And again

New restrictions were announced earlier today. It isn’t a surprise, and day to day, it won’t change much for me personally.

And yet. It still hurts. It’s still a sign of how bad the situation is, how much worse it could potentially get. And even if it doesn’t affect me much personally, I think I’m in the minority in that. I am mostly okay not seeing people outside my immediate family. I’m healthy. I work from home. I don’t have kids to care for, balance trade-offs around, or worry about. I’m not a small business owner, worrying about how I’m going to make it through one more round. I’m not worried about my job no longer existing tomorrow, or two days from now, or next week.

So I’m okay. I’m lucky. And I’m also lucky in that I know I’m lucky, and I feel grateful for all that luck every damn day.

But then, there is also the world overall. There’s my town and my people and my state and my home. There’s all the places and people I love, whether specifically or in the abstract. And there’s all the people and places I don’t know or don’t love, but which are also worthy and interesting and valid.

So what about everything else? What about all of that?

I am mostly fine, and I’m grateful.

It still hurts.

Before, during, next

The last time I wore makeup was March 9. It was a Monday. I woke up, showered, got dressed, put on makeup, drove to work.

Two days before work-from-home, the parking lot was already starting to empty. Pre-Covid, during the day there were usually more cars here than parking spots.

I took a photo of the nearly-empty parking lot.

I ate lunch with a colleague, and we agreed that about the last thing either of us would want to do was work from home.

The next day, I did work from home, not because of Covid but because I had a mid-day appointment in the opposite direction from the office and I didn’t feel like driving back and forth.

Then Google announced recommended work from home for nearly everyone in the Bay Area, and that was that.

When I left my office that Monday, I wasn’t thinking about never? not going back for months and months. I left a jar of homemade kefir fermenting in a desk drawer. I left cards from friends and photos from early work trips. I left sentimental notes from colleagues written during team building exercises but no less sincere (I hope) for all that. I left a tiny carved stone elephant. I left stamps. I left a sweater (I think). I left things that would have been useful: pads of sticky notes, an external keyboard, multiple types of USB cables, a mouse.

The change was so abrupt that no one had a chance to plan for it. I was distracted, too, because first my husband and then I got sick (Covid? I don’t know.) I think I caught up with how many people were feeling about a month later. Normal one day, surreal alternate-reality the next – and now it’s been nearly six months. Is it any wonder we’re still reeling?

Now I’m looking ahead and wondering what’s next. On the one hand, planning for a time in the far distant future – Thursday, say – seems incredibly challenging.

On the other hand, these days are the days I get.

I don’t want to accidentally miss them because I wasn’t paying attention.

Default

Years ago I walked the Camino Santiago. In the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela at the end, the priest prayed that “now that we no longer have the flechas amarillas, the yellow arrows marking the path, to guide us, we are able to find our way.” 

This week feels like a time when I need that. This week: 

Google extends work from home as coronavirus cases surge

More federal agents dispatched to Portland as protests rise in other cities

In my more specific world, over the past few days I’ve talked to more people socially than I had in the previous few weeks; there are a bunch of incredibly cute baby lizards in the garden, and one larger but also cute rabbit, which so far (fingers crossed!) has not wreaked havoc on the vegetables I’m growing; I have half a flat of nectarines in the kitchen, thanks to the grocery delivery service that I really like; the tomatoes are not yet ripe but look promising. 

And at the same time: It’s hard to know where to go from here. It’s hard to make plans. It’s hard to not make plans. It’s hard to know whether to see friends in person but socially distanced, or not. It’s hard to figure out work (sometimes it’s also just hard to work; for half of yesterday, my video call connections were so flaky that I actually couldn’t do anything). It’s hard to feel so blah and at the same time realize that objectively, there is nothing wrong: I am healthy; the people I love are healthy; I have a job. The house remodel is ongoing, but it is ongoing, and I have a non-leaking roof over my head. I miss the people I miss, and I am very very worried about the wider world, but I in particular am … fine. 

Last week I attended a senior women’s get together, virtual of course, in the hopes of finding a sense of community. I ended up feeling wildly out of place. The things I am angry about were different than what others are angry about. I don’t have kids, and a lot of it was (reasonably enough) about the frustrations of unknown school schedules; I kept thinking that most of the topics would have been relevant to men too, and I wished the men I work with were there. I felt like an alien life form. On the other hand, the management discussion group that I accidentally signed up to lead did feel a bit more community-like, and I am reminding myself that I am optimistic about that. 

There’s a value to having a default plan. Years ago I had insomnia, and I learned that even after very little sleep, I could get a lot done if I already had a plan. So I planned: every day at the end of the work day, I laid out what needed to happen next. The Camino offered something similar: sure, there were interesting detours and side trips I could take, but in general, the path was this way. I could choose to deviate, but the road was known. 

So that’s what I’m thinking about, and what I’m trying to do. The world is uncertain and I don’t know what I’m doing or what’s important. But a while back I laid out projects and priorities. Dates and timelines exist. 

I’m reminding myself: there’s a comfort in having a plan.