My friend Grace made this meme.
One day melts into another, the names of days have lost all meaning, except that I have a standing virtual happy hour date with friends on Fridays. That’s how I mark weeks now. My gray roots have taken over and are giving the orders. I welcome them as my new overlord. My fingernails are a shambley, peeling mess after decades of acrylic manicures. At the moment I’m so coffeed up that my eyeballs are vibrating because I’m using it to keep from going to the fridge…again. I have a jigger measure that lives on my counter to make sure the alcohol consumption doesn’t go too high, primarily for calories, because at this point drunk is fine. I don’t know how my friends are baking so much, if there was banana bread within reach it would be Cookie Monster mayhem realness up in here.
And that’s the good stuff. Businesses are on the verge or have already decided they won’t reopen. Everyone’s lost their jobs. It’s crushing. All the restaurants in my neighborhood are boarded up or newspapered from the inside. At first they just closed, then when we knew it was going to be months, they all went back to shore themselves up against break-ins. You can see tables still set up for service through the windows of the ones not covered, like Miss Havisham’s wedding breakfast. Who will survive and who won’t? And what does survival look like if we can’t sit next to each other? What about all the little mom and pop stores, the barber shops, the hair salons? I pray for each and every one of them as I walk past. I pray for my friends who worked so hard to build up their businesses, now shuttered. New York rents are brutal and most places have to pack people in on the weekends to survive from month to month. So how can a limited reopening keep them afloat?
The country is divided firmly in two. Now it’s masks vs. bareface and politicized and polarized. I try to mind my own beeswax when I’m out but it’s hard not to be irritated by the amount of city dwellers who just don’t seem to care. Most 20-somethings do not give a shit. I get it, I probably would have been similar. But it’s infuriating to my old lady sensibilities right now. I am not super worried about getting sick at this point, I’m pretty sure I’ve been exposed and my business partner thinks he and I had a mild version in January. But I wear the mask out of respect to first responders and on the off chance that I could inadvertently infect someone. And the longer this goes on the longer this goes on. So I cover my face like a good girl and grumble under my breath at those who don’t.
Mostly I try not to focus on too much except the day ahead of me. It’s stressful and pointless to fester about things I can’t control. If it weren’t for the first responders I would be of the opinion that it would be fine for people to do what they want and lower overpopulation. Survival of the fittest. Less pollution, less factory animal cruelty because less meat-eating, maybe some trees could come back, maybe some wildlife, maybe we’d get a better president. But that’s not too easy. We’re all tethered to one another by a virus. And who makes the cut? Beloved fathers? Grandmothers? Husbands, wives, children? And of course people of color are getting hit the hardest. Impossible.
Everything is annoying. I can’t watch my friends strum their acoustic guitars on instagram anymore. I love you, I love your music, I just can’t do it. And Facebook – people freaking out, conspiracy theories, panicky, album lists and those begging for attention reposts of “most people don’t read through posts so let’s see if…” Doesn’t matter; it’s all terrible. The word “plandemic” makes my eyes roll into the back of my head. I hate everything, including my own posts and opinions. Shut up, SHUT UP! Most of us are so spoiled. I posted a status update about being sad about seeing a man pulling bread from a garbage can and one person whinged about how the man is probably eating better than them and another one accused me of judging. I pulled it down after five minutes. I don’t need this irritation, I can get on my own damn nerves, thank you very much.
This sums it up, except without the luxury of smoking.
I feel for my friends who have kids, for the first time ever, after a lifetime of telling them not to have them and then doing the I told you so dance when they complained. Now they have all my sympathy. And support, albeit from a distance. Now I have an excuse not to gaze lovingly at your dumb baby but I promise to do my best to lend emotional support while you do.
And for the people who have lost people: the saddest part is that there’s no way to say goodbye, to celebrate the person’s life with other people who loved them. It’s an erasure of sorts. There was a funeral home here that got overrun and was keeping bodies piled up in non-refrigerated U-Hauls. Neighbors complained about the stench. It’s so sad for the families, for the funeral home, for everyone involved. Devastating.
But I remain grateful. I’ve got food, friends to talk to, a comfortable roof over my head. I thank my dog every day for being such a stellar quarantine wingman, even as I curse him out for being yappy and needy with boredom. He’s accustomed to getting attention and going places, so this is hard on him. The cat doesn’t care. He joins me happily for morning yoga and all snack forays, although I suspect he’s wondering when he can have his peaceful alone time back.
The big lesson for me, beyond, you know, everything, is to let people be. As soon as someone starts talking about a problem my gears shift into fix-it mode. It takes conscious effort for me to shut up and let people vent and work it out for themselves. Some of my friends are thriving and creating in the solitude and others not so much. It’s been interesting to observe. Some are spinning in a constant state of anxiety. A couple of mine are living like Charlie Bucket’s grandparents, spending days in bed in a depressed state, watching too much news and I suspect eating too much cheese. This is foreign to me (well, okay, not the cheese part); a childhood of extreme introversion prepared me well for self-quarantine. For the most part it feels natural and it’s hard for me to understand the inertia. I want to shout, in my mom’s most shrill go-out-and-play-voice, “Get out of bed! Take a walk around the block and get some fresh air! Take a shower!”
But I can’t. We all have to process this, for the most part, alone. No one can dictate anyone else’s experience. This is very much about the individual journey, even if there are other people in your house. So I remind myself to let people work it out for themselves, to be there if they want to talk, to check in and say hi but to keep my eyes on my own existential page. Which is getting messier and messier as the days get scratched into it, but it’s still in one piece. I hope the same goes for you.
That’s all I’ve got for you today. No new information or insight. Nothing hilarious, no rants. I’m just checking in from my own personal limbo and sending you all much love and light. I probably said this last time, but it bears repeating. I can’t wait to hug each one of you in person again.