Two months ago I realized I might never catch up on blogging my COVID journal. I’ll always be glad for what I documented, but once again, the present moment was passing me by. So I planned a series of short posts that would illustrate my life on the cusp of 40, with lots of images and very few words, which would surely make it easy to put together. It didn’t. And now even that series feels out of date.
Time has been so strange for two years now, and the speed of change hasn’t slowed. With omicron spiking everywhere, already the first days of 2022 feel dramatically different from even the week before Christmas. And yet there’s an unreal normalness to everything. We can’t live in a state of crisis forever. Or, rather, we do, by pretending the crisis isn’t.
I could tell you about my 40th birthday in December — how I went back and forth for weeks about whether to try for the first outdoor birthday party of my life, even borrowing a pop-up rain canopy from a generous stranger in my Buy Nothing group, until finally opting to host my group of 6-8 inside the apartment with every window open, air purifier running, everyone masked except while actively eating. I would have offered antigen tests upon arrival except that I couldn’t find any. I feel like I’ve changed so monumentally in the past two years but looking around the room at the longtime and relatively new faces clustered around the low table, surrounded by abundant food, sipping mulled cider, it all felt so familiar. And that was bizarre as hell. (Lovely, though. My whole birthday week was beautiful beyond expectation.)
Nothing feels real, in some ways. It’s inconceivable that we can still be getting takeout and going to yoga class and sharing memes when we’ve just passed 1 million cases per day worldwide. Reported cases. In the US alone, deaths have nearly matched the population of San Francisco, while countless others are out of commission with long COVID or caring for loved ones, and meanwhile we talk about labor shortages and supply-chain snafus as if these things aren’t related. The fact that all this feels inconceivable — or would have, two years ago in our innocence — is irrelevant.
One of my oldest friends asked me yesterday, did you send Owl back to school? I said yes, did you send your kids? She said yes. She said, I’m too drained by all these decisions; I can no longer sense my anxiety. (Today, one day after this conversation, she has pulled her kids from school for the week, because two teachers tested positive.) Last month I told a dear friend that another dear friend — who had just moved back to the Bay Area during the pandemic — is moving abroad, and she said, oh no! Are you heartbroken? I said, I would be, if I had the emotional reserves left for that. It’s not just her move; a close family member is moving out-of-state this summer. I know I’m gutted by this, but I don’t seem to have much range left in me for new griefs — or so I say now, tempting fate.
I was going to write, in the posts that now won’t get written, about all the decluttering I’ve been doing since Owl started kindergarten in August, about giving away the dining table we’ve had since 2009, the rug we bought in anticipation of baby Owl learning to crawl, the teaware that made sense in a different, more leisurely life. I was going to write about restarting physical therapy for the back and hip pain that’s bothered me for six years, and how I feel both stronger than ever, and slower and stiffer. (To borrow from a recent tweet: is it COVID or is it winter or is it too much sitting and staring at screens or is it age or…) I was going to share that one of my parents had a triple bypass at the end of July, and that I’ve made changes to my diet accordingly. I was going to share a lot of selfies and some pictures of my apartment.
Once again: time, unreality. On the surface I’m still doing all the same things, but I was drafting those posts at the beginning of November and somehow… I’m at my same desk, but wearing warm pants I didn’t own when I planned that series, typing at a new keyboard and laptop stand my physical therapist told me to get, surrounded by four new houseplants passed on to me by my friend who’s leaving the country. I’m only able to write this because my kid is at school, which is only possible because omicron hasn’t (yet) forced a school closure. It’s a new year, and for me a new decade, and in pandemic time that might as well be three years.