This morning I woke up an hour and a half before my alarm was supposed to go off. I knew sleep wasn’t coming back. I put on my running gear, and hit the streets at about 5:15, to occupy the time, and try to get my thoughts to stop spinning. There was a gentle rain, and I came back soaked.
We’ve all had varied experiences of the pandemic; yesterday, I spoke with a younger friend who is single. He felt life improved as everyone else has cleared out of his way. For many in my circle, it’s felt as though the pressure has been rising steadily for months.
I used to travel a lot for work. It was fun to gripe about the airports and the inconveniences of travel. 6 months separated from my last trip, I realize though some of the good things it was doing for me. Evenings after work, I’d have mini-adventures in the city, or explore new places. Little snippets of serendipity away from family; seeing a mural on a public wall, or just walking around a new place. Dinner with friends. It was natural, fun, and unremarkable; but its function as a stress reliever and “mini-reset” wasn’t clear until it wasn’t there anymore.
In March, an uncle I was close to while growing up passed away. He developed a serious illness quickly (not COVID-19) and went from “a little under the weather” to dead in 10 days, his last 4 days passed in a hospital. In March, visiting him in the hospital was impossible, and even afterwards the family deemed it not a good idea to gather for a memorial service. His son cremated him and disposed of his ashes, later cleaning his house out and selling it, by himself. The family felt as though it was on pause for weeks. Enough months have slipped by now that the family doesn’t really talk about when to schedule a memorial service. No one knows when it will be possible or advisable to get a group together from several different places, including many elderly people.
In my immediate community, COVID seems to have changed most things for most people. Some people I know react with anger and rage; pushing back as if by denying the reality of what’s happening, they can change things. It seems those who even run schools, governments, and companies don’t know what to make of it or what they can do. In a separate branch of my family, a 72-year old relative who is HIV positive has decided that he will take few precautions, because he expects this to drag on, and does not want to spend his last few years as a shut-in. Others turn inward, and get depressed or anxious. Still others throw themselves full-force into work; being busy leaves no time to think or feel too deeply about what’s going on. I’m probably in this last camp.
But all of our techniques and evasions of the day-to-day last only so long, and sometimes you find yourself in some situation like out on the street, running in the rain before the sun is up, and it hits you all the same.
The experience of 2020 has been like being stuck in a hospital waiting room. Waiting to hear the results – can our culture and our families go back to normal? What does that even mean? And in this waiting room – the temperature is slowly rising. Not so much that you’d notice moment to moment, but it sure doesn’t feel like March, April, or May.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;The Second Coming, by William Butler Yeats
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?