During The ‘Rona, I have one option to survive emotionally.
My “Get Through the Day” mantra has faced constant readjustment in these days of isolation.
Every day, standards of behavior and expectation must be whittled down to realistic degrees, the lowest of which are never low enough. Four and a half months into this, my mommy and womanhood have been reduced to only basic fundamentals of human existence and species success. Draw breath. Repeat.
When this is all over, I imagine I will feel as the wasted carcass of a female salmon, having swum rivers and seas, returned to her birthplace and spewed her fertilized ova, dutifully passed her baton to the next generation, her last act to embrace the welcoming darkness and surrender her body to the bottomfeeders. Oh I do relate.
I started this piece 25 different times. My pieces get more responses if they have an adequate element of humor. And I do feel upbeat in spurts. Mostly, I just feel like a reservoir of failure in the Olympics of Coping that is Covid-19.
This is one of my original, “funny” intros:
“My expectations have not been low enough. I realize that now and take full responsibility.
Honestly, I should have known better. I’ve been through my share o’ the shit. I’m a democrat in Texas. I’m a woman. Trump is the fucking president.
So, when a situation presents itself in which the fates of all of us intertwine and we must look to one another to overcome, it’s best to stock up on mood stabilizers and fantasy novels.
Covid is no different.
It is good to take these global illnesses that result in the death of millions and massive economic plunges to reevaluate things, see where you could have made better decisions, and improve strategies for what is coming down the firehose.”
And then I pivoted to an assessment of my evolving response as the necessary, short-term quarantine unraveled into a life-defining sabbatical:
“In the beginning, I was so naive! SMDH, for reals. There is no better time to have the lowest expectations possible than living in a Red State during a crisis in which adequate governance is required to stave off complete and utter disaster. That’s Lesson #1, really.
I figured we’d just hunker down for a few weeks, bonding and baking, appreciating simple normalcies and be back in action in time for pool season!
So, a few weeks before everyone else (I read international news on the regular), I went to Costco and all the stores and prepped. For the panic. I expected the ensuing run on grocery items — though The Great Toilet Paper Grab of 2020 raised my brows — and was very smug as my pantry filled before everyone else’s. Plotting my comfort-food-cooking bonanza, I casually settled in with the fam for a virus-induced, much-needed vacay from the Outside World.
Oh, the Outside World. I miss you, boo.
What a Pandemic Baby I was those four months ago! A NEOPHYTE!! Hope-filled, I had good assumptions about waistline maintenance and my neighbors’ behavior during Life With Covid.”
Then I decided to conclude the piece with humorous how-to’s and mindsets I’ve settled on to get me through the moments between sleeps:
- “‘Just do your best’ has become, ‘Just do the goddamnfuckingfuckitallhorseshitpainintheassihatelifethissuckshugedonkyballsserenitynow bare minimum.’ NEXT DAY: same. NEXT DAY: same.
- I’m going to start writing drunk. As I said in my piece, ‘The World is About to Pop,’ I’ve gone from ‘Get through the day’ to ‘We could die tomorrow.’ Yes, alcohol lubricates the intellect (I’ve known this for decades and happily applied it to exams in German class), but I HAD BEEN trying to apply a modicum of professionalism to my craft. Nicht mehr! Welcome to my version of the Coronacoaster! Doesn’t matter if you buckle up or not because no one is getting off unscathed. Does anyone know a tattoo artist who makes home visits and takes payment in flavored meats?
- Dammit if I haven’t gone against every fiber in my being, turning my back on all that I stood for during my Austin days, and made peace with Kidsbop. I disgust myself. Please feel free to mock me in public if that ever exists again.
- Buy pants with expanding waistlines. Buy more of those pants.
- No longer will I beat myself up over my Pavlovian elation generated by an Amazon truck approaching my house (or the extreme desolation when it passes by without slowing)— the engine idling — my nose pressed against the window as the dopamine surges and my mind races in anticipation of remembering what in the hell I might have ordered the other night after guzzling ???how many??? slim, perfectly-green cans of Bud Light Lime. Self-flagellation over contributing to Jeff Bezos’s disgusting economic pillaging and wanting to dry-hump the delivery person’s leg can wait. **Apparently, I have a penchant for embroidered, accent-pillow shams when I’m buzzing.
- My idea of the best Saturday night is wiggling in a lawn chair to some beach music while swishing my feet in the cool waters of a pink, hard-plastic baby pool. My kids have spent all day in their underwear and their hair is somewhere between Mowgli and ‘Lord of the Flies.’
- The kids are being raised by electronics. It’s possible (likely) they’re being raised by strangers on the other end of electronic platforms. Pre-Covid, I’d be freaking out. Now I’m just kinda thankful for those thoughtful sweeties. I tell everyone I know, ‘We can fix it later. Just stay alive now.’ They look at me like I have lost the plot. I’m sure I have.
- In an effort not to have my faith in humanity completely, totally, and absolutely snuffed, I watch videos of random animal rescues by do-gooder passersby. It works for a time.”
Just the right amount of humor and realism, right? Just THE recipe for another suburban mom to relate to and feel a teeny better. That’s my goal, pretty much.
As, we go on, I feel deflated that I can’t deliver that on a platter and help everyone pass a few secs in the sunshine of a smile. All my pieces are written, deleted, re-written as I try to capture the moment without unleashing the dark clouds inside me. Too late.
The central commandment of Covid is that moms of children who are not self-sufficient have way less time. Moms who don’t live near family have way, way less time. Moms who have partners who can’t or don’t participate in the caretaking of the children and household have way, way, way less time. And moms with no partners at all are probably eyeing starting the minivan in a closed garage.
I dread the start of school with the bile of a thousand bogs and I watch the vast majority of people I know end their isolation because it’s just fucking untenable.
You might not know it, but I’m not ENTIRELY despondent.
I got a puppy. My kids are hella awesome. I’m a damn good cook. There are pretty flowers in my garden. Women are writing phenomenal books to read. A neighbor brought us the best homemade cinnamon rolls on the freaking planet yesterday. My family on the other end of the phone gives me oxygen infusions. And I have a few fleece button-downs that are like wearing a hug.
To an extent, I feel like I have a little bit of an emotional immunity because — over the last few years — my husband and I have been on the business end of a rapid-fire, acidic-lemon-blasting bazooka, courtesy of life as a human. I don’t feel the same entitlement toward privileges most middle-class families enjoy and refuse to go without even in pandemic days. We SHOULD all be staying home and staying safe.
My entire life has been spent bouncing back and forth between conscientious acknowledgment that my family is vastly more privileged than most and yet has faced professional, social, medical, and financial tumult like I never imagined. White kids grow up in a world where good decisions make for happy endings, but life/adulthood/reality can be a bastard. There’s a much more insidious world waiting, especially for those darker complected.
So, fuck it. This piece will be the bare minimum. A reflection of something you can’t even call bipolar because I emotionally loiter near only one pole. I vacillate between depressed and less-depressed. Numb and fucking numb.
I have decided to try something new, though. And I plan to write about that next. Maybe I’ll be a little less depressed. A little less numb. Just the bare minum.