The good thing about covering local news in a place as lovely as Culver City is that often, news is good. Just this past week, our bus system won yet another award, new businesses are opening, and the Department of Public Works won a grant to continue to persuade us all out of our cars and into the world. Fun stuff; inspiring.
But then, a huge upsurge in coronavirus, and we are all advised to stay home, stay safe and stay healthy. Persuading us out of our cars is going to take some time. Right now, it’s about persuading us to stay in the house. Again. Or, still.
As someone who has worked from home for years, this is not news. I’ve joked about my 20 second commute, that long stroll down the hallway, and the workaholic catnip of having a job I can do 24/7 (except that if I don’t give myself regular hours, I get a bit crazy; hence, the daily email deadline of 3 pm.) But I know teachers who are missing their classrooms, actors missing their theaters, and DJs missing their clubs.
While I count my blessings regularly, and remind my children to do so as well, it’s hard. My children are grown enough that they can cope without a lot of intervention, but we all need reassurances. On the brink of graduating high school, on the brink of moving out to university, and suddenly we are on pause, on the brink of going nowhere at all.
I often tell them tales; I can talk about history, I can cite what I know about science, I can remind everyone there needs to be more reading and less watching. But again and again – I’m just at a loss. I don’t know what say that will be comforting or up-lifting.
With all the fear around the national election, I’d been able to talk to them about many political challenges that America has survived. I can point to the student revolutions of the 60’s, I can offer the Great Depression, I can talk about my parents dealing with WWII when they were growing up. When the first ‘stay at home’ came into our lives in March, the question they asked me was “Has this ever happened before?” and all I could say was “Not in my lifetime.” I know more about the black death in Europe in the Middle Ages than I know about the influenza of the early 20th Century. Our culture doesn’t teach the things we prefer to ignore.
During the pandemic, we have celebrated birthdays, we volunteered and voted, and we have kept each other in check and in spirits. We have a roof over our heads (many don’t) groceries to cook (many don’t) and plenty of work to do, from writing news to developing video games and studying economics. No one is disconnected or bored, but we are all feeling alienated and isolated in ways that are becoming increasingly tough to mitigate.
Socializing on Zoom feels like a painful parody of communication. I’ve been joking with people that it feels like a snack, and I need a meal. I’m remembering the long-term, never satisfied hunger of being diabetic-while-pregnant. Any mouthful of food I was allowed was absorbed as soon as I’d swallowed it, and I felt empty again. Or still.
Cancelling one of my favorite holiday traditions – the big feast – is another check on the list of ‘not what I was hoping for.’
But the infection rate, the death toll, the stories I get from friends who are doctors and nurses – I want to cry, swear and scream all at the same time. It did not have to be this way. And we all know, the next two months will be just this bad or worse.
It will feel wonderful, sometime next Spring, when we can hug our friends and neighbors, sit down and order off the menu, browse bookshelves, and applaud the performers. When we can focus on moving things forward instead of just hoping that they don’t slide back farther than we can reach.
When we can feel like it’s relaxing to be home again.