Day Sixty-Five

Neighborhood Walk
And the Lilacs

Quarantine: we have done nine full weeks, two full months, however many meals and cleanups and sweeps of the floor that makes. Shuttering in, the idea was that surely with a spring at home, everyone locked down, things would begin to reveal possibility for next steps, trajectories, not clarity but some more sense about how a sprawling nation moves through global pandemic crisis. The initial idea was maybe there’d be a little respite in the summer before needing to lock in for the pandemic’s waves crested again, after (presumably) they’d descended. We latched onto these notions as if we’d ruminated over any of this before, as if the inner workings of global pandemics were common knowledge rather than the stuff of historians and epidemiologists.

I keep trying to remember how two months ago, we were shaky. Ideas and concerns and things to do came in a torrent, as if we were overcaffeinated when we weren’t. Surely, the toilet paper and flour were only temporarily missing from the shelves. Surely, we’d figure out how to be at home and this whole shelter experience would become, if not normal, then what was and we’d weather it and then it would recede, at least intermittently, into the past and if we had to re-home, we’d be more prepared. The suddenness had to have been the jarring factor. The scariest factor was the potential for so much grave illness all at once. The invisibility. The real threat of war zone hospitals without equipment. Surely, we’d obtain masks and ventilators, gowns (well, who was thinking about those), swabs (again, really?) and tests. We’d contact trace.

**

No week has actually felt easier. Most weeks do not feel so adrenaline-fueled as that first one. For me, each week seems to have these elements, which potentially combine in different ways and order:

Bargaining myself down from a bigger goal to a much more modest one: this week’s goal was clearing some shelves and two small boxes (I still have the boxes to go)

Depression over feeling stuck, over what’s coming next, over the politics and the disease and the politicization of the disease and everyone being on top of each other and that I am less and less able to imagine an “after”

An unexpected emotional meltdown involving a family member that insists itself like a sinkhole in our one main road

Anxiety over the small and the large, fear of an invisible virus, of running out of toilet paper, of the long, hot summer stuck at home, of increasing, unrelenting, unsolvable restlessness

Sadness, which differs from depression, over the losses, both of humans, and humans’ losses of connection and regular challenge and independence and friends and routine

The gorgeous spring that has been slow and cool and green and yellow and pink and is my favorite kind in New England, even if it’s not bringing me the joy it usually does or would, given that it’s my favorite kind

Monotony

Boredom and cabin fever

Exhaustion and the inability to rest or sleep or refresh

Gratitude for our incredible, good fortune of home and neighborhood and city adhering to this and our people, gratitude for so much and still this is hard and at this point the gratitude is never without the “and” of how hard this is

**

I keep thinking we should expect all of this by now, two months in. I wonder how we steel ourselves for the uncontrollable. This much grief and loss remain unfathomable, unquantifiable, almost unreal. How can this be happening all at once to so many people? While we reel in our shelters, if we are fortunate to have them, the government gets more emboldened to grab power in the chaos and the chaos increases by malfeasance of design or personality disorder or really wanting to kill us to make more power easier to that much easier hoard like so many rolls of toilet paper and so many giant sacks of King Arthur flour.

We know, reasonable people know, if we felt we were doing this for the obvious and clear purpose of flattening the fucking curve, we could endure so much of the rest so much more easily. We are smart people. We are compassionate people. We are developing patience. We can do hard things. But to find silver linings when it’s possible this strange pause button is the best we can expect going forward? I can’t find a silver lining. I can laugh. I can be proud of my shelves and my daughter finally dancing again and my son for graduating from college. Those are privileges. Those aren’t silver linings. Those are good moments during horrible times.

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Sarah Buttenwieser

Writer, brainstormer, networker — follow me on Twitter @standshadows