It's been a minute, hasn't it? Seems like only a decade ago I was posting silly diet tips in an attempt to move the ol' blog in some direction that wasn't entirely book related. Wait, that was only a year ago?
2020 was one hell of a year, but I can't see any indication that 2021 is going to be anything less than a zillion times worse. That I didn't once drag out the computer and make any posts commenting on the state of the world since last February is telling in its own way. It isn't that I didn't have anything to say, but rather that I didn't have a drop of energy left to spend on anything long form. Truth be told, I still don't. But I think it's time to look back on the last year or so and talk a bit about where I was and what I was dealing with at what point in this unprecedented timeline from hell. I can't guarantee any of this will make sense and I sure as hell ain't going into it with any hopeful optimism about the future, so if you're looking for a positive spin on things, look away. I'm gonna get dark.
So let's begin a little while prior to my last post. At the end of 2019, I had a goal to improve my own quality of life. Originally, what that meant was I was going to upgrade my economical IKEA furniture to some mid-range IKEA furniture, buy a Dyson vacuum cleaner, and a Cuisinart food processor. By about the middle of January (with only the Cuisinart acquired), we realized that nicer furniture wasn't going to fix the fact that we'd been ignoring for a long time: that our house, which we'd spent more than a decade improving and whose kitchen we'd only just remodeled, was never going to be the fit we wanted it to be, and it was time to start looking for a new one.
Finding a new home became something of an obsession. I started joking around that if we expected to sell our house, we had to jam it full of ridiculous home decor items that needlessly pointed out what room we were in or gave very terrible advice about living, loving, and laughing. I took this picture in a Home Goods on February 27th because it cracked me up that we had seen the same silly sign explaining that the kitchen was where we "cook" in a DR Horton home we had toured a week before.
I had no idea this would be the last time I would casually snap a goofy picture while out browsing at a store with no purpose. Nor did I have any way of knowing that this list of things I needed to pick up while out, written on the fridge and snapped the day before, would prolonged the unfortunate inevitable.
It wasn't until March that suddenly this vague notion of some new virus making its way through some vague place half a world away would suddenly become not only real, but real enough to shut down seemingly the entire world. On March 17th, after work had announced that we'd be reducing our hours and I had started wearing gloves as a safety precaution (masks weren't allowed yet), I stopped at a grocery store. I'd heard from coworkers that toilet paper was scarce. I didn't really care since I'd just bought my normal 18 roll pack from Target not long before (and I usually consider us "running out" when we're down to about 6 rolls), but I was worried that we didn't have many pantry staples (due in part to my efforts to eat more whole and therefore more perishable foods). I wasn't prepared for what I saw.
I can't remember if I was able to get pasta*, but I remember spending nearly $200 and coming to the realization that I was not immune to panic buying. This would be the second to last time I would step foot in a Kroger until November and the last time I did so without a mask. Not long after that, my employer closed the building to customers and went, like many other retailers, to a pick up only model. This lasted for a few days before we were mandated to shut down by the local government. I consider myself lucky that I work for a company that continued paying us for several weeks after the shut down, but we ended up closed for almost exactly 2 months.
Funny, the first thing people asked me when we returned to work was how many books I'd written in lockdown. I wish I could say I used that time productively, but well, this was when the reality of the situation really began to set in. To paraphrase a tweet I'd seen: It's a pandemic, not a productivity competition.
We put our house selling plans on hold, though I would continue to spend all of my mornings looking at realtor.com, only now I was trying to see if homes were selling and if so, how long they were on the market. In the afternoon, I would exercise. In the evening, I would do something I hadn't done in over a decade: I would watch TV. We watched The Twilight Zone and Star Trek, the Next Generation because we're nostalgic Gen Xers. I introduced my husband to Twin Peaks because I'm a nostalgic Gen Xer who doesn't get to share new things with others often. We discovered that Avatar, the Last Airbender and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power are the best shows ever made and ended up watching those (at least**) twice.
