thoughts during a pandemic

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Hey-

It’s good to see you. What has it been? Two years? Maybe. I don’t know. I’ve missed you! You’re looking good. Do you want some coffee? I’ll make you some.

I can’t remember the last time I’ve written a blog post, let alone written for pleasure. Writing for a living takes the desire away from you so strongly. It feels not only very natural to start writing again, at least TRY to start writing again, making a tall effort to bring the thoughts in my head swirling around to a stopping point, giving them a home. It feels natural to write this post as a letter like I’m talking to you. Either that or I’ve watched You’ve Got Mail one too many times during quarantine to the point where Meg Ryan’s voice is narrating my thoughts.

Yeah, well. I want to ask you how you are. How are you? Jesus. What a loaded question. You might be asking “What kind of question is that?” or you’re about to send me the gif of Illana Glazier from that episode of Broad City where she goes “How AM I?” with exaggerated quotations. I dunno. How am I? I thought I’d try and tell you.

We’re in a pandemic. It’s the 5th of August, but inside of my head, it feels like March 69th or HOT MARCH. I’m sure you’ve been feeling lots of pangs and urges to bemoan the passage of time. It’s weird. Everything is so effing weird.

Okay, so I have to reel this in. I’m writing to you today because I’ve been thinking a lot about the passage of time. I obviously have lots of time (HAHA) to think about it, having been quarantined by and large since early March, at which point I was waiting on my mother, who works in the medical field, to let me know whether I should take this virus seriously as she promised after I had slowly begun to text her increasingly alarming “WUT DOES THIS MEAN?” types of texts.

A short time later, Mom decided I should come back home for a bit, the first time since Christmas. I decided I would spend at least a week at home and take it one day at a time.  My biggest priority was to have dinner with an old friend I didn’t have time to see over the holidays. I couldn’t wait to see him. I had so much to fill him in on.

He would be dead three weeks later.

As the news coverage of the pandemic began to increase and toilet paper began to fly off the shelves faster than I’ve ever tried to run a stray sheet off of my shoe, Mom told me to pack pretty much everything I owned and to plan on staying with them for the foreseeable future. I don’t know what I was thinking. I think I was excited to eat my Dad’s home cooking again. As I settled in back at my parents’ house, planning out a routine of working from home in my childhood bedroom, the nightly headlines on MSNBC began to get more frantic. My Dad would start turning up Exile On Main St. louder and louder, his favorite album of all-time stands for comfort. My regular view would soon become my reflection in the mirror of my dresser, hunched over my laptop attempting to write every day for work. Words and terms like COVID-19, social distancing, and quarantine became part of our collective vocabulary.

This was in March. Let me abruptly bring you back to the present.

I learned what it meant to quarantine. I’ve done it strictly since then. I am now back at my adoptive home, sitting slightly straighter at my “new” desk with my feet aggressively buried deeply into the carpet. I don’t leave the house. I count it as a success if I make it out to the porch to read a book and actually get some sunlight instead of just taking my daily Vitamin D pill.

My quarantine experience is hardly unique, although it feels this way since I’m seeing so many contacts on social media hang out on a restaurant’s patio for brunch or hang out on an effing yacht on the fourth of July. The world has opened up aggressively since March. Cases of COVID 19 are skyrocketing, especially in my home state of Tennessee. Schools are opening. I’m beginning to hear more and more people I know of, or know on a personal level to be diagnosed with the virus. I’ve only seen one friend outside of my immediate family since returning home after spending almost two months with my parents as the virus raged on and the world changed.

Now, I’m used to our “new normal.” I’m at the point where I’m really working hard to find points in my day where I notice something has made me happy or if I have something to look forward to, no matter how mundane it may be. I get so excited to take a shower. It brings me a weirdly profound sense of peace to open a jar of peanut butter. Lighting incense serves as a reminder everything will be okay. I watch movies every single night. I now know everything about the Bachelor franchise, and I will come for you if you come for my Monday night rose.

Watching lots of comfort movies has helped inspire a surge of creativity, but has also left me sitting with a train of thought that scares and confuses me. I watched Lady Bird again last night for the millionth time, and it sent me on a long thought spiral. I know this will sound really stupid to some of you, but I started feeling really saddened by the thought of never having a period of life to look forward to. Lady Bird was on the cusp of graduating high school and starting college; she was starting the process of finding out who she was meant to be.

The pandemic has forced this sad idea into my orbit, understandably putting a pause on making any plans for the foreseeable future beyond the weekend. In my own personal process of change and evolvement, I’ve been torn between wanting to make plans and dreaming about a future. This current blip in history makes it harder and harder to believe a future world will exist where I’m able to create and live a life in a sustainable future. I’m constantly wondering if it’s naive or if I’m being much more ignorant than I realize, to allow myself to dream a little bit. I’m scared my twice-daily meditation sessions will become a saving grace or more so a band-aid as we near November.

Less than 100 days from the 2020 presidential election, I’m finding myself nostalgic for the month before the results where I sat in my dorm room during my last semester of college, switching between episodes of Gossip Girl and the presidential debates on CNN, not believing anything would become more chaotic than it already was in that moment.

