Tag Archives: covid

How none of it seems to end

The list of things imposing misery right now is quite long. Ukraine is never far from mind. For many of my friends, Russia’s atrocities are personal.

Things I’ve heard in the last month from people I am close to:

My mother grew up in Belarus.

My grandparents are Russian Jews, but from areas now Ukraine.

I just found out that I have a relative from Poland who died in the Holocaust. I was named after her.

I’m have very little family history, which is traumatizing too.

My grandfather grew up in Odessa.

I didn’t realize that H’s mother was Ukrainian.

Meanwhile, it’s Monday and K has gone into the office. He will travel into Boston every day this week. It strikes me as a signature Covid experience how the familiar becomes strange and the strange becomes familiar. Example: in spite of this being my husband’s commuting routine for decades before the pandemic, it now feels a little weird, a little dangerous, a little not-normal.

Also today: I get to make a friend lunch and we won’t have to be quiet because K is on the phone at his workstation (aka the kitchen table).

And, I get my second booster this afternoon.

Age, portraits, and Covid

AGE

It’s official: I am a GOMER. Look at me with over-the-glasses sunglasses and Medicare card!

(GOMER is an acronym that stands for Get Out of My Emergency Room. Emergency room physicians well know that patients of a certain age can come into the ER with a minor complaint, only to have testing reveal major health issues. Hence, the quaint moniker.)

I start dinner prep at around 4:15. I groan getting up off the couch. I often can’t remember why I went down to the basement: to fetch something from the downstairs fridge, from the dryer, from the pile of used Amazon envelopes?

PORTRAITS AND COVID

Two nights ago my phone spit up a series of photos from early 2020. What a stunning reminder of how shocked and frightened we all were at the beginning of the pandemic. I’ll share a few. You’ll see the results of my mask-making and you’ll see expressions both haunted and grim.

April 2020

Because COVID has wrecked our sense of continuity, this review of images helps to ground me. So does the following narrative.

Two years ago, my husband had just returned from China. Mid-February we both came down with what we thought was the flu, or was it Covid? We couldn’t get tested because they said it was too long since exposure, it being a month after he returned. This, even though peers in his office had returned more recently. A dozen engineers were sick as I tried unsuccessfully to round up a test.

I might’ve sprung the $200 for an antigen test but they were too unreliable to make it seem worthwhile. I rinsed groceries with a dilute bleach solution and left mail in the garage for four days before bringing it in the house. The postman to whom we open the door because he’s a nice guy and he loves Finn and Finn loves him became a threat I silently referred to as my “sole vector of disease.” He reported that he’d never smelled so much Lysol in his entire life. I watched the red dots on the Johns Hopkins COVID chart guessing correctly that we were right behind Italy. We cancelled first a trip to Florence and then the compensatory trip to Quebec.

I’m curious what others remember in those early weeks. How long ago does it seem? How strange, still?

We approach 1,000,000 now
Hand sanitizer shelf

Handling disappointment

My adoration for the quilts of Bisa Butler and the pandemic began at roughly the same time. If you haven’t discovered her yet, you must, because she is a once-in-a-generation quilter.

Butler’s work is absolutely stunning, in construction, scale, color, and subject matter.

Her quilts document Black life with exuberant patterning and such an incredible ability to render faces and clothing without resorting to paint that she continually reminds viewers that they are 100% cloth. You squint agog wondering, How on earth does she do it?

She’s like Kehinde Wiley on acid.

Not that long ago, I vowed to myself, “When this is all over, I’m gonna see her quilts even if I have to travel to Chicago or Memphis to do so.”

So it might surprise you to learn that I just ordered a book showcasing her portraits rather than truck a few miles down Route 9 to see one of her pieces. A neighbor even lent me her MFA member card so that I could be admitted at no cost.

And still I’m not going.

Is it yesterday’s colonoscopy stopping me? Maybe. At the endoscopy center, there were half a dozen nurses, several doctors, an anesthesiology assistant or two, secretaries, and other patients. They managed risk expertly — everyone wore masks, curtains divided the gurneys, a careful protocol determined who came into the building and when. Still that feels like enough potential exposure for one week.

