“…as long as I’m willing to live my own values, focus on the moment and shut the world out, it’s a life I can live with. The question, obviously, is how long that life is sustainable under the circumstances.”
-25 feb 2020
My pandemic began in earnest on March 5, 2020, when the doctor advised me that if I had any kind of infection, I would have to cancel the epidural spinal injection for my shoulder pain scheduled for the 13th. Without any hesitation, I collected my laptop and told my boss I would be working from home for the duration.
I’m still here.
Good thing I stuck with the plan, too, because elective procedures were cancelled on the following Monday the 16th when the Bay Area went full shelter-in-place. I haven’t had a pint in a pub, or an indoor restaurant meal, or a ride on public transit since. We did have a cheeky getaway to Santa Barbara to sit on a hotel room balcony for a couple days and dine alfresco during the September lull, in a drive fraught with care for bathroom stops and drink replenishment, but that’s been the extent of our travel. No Disneyland. No Nashville. No international trip on the books for the foreseeable future. Tahoe, cancelled. Two sets of Yosemite reservations, cancelled. March Madness and the Olympics and the entire minor league and college baseball seasons, cancelled.
My life has become a weird sort of cosplay of the kind of retirement I envisioned being able to have: a remote job, done from home at maybe 60% effort, rising later than I used to and wearing the same comfy AG flannel or work shirt over a slubby T every day and never wearing socks except to leave the house. My 48th year has been measured out in peanut butter & honey sandwiches, pitchers of iced tea and an ever changing assortment of background YouTube video, from mallwave collages to old U-Verse Showcase clips to walking through London to lo-fi big band music under rain effects. I went through a phase of buying every hat I’d ever wanted. I purchased three phones – two of them iPhones – in ten months. I eventually gave in and bought a Woodrow dulcimer and have played it more than I have all other instruments combined for a quarter-century.
It hasn’t been all bad. In fact, in most ways it hasn’t been bad at all. I’ve been spared the hassle of commuting, the indignity of having to schlep into a job that doesn’t seem to know it employs me, doing work that garners precious little attention and zero respect – but when you can walk out at will for a haircut or a Double Gulp or a bagel sandwich and not miss anything, who cares? I have used maybe three days of actual non-holiday PTO since this whole thing began, and as a result I have accumulated enough leave to actually go on vacation when the After is finally here, whatever that looks like.
And to be honest, it looks like Disneyland and London. Places we’ve been plenty, but places we love, and places with something new to explore – whether it’s Avengers Campus California at DCA or Ted Lasso territory in Richmond and the walk from Borough to Shoreditch. As much as it would be exciting to explore something new, there is a certain appeal to reconnecting with the missed known, to the things we’ve most mourned being parted from. I want to walk with my sweetie hand in hand up Main Street USA. I want to sit around a firepit with friends with a bucket of longnecks on ice and a bottle of bourbon. I want to sit upstairs on a train and watch the world passing by out the window. I want to step out of Paddington Station at the end of the Heathrow Express and into a black cab, with the breeze blowing through my linen blazer and my Rancourts comfy on the cobblestones.
I get why people want this to be over. I want it to be over. But it’s not over, and until people are willing to do what is necessary, it won’t be over. And that’s what America feels like in 2021: a huge group project where only a handful of people are actually doing their part of the assignment. And as long as that’s the case, it feels safer and saner to hang string lights on the office shelves, put Watched Walker or Nemo’s Dreamscapes full-screen on the iMac, pour a pint of local stout or even just plain warm decaf black coffee with a little stevia in it, and focus on the moment and shut out the world.
I guess it turns out that life is sustainable for at least a year, maybe longer, if that’s what it takes.