Like everyone else I am having trouble thinking about anything other than the coronavirus pandemic and the shockwaves it has sent, and will continue to send, through the system. As it began to unfold I found myself thinking, talking, and posting about it fairly constantly. In an effort to try to keep it confined to a given time and place, both physically and psychologically, I am keeping a diary of it all.
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April 18: I made some carrot soup on Friday night. As I was doing that — which is about the most humdrum a thing a person can do on a Friday night — Allison was at the club:
Allison is really into EDM and makes a point to go to a show at least every few months if she can. She’s had a couple of shows get cancelled on her so far and it’ll probably be some time before she can go again. Luckily there have been some livestream marathons for the past couple of weekends, with DJs playing from their houses or apartments. Or, in the case of our man Tiësto here, who is probably the biggest, most famous DJ of the past couple of decades, playing from a cavernous room with thousands upon thousands of dollars of light effects that would make most commercial clubs jealous. I can only assume he was streaming that from his auxiliary eight-car garage or something. There’s a lot of money in that racket, guys.
We had another FaceTime happy hour with the couple we met on the cruise we took back in January. A great deal of our conversation surrounded the concept of “oh my God, can you believe we all went on a cruise? Like that’s ever happening again.” I suppose the cruise industry will survive this thanks to bailouts. And I’ve read that cruise people — and it’s definitely a type — have already started booking things again for late this year and early next year because prices have gone through the floor. That’s, um, fine, I guess, but I think I will do literally everything there is left to do on the planet before I take a cruise again. Even staying in hotels is going to feel weird for a good long time.
I will say: I really do like the FaceTime happy hours. I’m not a shut-in or anything, and my introversion, to the extent it exists, is situational at at best. I’m a decent conversationalist when I’m feeling up to it and I can function totally fine in social settings. When you’ve spend a solid decade with most of your friendships and human interactions being mediated by a computer screen like I have, though, there’s something . . . comforting about having drinks with people that way too. The rhythms of couple-on-couple conversations seem easier in that setting for me and I’ve come to like it.
But there’s more to it than just habit for me. There’s something in my psyche at play here too. Something which I’ve only really become truly aware of in the past few years: I have a difficult time finding the right balance between observing the world with objective detachment and actively participating in it.
When I was a lawyer I’d often find myself keeping myself too far removed from my clients than I probably should have if I truly wanted to represent them zealously. I kept myself a step apart, in my mind, because I wanted to keep a step apart from their ethics. But I know now there was something more to it. I didn’t want to become enmeshed in the lives and business of others in certain ways because I did not like that level of familiarity regardless. I liked to keep some distance and some space that one cannot easily do when one assumes the role of another’s advocate. This wasn’t the biggest reason I had trouble in that career, but it was always present, even if I didn’t realize it at the time.
Since I’ve become a writer — working at home, not interacting with many people in person on a daily basis — I often feel like more of a voyeur than a participant in the world, with a tendency to disengage and think about life more intellectually or theoretically than to actually, you know, live it. This tendency is far more pronounced when I’m under stress or when I’m unhappy. It’s not a good quality. It’s something that, since I became fully aware of it a couple of years ago, I’ve worked hard to notice and head off when I slip into it around actual people. Still, I’ll likely always have to work a bit harder to fully engage with anyone apart from those to whom I am truly close like my family.
The online happy hours are a sort of engagement, but they’re low commitment since I don’t have to go anywhere. There is a physical distance and formality that gets me out of the “do we sit 2 + 2 at the corner of a bar or do we get a booth or how does this work?” thing that I think about way too much. The technology introduces an element of turn-taking in conversation that makes me feel more comfortable in some ways. I’m almost embarrassed now that I’ve gone back and read all of that, and wonder if anyone who actually knows me in real life can even see this part of me. Maybe it’s all in my head? Maybe it’s obvious but everyone’s polite about it? I have no idea, but it’s how I feel a lot of the time.
We had a few warm days a week or two ago, but it’s been pretty cold or rainy most days. We even had some sleet mixed with snow one day last week. It hasn’t felt much like spring yet. Today it was sunny and, while not super warm, it was warm enough to do some things outside. I’ve been needing to power wash the cats’ litter box (one of those big automatic ones, which makes it a fairly involved job) and since I had the power washer out I cleaned off the patio bricks, fence and furniture too. As I was reeling the hose back in the sun, the moisture, and the dirt all combined for a pleasant, earthy, springlike feel. It reminded me of the turf at the Kentucky Horse Park, where we go and tailgate at the Land Rover Three Day Event each year:
That would’ve been next weekend but it’s obviously cancelled, which is a bummer, as it’s a great time. Still, that spring smell I got yesterday was encouraging. The seasons are still going to come and go even if everything we fill them with have stopped. There’s something comforting in that.