We walked into the grocery store without masks. We went to the library and browsed to our hearts’ content without masks. In Massachusetts, enough people are now vaccinated to allow most of us to be freer now in our movements. Last weekend we even went to a restaurant and sat inside with friends and ate, without masks.
Other parts of the world are still dealing with raging infections and deaths. My mind, soul, and heart don’t know where to stand, where to go, what to feel, living on a teeter-totter. So I enjoy my new freedom, and I weep for those who don’t have it yet.
And I wait to see what comes next.
Today I decided to treat myself like I would tell anyone else to treat themselves. I paid $100 for a set of Photoshop filters. I’ve used the free version for a few years now, but as always happens in the Capitalist world, the company finally killed off the free one and only offers an expensive paid version. Without the filters, I found that I never wanted to spend time on my photography anymore because the artistic rendering was too limited. I feel bad about the money spent, but it’s exciting to work on images again.
It’s been awhile since my last post because I just couldn’t write about the pandemic anymore—I was feeling pandemic exhaustion, or “languishing” as it’s being called now. I was definitely languishing. But I decided to write in the Pandemic Journaling Project again today, so I’ll post it here, too.
They give two questions to answer, so this will be a little long.
Question 1: How are you feeling this week?
After almost a year and a half of maintaining at least 6 ft of social distance, I have a very hard time when a stranger stands closer to me than that, even though I’m fully vaccinated. Today I was in line at the grocery store and a man came up and stood right behind me, at most 2 feet away. It made me really uncomfortable and anxious. Plus he wasn’t wearing a mask, which also doesn’t really matter now that I’m vaccinated, but it just made it worse for my anxiety level. The same thing happened a few weeks ago. I get really angry and want to turn around and scream, “6 feet, people! 6 feet!” But I don’t say anything because I hate to make a scene. And honestly, I’m afraid the person might be aggressive. So I just keep trying to inch forward to get away from them. Of course it doesn’t work because they just inch forward, too. I by nature have a large personal space, so social distancing has been quite comfortable for me with strangers (not with family or friends, though—I want to be able to be close to them). But I was okay with a couple of feet between me and other people. I don’t know how long it will take me to be able to stand comfortably any closer than 6 feet now.
Question 2: What was the biggest event of last week?
The biggest event started before last week—the COVID situation in India is horrendous. And Thailand is suffering from the biggest surge since the pandemic began. Africa doesn’t have enough vaccines to give out, Europe is still restricted in many places, and the U.S.–Canada border is still closed. With the rate of vaccinations going up in the U.S., it’s easy to feel like the pandemic is ending. But it definitely isn’t. And only 41% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, so we’re not anywhere near “herd immunity” yet even here.
I read an article yesterday about the conflict for vaccinated people who want to feel relieved and happy and optimistic for the future, but so many people are still suffering and dying that we can’t just celebrate. And Americans are still dying, too, so it’s really hard for people who have just lost someone to the disease to see other people going around without masks on, having parties, etc., when a loved one just died from COVID.
We’re entering a very complicated time in this pandemic where some people are coming out the other side of it while others are still buried in it. And some people are vaccinated while others aren’t. The wealth gap is blazing in our faces, both domestically and globally. Why are so many Americans vaccinated when India and Africa can’t get enough to go around? Why is India running out of oxygen for treatments? Why are people in poorer communities here in the U.S. not getting vaccinated as quickly as middle and upper class (and mostly White) folks? I hope this horrible suffering will be redeemed at least a little bit by people seeing the injustices that have been exposed to the light, and doing something to change them. I wish I could be more optimistic about that actually happening.
I’ve been languishing since January and find it hard to motivate myself to talk about the pandemic anymore. I’m so tired of it. And there’s no clear end in sight.
I have written a couple of times in the Pandemic Journaling Project, so I’m going to copy and paste those entries here.
12 April 2021
How is the coronavirus pandemic affecting your life right now? Tell us about your experiences, feelings, and thoughts.
I haven’t had any motivation to write about the pandemic for the past two weeks. It’s like I’ve run out of caring about it. My husband and I are both fully vaccinated now, so we were able to spend Easter with our kids and grandkids, which was fantastic. My grandson greeted me with a huge hug and kiss, and I said, “I can eat your face again!” So we both kissed each other all over our faces. Our granddaughter was also super excited to see us. She’s less kissy than her brother, but she gives great hugs.
