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There's been a casualty - my mother's sanity.

Hello from me in isolation - how's everyone doing?  It's the first time I'm blogging whilst in quarantine - you'd think I have all the time in the world, but even I'm having trouble getting used to a routine that I have no choice but to conform to for the time being.

We are amid some very hard times, friends.  Very uncertain and very unsettling times.  I've taken several steps back from Facebook and only check my feed once or twice a day - all of the COVID-19 jokes are starting to become annoying.  I know humor is a popular and effective means of coping - I've used it on MANY occasions when I'd rather not cry.  But I've seen enough.  I don't watch the news....something said today won't be the same, tomorrow.  Everything is changing, and NOTHING is consistent.  We are on a lockdown, only allowed to leave our homes if the need arises for 'essentials.'  Even so, one must not dally about; it's right back home, after you've gotten whatever you need.  Local law enforcement has started to impose a $2000 fine for anyone caught out after a certain time of day - and they're not either coming home from or going to work.

Now, those of you who know me well know that I am by NO means a social butterfly.  I'll go out of my way to avoid large group settings, I'll sit by myself in the cafeteria or student center (when I'm actually able to go to classes) and I'd rather watch movies at home on a Saturday night.  I'm not into clubbing, partying, or drinking....my 'scene' is slow-paced, and yes, I've been told it's boring.  But, it's still my preference, as I believe that when I was created, I was meant to later become the poster child of an introvert.  There's no other explanation for it. :) 

Now, my mother is the complete opposite.  She's sixty-six years old and puts my ass to shame.  Seriously - you cannot have a ten-minute conversation with her without her phone going off at least a half-dozen times - and that's if she answers long enough to say, "I'll call you back!"  Granted, half the time, it's one of my sisters enlisting her babysitting services, but the rest of the calls are from her 'groups,' - that is, her various types of gatherings....the group of ladies that she goes into the city with every month to see a new Broadway show, the DIFFERENT group of equally as annoying female senior citizens that live in her retirement community that she has luncheons with every few weeks, or there's another group of women that all grew up on the same Brooklyn street fifty to sixty years ago that she insists upon reconnecting regularly with, and if they 'hit it off further,' planning vacations with.  I don't think my mother knows the name of ANY of my current friends, and the fact that I can identify hers by phone number is scary.

So, you can imagine how she's coping with having to stay indoors.  With my stepfather, too.  Now, don't get me wrong.  He's not a bad guy.  He's kind, he's compassionate, and he's very giving.  He's been a part of my life since I was five - and he's someone I'm honored to call my second father.  He just does. not. stop. talking.

My mother's terrible to him.  She'll tell him to shut up, and she'll dismiss him - the guy just likes to talk, he likes to converse, he likes being social.  She does too - just not with her husband. 

Anyway, she's decided to take on the project of dismantling family photo albums this week.  She's on lockdown, too...she COULD go to the store for grocery replenishment if she wanted to, but she is also convinced that because she's older and has diabetes and other underlying health issues that she's going to contract the Coronavirus before she makes it out of her own driveway.  We've all told her that she needs to not feed into the panic, mostly media-caused, and to just keep a safe distance and keep her hands clean - but she chooses to keep herself shielded completely by staying behind locked doors and has tasked my brother-in-law with bringing her weekly groceries and toilet paper, if any can be located.  

So, here we have a VERY bored Italian lady going through photos of us girls from when we were small.  A couple of times, she'd mistaken me for my youngest sister - and told my sister to ask her husband what he thought of a picture of me with my stepfather, thinking that it was actually my sister with HER father.  My sister, who works at a hospital, comes back with, "Um....Ma, that's not me."  She sends a photo of herself holding an infant me - with the date '1979' on the bottom of the polaroid.  "Who am I holding, here?' she asks.  I tell her that if we are to take the date written on the bottom as a clue, then that baby would be me.  She sent pictures of us wearing easter dresses and bonnets and Halloween costumes and vacation photos, pics of us with the family dog, until my middle sister got snippy and said, "Ma, it's 11:00pm....let's resume the picture sharing tomorrow."

And tomorrow - at this point, yesterday, arrived.  I was working on some classwork and she chimes in with a photo of me on an amusement park ride - it was the Swing ride - don't know what it's called - but it's the ride where you sit in a swing (among other swings) and like a carousel, it spins you around.  This was a pretty good picture, though, and you could only see my silhouette - the ride was in motion and I was swinging across a sunset.

"VERY nice shot," I told her, "too bad that moment will never be relived!"  I simply meant that my rump won't fit into that size swing anymore, but she seemingly was inspired to ask an entirely different question.

"Maybe not that same experience, but what would you do over if you could?"

