…is going on?
Most of you know me to be a “reasonable” person, so I hope you will listen to this story with your “reasonable” person ears:
July 11th my 18-year-old daughter texted me and apologized for not coming home in time to drive with Dwight and me to help her sister move. Her best friend had been kicked out of the house and she and another friend went to help him. The three spent the night together at the first friend’s house.
July 12th she sent a frantic text to me saying she’d reconsidered all of her 18-year-old choices and would be doing something different with her life. The reason why? The best friend’s dad was in the ER with COVID-19.
Cue wtf responses.
July 12th my daughter’s best friend supposedly had an expedited test (48-hour return) because he was in contact with his father.
July 13th my daughter was able to be tested because she’d been in contact with the best friend. Her test was due back within 6 to 10 days.
Prior to this, I had planned a solo trip to another part of Florida for some peace, relaxation, and solitude. Shelter-in-place, etc. had gotten the best of me and I needed to leave my home. The trip was planned for July 17th-20th.
Part of my trip would include stopping and spending the night with my goddaughter, whose friend had also been staying with her. I’d decided to alert my goddaughter of the happenings and let her determine what she wanted to do. We’d wait for my daughter’s best friend’s test results to plan next steps.
Are you still with me?
Time moved slowly. While you’re waiting for a COVID-19 test, you’re supposed to self-quarantine.
Because my daughter lives with us and her best friend had been to our home, Dwight said that should include us, too. I agreed, but I wanted to take my trip…just saying.
July 17th came. My daughter, husband, and I had been home 5 days by then. Neither my daughter nor her best friend had received their results. I decided I was still going on my trip. My goddaughter said it was fine to stay with her. (Just for the record, I offered to stay at a hotel). We wore our masks at the restaurant, as required, and she made breakfast the next day. The friend stayed at least 6 feet away from me…for the most part.
July 18th I left my goddaughter’s home, headed to my vacay spot, and received a text from my daughter. Her best friend was positive.
His dad was back home and building a new porch for their home. I also found out his father had been coaching high school basketball this whole time. Why? His family needed money.
My goddaughter’s friend was supposed to go back home with her parents. She decided not to in case she’d been exposed. My daughter still hadn’t received her results. I briefly had a thought: what if our whole family is asymptomatic? What are we to do…remain in the house socially inactive, until a trusted vaccine surfaces?
Oh…and my daughter was supposed to begin a new job, but they told her to wait two weeks.
July 18th-20th I had a great time on my solo trip. I sprayed Lysol in the hotel, wore my mask, ordered to-go, socially distanced, and otherwise relaxed.
July 21st my goddaughter’s best friend was tested.
July 23rd my goddaughter’s friend’s test was negative. She was safe to travel to her parents’ home, so she did.
July 24th (11 days after her test), my daughter received her results: negative.
I decided to share this anecdote for a few reasons:
- The only narratives we’ve had are those of people dying, which I do not take lightly. However, like many things in this society we don’t seem to realize there’s a range of stories. We’ve been led to believe that we can either catch COVID-19 and die or stay home and not die. But there are many in-between situations. I’m not saying we should remove our masks and visit the nearest bar. I am saying we should begin to make decisions based on our respective perspectives and states.
- Being critical of the world is different than being judgmental. I’m critical of the consumerist, capitalistic society we’ve agreed to participate in. Unfortunately, the entire world relies on businesses being open. However, I do not have any judgment about my daughter’s best friend’s father having to work a job to support his household. I just don’t. I do think we all have personal responsibility. For example, if I had a basketball-playing son, he would’ve sat this season out.
- I know it’s fun to point fingers at those Florida beach photos, but testing is a huge problem here. Around Day 5, when my daughter was restless, I asked her a rhetorical question: How is anyone supposed to do the right thing? If my life (and others’) depends on a positive/negative test result, but it takes 11 days to receive…how can you expect an adult person, who may rely on their minimum wage job to pay rent to make the “right” choice to stay home and self-quarantine?
