Improbable spring

Flourish Vol. 29

There’s nothing I can tell you about this current moment that you don’t already know, or at least feel. Life right now is a roller coaster without end in which the past just mere weeks removed feels like someone else’s life. It’s both heartening and jarring how quickly we’ve taken to social distancing, retreating inward like prairie dogs only occasionally surfacing for air, poking our heads out of our respective holes to see whether the danger has passed.

Of course, it hasn’t, and won’t for some time, by all predictions. The worst is yet to come, in the very worst way possible. Central Park is a field hospital, my colleagues in New York say the usual hum of the city has settled into an eerie silence, save for the constant sirens grinding their nerves to dust day and night. And already I hear them more often, too.

I am anxiety-prone, catastrophic-thinking inclined, a germaphobic hypochondriac even under the best of circumstances. I have had a tightness in my chest for weeks, I am impossibly tired. I’m having strange dreams, I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night. I am coping the only way I, a textbook Type A, know how; obsessively cleaning, organizing, setting my groceries and prescriptions to delivery, throwing myself into work, writing to-do-lists, keeping constant tabs on my friends and family, refreshing Twitter more often than could ever possibly be healthy. Candles and cooking and hot baths and drunken video game nights act as salves, but the constant strain of uncertainty is already pickling my brain. I am unspeakably fortunate to be so marginally affected by all of this, and still I feel myself splintering, and I worry for everyone who isn’t as lucky.

We are nearing the point of no return, and even for those of us fortunate enough to ride this out with the health of ourselves and the people we love, things won’t be the same. In the absence of any timeline, any certainty, my friends and I have taken to speculating about what life might look like after all of this. That first day of freedom, some semblance of normalcy, as we stumble back to restaurants and bars – the ones that survive this – like zombies risen from the dead. Will we be softer, literally and figuratively, pale from lack of sun? Will we be feeble, feral from so many months without human interactions and societal norms keeping our basest tendencies in check? Will we remember how to live without flinching and worrying, will life as we knew it now exist only in past tense?

The worst I can do now is dwell. The most I can do is walk, putting one foot in front of the other, feeling fresh air in the lungs I have never been so grateful for. And my god, it is so fresh. California is effectively on lockdown and the streets are as sparsely populated as the suburbia of my childhood, and I have never seen the sky in Los Angeles so blue. You can see the ocean from Griffith Park; from just the right vantage point, I can spot the Hollywood sign from my neighborhood. Brilliant white clouds stretch endlessly across an untainted sky, and at night there are stars. Amid the eerie quiet, the neighbors I pass wearing surgical masks, the ambulance wheeling someone away on a gurney down the street, it is still improbably, almost impossibly, spring. Pink jacaranda petals littering the empty sidewalks, jasmine in fragrant bloom, sunsets stretching on later and later into the still evenings. The world spins on, waking from winter, oblivious to our peril. But this city, I think, she is resting. Breathing, healing, holding us tightly in blessed stillness. And she’ll be here waiting, whenever we’ve made it to the other side.

Reading:

All of this chaos has mostly cost me travel, an important – but rather easily rescheduled– part of my life. But my heart aches for coworkers who have postponed weddings, friends who have lost job opportunities, for high school seniors missing prom and college seniors graduating into an absolute clusterfuck. All this to say, it is more than okay to grieve the year that would’ve been, all the milestones kicked down the road, all the possible timelines that converged and disappeared because of this. It’s okay to mourn the small things – they compose this human experience, too // Homes actually need to be practical now // How the pandemic will end // How Trump failed the biggest test of his life // A chilling account from a doctor at the center of the coronavirus crisis // The joy – and exhaustion – of nonstop video chatting (yes, hello, this speaks to me deeply) // I have so, so, so much empathy and awe for parents at home with kids right now, my god.

I live alone, something I am mostly grateful for, but that has long been a mixed blessing. I have no idea when I’ll be able to see or hug another human again but, fortunately, thanks to technology, I don’t feel lonely. My own grandparents have been quarantined for a month now; my grandma says the hardest part of it all, even above the boredom, has been not being able to hug her kids. She Facetimes with her great-grandchildren, both toddlers, out of fear they’ll forget her. A lot of articles have posited that this might just be what moves us away from our need for human interaction, once and for all. Speaking even as introvert, however, I think this time has already shown us that we need each other more than ever.

Also, I am essentially a human bean bag chair right now, so I have no idea what prompted this message, but it made me smile and I do believe and hope a silver lining to all this tragedy and pain will be a vast improvement in our empathy and generosity and kindness toward one another. I have seen nothing but wholesomeness and sincerity between my friends and colleagues as we are all cooped up at home, riding out the same deeply confusing human experience in tandem, and I am very here for it.

(Important editor’s note: This was not a man)

I’ve felt less self-conscious about being authentic to myself and honest with others in the midst of all this, and it’s very freeing. So go compliment someone out of the blue, contribute a random act of kindness, profess your love, or whatever it is that floats your boat. There’s no such thing as being too earnest at the (proverbial) end of the world.

Anyway, here are some songs:

Sublime.

I feel the weight of the world / but the world doesn’t feel me at all

Jeff wrote this about the pandemic, in a day, and as an aspiring singer/songwriter/whatever trying to use this time to be creatively productive, it’s very inspiring!!

One day we'll both feel better / Bad news can't last forever

I'm sorry / I meant it / What's one more pandemic?

Stay healthy, talk soon 🖤

Olivia