You know what is really awesome? When you are just an hour into your horrific, five-hour drive through lower Wyoming and your son (the one you are heading to pick up) texts to tell you a friend whom he sat next to at dinner the previous evening just tested positive for Covid. This normally wouldn’t be a huge problem, but the next three weeks are big for us. There are two birthdays, scuba lessons, graduation, a graduation party at our home, and then a trip to Rome to board a cruise. We would really prefer to remain Covid-free. We kind of need to.
But, sadly, viruses do not give a flying fig about your plans. They’re jerks that way. So, Joe is going to be wearing a mask at home and eating and drinking and sleeping separately (even in the car on the ride home) until he gets through 10 days symptom free and with zero positive test results. Because a car is such a small, enclosed space, I might decide to wear a mask in the car even though Joe is wearing his, just in case the seal on his mask is not entirely optimal.
It’s possible Joe is fine. He was vaccinated twice and boosted last November. He had Covid in 2020. The same is true for all four of us. I know we are being a bit overcautious, but we are committed to doing everything within our circle of control to ensure Luke gets to attend his graduation in person. Keep your fingers crossed for us.
To protect my mental health these days, I keep most of my news consumption to online articles because when I watch television news and see the strength and resolve of the Ukrainian people as they undertake what may well be an in-vain attempt to salvage their nation, I often have to leave the room to cry. I just can’t. It’s too much. Coming off two years of a global health crisis that kept us indoors and away from the greater community that binds us, my coping strategies have reached their limit like an old, elastic band that has been sitting in a drawer for ages and now will break when stretched. Just when the light at the end of the tunnel came into view, an aging white autocrat in Russia decided to push his limits.
I saw a video today of a four year old who approached his waiting school bus, got within fifteen feet of its steps, bent over to put his mask on, and then fell backwards with dramatic flourish onto the concrete, as if the prospect of the school week was more than he was capable of handling at that moment. We are all that kid right now as we wonder how much more insanity, unrest, upheaval, heartbreak, hardship, and stress we can take both at home and around the world.
For almost 77 years, the world has known peace in Europe. That peace has existed my entire life and all but three years of my parents’ lives. While my parents had a solid concept of the horrors of war through their parents, I had only what I saw in films. Aside from the 1980s era nuclear holocaust fears I had courtesy of our Cold War with the Soviets and “The Day After” television movie that haunts me 38 years later, I have felt mostly safe in our geographically isolated American bubble. That ended the other day when Putin’s army invaded a sovereign Ukraine, and then shit got real when he dangled the threat of a nuclear attack.
In an opinion piece on the CNN site this morning, six global voices weighed in on Putin’s invasion. Marci Shore, an associate professor of modern European intellectual history at Yale, had this to say about Putin: “This no longer felt like a man playing a high-stakes chess game, now it felt like a scene from Macbeth. My intuition was that an aging man facing his own death had decided to destroy the world. Ukraine is very possibly fighting for all of us.” This does indeed feel like the situation. While texting with my geopolitically savvy son last night, we discussed what can be done about the war as Putin begins to feel the squeeze of the joined hands of the free world around his neck. Joe told me, “The goal of the west should be to sanction as much as possible and create a counter propaganda machine to turn the oligarchs and Russian people against Putin.” And while I realize he is 100% correct, it means this war in Europe does not stay in Europe. We are a global economy. People around the planet will feel the sting of Putin’s actions in higher fuel costs, and those higher fuel costs will trickle into the costs of goods manufactured and sold around the world. The sanctions imposed on Russia will touch us all one way or another.
These financial hardships will be our contribution to squashing tyranny and, hopefully, restoring stability to Europe. Are we up to this task? I’m not sure. For the past two years, we’ve witnessed a steady cavalcade of tantrums over wearing a mask. If we weren’t all on board with covering our noses and mouths to suppress a transmissible, deadly virus, how willing will we be to suffer financial hardships for the sake of protecting democracy on a continent across the Atlantic? Are we smart enough to recognize that our peace and freedom are tied to the peace and freedom of citizens on the European continent? Will we be able to channel the ghosts of our American predecessors and adopt the WWII war-effort mindset of “Use it up – Wear it out – Make it do – or Do without”? Will we withstand financial hardship inside our own households and country, however long it takes, to protect the freedom and peace we have taken as a given for three quarters of a century? Man, I hope so. I would like to think we still have better days ahead.