It took me a few minutes to actually process her question.  My mother doesn't talk like that.  Granted, by now, she'd been talking a little cray-cray for a few days, already, but this was just WEIRD.

"It doesn't do any good to dwell on the what-if's," I told her.  Sure, there's plenty of shit I wish I could do-over.  Choices I'd love to un-make.  We all have them.  I just wasn't sharing those details with my mother; I'd made the decision not to many years ago.  I wasn't about to start now.

"There has to be something."

I scrambled for a bit, then said, "I guess I'd change who I married," and then added, "But I don't regret what came out of that marriage."

"Of course, not," she says, and then says, "My one regret was not forcing you to go to your first choice college."

More weirdness.  And to hear that her one regret is that she was unable to FORCE me to do something that I obviously didn't want to do - well, yeah, you can imagine how well this was sitting with me.  I knew already how manipulative my mother was and is - I just hadn't realized that she'd been criticizing and judging my choices for all of these years.  And that THIS, of all things, was something she was regretting at that very moment. It was just seeming so...unusual.   

"What are you talking about, Ma?"

"They offered you a scholarship and you turned them down because you didn't want to dorm.  And I listened to you - I let you go to the community college, instead.  Your life could have and would have unfolded differently had you gone to the private university."

"I didn't want to go to the other college," I insisted.  And I didn't.  Yes, it did have to do with the dorming.  I'd never been away from home and the idea of being far from family was unsettling - especially since back then, I STILL was not a social butterfly and being surrounded by people I didn't know was NOT a feeling that I was looking forward to.  This was pre-rape, so my reasons for self-isolation were more deafness-related than trauma-related.  And, ya know - she MAY be right - my life perhaps WOULD have unfolded had I not gone to the community college, but I stand by what I told her in the beginning of this conversation - it does NO GOOD to dwell on what could have been!

"I could have made you go," texts back my mother.  Wow.  Such confidence!

"No," I said, "I was just as stubborn back then as I am now.  You weren't going to win that battle."  (And I was getting pretty fucking pissed off at this point...I was THISCLOSE to texting one of my sisters and asking where the fuck her sanity had gone.)  I texted again, "Not going to that college is not one of my regrets."

"Okay," she says, quite obviously disappointed that I wasn't feeding into this idea any further.  "I'm glad."

"Isn't it what the Catholics believe, Ma?" I said, "that we're all born with a pre-destined script and that he has a plan for us all? And that before he sends us to Earth, we've also got an expiration date that only he knows, stamped across our ass?  Whatever happens to us in life is all for a reason?"

"Yes, it is!"  She says.  She probably was excited to hear me make a religious reference.  I wasn't about to engage into a debate on this because y'all know that while I believe in there being a God, I'm really not one to put much stock into the Catholic teachings.  I believe in karma.  Treat people well, with respect and kindness - and don't murder anyone regardless of how frustrated with them you may be - you should be fine if you keep these basic, common sense rules on how to be a decent human being in mind.  

Anyway - I told her I had a good life.  And I do.  I truly believe that while I've had some horrible shit happen to me that I'm never going to forget, I've experienced joy, I've got what I need, and I am, for the most part, healthy.  I think that there's truth to the idea that every single human being experiences some form of trauma within their lifetimes - trauma on multiple levels and scopes, and that some are more difficult to recover from than others - but still - we're all going to face struggles and trials and experience fear and despair - that's a given, no matter what.  I'm also inclined to believe that trudging through the bad times is what teaches us to embrace and appreciate the good times more.

Didn't mean to get philosophical, but perhaps this is what isolation does to me.  Hopefully having extra time to think and process (and write) is a harmless means of coping and that my sanity (or loss of) is not in danger of mirroring my mother's.  I don't know how long this lockdown is going to last, but I'm hoping that for the time being, I've seen the last of her deep questions.

Anyway, it's late - I'm seemingly back to turning in after at least 2:30 in the morning, given the shift in schedule and not having to wake up early for 8am classes.  I know - this isn't ideal at my age - or anyone's age, for that matter.  My body just refuses to try out that thing called 'uninterrupted sleep.'  I've heard of it, but it doesn't seem to apply to me.  Last night, I was in bed at three, didn't fall asleep until after four-thirty, then was up at seven - took me another hour and change just to FALL back asleep - (I wasn't getting outta bed, even though my body was urging me to...I won this battle, too) and finally, I threw the covers off a little bit after 11....  

That being said, I'm ready to see how long tonight takes.  

Be well, friends - keep washing your hands and adhering to social distancing recommendations.  I know it's hard and it sucks, but the longer people ignore the warnings and delay the containing of this bullshit virus, the longer it's going to be until we can all resume normalcy...I know that's preferred any day.  Hang in there and stay safe.

Sending those of you who want 'em virtual huggles.

- Capulet 

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