Life in the future: quarantine, 2020
I had written something else, but it was too kitschy, too woo-woo even for my woo-woo ass, who believes that, every few years, when a ladybug lands on my arm (always the left, it seems to have been lately), that it's a sign from the Universe, God, and benevolent ancestors. I am interpreting this hard pause (stop?) on life as we have all known it as a collective offer from the Universe, to sit the fuck down and reassess, and considering the trajectory of my life, it feels like the conclusion of a personal trifecta of hard pauses (stops?). In that something else I wrote, I detailed my dark springtimes before this one, when things were harder than I could have ever imagined, and I felt like I was drowning, floating deeper into the twilight below. This dark Spring may be more of a collective dark, but I feel light---sometimes, even magic---throughout the chaos and uncertainty. I've reached a new space in my spiritual journey. I am proud of that, but I also know for many people, this time is not felt as a hard pause, but a destructive stop with losses mounting. A loss of income. A loss of security. A loss of food. A loss of strides hard fought for. For many, this time is scary as fuck. And I respect that and understand that. Leaning into what feels like death isn't an easy thing, even when you know you must.
Cooking every day is hard. The dishes, no matter how many times you wash them, pile right back up, and in a tiny, galley-style kitchen, there just isn't enough space. None of the "life hacks" people suggest---wash your dishes as you go! use the same cup all day!---really work when the thing you need is more time and less work. I am trying to parent effectively, and take time to read, and work on writing projects, and keep my children from screaming while their father works from home out of their room, and remember that I should probably eat something, and have I brushed my teeth today?, and get that pile of laundry off the couch while starting a new load, and talk to my toddler instead of offering him my frustrations when he grunts and yelps and rolls across the floor because he can't arrange a toy the way he wants to, and get up to wipe spit up because my infant spits up on everything, and water my plants and assess them for any issues or needs, and try not to be bothered by the fact that my face has broken out the worst that it has in my adulthood, and is it time for me to wash my hair again?, and it's time to turn on Sesame Street, and when's the last time the toddler ate?, and, and, and... Trying to find space in all that to actually take the time to plan a meal, prepare the ingredients for the meal, cook the meal, and clean up after the meal, is madness.
The other night I didn't have the bandwidth for cooking, and instead suggested we patronize a local business to offer our financial support to them instead of a large corporation that will likely be alright after all is said and done. We took a needed drive to our favorite taco spot. I'd called ahead to make sure they were open. Everything is different now, but I remember when you couldn't go to restaurants and stores late, so there's a familiarity to this, a memory floating back from childhood. While waiting in the drive-thru line, an employee walked out the side door. She looked sick as hell---her eyes looked drained and she had her hand on her chest. I found myself unable to take my eyes off of her every movement. This is typical for me, OG germophobe that I am, but in this time of COVID-19, it feels more harried, despondent. When I get back home, I ask everyone to bow their heads in prayer before we eat, and I bless the food. I haven't audibly prayed over my food since I was a kid.
I don't know how many days it's been since we've been home. Being inside hasn't been the thing that has made me feel a twinge of cabin fever, surprisingly. It's knowing that there's nothing I'm waiting on that has been a bit of a mindfuck. I don't have an excessively social life, and didn't before having kids either. I'm a social introvert who often finds herself without the opportunity to socialize in a way that refuels rather than drains. So, my day-to-day in quarantine doesn't look much different than it did before. But there's no feeling of waiting for the weekend, or waiting for the end of the day, or waiting for... anything. What is there to wait on? We have nothing but each present moment. There's some sort of cosmic humor in that.
I have never been more grateful to be an introvert, and also to have already lived a kind of death of everything you knew and thought you knew. I have seen so many people who seem to be losing it without the trappings of their typical lives---travel, brunch, big social gatherings, etc. The empath in me feels for them. It's not easy to have your life, your creature comforts, stripped from you. In lives powered by distraction, the silence of these new days is going to feel like a bullhorn to many people. I wish them strength, and the bravery to face themselves. And listen.
Funny enough, this period so far has been more social than my typical life. Maybe the issue with my old life wasn't that I lacked opportunities to socialize in a way that gave me energy, but that I was pursuing the wrong kinds of opportunities, the kinds that I'd intuited should be fulfilling, but actually are not. I've had middle of the day video chats with friends I normally don't communicate with in that way, and it's felt good. I'm notoriously anti-phone call, but I've had family members call me and I picked up without a second thought, and talking to them felt like trying on an old shoe that I hadn't put on in a minute. Once I stretched it out a little bit, it fit just like old times. So is it that I'm truly anti-phone call, or that the noise of my old life just created a staticky connection?
This is perfect beach weather. Except the beaches are closed, kind of. (I mean, how does man close something he ain't make? Anyway.) I've heard some cities have closed off parking in order to discourage people from congregating in groups on the shore. Trying to prevent the spread of this virus that has hijacked everything about this nascent Spring--our news cycle, our lives, our plans, our health. Even if we weren't living in the time of corona, I wouldn't want to meet up in a group anyway. I just want to walk along the cold sand, washed flat by the Atlantic, and feel the icy waves wash over my feet, and hear the thundering of the sea. I just want to smell the salt in the air and feel the sun crackling over my skin. I just want to be able to hear my thoughts.
this is what's been important the entire time---
the only meaningful currency is human interaction.
in the end (which is the beginning),
when there's nothing else,
all we have is each other.
that's not a cutesy, feel-good idea,
but stone-cold fact.
I mustn't forget that it's still Spring. Though the world is on pause (stop?), nature moves along. Pre-summer is loading in Florida, and the days we had just a month ago, before quarantines and stores with rows of empty shelves, when the air was cool enough during the day to open all the windows and leave the AC off, are gone, replaced by the creeping humidity and fat, black mosquitoes at dusk that signify summer soon come. Thanks to Daylight Saving Time, the mornings feel like afternoons, as the sun stretches long across the sky and I have to squint to see that there are clouds floating above.
All of my plants are sprouting new flowers and leaves. Every single one. Some of them haven't sprouted new leaves in months and months and now the new leaves unfurl easily, as though they were just waiting for the right Spring. My banana tree gives a couple new leaves a week---I love to look out and see them, tightly rolled up in the middle of the tree. They remind me of paper straws. When they unroll, they extend out like tropical fans. The tree is already my height, and there are three smaller trees growing beside the main one. My various pothos plants inside are extending their arms gracefully, draping vines of electric green, spade-shaped leaves across the tables and countertops they sit on. The basil I grew from a tiny biodegradable pot is thriving. I lean my nose close to it to get a whiff of its spicy clean aroma. The Schefflera I got as a clipping from my uncle is sprouting now too, after I over-zealously placed it in direct sunlight and almost burned it. My apartment is beginning to look like a tiny jungle. I want to have plants in every room and space of my home.
Even Ruby the rubber tree, my oldest plant, my formerly largest plant (the banana tree has outgrown her in just a few months), and the only named plant I have (it took her years to tell me her name, I'm in no rush) is in bloom. Every branch she has contains a new leaf, shrouded in its red sheath, waiting to emerge. There are sheaths popping up down on her bark where there hasn't been new activity in years (and where, I read, it shouldn't actually be possible for her to grow new leaves). The leaves waiting to emerge now look different, though---the sheaths that look like skinny red chili peppers are way longer than they typically are. They also seem more insistent---one leaf had barely finished opening up before another was there, waiting to deliver its bounty. I watch Ruby every day, waiting to see what new and different gifts she has in store for me. She, too, is ready to release her old way of being.