Finally, I hope you saw yourself in one or more of these situations, kind of like a real-life John Quinones What Would You Do if you were any of us? I’m looking forward to any comments.
kg ~ 7/27/20
When you live in a capitalistic society, then everything is commodified. Everything is for sale. Everything hinges on selling or not selling something. This hasn’t seemed truer than the last few months.
May 2020: Reopen everything!
In May, Florida began Phase I and Phase II reopening. There is no doubt in my mind (and I’m guessing anyone else’s) that this had little to do with people and more to do with stimulating the economy. Businesses that hadn’t already closed permanently were excited to get back to “regular” operations. I sent my husband to grab some guacamole, but he came back empty handed. According to his observation, our local Chili’s, as well as other restaurants that sold Mexican food, was well over 50% capacity on Cinco de Mayo. I’m guessing it was because these places wanted to make as much money as possible post-lockdown.
Profits over people? Right?
June 2020: Buy Black!
After George Floyd’s death, there was a huge push from the Black community to start “buying Black” because if one is buying Black, then that means that one is not putting money into mainstream American products. The idea is to remove money from one system and put it into another, thus negatively impacting the typical distribution of money and its operations in the country, because when you live in a capitalistic society, where everything is commodified, then removing dollars is an effective plan if everyone participates and if there are enough places to replace current operations.
Don’t stop spending money. Stop spending money in non-black spaces. That was the message. Right?
June 2020: Boycott!
In addition to buying Black, a list circulated that outlined which businesses have supported Donald Trump’s campaign. Off the top of my head, this list includes Walmart, Wendy’s, and Marvel. I remember these because my family and friends love to shop at Walmart. My oldest daughter supports herself by working at Wendy’s. Aaaand, my husband and youngest daughter have enjoyed most Marvel movies. I wondered how any of them (or other citizens) were going to boycott the things they admired so much. For Americans, these staples have made society wonderful. You know how much restraint you need to boycott businesses the American people have deemed essential?
The list includes Planet Fitness, where we have a gym membership, New Balance, my athletic shoe choice, and Shell Oil, the place where we sometimes pump gas.
What in the entire f…?
I apologize. I’m losing focus. The point is if we collectively boycott, then we can affect current circumstances by not supporting these businesses, which implicitly support a bad president.
Implicit financial support = complicit support of a politician. Right?
June 2020: MASKS!
I have nine masks. I bought two by the end of March that display one of my alma maters. I have another that I purchased at the UPS store in April; they have typewriters on them and include my favorite color: red. I’ve ordered another that has banned books on them because that seems kind of cool. Dwight bought us a couple that are African themed and four others, which are black. A friend I went to school with has a bedazzled one. It’s fabulous. She also has one that says, “This sucks,” because yeah, even though it saves live, wearing a mask does suck and nothing says it better than a statement mask. I’ve seen others that have matching head wraps. You know, like a scarf and matching mask? Who doesn’t wanna be Corona chic?
The person who sold me eyeglasses described another mask she saw someone wearing that looked like his dog’s mouth. Every time he spoke, it looked like a dog was speaking. She snort-laughed at the thought.
Not only can I get masks online, but also at *Old Navy. Let that sink in. The store where I used to get my most comfortable jeans just six months ago figured out a way to sell us fashionable cloth masks. Isn’t that nice of them?
Usually, I have something witty to say at the end of a blog post, but not today. Today, I just want to reiterate what I said before: When you live in a capitalistic society, then everything is commodified. Everything is for sale. Everything hinges on selling or not selling something.
*Honorable mention to Banana Republic’s new line of loungewear because who doesn’t need a pair of $80 joggers in which to do their Zoom meeting?
Have you ever seen Cast Away with Tom Hanks? Remember, when he started talking to the volleyball and called it Wilson, the name of the ball manufacturer?
Well, after sitting on the patio for so many weeks (due to shelter-in-place orders), I’d named the lizard that lives there, Escobar. I was going to name him Larry, but my husband and daughter thought that was cliche, so Escobar it is. Here are some photos:
I thought we were co-habitating and he was getting used to me being out there so much, until he puffed out his little neck. I learned that this means he’s trying to intimidate me because he thinks this is his patio, it’s mating season, or a host of other reasons lol Either way, now I just take pictures of him.