And then, one day in early April, a slight panic set in. We were critically low on toilet paper. Neither Target nor Kroger (the only two stores we were shopping at because they had their own, simple to use curbside options) had any available. A trip into a small organic grocer yielded me this:
Fortunately, I was able to get a slightly over priced but humongous order of toilet paper from Amazon (yeah, I know***) that got me through the first wave of outages, but I have to now admit, as I write, I have a full 18 roll package in my closet and a few rolls of the previous package left, and I have to stop myself from placing an order for more. And I have to acknowledge that as humorous as that sounds, it is literally a trauma response and at some point we're all going to have to face the fact that Covid-19 has done perhaps as much damage to our collective psyche as our physical well-being.
By May I was beginning to panic for yet a different reason. We were told our benefits would be covered for another 30 days (we were officially furloughed and were not being paid by the company at this time). I needed dental surgery. I'd needed dental surgery since October of 2019, but I'd planned to have it in 2020 because I'd purchased a better insurance plan. I was waiting for cases to go down before I went to the dentist.
I'm still waiting.
Aside from a single tele-health appointment with my doctor after potential exposure to Covid in July, I haven't had any medical appointments in going on a year and a half. For someone who has had blood work done twice a year for the last 13, this is kind of not good and I'm now dreading what my eventual visit is going to let me know.
At the end of May, I was called back to work. The store was still closed, but curbside pickup had resumed a couple weeks prior. We would continue this for only one more week before it was announced we were opening the store to the public, as was now allowed under the rules set forth by the governor's office.
This was the beginning of the realization that what I'd already thought was a complete nightmare of a disaster, hadn't even begun.
I'd spent two months in my house, only picking up essentials from the safety of my car and always masked while doing so, watching neighbors who had previously barely had company entertain guests on a near daily basis. I watched reports of people gathering in large groups and realized that for the most part, people took the lockdown as a vacation. No one socially distanced. And when things began to open up, they took that as an opportunity to "get out of the house" because apparently defying lockdown to have wine parties with friends wasn't bad enough.
Work became a source of anxiety. Even after we finally adopted a masks required policy, it was clear people weren't going to follow. By mid-summer, we were flattening the curve, but on the vertical, rather than horizontal. Cases skyrocketed. Deaths were on the rise. And despite the very real data telling people to wear a mask and stay home and this could all be over, people wouldn't.
But I did. I stayed home. I went to work, but I went to work in layered masks, with safety glasses, a face shield, and gloves. I still avoid touching any public surface and if I do, I wash my hands as soon as possible. I still double mask. I hate doing it, but I do it because I have to. Because I have managed to avoid contracting a virus that has the potential to kill me despite working in an environment that puts me within 2 feet of people who don't care and can't see that this isn't about them.
Yes, that is the part of all of this that makes my blood boil. That those who deny the science or aren't afraid of the potential consequences cannot see that this isn't about them. That people won't wear a mask for 15 minutes in a store on the off chance that they're carrying a virus that might be doing absolutely nothing to them, but might actually kill someone they come into contact with. That even worse, there are people out there who take violent and visceral pleasure in walking around maskless and watching the reactions of those of us who do care.
That people are okay enough with the murder of a half a million people, or worse, feel that those deaths are "essential" for our economic stability, is obscene. By the way, none of this is hyperbole. The vast majority of these deaths were not only preventable, but due directly to people who deliberately defied basic recommendations because they felt their supposed rights were more important than the lives of others. Or they weren't going to "stop living out of fear."
But here's the very fucked up thing about that. We live in a world of convenience. We can all stay home and have anything we need delivered to our door. We have social media, streaming media, Facetime, Zoom, and all sorts of ways to stay connected with each other, and yet, people could not stay home.
I get it. I miss doing things too. I miss seeing bands and having beers with friends. But I don't miss them enough to risk potentially killing the person sitting at the next table because I might be asymptomatic and they might have an autoimmune disorder. And I could have easily missed doing them for a few months if it meant eradicating the virus. I was willing to put my life on hold for a little while.
But apparently, mine is an unpopular view.
My life is still on hold because the majority of other people refused to have a sliver of empathy.
In August, my grandmother passed away. Being in Texas, I was unable to travel to New York for the funereal. It was upsetting, but I couldn't risk flying, and made peace with the fact that I could watch the live stream. Literally days later I discovered people were flying to take Disney vacations. Not only that, but they were posting hints on social media that if you always have a drink in hand, you weren't obligated to wear a mask on your flight. I can't begin to express how angry this makes me.
We need to strike "avoid things like the plague" from our vocabulary because clearly, we are unable to avoid the plague when options to do so are readily available.
