Far from “Fine”

I keep running into people virtually, typically in Zoom, and the social niceties are still playing out the way they’ve always played out. “How are you doing” people will ask, and I always say, “Fine.” Sometimes I say it with a bit more sarcasm. Sometimes I switch it up by saying, “I’m holding in there.” But the general gist doesn’t change: I say I’m doing okay, and we move on with whatever we’re meeting about.

But here’s the thing, people. I am far from “fine” these days. I’m not melting down or anything like that. I’m coping, for sure, but this whole mess is traumatic, and I want to make sure to acknowledge that, since I assume many many other people are in the same boat.

In the past month, I haven’t been in my car once. I’ve gone on walks on my road most days, seeing four or five cars during those walks. I’ve done plenty of things with my family, and I’ve done a slew of things online, but my entire life has blended together into one very long day.

I was on pretty stable ground before all of this happened, financially, emotionally, mentally, and physically. I’m still doing well on most points, but areas of particular concern all add up:

  • Financially, Denisa and I still are both as fully employed as we were before all of this started. Denisa is teaching all of her classes through to completion. I’m managing the library from home. However, there’s some uncertainty for the future. The university is under a ton of financial strain at the moment, and it’s hard not to think about all the “What ifs.” What if Denisa’s classes don’t carry in the fall? What if there are layoffs? What if classes are still remote in September?
  • Socially, I’ve discovered I rely much more on personal face-to-face interactions than I realized.
  • I used to be a person with a pretty long fuse. Yes, I’d lose my temper now and then, but it was a very rare thing. It’s not like I’ve turned into a monster now, but my fuse is much, much shorter. Small things irritate me far more than they have any right to. I’ll go from feeling fine to being really angry over some random thing someone asks me to do or some additional requirement I come across.
  • I’m definitely finding it harder to toe the line from a health perspective. I’m still exercising, but avoiding sugar kind of went out the window. (Easter didn’t help . . .) I’ve still managed to keep my weight from going up too much, but it’s something I need to focus on.
  • Even writing has been difficult, as I struggle to stay motivated and on track. I’ve worried about MURDER CASTLE getting pushed back or canceled (Hey! Remember I have a book coming out next year?), and sitting down to try and get the words to flow is much harder on some days than other. I’ve stuck to my 1,000 words/day schedule, but it takes more effort.
  • I worry for my kids and the experiences they are or are not happening. Social lives. Education. Future planning.

Overall, I just feel like my life has been paused for the past month, and I have no idea when it will resume, or what it will look like when it does. I’ve heard dates thrown around from May through 2021 or even 2022. That amount of uncertainty doesn’t help at all. I understand the desire to go back to “normal,” but until there’s a vaccine, I’m thinking more and more that there isn’t a “normal” to go back to.

I read an article this morning about how Singapore, the very model of everything America wants to do when it comes to going back to normal, just put the country on lockdown. Despite all its efforts to contain and control the virus, they weren’t able to do it. What efforts? Screening and quarantining all travelers from outside the country. Extensive contact tracing. Criminal charges for anyone who violates quarantine. Much more than I imagine Americans going along with willingly. (Some in Michigan are protesting loudly because people who aren’t part of a single household can’t gather, they can’t travel to second homes, stores are limiting the number of shoppers, prohibiting buying non-essential things like carpet and paint, and they can’t use motor boats or jet skis. Maybe it was the jet skis that pushed them over.)

Consider for a moment the fact that here we are looking at more than 2,000 deaths in our country per day, more than a month after Trump declared a national emergency. Most states of social distancing measures of one extent or another. It takes up to two weeks to show symptoms from the disease, and then it can take 3-6 weeks for the disease to run its course in severe cases. So if everyone who got it took two weeks to get it and then 6 weeks to get over it, then all of this should really subside in 8 weeks, yes? Though of course, some people come down with symptoms more quickly and have an outcome faster as well. Either way, we’re about 5 weeks into the time when it seemed like America was finally taking this seriously. I would have thought that by now we’d be seeing the number of deaths subside somewhat, but we’ve had record numbers the past two days. Here’s hoping the next two or three weeks really bring those numbers down.

But if they do, what do we do then? Your guess is as good as mine. I suppose it will turn into a long game of “how many people are we okay dying for us to go back to normal?” That’s not a game I’m in any hurry to play, though it appears many Republicans are looking for dice already.

I get that it’s complicated. I get that people are also dealing with terrible realities of unemployment, depression, abuse, malnutrition, exhaustion, and more. (Remember all the complaints I made to start this article off?) But as long as we keep sniping at each other and looking for people to blame, none of this is going to get any better. When the Titanic was sinking, what did it matter where the iceberg came from? And honestly, what did it matter what terrible decisions had been made about the life boats and the design of the ship? There will (hopefully) be plenty of time once the crisis is over for us to figure it all out. (And it ain’t gonna be that hard pointing to who made blunders . . .) For now, let’s just deal with what’s in front of us and figure out how to get through that as best we can.

And that’s all the time I have to discuss this today.


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