• Steph VanderMeulen


This morning I finally summoned the courage to venture out into Pandemic World, to the bank. I have an American cheque I can't deposit by phone or bank machine. The client sent it three months late, and it's been stressing me out on my coffee table for two weeks now.

I have been quarantined since the beginning, except for going for walks, so I actually felt nervous. But I made sure I had my hand sanitizer and put it on before I went out and when I went to pull on the bank door—only to find it locked.

Cursing the (ex-)client's lamentable timing, I got back in my car, rage-squirted Beach Alpaca Towel (??) hand sanitizer on again, shoved the key in the ignition, and freaking blasted Metallica's S&M album all the way home.

Never mind that I should have checked what time the bank opens now. I finally went, and it was closed and I was pissed. And with all that rock 'n' roll/symphonic energy fuelling the fire, the only thing I felt like doing when I got home was running. Walking didn't feel angry enough. And I didn't want to calm down.

Ever since COVID-19 began, my emotions have been making me act like a hose that's been turned on full blast and let go. (Usually that's just a description of my thoughts.) I've done some pretty uncharacteristic things. For one thing, I haven't run in so long I don't remember the last time I did it. So it was likely inadvisable to suit up and bust out the door guns blazing.

Somehow, though, I managed for four songs off of Radio Company's awesome first album (14.12 minutes!! How?!) and then speed-walked the rest of the way.

Five minutes from home, lungs feeling like I could spit blood, I started to cry.

A few days ago when I was doing a workout, too, I started crying at the end. This weird business isn't just because the exercise is hard, either. It's all-out emotional sobbing, with snot. When I was growing up, we had this kid who cried all the time in class. The teacher called him Taps. That's me now. I'm Taps. I haven't blubbered like this since my dog died. Exercise is moving more than just my lymph around, apparently.

In the shower, still crying, I tried to sort out what the hell is going on with me. Stress? Hormones? Being an empath? Feeling trapped? Frustration? Rage? Loneliness? All of the above?

I'm normally not a cryer. If I so much as tear up watching TV with my husband, I feel mortified and choke that shit down. "I"m concerned about you," a friend said to me this afternoon. "This isn't your normal behaviour, this crying. It's like a breakdown or some shit."

Sigh. Maybe? It's a weird breakdown, though. I mean, an especially excited coronavirus hits like a nuke and scarily changes the world, and all of a sudden I'm writing, exercising, eating properly, cathartically crying, and wondering if maybe I should have had kids after all.

I always wondered what colossal thing it would take to get me out of my yearslong rut. Turns out a global pandemic. Whereas I couldn't get my ass off the couch most days, now I'm outside moving and/or on my yoga mat daily. Whereas I haven't been able to write a single thing in months, now I'm blogging. I loathe the phone and I'm calling people I've put off contacting since Christmas. I've been showering every morning and I have a skincare routine. Whereas boxes of Halloween candy and then some were my staple for four months, now I'm eating salad every day with chickpeas I roasted. My daydreams have been just that—daydreams—for eons, but last week I woke up brave enough to call them goals.

And whereas all of my life I've wanted to barf like a kid at the very mention of the words "pregnant" and "birth" and have been adamant about not having kids, citing no biological clock and zero urge and happily calling myself childfree, here I am now genuinely wondering, Shit, should I have had children? Get this: I even read and watched @nowandgen's birthing stories and wasn't even horrified. In fact, the complete opposite.

This whole kids shocker is for another day. I don't even know if it's real. Maybe it's just that I'm seeing a lot of really beautiful family moments these days and feeling nostalgic about my parents and three sisters. Maybe it's because our budgies, Pip and Peeps, are twitterpated right now. Hell, maybe I'm just really missing my dog. Lucy completely changed me, and for 15 years, I really felt like I was a mom. Life's been, well, different with her gone.

Probably, a big part of this has to do with that aforementioned midlife crisis that's just happening to coincide with this totally nutty time.

On top of genuinely worrying about my family and friends and total strangers (especially all those who are still working, but also especially parents home with their kids 24/7) and how they're feeling right now, I seem to have also awakened and climbed out of a deep hole and, squinting, am now asking, Who am I? What do I want? And why the hell am I crying?

When I was writing stories, I would know when I hit the jackpot of good writing when I got choked up. Not necessarily about the content, but even just the business of putting the right words together to evoke what I wanted. Those moments—that's when you know you've nailed the truth.

So I guess now, when I suddenly start crying for real "out of the blue," I need to pay close attention to what truth is emerging. Whether it's a song, a scene in a movie, a sweet moment between a parent and their kid, a workout that shifts all my energy, or nothing in particular at all—whatever it is that instigates these abnormally (for me) dramatic waterworks, something truly significant lies underneath.

Maybe therein lies my answer to who I am now?

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