COVID-IARIES Day 30. It’s Been a Month.
Bobo and Beaversons are playing school/family right now, tearing through the house like excitable cats. Bobo is teaching Beaversons the songs she normally sings in kindergarten, and I ask you: WHERE IS THIS ENTHUSIASM ON ANY GIVEN SCHOOLDAY? On any given school day, she’s exhibiting a different kind of cat behavior: scratching at me when I hand her a worksheet, slinking away with a hurt look in her eyes when I gently put my arm around her and coax her to the work table.
The pee in this house just #can’tstopwon’tstop. I’m quite sure that’s NOT what that hashtag was invented for, but quarantine times call for serious co-opting of popular culture. See also: one million memes of parents slipping booze into their morning coffee, and Tweets about whether corporations receiving congressional bailout money should maybe just cut down on their avocado toast consumption to make ends meet.
This post was going to be scosh political, with a little privileged white lady indignation thrown in for good measure, but I stuck that draft back in the hopper for another day in favor of just coming here to slump in my chair, shovel scrambled eggs in my mouth, and try to conjure up something more… concrete. Or maybe helpful. Or funny…
The thing is: I got nothin’.
This is week four of this whole business and today I feel: nothing.
Last night Bobo woke up at about 10:45 and stumbled out into the living room where Mr. Burdy and I were finally, after three weeks, sitting down together, at the same time, in the same room, to watch a TV show. Bobo was completely naked, her slightly pudgy, pale self so utterly unexpected we had to stifle our giggles. She also seemed awake, but I could tell from the way she was laugh-mumbling and her red-rimmed eyes that she probably wasn’t. Mr. Burdy guided her back to bed, then did the usual groping around in the dark for puddles. Apparently, she’d mistaken the edge of her bed for the toilet AND decided to remove all her clothes afterward. She has absolutely no memory of it this morning.
It’s now routine for us to be up in the middle of the night tending to some sort of urine-related incident. It’s now routine for me to lay in bed for the first couple of minutes of the day while I plot out the next 24 hours of screen time and mealtime and have absolutely no idea what day of the month it is. It is now routine to have panicky feelings when thinking about going to the grocery store. It is now routine to hold my breath when I walk past joggers on the other side of the street. It is now routine to lay in bed at night and calculate what to make for breakfast, lunch, and dinner the following day using up the ingredients in the fridge in order of expiration WHILE making sure we’re all still eating healthily WHILE we’re trying to satisfy some deep, ancient need for comfort by way of digestive tract WHILE trying to keep our animal protein consumption down WHILE trying to be conscientious of how much plastic packaging we’re throwing away.
Yesterday I Googled “how to upcycle Tetra-paks” because my very white, very privileged children drink small boxes of coconut water daily and now I have a small army of empties standing up in a corner of my dining room because I cannot bear to throw them away. Another piece of fallout from this whole thing: buying brands of prepackaged food I don’t usually buy (for their long shelf life) and angsting about how much packaging we’re throwing away. I don’t want to risk exposure by traveling to Target to recycle my plastic bags at the moment, so they’re piling up in my garage, as is my #5 plastic, which I usually schlep to Whole Foods to recycle. Angsting, see also: rubber gloves being discarded willy-nilly all over the country. While I’m at it: why don’t we have a NATIONAL, COMPREHENSIVE recycling program in place so that I don’t have to literally USE GASOLINE AND EMIT CARBON to DRIVE my GARBAGE to a RETAIL ESTABLISHMENT to recycle?
Okay, maybe I do feel things this morning.
I guess what I came on here to say is that I’m trying not to feel hopeless, but it’s here, the hopelessness. I’m trying to stay grateful for what I have, which is so much (WE ARE THE LUCKY ONES), but, depending on the moment, that gratitude waxes and wanes. I’m trying to stay positive, focused, being present with my kids but… lets just say that none of those things are my strong suit and every single one of those things take a LOT of mental energy. If you know me in person, you’re probably thinking: YOU? Not bubbly and cheerful? But you’re so optimistic!
Yes, but that shit takes work.
Forty three years of it, to be specific.
When you work out at the gym, you scarf a protein bar afterward. When you do yard work at home, you collapse into a lawn chair and enjoy the sunlight and your newly-weeded view. When you’re quarantined, and you have to mentally work out every damned minute of the day- which we are doing– there are no Power Bars to cram into your gullet, no downy cushions to fall into. It’s just more of the same the next day. And the next. And the next. No breaks. Refueling right now is not an option. I read an article (there is some seriously good stuff out there right now that talks about this) about the cognitive dissonance that we all must hold in our bodies that is collectively exhausting us. Not only is the information coming out of the White House confusing at best and outrageously dangerous at worst (guess this IS going to be political after all), but there is this interminable sense that we just need to “hang in there” until this “passes”. Except nobody knows when it will pass. Certainty, as a concept, has left the building. The Buddhists among us are all, And now you see! Nothing is certain! Non-attachment is the way! *angelic smile, palms in prayer position*. The rest of us not exactly trained in letting go are, well, struggling. We’re trying to remain positive for our kids all while being anxious. We’re wiping down counters and being cautious all the while thinking: it could still happen to us. We’re sewing masks all the while thinking: we don’t know if this is going to help. We’re living in two universes, and that kind of mental split, well, it’s not unlike trying to write an email AND teach your children math at the same exact time. It’s exhausting. It’s also physically impossible.
We’re split. We’re dichotomized. It’s the twos that are going to need to die with this virus. Two is being teacher and executive assistant at the same time. Two is worrying without a social safety net and trying to be all boot-strappy and plucky at the same time. See also: cleaving in two, reducing by half, breaking.
It’s the threes that are going to save us. It’s being sad, optimistic, and having an overview of both. It’s realizing your luck in this life while being pissed you can’t have it slightly better while being angry as hell that most of the world has it FAR worse off than you. It’s seeing self, other, AND both at the same time. I don’t have any answers about how to get here. It’s going to take a major leap in human consciousness to sit with ALL there is all at once and not have our brains explode.
This is what I cling to when I can’t feel anything anymore: all I have is this moment. And then this one. And then this one. I’m cobbling together a support system for myself that is one part AA, one part Buddhism, a lot of New Agey Self Help, a little wisdom of the ancients, and some stuff I’d already already learned through surviving trauma. It’s one minute at a time. It’s one breath at a time. This is not the first challenge we’ve faced. Ultimately, we are resilient creatures, like all creatures on this planet, to which we are all tied, and from whom we cannot take and take and take without upsetting a balance that provides for all of us. We will eventually tell our stories. We will make this whole period of our lives storied. We will forage for truth, and we will share our findings. We will understand, even if just only a little better, how much better off we are when we live, bodily, like we are all in this together. We will see some of us are more in this together than not, that social distancing is actually a privilege, as is distance learning, and that long-standing inequity is the bedrock of our nation, this nation we were taught was “the greatest”. We will re-examine everything under the sun not as some leisurely philosophical exercise, but because the old way of doing things will not stand in a post-pandemic world. It might work for a while afterward, but it will bump and scrape along and there will finally be more people aware of its defects than not than ever before, and we will call on our collective creativity and empathy to work it out. We will recall the palpable nervousness in the air, we will mourn our dead, finally, and we will get on with the business of living.
But first we will all go clean up the pee in the kids’ bedroom.