A year in my nervous system

Inspired by an episode of the On Being podcast called “What’s Happening in Our Nervous Systems?”, here is the description of that episode:

“The light at the end of the COVID tunnel is tenuously appearing — yet many of us feel as exhausted as at any time in the past year. Memory problems; short fuses; fractured productivity; sudden drops into despair. We’re at once excited and unnerved by the prospect of life opening up again. Clinical psychologist Christine Runyan explains the physiological effects of a year of pandemic and social isolation — what’s happened at the level of stress response and nervous system, the literal mind-body connection. And she offers simple strategies to regain our fullest capacities for the world ahead.”

So, how has it been in my particular nervous system? How does one summarize. One cannot. I look back on pictures from the past year, from this very day last year and how can I describe. Where do I begin, how. There is no beginning, only here and there and endless circling. Now and then, what do tenses even mean when the act of being tense becomes a noun of tension – a state lasting over a year. I’m overwhelmed by the beauty of a bud on the tree in my backyard, a picture I took a year ago today and wonder how many buds, how many trees would I need to count all the lives lost between then and now? I see the pictures I took of my 13 younger cousins all sitting together making funny faces at our family Christmas last year in early February – the before times. The pictures of my pink hair, just days before lockdown. Details details details, so many how can you choose? They all jump vividly into my throat with a tingle of something. I’ve captured so much, but even that word I don’t like. Witnessed. Been with. All of it is incredibly priceless and important. I can’t conjure the words to share what I’m experiencing as I am, or after, experiencing it.

Where to begin when there is no beginning, you will always be thrown in the middle, in the movement of living and relating and processing and coping and laughing and despairing. Too clinical or vague? There are a thousand things I associate with ‘living.” When I include each of those words, there are at least five stories, at least 10 memories, maybe pictures, infinite moments, reactions and connections unique to me, but that could mean something similar or bring up something else, for you. Or whoever this is for right now – maybe just me. When I say ‘relating,’ I want the associations I’m thinking of to all bloom in front of you like a bouquet of wildflowers so that you may briefly get a chance to see, hear, feel, smell what I actually mean when I include that word, or any other.   

This could be a part 1 of… hundreds. It is so challenging for me to actually write what I mean. And even that is… not exactly what I am trying to get across. I’m letting it be whatever it is, and my nervous system is, I think, glad to just share something.

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