Pandemic journal: Week 8

Week 8: May 4-10, 2020. Theme of the week: sustainability.

Monday, 7:45 AM

I woke at 6:30. Owl said, “Good morning. It’s morning. Wake up,” and then went back to sleep. They’re still asleep so I can write in quiet for now, just the burble of the immersion circulator (eggs) and the birds chirping and the occasional deep rumble of a delivery or garbage truck going by. I probably missed these morning sounds in the before-times, because I’d be sleeping in until I had to get Owl ready for school, then hustling (or moving slowly and sleepily) through the kitchen, getting breakfast and tea and lunch ready. It feels like a dream that once upon a mere 2½ months ago we did these simple routines and took them for granted. So strange to think of that, now — that we could ever have had so little foresight or imagination — like how it’s strange, once you have a child, to remember a time when you didn’t. 

There is a feeling in the air of this being some kind of turning point. The Bay Area counties are “opening up” again on some fronts, though it’s still extremely unclear to me whether the new rules even apply to us — they seem only to have to do with construction, real estate, recreational activities like golf (?!). But everyone feels the shift, it seems, and anticipates the coming loosening of other restrictions, and is, perhaps, considering (as we are) our stance on re-entering the world.

Tuesday, 7:47 AM. Cinco de Mayo.

Yesterday I decided to go full Pomodoro for all the hours between appointments, and while it didn’t exactly parcel out neatly, I got an awful lot done. I took some time out to color with Owl, which I thought would take 15-30 minutes (it took 50), but it left Owl happier all day. 

In the afternoon I got an email from a Meetup member asking if we were still on for tomorrow. I knew what day it was and yet I still managed to lose track of time! But I took this as an invitation to take the week off from Meetup. I skipped dance class too. I decided it was ok to take a week off. It’s ok to rest. 

Really, even before dinner all I wanted was to go to bed, but that didn’t seem like a good idea somehow and I’m not sure why now. Just before dinner Owl got a burst of new energy and was super loud and annoying and I got massively overstimulated really, really fast. So I scrapped my meal plan, ate frozen wontons and made cucumber pickles to go with, and ate by myself outside on the deck. It did a lot to take the edge off. But I still stayed up, making cookies and washing dishes, and while that maybe wasn’t good for me in the moment, I feel grateful now for that work. 

Boiled wontons, cucumber pickles, soy sauce on a yellow plate
Dinner on the deck at sunset

Wednesday, 7ish AM. Our wedding anniversary

I’m quite sleepy — alarm woke me abruptly from a dream where I was doing a group project and we had to write a song, and on my suggestion it was to the tune of “Waterfalls”. I was annoyed that the lyrics came out so heteronormative but at least the cadence of the lines held together. And now I’ve got the tune in my head.

Yesterday I decided I wanted to do something different so instead of my usual dance class, I tried a bhangra class. Very fun.

5:37 PM

I’m so sad. Our anniversary “date” (running errands together with Owl) was an almost complete wash and it ended with me decontaminating the CSA/CSF stuff and then cleaning Owl’s poop. I just wanted the day to feel special but it didn’t, except for some flowers I cut for myself from the yard. Afterward I finished painting a “happy birthday” virtual background I was making for my friends’ babies’ Zoom party. It was pleasing to do that; I felt very at peace, painting. But then I got in the call and felt so, so sad and lonely and hurting in the way that I often do in group Zooms… you just don’t know if people are even seeing you; they’re in and out of frame, you might not be on their screen, there’s no eye contact, there’s no proximity, no intimate asides… I felt so dejected. I was there to be with my friends but I wasn’t with them. It got to a point where I felt like I was deliberately hurting myself by staying on the call, but leaving felt just as awful. And it was so weird when literally half an hour before I’d been feeling so content. I know sometimes my moods change quickly but I think pandemic/SiP exacerbates that — or just colors every mood with a heavier dose of despair. 

Thursday, 8:05 AM

I don’t recall feeling terribly overstimulated yesterday. Frustrated yes, sad oh yes, grumpy yes, but not overstimulated. Goodness, how novel. 

