It’s All Sinking In Now

Last week was vaguely tolerable, relatively speaking—or as tolerable as a lockdown during a deadly global pandemic could be. It was still newish and we were all figuring out our new normal as we went. Our new routines. Our new lives. It was baptism by quarantine; there was hardly time to let the reality of the situation sink in. It was all horrifying and panic-inducing, make no mistake. But it was exciting, kind of! There was chaotic optimism afoot.

Then, all at once this week, it became entirely less so. It all became painfully real. It all began to sink in: we are on the first lap of a grueling 500-mile GRIND … and certainly not in a racecar. No sir, this is an awkward potato-sack race of some sort—every household for themselves. Hop on in, kids! It is claustrophobic and miserable in here, and it will be until this race is over! There will be no winners.

The chaos of last week has been replaced by constant waves of dread and worry and rage washing up against the shores of our brains all day and night, broken up only by stretches of boredom or restless sleep. The vibe of last week’s #LockdownLife changed abruptly at some point, although I’m not exactly sure when. Now it’s like we’re awkwardly potato-sack racing through a weird Björk video that never ends, trying to get to a finish line we can’t yet see. Real became the surreal.

There are no Zoom cocktail hours in a Björk video, of course. It is too dark. No sidewalk chalk-art projects with the kids. No irreverent blog posts about Wiffle Ball or Police Academy 3 to pass the time. Nothing quasi-normal. Nothing like last week. There is only strange misery and stranger music here, and also maybe someone dressed up as a goose crying marmalade and playing an oboe all sadly. Sometimes there is a laugh or two, but not often.

The darkness has not lifted at all these last few days, but only because we wouldn’t let it—or at least I wouldn’t. Not when the news of Twitter is just a glance away. Not when the vast scope of this disaster is finally materializing in real time. Not when entire industries are dying, as are countless small businesses and healthy people too. Not when the end of all this is somewhere over an invisible horizon. Not with the mass suffering. Not when the projected unemployment numbers are too grim to even comprehend. None of this is comprehensible. All of it is horrific. 

This is what overwhelming grief feels like. It is too much to absorb all at once, on an endless loop, which is exactly what I was doing this week. From before sun-up to second-breakfast all the way through post-dinner brunch. Wash, rinse, repeat—all day, every day … until Halloween? Valentine’s Day?

No more. This is not sustainable. New plan!

No more long-term, big-picture perspectives on this rotten mess. We’re in one-day-at-a-time mode until further notice. Anything beyond that is too overwhelming. Too impossible-sounding. 

No more bingeing 20 hours of gut-wrenching news reports in one day. That is unhealthy and unproductive. That is how you get sucked into a never-ending Björk video like it’s Jumanji. Get the facts and feel like absolute shit for a brief spell, then move on quickly. Do the irreverent nonsense we stopped doing. Regain that chaotic optimism of last week.

It’s a new day. And a sunny one at that for once. 

(That helps a great deal, too—let’s not kid ourselves.)