(P.S. Everything’s fine).

More delays in the editing process mean that I will finally spend two solid weeks polishing a query letter (not like creative writing at all!) and building a functional list of agents. I should have done this a year ago! I signed up for QueryTracker and will look into Submittable and Duotrope, two other literary submission programs. I’m going to be ready to aim and fire the second I get the last batch of edits.

Otherwise, I’ll just kill myself. I can’t keep doing this.

(I’m JOKING).

The situation reminds me of something I read in some book or other on happiness. It has really stayed with me, unlike the author and title of the book. It said something along the lines of this: except for the loss of a partner or a child, almost no disappointments result in significant changes in happiness five years out.

So in other words, if this book never sees the light of day, five years from now I’ll be dead — oops — I mean, my happiness quotient will be roughly the same as it is today.

This reminder is oddly comforting and in no way promotes defeatism.

All of this today makes me feel the fragility of life. It’s so important to breathe, and to be kind to one another, and to make haste slowly.

 

 

Indecision about travel

Trying to decide whether to move or cancel a family trip to the Rockies. It’s scheduled for mid- to late-January and is meant to be our Christmas gathering with the boys. The Airbnb has a strict cancellation policy.

I’m having all kinds of feelings about this, mostly aggravated worry sliding into outrage. As my husband likes to point out, I go from zero to ten rather quickly. (At least he pointed out that I laugh easily too).

But here’s the thing: when members of a family have different tolerances for risk, whose gets to govern?

And, if we cancelled because a million cases are predicted for next week and oh, by the way, our airline keeps canceling hundreds of flights due to sick personnel, why should we be penalized? This is Act of God-level interference.

Frankly, if no money was involved, I’d have made a unilateral decision two days ago and cancelled.

Nicolle Wallace on Deadline Whitehouse yesterday: I just assume I’m gonna get it. Everyone I know has it. She doesn’t usually indulge in that level of hyperbole, but there you have it.

As I said to Airbnb hostess, I don’t care about getting a breakthrough case. It’s long Covid I worry about, for all of us. Can you imagine, for instance, living out your days without a sense of taste?

At least I took the ornaments off the tree. It’ll be on the curb by mid afternoon.

I’m off to make mushroom soup for lunch. A friend is coming over and we’re going to watch Being the Ricardos.

Covid Silver Linings, Lasagne and ADD

I’ll start the list of Covid silver linings with two.

One, The first thing I hear every morning is, “I’ll go down and start the coffee.”

Do you now how nice this is?

Husband used to leave the house at 6:15, which meant he was up and out in full dark for portions of the year. I’d be so dead to the world I wouldn’t even hear his NPR-set alarm. I never minded making coffee but it is so nice to rise and shine with it ready to pour. His company is nice too.

Two, Covid has normalized my wardrobe choices. Ha! Most of what I wear has to meet a single criteria — is this outfit as comfortable as pajamas? The rest of the world has caught up to me I guess.

 

This is the time of year when my holiday timing clashes with my husband’s. That’s why I will begin to sneakily remove the smaller ornaments and put them away. Hope he doesn’t notice! Actually, this year he might go for full take-down before New Year’s because we got our tree the day after Thanksgiving. It is dry.

I got a rice cooker for Christmas and we might just have rice every evening from here on out. It comes out perfect every time. I used to have one. Here’s a fun fact you probably don’t know about me: I ate nearly exclusively with chopsticks for about five years.

But what am I saying about rice? I have all the ingredients for lasagne. I really hope it’s as good as the batch I made for my brother the trip before last. They purchased some specialty ricotta which was creamier than what I usually buy, and I think that made the difference. Wish me luck! It’s a lot of work for a meh-meal.

Lastly, I get to congratulate myself (again) for sticking with the Paris Collage Collective’s challenge for the entire year, even with four trips to Los Angeles and one to Boulder. I doubt I’ll do it again in 2022. I am eager to make some collages fueled by more personal images. This week’s image was a hand holding a balloon.

If you don’t have ADD or don’t know anyone with ADD, you probably can’t quite appreciate why this is such a big deal.