Yesterday after I finished journaling my feelings about our anniversary and the party, I went across the street and picked up Italian food, and on the way back encountered our neighbors with their toddler. I was wearing a mask and had my hands full of takeout so even though I recognized them from a distance I couldn’t smile or wave! So I nodded, and apparently that was enough, because A called out, “Is that Lisa?” We talked from six-odd feet apart. I don’t know them so well but they’re easy to talk to — she’s a therapist, after all — and that made me honest when she asked how I was doing. We agreed that having a child around is very good right now, because, as she put it, “You can’t get too existential when someone always needs a snack or a pee.” After a few minutes the baby said, “Walk the parents, walk the parents,” so off they went. 

Later that night I baked more cookies, then E came and sat with me because I wanted to talk. We were both on the verge of falling asleep but I felt better that we at least got some moment of connection on our anniversary. 

Icebox cookies stored

Friday, 7:33 AM

E just came in to tell me he’s ordered TP. The things that are newsworthy in this time! 

AS and I were lamenting whether life will ever feel “normal” again and HB got on her “now look here” voice, and said when we have tracking and contact tracing and testing, we can stamp this out; we’ll learn the infection rate and how it spreads, who is most susceptible and why. She made it sound very reasonable.

After HB left, AS and I were talking about corals and I had a sudden vision of my brain as a coral reef, some of it bleached by parenthood, everything I’ve tried to do since then an attempt to transplant little baby corals back into the skeleton reef in hopes the fish will come back. There’s a lot I want to do with that image but a little pencil sketch will do for now… and you know it’s funny, what I really like about this visual is not the head full of coral, but the fish. Because I like to think of my thoughts coming and going, visiting other people’s reefs and coming back with something new. 

Saturday, 8:05 AM

It’s Saturday and a pretty quiet morning and I have almost 1½h to write but I’m still finding it really, really distracting that E and Owl are just here in the apartment with me, EXISTING. Owl isn’t even making noise but E is walking back and forth (very heavily, it seems), clanking dishes together, scraping plates, and now he’s washing dishes, which is tremendously helpful, but good god the noise. I’d better put on the headphones. Not sure they’re helping. The dish sounds are still making me twitchy. 

AS and I had a little convo yesterday about bravery and she asked whether I thought I was, and I said I think people have always underestimated my courage because I’m nervous about many things and don’t have much aggressive physical courage. But the examined life takes a kind of fortitude as well, and she said we don’t all have to be Harry and Ron. She said she doesn’t know me that well but she would certainly place me in a lineup of brave people. I was very touched and asked why, and she said my parenting, my art, my willingness to be visible.  


Meanwhile it occurred to me that cutting flowers for myself on our anniversary is a way to honor my own desire for a special day, and flowers, and gifts. Indeed, the simple flowers have given me much pleasure, in part, in fact, because I got them for myself from my own ingenuity and thoughtfulness. 

Calla lily, purple irises, daisies in a jar

Thanks to SiP I get to dance with a teacher I studied with a decade ago in LA. The platform took some getting used to; it’s not Zoom; the students don’t have video and at first I didn’t figure that out. But the instructors can see our names so Hassan greeted me with surprise and pleasure and I was delighted he even remembered me. Class was so fun; I laughed a lot in pure pleasure, almost following the choreography but not quite. I felt that my body remembered his teaching from long ago, not consciously, but somewhere deep and physical. I had a really good time. 

Later that night I did a Zoom with my sisters and even though we didn’t talk about anything substantive it was a huge relief to talk without kid interference! It felt so healing, an antidote to the feeling of tears I’ve sometimes had on the family Zooms. I realized Zoom offers a reasonable facsimile of real-life group dynamics but a shitty, inadequate version of the connective moments that make groups enjoyable IRL. Sometimes it’s possible with a combination of chat and Zoom but it’s hard and distracting, like passing notes in class, whereas IRL it’s possible to have a brief and meaningful side exchange — how often, IRL, does the one shared, knowing glance make the whole dreadful crowd bearable! 

S said that she’s finding SiP less stressful than her everyday life, which she attributes to D being home, and not having to struggle to get the kids places on time. I’ve heard some other moms say that these months home with their kids are some of their happiest ever. I’m glad for them, truly, but I also feel like… what?! But this morning I thought, actually, a lot of meaningful new things have come into my life with SiP: the regular calls/video chats with KK, SD, J, AS & HB; the dance classes in so many styles; the daily writing; weekly therapy; not to mention the reduced stimulation of not having to go into a busy world every day. 

Sending loving thoughts to those who have been unable to properly say goodbye to their loved ones.