This is my first pandemic, outside those I’ve found in history books, and after thinking it over for the better part of a year, I have decided: I am just not enjoying it.
I mean, I didn’t really need nearly a full year to mull this over, to conclude I’m not having much fun, but as this drags on, and on, and on . . . well, I want it to be done. Now. Like, today.
Everything about this past year has been about waiting, everything as drawn out as possible. Campaign season, the election that would not end, with different deadlines that have always existed but never mattered until this year — Electoral College dates, certification dates, insurrection dates — and the absolutely miraculous arrival of vaccines, some now, more on the way, but the deadline for making this all go away just gets pushed back and back and back.
If you aren’t lucky enough to live in a “first-world” country, your vaccination number might not come up until 2023. And here I thought waiting until
April July December seemed intolerable. Until it turns out mutations have rendered vaccines inert, or certainly not ert enough, and we have to start all over again. Even if you have been vaccinated, no one knows if you can still be a carrier, or catch the virus, and so no one has been willing to put a date on when we can cast our masks aside. Maybe never, since there are those warning that as bad as covid has been, we ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.
I suppose at one point men, and later women, put pants on for the first time, and they were probably itchy and uncomfortable and hard to breathe in, but by and large the human race has adapted to this as a clothing norm. Maybe someday we will get there with masks as well, and two generations from now people will pull on their pants and their masks with equal aplomb and disregard. But I’m not there yet, even if I am wearing a mask for many more hours per day than lots of people, including people who ought to be wearing them but aren’t (see election: endless).
Lynn likes to say that really, the pandemic hasn’t altered our two little lives that much, and I suppose that’s the better attitude to take, but I just can’t go there with her, and I decouple more and more from that nonsense by the day.
Neither of us lost a job, and we never had to endure a lengthy mandate to stay home and joyfully learn new skills — languages, rediscovering a love for cooking I have never had and never will. In fact, the one new hobby I did pick up, a mere two months before the world came to a crashing halt, is one that these days I wonder if I’m ever going to go back to. Logistics for pursuing my woodworking right now seem to be more than I can manage, and while I had a complete multitude of projects rattling around in my rather fuzzy head last year, nothing sounds very appealing these days.
I’m trying to recognize this for the covid fatigue it is, but I am wearing out. Perhaps I am worn out, with the wearing coming all these days and weeks and months of abnormality.
Lynn is right in some respects: we get up, go to work, engage with our co-workers, come home, engage with each other, go to bed. We watch TV, we go for walks around our expansive new neighborhood, we still spend Sunday mornings with our friends — sort of.
And it’s that “sort of” that’s starting to wear really thin. We don’t meet our friends in person at a restaurant, or even at someone’s house. We talk to them through the computer. Can you imagine navigating the Black Plague without a modem?
So we’re not suffering the way past pandemic participants have. At least some of us. Columnist David Von Drehle, whose work I generally admire, depressed the heck out of me yesterday with basic math. We are right on track for the 500,000 U.S. deaths somberly predicted a full year ago, in February, by health monitors who crunch numbers, and if you start breaking that down into bite-sized pieces, it means one American has died nearly every single minute of the last year from covid. One American per minute, for an entire year. And that’s probably an undercount.
Like you, I did not bank on having my life disrupted by a pandemic. And it has been disrupted, more than Lynn thinks. She and I don’t go on our Saturday lunch dates. We sort of try, when the weather is nice enough: we buy a fast-food meal and eat it in the park or in our car next to the park. Or we order food from a local restaurant, almost none of them up to my exacting standards of safety protocols, which leaves me alternately angry and despairing, and bring it home, reheating the restaurant luxury right out of it.
We think and plan and work up to any trip to any store. No more dashing off to get that one thing we forgot. We now regard these as “outings,” since neither of us can remember the last time we made it past the city limits in pretty much any direction. Yesterday our big fun was driving a few blocks out of our way to look at new construction. Whee!
My sister Tia moved here last May. I haven’t seen her any more than I would have had she still been in Arvada. She sees her in-laws a lot, but there are those exacting standards of mine where it seems like a bad idea to bring postal germs up against school germs up against the germs her frequently-tested husband might get from flying all over the country to film sporting events.
Tia had huge plans for our togetherness; I had plans to scale those down significantly. Less two-day backpacking trip and more family dinner. Here is what we have done instead: when she wasn’t sure where to go to pick up her new CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) beef pack from Parker Pastures, I drove her there, both of us masked, every window in the car rolled down. It was kind of a throwback to the old days, inasmuch as she was wearing inappropriate footwear and made me come get her so she didn’t have to walk, just like when she was in high school and wanted a ride to school because snowboots weren’t “fashionable.”
And when I took her back to work, to the building that is now school administrative offices and the earliest grades but which was our elementary school a lifetime ago, she sat there in the car while we tried to puzzle out where the original building ended and additions began.
That is what I thought I’d be doing over the course of the last year, not hiding behind a computer and mask while living life to the fullest it can be these days. There was no neighborhood get-together like some of us have hoped for; there have been no dinner guests in a new house with plenty of space for entertaining.
All but one of the people in my orbit are still with us, for which I am profoundly grateful, although a few were early victims of this contagion and still struggle with “long-hauler” symptoms. My parents and many friends are now vaccinated; Tia has received her first shot. The Post Office is still waiting as our county despairs, because it has the capacity to vaccinate so many more of us, but no vaccine nor state permission to do so.
I want to be done with covid. I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in the world with this sentiment, and you can’t understand a single word I’ve written, but try to work with me here. For being in this all together, this has been a lonely damn year.