I though he just liked chillin on this chair, which seems to be his favorite, but that’s just me putting my human being understanding on him. Lizards actually have to sunbathe to “raise their internal body temperature and stimulate their metabolism.”
Did you establish any out of the ordinary habits since being at home more?
Someone asked me the other day what I thought a “new normal” would look like. In summary, I told her I didn’t know.
Prior to COVID-19, I ate out a lot at restaurants: fancy, new, local, whatever. I have no idea what a new normal will look like for someone who eats out as a form of socialization, with social distancing rules…and a mask. Will I wear my mask to the restaurant but then pull it down towards my neck when it’s time to eat, a mask-wearing no-no? Will the waiter wear a mask while describing the catch of the day?
My daughter’s graduation has been moved to July. Will we sit in a university setting as years’ past? Or, will we have to sit six feet apart, even from the people with whom we came? I don’t know. And there is no space in my brain for the new rules. None make sense for a situation like this.
Recently, I’d seen reports of how K-12 schools might interact for the new year. Desks six feet apart. Lunch in the room, instead of a cafeteria. Teachers change rooms, instead of students. None of this seems reasonable because, logically, if Kid A has corona virus and Kid B does not, but they’re both in the same room, just six feet apart, but maybe sharing a pencil sharpener, computer, book (because Kid A forgot his), then Kid B may be in trouble anyway. Unless, they wear masks and gloves. Will they wear masks and gloves?
I’m writing this the first day that Florida’s shelter-at-home has been lifted. My husband is supposed to return to work May 15th. He says he won’t, unless his job has a plan for testing for reasons similar to the ones I’ve stated above with Kid A and B, just replace them with Coworker A and B and replace books, with stapler, copy machine, and open office concept, which was such a great idea at the turn of the century. Not so much now.
New normal? I have no idea what this refers to because, remember, it was just two months ago that this “normal” was thrust upon us; this is still new. We’re still shifting.
Will we no longer hug and kiss people, even those we love and trust hope to not be sick? That doesn’t seem normal to me. Come to think of it, in the midst of this pandemic, people are probably sneaking around hugging and kissing, if you know what I mean, because, yeah…we’re human beings who need physical interaction of all kinds. Don’t we? Or will that be a part of our new normal? Not touching one another.
So anyway, I don’t pretend to make baseless predictions of what the future will look like. Hell, I didn’t even know this would be a thing. What would make me believe I’d know what tomorrow will bring? I’m very comfortable saying, I don’t know.
But maybe you’ll play along. What do you think our “new normal” will be?
My grandmother’s go-to question when she believes you’re doing something she doesn’t agree with or something she doesn’t understand is, “Are you stupid?” I’ve heard this question a million times in my life. It’s the reason I haven’t played checkers with her (or anyone else) since I was a teenager. When I used to put my little red piece in danger of being jumped, or worse, double jumped, I’d face the dreaded question, are you stupid? Or, if she didn’t want to be implicit, like when I helped my illiterate cousin write a letter that was later used in court, she announced, that was stupid, with extra emphasis on the first syllable, so that it sounded like SSSTOOOpid.
Although I knew otherwise, I always felt like the dumbest person in the world when she said it, as if she had top-secret information for not doing “stupid” things in life. As if she, alone, held the keys to making intelligent, sound decisions. As if she’d never done anything someone else could call, stupid.
And so, I’m hypersensitive to the phrase.
But I’ve never heard it used so much and so flippantly as I have in the past two months. I wish I would’ve started a counter for how many times I’ve seen or heard, They’re so stupid! You know who they are? I’ll tell you what I think, similar to Grannie, it’s anyone who isn’t doing what the accuser thinks someone else should be doing.