I’ve thought, “I need to write this in my blog—it’s a huge part of the pandemic experience.” But I haven’t done it, for some reason. It’s not like I feel that the pandemic is over—that’s far from true. Even if the variants don’t take over and make the vaccine worthless, we’re still going to have a long time before enough people are immune to get back to a life of easy socializing. And a huge surge is happening right now in Michigan, with the infection rate going from 45,000+ two weeks ago to 51,500+ this past week. Only 35% of Americans are vaccinated so far, so it’s going to be a while before we can call it a day on this. So maybe it’s just pandemic fatigue that’s kept me from writing here or on my personal blog.
I felt really angry after we came back from Brooklyn. I just want to be able to feel relaxed about spending time with people, and to wander around Central Park without feeling unsafe and afraid every time I pass by someone with less than 6ft between us. Or even just having to have 6ft between me and the rest of the world. I’ll keep doing it until it’s safe not to, but I’m getting super sick of it.
Talk about your current living situation. Has anything changed during the pandemic (for example, where you’re living, who you’re living with, etc.).
The major thing that’s changed for us is recently we refinanced our house to take advantage of the current low interest rates, and we took a cash-out for $8,000. Then the stimulus checks came, so we added another $2,800 to that. And we finally got our refund from an error in my tax filing for 2020, which was way more than I expected—$2,700! When I file this year’s taxes, I can fill out the rebate form for not getting my 2nd stimulus check for $600, so we might actually get a refund for that, too. Being in the money has allowed us to upgrade and beautify our home and gardens in ways that we’ve wanted to do for a long time but couldn’t afford to. There were so many people at Target yesterday that the checkout line went down the aisle and around the corner. You can see the stimulus checks in action! Anyone who says that personal checks don’t help the economy wasn’t at Target yesterday.
26 April 2021
“How has the pandemic affected your life in the past week?”
In the past week? Great, in maybe a weird way. We got our relief checks, so that’s another $2800 in the bank account. We spent a lot of it on garden stuff so we can make our front yard look as good as we’ve wanted it to for 12 years. And we’re also getting things for the vegetable gardens and Louie’s Milkweed Butterfly garden. It’s wonderful to be able to afford better quality items than we usually can.
That seems like a very materialistic view of life in the pandemic. But it’s real, and a blessing for us.
Has the pandemic disrupted your plans for the future in any major way? If so, talk about the most significant disruption(s).
The border with Canada is still closed, so we can’t travel to Montreal and Ottawa. We spend a lot of time in both places when we’re allowed to. We had also planned a 25th anniversary trip to Nova Scotia last year. That’s not going to happen again this year either.
Travel in general has been halted—after more than a year, it’s getting sad and a bit suffocating not to be able to go anywhere. First World Problems.
With everyone vaccinated, we were able to spend Easter weekend with our kids and grandkids. It was soul-filling. We went to Central Park (NYC) on Saturday to have a chilly picnic. In this picture, Anna is playing with her dad, and Louie is scoping out his next activity. So much fun!
James got his second Pfizer shot this past week, so in 10 days, we’ll both be fully vaccinated. He’s protected enough with just the first shot (85%) that we’re going down to Brooklyn for Easter. That’s the best resurrection I can imagine right now.
It’s cold and rainy today, after a week of sunny spring weather. New England always teases us with spring before returning to cold, and sometimes even snow. Gives the old curmudgeons that New England seems to breed something to complain about. Even though it happens every year.
We got our refinance money and have been boosting the economy buying home improvement stuff that we couldn’t afford before. We’re still waiting on our stimulus checks.
I just read a NYTimes article about “disenfranchised grief”—grief that isn’t acknowledged. There is a lot of it that has built up in many of us who haven’t lost anyone close to us, or lost our jobs, or been evicted. Our losses are “smaller”; e.g., losing time with our grandchildren; missing out on big events like weddings, funerals, graduations; canceling travel plans; or just being unable to be with people face-to-face.
All those little losses add up, though, and need to be acknowledged. We have to give ourselves permission to feel it. It’s common to say, “Other people have it a lot worse than me, so I can’t grieve the small things.” I say it all the time—”I’m lucky because I already worked from home so my job wasn’t affected”; “No one close to me has died, so I’m very fortunate”; etc. I feel sad that we can’t be with our kids and grandkids. It was painful to have to have a memorial service for my brother-in-law, who died from lung cancer, over Zoom—it tore me apart to see my niece sobbing and not be able to hold her. I miss wandering around TJMaxx for a couple of hours.
But I haven’t lost a loved one to COVID. We haven’t been evicted or lost our income. We can afford to put food on the table. So my grief isn’t as important as others’. I don’t have a right to grieve.
Not so! There’s no hierarchy of grief. My grief is just as legitimate as anyone else’s and needs to be honored. How to do that is up to me—I need to find ways to grieve openly that work for me. I’m not good at grief in general, so it won’t be easy. Not that grief ever is.