We are a global people now. We need to act in the best interests of others to maintain our own best interests. As long as the majority of us in free nations are able to comprehend and live with that fact, we might be able to vanquish Putin, return Europe to peaceful homeostasis, and avoid nuclear fallout. The question remains, though, do we have it in us to continue living in an uncomfortable and perhaps increasingly painful holding pattern until better days arrive or are we just too soft now?
“It’s not that we have little time, but more that we waste a good deal of it.” ~Seneca
I have wasted a ton of time since the pandemic began. I can’t even begin to calculate how much time. If you checked my Nintendo DS, you could probably find a record of how much time I spent playing Animal Crossing during lockdown (okay, and beyond). It would be a gargantuan number of hours. Add to that the time I spent on TikTok or researching travel I could not undertake or playing Archery in my text threads with my sisters or reading tweets, well, it’s embarrassing. I know that my misuse of time stemmed, at least initially, from the overwhelm of being in lockdown and uncertain about what was going to happen with the pandemic. But, once things relaxed a bit, did I get back on track with living my life? No. I did not. The ups and downs of “do we mask” and “can we trust the vaccines” and “why am I wearing a mask when so many people aren’t” and “how far do I have to travel to get a vaccine” and “what do you mean cloth masks aren’t effective enough” and “will there even be room at a hospital if I have a stroke or something” made me want to check out. So, I did. I continued to bury my head in nonsense.
But then we went to Hawaii for Christmas, and I put my phone down more often and lived. I sat in the sun on warm, black lava rocks, and watched the waves roll in shades of turquoise. I walked among swiss-cheese rocks and looked for shells both teeming with life and devoid of it. I woke up to the sunrise ten out of eleven mornings there. I felt the sand between my toes, smelled plumeria blossoms, and tasted fresh, Kona-grown coffee. It felt good to be alive again.
I missed living.
So today I spent some quality time with our puppy because he makes me laugh every day. I savored my food and appreciated it. I went to my meditation meeting and listened intently to what the other participants said about their practices. I worked hard to be present all day.
Maybe it was my Hawaiian holiday. Maybe it was watching Don’t Look Up. I’m not sure what has brought me to this place, but I have definitely been more present so far in 2022. I’m tired of wasting time and then being frustrated that I didn’t do all the things I wanted to do. I know what I want for this year, so I am setting an intention to show up for my life and the people in it. I’m going to spend some time this week figuring out what that looks like and how I think I can best accomplish it. And then I am going to get busy living again. It’s not a New Year’s Resolution. It’s a Life Revolution.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” ~Henry David Thoreau
When I was a teenager in the 80s, I hung out at the mall. I played in the arcade, had the occasional strawberry julius drink from the Orange Julius store, bought Smurfs and clothes there, but mostly I went hoping to run into cute boys I knew from our church who lived nearby. It was pretty much like the mall scenes in Stranger Things, except there was no demogorgon. After I graduated college, I worked retail in a Mervyn’s store in a mall in Boulder for three years. All of this is to say that malls and I go way back.
Like my younger self, I went to hang out at the mall tonight. I haven’t spent any measurable time in this nearby mall for about two years. I’ve picked things up from there while I remained in my car. I’ve walked into the Lego store for about 3 minutes, masked of course, to look for a coveted set. I know many people have not eschewed malls during the pandemic the way I have. I know many people haven’t blinked an eye about going out indoors in public spaces unmasked, but we had Covid-19 in our house a year ago and I’ve spent the past year trying to avoid getting it again. Tonight, though, my husband and I threw caution to the wind because there was holiday shopping to be done, so we spent a whole hour inside Park Meadows Mall. We went for the last hour the stores were open, so it wasn’t busy like it will be this weekend or the weekend after that, but we were not the only ones who had the same idea.
Once we came through the hallway from the parking lot and hit the main part of the mall it all felt familiar again. The wafting scents from the Nordstrom perfume counter took me right back. It might sound strange, but I took a mindful moment to inhale and be present. I was out in a mall for heaven’s sake. Being a strongly introverted person, I normally don’t enjoy shopping surrounded by other people so I took to pandemic shopping on the Internet from my home like a Labrador Retriever takes to water. But tonight hubby and I actually enjoyed being in and looking around a mall. We spent most of our time in, ironically enough, the Amazon 4-Star store (I had no idea such a thing existed) and a local boutique looking for unique gifts and stocking stuffers. It’s amazing what you miss when you shop with determination rather than curiosity.