First, it was Spring Breakers in Florida and Mardi Gras partiers in New Orleans. A bunch of teenagers and college students were called stupid for doing what some teenagers and college students do: be self-centered and party. What would you have done during a pandemic if you were 18, 19, or 21? Maybe you were more responsible than these young people; maybe you would’ve taken yourself right home and self-quarantined.
The phrase then filtered to people’s parents who were 60 years or older. For some reason, my friends and family couldn’t understand why their parents wouldn’t listen to them and just stay home. There was even this clever meme circulating about caging said “stupid” parents. I reminded a friend that I’m sure his mama was thinking the same thing about him in the early 90s. She probably wished she could’ve caged him so that he wouldn’t harm society or himself.
Next, it trickled down to anyone who wouldn’t stay home, even though CDC guidelines stated people could “walk, hike, or cycle.” I think it prompted the #StayTheFuckHome mantra. Listen, cuss words are a part of my vocabulary, but I’d venture to say that no one wants to be the target of a global cuss out; however, that’s what we’re doing now.
Eventually, they’re stupid included people who didn’t wear masks, even though the CDC and the surgeon general said it was recommended. I noticed two things when I went to the grocery store: when I didn’t yet have a mask to wear, mask wearers peered over their material as if I was a crazy person; when I wore my mask, then non-mask wearers looked at me like I was a crazy person, leading me to a conclusion. No matter what, people have a judgment when you don’t do what they think you should do.
I don’t even want to get into the church Easter goers. The masses hadn’t developed a word suitable enough to describe just how stupid they thought these parishioners were. So, I’ll return to Florida.
At the time I’m writing this, Jacksonville Beach has re-opened access, with restrictions: there is no sitting and you can only venture out during specific hours. Just like that, an old photo of Palm Beach, 285 miles away in South Florida, along with a Jacksonville headline was posted. And a new crop of judgments has re-surfaced. Yep. You guessed it. They’re stupid. This time “they” includes Jax Beach residents, the mayor, and anyone who chooses to walk on the beach, even though the photo depicted a false image.
Just to be clear, I’ve been following the CDC guidelines and the rules of my state. I wear masks. I wash my hands and use hand sanitizer. If you follow me on Instagram, then you know how much I love the beach; however, I won’t be walking alongside the Atlantic ocean anytime soon.
And you know what else I won’t be doing? I won’t be calling others stupid if they make a different choice.
Sooo, I was scrolling along on Facebook and ran across a friend from grad school, Amanda. She and her husband, Josh have created a PODCAST to hash out how they’ve been handling the pandemic with their teenage daughter and three-year-old son.
I thought it was a creative and authentic way to show that we’re all figuring things out in our own way, and I understand the constant need to create during pandemic times, so I’m passing it along. It’s about 30 minutes. I hope you enjoy The Wilsons Do A Podcast During a Pandemic.
What have you been doing? Have you been more or less creative during these past weeks?
Usually when I think of privilege, I think of other people and their social freedoms. You know…white, male, etc. But this pandemic has forced me to consider my and my family’s own privilege.
When Desi’s school district first announced classes would be online and when Dwight found out he’d be working from home, he immediately went to Office Depot and purchased two things: a lap desk for our daughter and a range extender for the home because neither of us can afford to have slow internet.
When I received a parent survey asking about access, I had to take a good look at ourselves.
- cell phones (3)
- MacBooks (2)
- tablets (2)
- work laptop (1)
We have more than enough access.
When my job asked how quickly I could begin teaching online, the answer was simple…immediately. Eighty percent of my classes were already online and the one that wasn’t was previously set up for online learning because it’s hybrid.
As I listened to friends who live in New York and bloggers from the same area, I realize space is a privilege. Our home isn’t large, but we have separate rooms from which to work. Our spare bedroom is set up for me to grade or virtually meet privately with students. My teenage daughter is comfy logging on to Google Classroom from her bed. And Dwight has joked that the entire downstairs is his office. Even when I want to “get out,” I don’t have to leave the house. I can sit on our screened-in patio and eat meals and write.
