A New Normal


Personal / Saturday, March 21st, 2020

There are four vaguely similar self-indulgent blog posts sitting in the drafts about the end of 2019 and the start of 2020 and my existential dread as a 30-year-old who fears that growing happiness and stability must be counter-balanced by equally Bad Things.

While that sounds like a segue for Covid-19, it isn’t. I may be irrational about the ups and downs of my life, but I’m not that self-centered to project morality, motivation, or anything beyond evolutionary biology to this pandemic.

But I also can’t talk about me (and what is a Personal Blog but that?) until I address the elephant in the room.

While that sounds like a segue for a tirade about Trump and the Republican party’s inability to handle an international emergency we had FUCKING WEEKS to prepare for, it isn’t. Honestly, the university that I teach at started preparing weeks before the country started taking this seriously. I may be furious all the time, but my rage burns both wide and deep, for many, many things, not just all of the bullshit being uncovered or looked over left and right.

I was recently talking to a friend about how it’s hard to post on social media or anywhere “public” right now because everything…just isn’t important. I said to them how for me, the biggest outward facing issue I’ll likely have today is deciding what movie to watch or lamenting that I’m out of an ingredient and can’t/won’t run out to get some. That makes me sound like an asshole, right? Like, people are dying, hospitals are overrun, many, many people still have to go to work for non-essential jobs. My university switched to online teaching weeks ago. My husband is safely working from home. My parents and brother are home. The only immediately family I worry about is my mother-in-law, who has to go in to work.

My husband and I have enough disposable income and space that we could stock up on groceries several weeks ago that should last us a while. We’re healthy and non-disabled. Our companies continue to pay us, but if they didn’t, we have an emergency fund and other funds for rent and the next grocery run. Honestly the only thing we don’t have that I wish we had was our own laundry, as our apartment complex shares several. We are in an extremely privileged position to sit at home, largely sheltered from everything.

My other big first world problem has been a lack of therapy.

Several months ago I started going to therapy. At first bi-weekly due to limited availability, but recently we switched to weekly. With my insurance, it comes down to $20 a session, a cost we budgeted for in our annual FSA (Flexible Spending Account). To be honest we were expecting a higher co-pay of like $50, so we are good to go. The last couple weeks my therapist has been away at a (now virtual) conference (that was supposed to be in Vancouver til large gatherings were all scrapped). So I’m sure they are also sitting in on lots of panels and learning how to prepare for the onslaught of my bullshit when they are back. I am hoping we’d still be able to do video or phone sessions, but they are not ‘back’ yet. What a time to have had this conference! How dare they not arrange their life to perfectly support me in this historic catastrophe.

Still sounding like an asshole, right?

I don’t think that’s going to go away. I get mad at people when they don’t acknowledge it, I get made at people when they do but it isn’t done right, like, they briefly say something about it just to get it out of the way to get into what they really want to talk about. The disrespect. It really depends on how in-despair I am feeling at a particular time that I will pendulum swing from one extreme to the next.

That applies to pretty much everything.

We are experiencing a global trauma.

And everyone is experiencing it differently. How are tent-cities in Syria, with no running water supposed to wash their hands? How are the kids in cages ICE is so proud of? What about families on food stamps? What about you? There’s only so much money I can donate and causes I can worry about, same with everyone. And the same issues we had before this are ongoing. Thankfully the fires in Australia subsided. But climate change is Still A Thing. All those things are still things. And now there are new things. Insider trading, bailouts to corporations that don’t pay their fair share in taxes, lack of paid sick leave, our fucking health insurance being tied to our jobs, the stupidest of ideas. And with the way this administration is trying to outsource everything to private companies, they’re just pushing these capitalist agendas even more when all the answers lie in good old democratic socialism.

I haven’t been being called a “bra-burning man-hating feminist” and “dirty socialist” and “baby killer” since high school for nothing, you know. Catholic school was wild, by the way. 10/10 do not recommend.

All I’m roundabout-ly trying to say is that I am not okay. And that is okay. You are probably not okay. And that is okay. Our problems have always paled in comparison to the majority of the world, but they were and our still our problems in our lives. We are all the protagonist in our story, and I feel like the normal challenge is to get people to be more empathetic. Not saying the new challenge is to not, for gods’ sakes. But to also try–TRY TRY TRY–to not feel guilty about turning inward. About not checking your phone. And self-distancing from everything and not just everyone.

My mode of operation absolutely will not allow these sensible nuggets of advice that apply to non-quarantine life. About once a month I go on a rant on one of my twitter accounts how dumb I feel about caring about things that don’t matter, either subjectively or objectively. That just. Don’t. Matter. Things that I care deeply, desperately about are just…things. I think a healthy amount of this is good, and healthy. A healthy amount of this kind of thinking, I believe, is freedom.

That’s why minimalism and KonMari are so appealing. Limitations can be freeing. In those cases it’s physical objects but they’re merely a catalyst for a mental unburdening. Offsetting weight from you on many planes of existence. They (whoever ‘they’ are) always say that you find yourself more the older you get, largely because you just stop giving a fuck about other people. I’ve found (like most saying or sentiments) that that’s a half truth. Or, maybe it was a full truth but then social media created this endless pressure to make everything seem fine and dandy.

I feel like I’m on the cusp of having some kind of breakthrough or takeaway that one expects from a blog post, but there isn’t one. I don’t want one, because it wouldn’t be sincere. These are extraordinary circumstances. I can’t fault people for trying to (responsibly) cope and live their lives. I can fault irresponsible people, and businesses that are hell bent on business-as-usual when nothing about this is as usual. I stress about my next trip to the grocery store, despite having food for a while. I stress about all of the BS this government is getting away with (and have been getting away with since 2016), and how much they’ll try to sideline other things like women’s health and social security. I feel like my usual coping mechanisms were working in our normal but surreal, stupid world, where I was constantly reminding myself that that already was not Normal with a capital N. That I had a responsibility to stay plugged in to the Matrix because someone has to know what’s going on. I’ve had multiple conversations with my husband about how I feel guilty and should, like, look into running for office or something because all I do is donate money and tweet and then go back to my animation blog and I am not contributing actively to society, only to then backtrack and try to justify the work I and animators do, because art is important and I know that here (pointing at my head) but some times everything is overwhelming here (pointing at my heart). These two are constantly at odds with each other, and that battle has escalated as the events unfolding do so as well. So I guess my takeaway is what my therapist has been trying, bless their heart, to get me to do for FUCKING MONTHS which is to be nicer to myself. That it’s ok to not be as productive, or try to put my head down and plow through. To be patient with myself even if I think I don’t deserve it, or others aren’t as lucky to be sitting home venting on their blog screaming into the void. To understand how I got like this and why and to flip the script to a positive. This was the path I’ve been on, and my baby steps were not prepared for this. I am 1000% not wired for self-kindness, and so the human experiment continues forward in these strange times, hoping this (brain) and this (heart) can find some middle ground to build base camp on.

I wish you well.

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