In the end, we left with some fun finds we can’t wait to share with our family and friends and the conclusion that we will probably have to return some night next week to finish the shopping we started. We left with something else too, the feeling that maybe it’s time to start getting out a bit more…within reason and as Delta and Omicron allow. We are fully vaccinated and boosted. We can still do the things at off-peak times and find a bit of normalcy. To that end, we’ve also started booking travel for 2022 because we need to move on. If we end up having to cancel because of travel restrictions, we’ll fall off that bridge then.
We’ve had a taste of the freedom of our old lives BC (before Covid), and I think we kind of liked it. Life goes on.
I was reading a news article today about the pandemic. Specifically, it was discussing the need to deploy vaccinations to as much of the global population as possible. What caught me off guard from the article, though, was simply a statement that started, “As we are about to enter the third year of the pandemic.” The third year.
I find this so curious. On the one hand, entering the third year of the pandemic makes sense to me. When it started, most of the experts said they expected we would be dealing with this virus for at least three to five years. So I am not shocked that we are still in the clutches of Covid-19. What is crazy to me is that it seems like we’ve been living with this virus much longer than that. Traveling back in my mind to a time before masks, before the debate over vaccines, it seems like forever and a day ago. But it’s not. It’s less than three years. I think the stress of living with Covid, all its uncertainties and all the changes it’s brought, have made the past two years a blur.
My husband said today that he feels he lost a year. All of 2020 was a loss. This year was better than last. At least this year we’re able to move around more. But the pandemic, with its death toll and loss, has been exhausting. It’s no wonder that the past two years feel longer. So, year three will be more of the same. Hopefully, sometime soon, we will adjust to life with this virus and maybe time will seem to normalize.
I think this is possible. But we definitely need to get more people vaccinated or we’ll continue living this Groundhog Day for the rest of the foreseeable future. That is, if we’re lucky and don’t end up with a deadlier mutation that causes what we’ve been going through look tame. Mother Nature is amazing. Science is amazing. Now if we could just use science to get Mother Nature under control in this instance, we’d be getting somewhere.
Thirteen days. That’s how long it took for us to get a message from Luke’s school that he has been exposed to someone who tested positive for Covid-19. We have very little concern that he actually contracted Covid-19. First, he had it last fall. Second, he’s been vaccinated. Third, his high school has a high rate of vaccinations among students. Fourth, the students wear masks inside classrooms. Fifth, Luke has a suspicion about which classmate might be Patient 0, and he knows he had no direct contact with them. So, we’re probably safe, but Luke will get tested tomorrow just in case.
I knew that Covid-19 would affect this school year, but I had hoped it wouldn’t be as impactful as it was last year. In April and May when the US was vaccinating millions of people per day, I got my hopes up that maybe this fall at least could be somewhat more normal for students. Maybe they could be back in classrooms. Maybe they wouldn’t need to be masked. But then the vaccinations slowed to a trickle, and I knew we might end up right back in the same boat. It’s not the same boat, though. Last year, there was no vaccine available, so our boat was lost on tempest tossed seas and we were all in it together, not knowing when we might be able to get back to normal. This year, we got vaccines to help get us on the right track, but they only work if the vast majority of the population gets them. Since so many people decided to opt out, our boat has leaks. So here we are again. As the more transmissible Delta variant rages through the population, sending many of the unvaccinated to hospitals, we’re now fighting about mask mandates and vaccine mandates, public health versus personal freedom. It’s crazy. We’re our own worst enemies because we’re anything but united right now.
I’ve been noticing this week how much we’ve become a nation of people out for themselves. I see it when I am driving. I see it in stores. I see it everywhere I go. We’ve become a nation of people more concerned with personal freedom than the freedom of the country as a whole. Covid-19 is our mutual enemy, but some people don’t see it that way. They think the government and their fellow citizens are the enemy. Until we get ourselves collected and facing the same direction, I will probably be getting more notices from my son’s school.
As I recall the events of 9/11 and our unity on that day, I am heartbroken looking at our country now. How far we have fallen in twenty years. If an attack like the one that happened then occurred now, I’m not certain we would see the same cooperation and personal sacrifice that we saw that day and in the days and weeks following. Twenty years from now, we may still be a nation, but I’m not sure we’ll be able to say we are a great one. Once we’ve lost the ability to selflessly do for others in our communities, to step up when our government is asking us, to get a vaccine or wear a mask because it might save someone else, we can’t really call ourselves the United States of America.