And so the world goes on pause.
My first real Moment™ in all of this happened a week ago, when I did the grocery shopping. (No delivery around here.) Took hand sanitizer in the car (it’s an old bottle, but it still smells like alcohol, so I figure it’s better than nothing). Wiped down the handle of the cart. Carried my purse slung over my shoulder instead of putting it down. Did my best not to touch anything I didn’t then put in my cart, although I’m sure I failed now and then. Forgot, and asked for cash at checkout; ended up leaving it rolled up in a cabinet for a few days. Came home, washed down everything with bleach (foaming bathroom cleanser, actually; the only thing we’ve got in the house with real bleach in it). Washed down the table afterward. Threw all my clothes in the laundry, and got in the shower.
It was somewhere in the middle of washing down bananas and bags of nuts that I started to cry. My daughter came in to comfort me, and I held my hand up to stop her. I hadn’t showered yet. I’d been as careful as I could be, but I was still terrified of bringing something into the house. Hugging my child was too much of a risk.
The second moment was yesterday, when The Kid’s history teacher sent a dissertation about how much he missed them and here are some assignments and oh, by the way, I’ve attached a video showing you how to turn off notifications in Google Classroom so you don’t get overwhelmed. My kid loves this teacher. He’s brought history alive for her. It’s always been a subject she enjoyed, but this year has been extraordinary. And I realized she’ll never go back to that class, and I started to cry again.
It wears you down, doesn’t it? Little things you didn’t even know you valued.
And I try not to think of how different things would be if the country had responded properly at the beginning, because that’s enraging and all I can do now is do my best not to be part of the problem.
I have a schedule, of a sort. Writing in the morning. Software in the afternoon. Art/socializing/playing games in the evening. (I’ve started playing both Control and The Unfinished Swan. I keep dying in Control, and The Unfinished Swan is stunningly beautiful but sometimes far too frustrating. I go back to Prey just so I can feel successful.) I don’t keep the schedule every day, although my intentions are always good. Aren’t everyone’s?
My parents are doing all right. When I called the other day, I caught my mom setting up dinner for my dad—they’ve started bringing everyone food in their apartments to limit socializing. (So far nobody there is sick.) It was odd, because in the year they’ve lived there, it’s almost always been him answering the phone. But she sounded cheerful and alert and utterly annoyed with my father because he couldn’t figure out how to unpack his own meal. More herself than she has in a few months.
I think, honestly, it’s because she’s eating regularly, thanks to the meal delivery. There’s no way for her to forget to go to the dining room. Little tiny blessings.
I find myself thinking of my ex, and what it would have been like going through this with him. Nightmarish. I think about the states that are closing liquor stores, and I get it; but I imagine being cooped up with that man with his source cut off…I know why they’re doing it, and it probably makes sense overall, but there will be individual situations that get a lot worse. (He’d have jumped in a car and driven to another state until he found an open liquor store. And driven home drunk.)
So many cracks exposed. Cracks many of us knew about that are now exposed to the rest of the country. And all those cracks we didn’t think of, or never saw, because privilege by its nature is blinding. On the other side of all this, there’s a real opportunity for effective change. I have strong doubts we’ll take it, at least here in the US; we’re unbelievably stupid when it comes to the public good. But there are things we can work at locally, changes that are maybe even likely on a state-by-state basis. Nothing is linear, I suppose. I choose hope.
I am still drawing. I’m in the middle of a new eye. I started with a tutorial on eye shapes, and proceeded to a tutorial on realism. I’m finding I’m good at following directions, but my technical skills are just not there yet. Not surprising at all, but I enjoy the results nonetheless.
The book is creeping along as well. It’s hard, writing. It never used to be. It isn’t always now, really; I can write stuff that’s unimportant pretty easily. I can write bits of the book after this one, or scenes of revisionist history on past books. But this one? This one has an intended audience, and that makes it hard on its face.
I try to remember that just writing is a victory. I try to remember that I’m still in pieces, still figuring out what this all means to me now. Words are good. Words are progress. I’m still in here, somewhere, and I’ll make it out.
And yes, I’m still angry, all the time. Which is working in an interesting way in this book. The character I have who should be the most angry is instead the most compassionate. It’s a matter of choosing which parts of life we have power over. When we’re existing in a world that’s disintegrating around us, choosing compassion feels like an assertion of independence. In fiction, I can make that choice repair the entire universe.
In reality it’s harder to see. I’ve always believed our actions, good and bad, have ripples. Realistically we don’t always know how our actions are going to affect the world around us, but as a general rule a smile or a kind word is worth the trouble. It’s harder, in these days when we’re supposed to stay away from each other, but I can thank the people at the grocery store from six feet away. And I can smile at them, at least until we’re all wearing masks.
Which may be Thursday, when I have to go back to the store.