved him so much. I saw through all that bullshit to the damaged little boy inside him. When he would let his guard down, he was devastatingly beautiful on the inside. He could be really cold and nasty to me. If he didn’t like something I said to defend myself, he’d just stop talking to me completely. We would never resolve anything. It got really ugly. Yet, if weeks later, I were in trouble an hour away from him at 1 am, he’d show up. No questions asked. No matter what horrible thing one of us had just recently done to the other, it only took one SOS text and he’d respond within a minute. He’d leave whatever he was doing and he’d be there. No one has ever shown up for me like that. No one. Not even once. I still madly, achingly love him if only for that one thing.

I have carried a good deal of resentment towards him over the years. In fairness, he has carried quite a bit of anger towards me as well and he’s justified in it. When I love, I can also deeply maim. I had done that to him. Despite that, we seem to check in on each other about once a year. I remember once being drunk, alone in a bar. I hadn’t talked to him in a year and the last things we said were nasty. I texted him “I am just so depressed.” I had no reason to expect a response. Although, he craves attention so I figured I would get one but that it would be a nasty continuation of what was last said. He’s big in rubbing my face in shit and shame and he is an attention whore. I was somewhat right. He did respond right away. He cannot control himself. But it was incredibly kind and supportive. I loved him intensely again in that moment. And then we didn’t talk again for another year.

Even still, when he does reach out to me, I have learned he is testing the waters to see if I will take him up on meeting for a drink. Translation, meeting up in Boston, doing shots and taking shots at each other until he switches to something really charming and makes me laugh which results in arrest worthy sex somewhere we shouldn’t be having sex. He wants to break me. I have resisted each time.

That doesn’t mean I don’t still care about him and how he is doing. I have had exponential growth over the years and sometimes wish he were proud of me for that. I miss our friendship and banter. I know he has not fared as well so I think about him from time to time. I reached out to him a couple weeks ago to see how he was doing. He literally responded within 5 minutes and the conversation immediately went to a drink conversation and a very sexy reference to a parking garage in Boston, I too, have never forgotten. But this time I told him I would love to meet up but am not drinking anymore. I also set my boundaries that I am not looking to hook up. At this time in my life, I am only entertaining serious relationships possibility. He seemed to interpret this as a proposal to him for a relationship which it most certainly wasn’t. I just didn’t want him going into this looking for his challenge and being disappointed that I really wasn’t open to it. I wasn’t playing. This somehow devolved into an ultimatum from him and I responded pretty strongly about my standards for myself.

No response. Typical. Hears something he doesn’t like and shuts me out entirely. I was going to just let it go but it bothered me. I reached out a week later to apologize if I had upset him. I then told him that if he is upset with me over something in the past that it’s ok, I will be accountable and am willing to talk about it which I never was in the past. I only asked that we then resolve it and not keep bringing it up every time we connect. I also stated that I cared about him as a person and was hoping we could cultivate our friendship in a respectful way. I did tell him I thought he liked challenging and breaking me as some kind of power or control and I wasn’t ok with that. But I also owned the fact all my past behaviors gave him a right to assume otherwise. I’m not lying when I tell you how much I have grown. I expressed that I was very proud of who I have become and that I now prefer to work through conflict, not ignore each other. Lastly, it would be polite if he would respond even if we don’t agree and that if he doesn’t then he must be confirming he didn’t ever actually see me as more of a person than simply a challenge.

Haven’t heard from him. So I overestimated how he viewed me or, he just cannot handle a woman who has boundaries, will call him out on his BS but still be able to love him. I don’t think anyone has ever really loved him. He literally married a chick he met at the beer stand of a Patriots game who flashed her tits at him. I know, not quite my type. I think they each served a purpose to one another but I don’t think he has ever been loved. He has been used and he used them. If I would let him use me now, I guarantee he’d be sitting on my couch tonight instead of me writing.

Why am I sharing all of this and what connections do all these things have with the pandemic? The pandemic makes it so easy for me to be a happy, peaceful chick who plants vegetables and bakes cookies on Sundays. The girl everyone wanted me to be, including me.

But all my chaos, addictions and adventure are still there. If I come out of this bubble, how long will it take before I drink and start putting myself in situations which make me want to drink? If I were sitting across from him having a drink, how many moments of charm before I gave in and banged the shit out of him? Because I’m still that girl who likes to bang the shit out of guys when the passion hits. I just haven’t had to encounter anyone because of quarantine. I worry I am just one mask less liaison away from a hotel room with a stranger.

I quit drinking a year and a half ago…the night I bought butts for no reason, I didn’t give up the butts during the quarantine. That girl is very much still here. I suddenly have the intense urge to be traveling again. I have started looking at trips, even if I need to make myself hold out another year.

Listening to music tonight has me aching for one of my shows right now where I “pretend” I have to find my friends in front of the stage which is how I get to front row and don’t really have any friends there. There is AlWAYS a guy meet up when doing this. We get drunk, we dance the whole night, sometimes even exchange numbers and see each other for a bit. I want my Fenway sausage after a House of Blues show which I usually only take 2 bites of before throwing it out the window on 93 at 2 am.

With my ex, we had code words and code songs. If he posted one in Facebook, it meant he was somewhere nearby and I had to get in the car and find him. If I checked into a bar with my friends, within an hour, he would suddenly be sitting at that bar waiting for me to secretly meet up with him by the bathroom and give him the key to my house where he’d wait for me to come home. It was sexy as hell to know he was watching me and to not tell my friends he was there. I really miss that and yet know not to let it happen again. Sometimes I wonder why. It’s not like holding out for a healthy relationship has actually ever yielded one. Additionally, even if I did score a healthy relationship, I’d still want those secret games. I have always lived two lives at the same time and I adore having those secrets with a lover. I feel most alive.

It’s intense right now…this sudden pull back to her. I thought I put her out like a cigarette. But she’s there. She wants a concert. She wants to play some games. She wants to draw a guy in and see how fast she can score. She wants some Blue Moon, some Battery Steel, a Devils Purse Kolsch. She wants to flirt with the devil because her good/evil dichotomy is what’s so mysterious and appealing about her. Seriously, men can not resist it. It’s so much fun. I just don’t like when I have to examine the behavior of the night before. That’s the downside I am trying to keep out of my life.

So, yeah. I legit have physical health fears about unleashing the masks and the unvaccinated. I worry about my mental health if I return to the office. The literal daily talk at work on that topic causes me daily anxiety. But worse than all of that is the anxiety of how to manage me when I can taste access to my old world. I woke up Sunday morning with that wanderlust and itching for a secret again.

Listening to Afghan Whigs tonight and while I write has awoken that “savior of misbehavior” they sing about. You can literally find a piece of my personality in every single song they have written. To know me, really know me is to listen to them. No other artist encapsulates me like they do. Listening to them tonight has completely aroused me towards my old life and what I want back. I’m also, admittedly, a little heartbroken that my dangerous love from that time period can’t adjust to the good me because I know the good me is actually really good for him. I keep thinking back to that time in High School when his parents met my dad at a college fair and gushed about how much they loved me, that he never dated anyone they liked or who might be good for him. They practically begged my dad to ensure I stay with him. I had completely forgotten about this until this week. But, he always wins. He’s my devil and if I’m upset about him winning right now, do I stand any chance against myself?