this is the part of the story where some of us hit the proverbial wall…
having now lived 44 days in fear of invisible spiky red-ringed viri that might or might not be lurking on the sides of my milk carton, having grown accustomed to wrapping my face in a variety of shmatas, having mastered the art of bleach spritzing, i think it’s fair to say we all know a thing or two about Life in Pandemic.
the trajectory, i submit, goes something like this: week 1, dizzying nausea at the prospect that we really truly are running low on toilet paper and, for the first time in our lives, we hold little chance of bringing in reinforcements; week 2, full-throttle determination that we will surrender to the new-found wonders of Zoom and the vernal explosions that must be teaching us lessons; week 3, a creeping sense that a calendar can get just as overbooked and exhausting by Zoom as in the Time Before Corona; weeks 4 through 6, a blur. which brings us crashingly to now, the thick of week 7 in which many many of us — for a host of reasons indecipherable and/or clear as the day is long — hit or are soon to hit the proverbial wall.
the signs are these: dinnertime is drowned in tears (note to self: you can omit the salt shaker on the table if the tears are profuse enough). you wake in the night because your left baby toe is throbbing (reason unclear; something to do with knots of nerves wedged between your tootsies, which has something to do with, ahem, aging) and that’s it for the night as a thrashing storm of what-ifs hurl through your noggin, and propel you from bed drenched in a glistening sweat.
all around this week i gathered up evidence to back up this half-baked notion of mine: my best friend in california went to bed the other night worried to death about rising temperatures and the too-real threat of wildfires, awoke to her mattress vibrating under her bum (it was an earthquake, not the latest in west-coast slumber device), and stumbled into the bathroom where she writes that she consoled herself with the somewhat comforting thought that “at least we’ll all die together.” (it might now be obvious why we’ve long been very best friends; we share a disaster-is-looming view of the world.)
she’s not the only one teetering on the pandemic brink. (for quick — and rare, here — current events commentary i might also submit that the present inhabitant of the white house, the one who last night suggested we all guzzle — or inject — lysol as cure for the red-ringed virus, he too might have succumbed to the pressures. but then again…)
even CNN’s media guru, brian stelter, admitted in print that he’d flat out hit the wall, after failing to send out his nightly roundup of all you need to know about news and the news biz.
it can get to be too much: the daily death count, the ever-extending shelter-at-home orders, the shelves that might never again hold toilet paper or lysol (and now that the president is urging ingestion thereof, it might be a public health boon to keep the lysol out of the hands of the american masses).
and, frankly, this is novel to all of us. some days i’m tempted to peek behind the budding leaves of the trees to see if maybe this is a movie set (not too many years ago in this leafy little town they filmed a horror film called “contagion,” and hordes of cute little kids from my then-first grader’s class were cast in roles that had them bleeding to death and being rushed from the schoolhouse on stretchers). maybe if we shake our heads wildly enough, we’ll awake and tumble back into our humdrum life of abundant TP and milk cartons that don’t beg to be run through the lysol bath.
truth is it hit me hard the other day when i found out a beautiful and glorious mom down the block had died, one month after being diagnosed with a cancer. she used to work with me at the tribune. she was one of the brilliant lights on the marketing side of the news biz. she was the mother of three magnificent girls, and she lived and breathed for those girls. they buried her yesterday, after a service held by Zoom.
i can’t shake the sadness of that, can’t stop thinking how the last month of her life — sheltering at home while dying of cancer — must have been unbearably suffocating. or maybe, i pray, there came a clarity — and a calm like my friend in her california bathroom who consoled herself — staring into the razor-sharp truth, holding tight to the few fine things that make it all matter.
some days these are impossible times. some days we can breathe again. some days we weep. and some day, i’m certain, we will once again be able to wash away the tears from the cheeks of the ones we love — from less than six feet away.
i won’t ask if you’ve hit the wall. i will only say that, if so, it’s the truth of the times in the age of pandemic, a subject on which we are now immediate experts.
Thank you, dear Barbara, for your authentic sharing with which I so resonate! I’ve had three meltdowns over our seven weeks, not characteristic of me at all. My spiritual practice of trying to stay in the present moment and be grateful works much better than fantasizing about future concerns. May it be so for all of us at your table. xo
the spiritual practice of meltdowns, an essay coming soon from you……
in the moment are the eddies of deep joy. if we can calm our breathing and heart rate…..
I just stumbled across you as I searched for a line from Wendell Berry. How beautiful — all that you write! I will visit again, soon. Blessings. Lynda in Durham, NC
i couldn’t be more delighted than to discover a kindred spirit has discovered the chair! and i especially love the wendell berry is what traced you to here. my heart melts. love that you grow heirlooms. i love heirlooms of all sorts: bulbs, recipes, kitchen treasures, stories…..
bless you and thank you for wandering by…..
Ah, you make me laugh and cry in the same paragraph and then, position ‘bathroom’ and ‘razor-sharp’ in the same sentence! Your writing and sharing of emotions are truly a balm, darling. I’m going out to buy Lysol now…..
promise me you will not pour that lysol into drinking glasses….
sending love across the miles and the wackiness. xoxoxox
I am holding hands with you. ❤
me too. xoxoxox
There are the “senders” and there are the ”receivers”…I tend to think the
hearts and psyches that circle the table are the emotional receivers who
resonate the deep feelings around them, blame themselves for experiencing
angst, not realizing they are helping to carry the burden and relieve the extent of malaise that would be there otherwise. That also holds true for joy
and solace… we have all known a good bit of both and are as capable of
absorbing and sharing the lightness of informed, health-filled thinking with each other ….there is a better day ahead… so keep the glass of Lysol six feet beyond your reach and empty out the junk drawer to make room for the
back to the ordered existence we seek. Is it Friday or Sunday????
your six-feet-away glass of lysol just made me laugh out loud. and i honestly can’t tell you most days what day it is. thank goodness i always seem to remember that friday is friday and thus chair day.
i do think we’ve a circle of receivers. and bless our receptivities…..hard as it sometimes makes it. i wouldn’t have it any other way.
bless you. xox
I hit a wall yesterday so I stayed in bed until 11am today. John brought me my morning tea and then the newspaper and then breakfast. Yesterday was hard for a bunch of reasons so today I am just hanging out gathering strength until I feel up to climbing over the wall.
sending love and strength, and deep gratitude for those who bring breakfast on trays. xoxoxoxox
hardly apropos of anything, i just saw this somewhat whimsical distraction, a suggestion that now is the time to READ your cookbooks, start to finish. in case that stirs anyone’s pot, here’s the link:
I’m reading Ruth Reichl’s COMFORT ME WITH APPLES right now. It’s a food memoir with some recipes. It’s a lovely distraction.
and anything by Nigel Slater makes me drool. right here i’ve got Notes from the Larder (even the title makes me hungry…..).