And to think, while all this was going on, we had cops killing black people for literally no reason, people protesting those deaths being assaulted, while white supremacists marching unopposed through the streets (maskless, of course).
We're at the fall now, and I have to admit, I stopped writing this for a few days because it's not easy to look back and we're nowhere near far enough removed to look objectively. In the fall, we finally sold our house. It was the right step, but we're now in something of a limbo in that we know we'll eventually get something that suits our needs, but we can't at the moment for a number of reasons, most of which are directly or indirectly because of the ongoing pandemic.
At this time, I was cautiously looking forward to the election, but avoiding the news because I'd had enough trauma and to be frank, a lot of us were worried that the election results would be ignored by the current administration. It sickens me that not only were we correct, but that this led to the failed coup by American terrorists who have yet to see any repercussions for their actions, and a whole host of other injustices of which we have not even scratched the surface.
Cases, of course, skyrocketed again, thanks to the holidays.
In January, despite all odds, science had started to prevail. Double masking, something which people had previously seen me and a handful of others doing as an over the top action, began to be recommended by the CDC. Fortunately for me, I've seen a lot more people doing just this now. Unfortunately for me, I've now seen the science deniers push back even harder, going so far as to walk through stores fake coughing for laughs.
And sadly, in January, on the 21st, we said goodbye to this little goofball.
Sally was 14, lived a good, happy life, though she had to share our attention with her brother and sister for the first decade of life, a fact which she likely never forgave us for. I can only hope we fed her enough treats and allowed her to skip enough baths to make up for it.
As I write this, we are still, for the first time since becoming household, pet free. It's quiet, cleanish, and I hate it. It's going to change just as soon as circumstances allow.
Despite all of the atrocities, I was beginning to finally have hope for things finally turning around. The vaccine rollout had started to ramp up and quite a few of my coworkers had begun getting their shots. We've just had another approved here in the states and there are apparently many millions of doses on the way.
And yet, despite this, people continue to do as they please, not staying home, not distancing, and not masking. Predictions are now stating that wearing a mask indoors will be something we will be doing well into 2022. Personally, I'm not certain I'll ever feel safe without one again and I'm not alone.
I told you this was dark. It may be public, but for me, for now, this is more of a journal entry that I had to make. I had to purge my anger and frustration over the mismanagement of more than a year of our lives, over the senseless and needless deaths of half a million people.
I didn't write this to prove a point or teach a lesson, but if you're reading, maybe take a moment to really think about things. Think about how many people have died. Think about the marginalized disabled people who have actually had it a hell of a lot worse because they are the ones at the highest risk, but least accommodated, any time you want to go back to your "normal" life or worse, want to claim you have a "medical exception" to wearing a mask. I have worn three masks and a face shield while running up and down stairs in the height of the Texas summer last year and I can assure you, I am not even close to physically fit. I survived. A little sweatier than usual, but I survived.
And I haven't, knock on all the wood, contracted covid yet, despite working closely with several folks who have. What this tells me is the measures I'm taking work. And that in itself is enough to keep the FOMO**** at bay.
*Thanks to the magic of the Kroger app, no, we did not get any pasta.
**Season 3 Avatar episode The Beach gets watched quite often because it is a masterpiece.
***Due to widely known problems that Amazon employees have faced during the pandemic, I had really tried to stick to my no Amazon until things change policy. I am fortunate that I only had to get the one order.****Fear Of Missing Out, for those of you less in the loop than myself.
I was not aware you lived in Texas. Oy! I can only imagine what it was like. Here in the boonies of Western New York, in a county that cast 2 out of every 3 votes for tRump in 2016, in which you couldn't drive two blocks in the village or half a mile in the country without seeing a tRump flag---people were still smart enough to wear masks in the local stores. (At least here in the village of Westfield, where they were shamed out if they didn't and decided to go to Jamestown instead). Since I had worked in healthcare I knew what was likely to happen, so we've been self-isolating since the last week of February 2020. It hasn't been easy, but at least we were living in a state where some sanity prevailed. Hang in there, Christina.ReplyDelete
You say it perfectly! Hopefully enough people will get vaccinated to get us to an end point for all the restrictions. But that is a distance down the road. You are a treasure...as Grandma Frances used to say.ReplyDelete