Switching back between flashbacks to late 2016 and the present fuels me to go forward with my desire to start writing fiction for the first time ever, a coming of age story inspired by all of my beloved teen comfort movies I’ve been consuming while in quarantine. In order to perhaps build up the mindset to create characters for the first time since the summer between eighth and ninth grade, I’ve had to repeatedly check in with my current self and do the work needed to find out who she is meant to be.

Writing this next paragraph seems like a tug of war with the old and new me, inspiring a lyric from a PUJOL song to repeatedly pop in my head. It seems selfish and hokey, but whatever. Like so many of us, I’m not the person I used to be before March of this year. I don’t know her, just as Mariah Carey will aggressively insist she doesn’t know Jennifer Lopez. I constantly describe my brain as being completely rewired as I try to make sense of the passage of time, and my desire to let myself dream of both my personal and a collective post-pandemic future.

Becoming the person currently writing to you today has been a helluva process. Like all of us, I’ve been plucked from a world of comfort, void of the life I used to know, and a lot of the security that went with it. I’ve heard so many people describe this global pandemic as a collective awakening. Sometimes I’m totally on board with the idea, and other days I roll my eyes as far back into my head as they will go: Who in the world has time to contemplate this? We’re stuck in a period of tragedy so unmatched from any other point in history, a period where something new happens at any given moment and we’re hardly left with any time to process or mourn what has just happened.

I’m at the point where I not only have a dwindling concept of time with each passing day but where I almost feel betrayed by it. I’m thrown off by the fact we’re not allowed any given moments to process or mourn what is happening around us both personally and as a country.  Like I mentioned before, my brain calendar is stuck on March 69th. Yeah, that’s nice.

I’m continuing to play tug of war with my brain’s ability to process because I’m aware so much has happened to me personally both good and bad to the point where I mentioned feeling like my brain has been rewired.

I told you about my close friend passing at the beginning of this ramble-fest. He was so, so special to me and countless others who knew him. I met him in 9th grade when we were 14 and 15. He asked to hug me after we first met. I was done for after that, I guess. I don’t know what it was, and I sure as hell know I didn’t have the tools yet to process what I was feeling about him, but it was like the sky opened up. I knew our relationship was going to be special. I think I knew on some level he would be important to me. He taught me the importance of human connection. He was many of my firsts. As we grew older and closer, further apart, and closer again, further apart than before, and then back again, I truly felt like we had a soul matey connection going on. I loved him fiercely and always wanted to protect him, at times a little too much, but I know now that this was okay. If there is a relationship in your life where you may somehow come to the realization of how important and special it was because it had an impact on how you perceive and interact with other humans, and interpret human connection, by all means, cherish it. Don’t question it.

Processing and grieving loss are so unique for everyone, but I think we can all agree on how huge and messy it can be. His loss is my marker between both transformation in my personal life, and how I see the markings of change in the world since he died on March 24th, around the cusp of COVID-19 making such an impact.

The situation surrounding his death was so uniquely impacted by COVID-19 to the point where it made the front page of the newspaper. Part of my process of doing whatever I possibly could to peacefully internalize what happened was interrupted by my loud and selfish perspective of having years worth of private pain on the front page of the paper for anyone to see, of course inevitably leading to days of endless but extremely well-meaning text messages of condolences and friends and family coming to me and saying “We had no idea!” This feels weird to type and a little gross to process, but having something I so personally kept quiet for so long has not only helped me let go of it a little but also allowed me to talk about it, period, and I think this is part of what fuels my desire to try and process a life five or ten years down the road. I feel open. Open to possibilities and all of that sh*t, also the ideas of both being kind to yourself, and cherishing those people who mean so much.

Understanding the different boundaries and ways of being vulnerable that we all have. My friend was someone who taught me everything I know about being vulnerable and respecting its advantages and disadvantages, as well as the beauty of holding space for others and taking care of each other’s souls. Protecting and providing, but also knowing when to step back.

I’ve been working on this for hours. I’ve been talking your ear off. I’m at the point where I don’t even know why I’m telling you these things. I think this is a letter to bring back the act of processing, something that feels so lost, but yet it’s something I’ve been feeling strongly and positively lately.

I sound like one of those Instagram memes you’ve inevitably seen where they ask “What if 2020 isn’t canceled blah blah blah,” but there are times when I feel as shiny and full of filters like those graphics. I meditate as soon as I wake up. I make note of how my feet feel on the floor as I’m walking. I can feel energy surging through my fingertips when I write something I love, or I’m making uninterrupted progress on a piece for work. I try and find gratitude for anything and everything possible. Every person in my life, old and new. I’m trying my best to nurture all of my relationships because I’ve realized human connection is so vital. There’s a part of me who wants to write all of this off as being self-indulgent and embarrassing, but I’m doing this because I feel strongly about documenting. Taking much-needed time to sit down and process, something I’ve fallen so out of touch with for various reasons.

I’ll let you go now. I’m tempted to apologize for taking up your time, but someone I care about an awful lot pointed out how much I apologize in general, and I’m working on that.

I hope you’re well. Take one day at a time. I’m proud of you.

 

Love,

Tay x

 

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