That leads me to another privilege: location. We live in Florida. Unlike family members, who are in Illinois, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, I’ve been able to work out in my driveway, take bike rides, and practice yoga (on the patio). The weather’s been between the 70s and 90s. I don’t have cabin fever.
Though circumstances are sad, I’m grateful our daughter is a senior. I won’t have to worry about what the school district is doing in the fall. Stay online or don’t stay online, both of our daughters’ K-12 education is complete. I only halfway feel this way; online education for the nation is not a great idea for a host of reasons. But see how easy it is to slip into a self-centered perspective?
I’m thankful my husband and I have occupations we can still do from home and that I have a thriving business that’s kept me occupied with editing dissertations and independent novels throughout this pandemic. *We’re not worried about finances.
Initially, people were asking what’s changed or what have I learned from these times. And for a minute, my answer was nothing because I’d already adjusted my life according to what I’d determine is right for me.
As I think long and hard, my answer is still nothing. But a few ideas have been reinforced.
It’s always important to acknowledge our specific privileges and then consider life from others’ perspectives as a way to break out of our bubbles and gain diverse understandings. Some people are a little more worried than I am because they’ve had to figure out how to make life work, not make adjustments…literally learn how to do life. They’re waiting on their government-funded stimulus checks so they can eat and pay bills.
Others are a little more whimsical because their local news reports sound different and their government restrictions are few. For example, an IG follower in Brisbane posted a photo of herself getting a haircut…at a salon. Someone in California would probably shudder to think of committing what they would view as a socially irresponsible act right now.
Think about life from another person’s perspective. An alternate point of view may lead to a shift in empathy, thus opening a space for other things, like dialogue, grace, or service. And without sounding too preachy, I think it’s worth reminding that these traits are important not just now, but always.
*Oh, and about those finances…privilege has also allowed me to give more. Because I’m not driving anywhere, I’m saving on gas. Because we’re eating out less and spending fewer dollars on entertainment, I’ve watched my discretionary funds grow. With the money I’ve saved, I’ve been able to be of service to my alma maters and to a few family members, and for that I’m grateful.
In what ways are you privileged these days?
I’m sitting on my patio, watching a little brown boy in a white shirt and gray shorts. He’s riding a hoverboard on his knees. First, he goes straight all the way to the cul-de-sac, where he whirls around and comes back towards me again. Then, he twirls in circles, one, two, three times, until he’s facing straight again. Music is playing but not loud enough for me to hear the melody or words, just enough for me to know he’s listening to something while he spins in circles, passing the time.
To his right are two squirrels. I’ve been watching them for twenty minutes. One sits close to a tree, eating something between his paws, probably a nut. I’ve always known squirrels were skittish, but I never noticed how much. It seems he can hardly enjoy whatever he’s nibbling in between sporadic looks toward distracted noises. He scurries up the tree and sits on a branch and I briefly think about making a squirrel house, with nuts and such. Who am I kidding? I don’t even want to help my husband build things for our own house, much less build a whole home for a hungry squirrel, who seems to be doing life just fine without my interference.
Now, my across-the-way neighbor has come out. He and his wife are in the at-risk age group for coronavirus; his white hair tells me so. Friday, he washed his patio screen with a hard-bristle brush while the trees on his Christmas pajamas danced. I drowned out the repetitive grating during online yoga. Saturday, I saw him drive a two-seater sports car for the first time. His wife slowly backed their white SUV out of the driveway, making space for him to zip into the one-car garage. Today, he’s semi-dressed for an outing: light-blue, short-sleeved, buttoned-down shirt, navy casual shorts, barefoot. We have an automated sprinkler system and rain has begun to drizzle, but for some reason he’s decided to water the bushes.
Two hours have passed. There’s a father-son duo riding their bikes up and down and up and down the street to the same dead-end hoverboard-boy glided towards. This is the fourth time I’ve seen them. I wonder if the father is wearing a helmet to model good cycling practices for his son, who looks to be no more than five years old, or if he wears it because he really believes it will protect him, should he fall on this short jaunt. I also wonder where the mother is. I always question mothers’ whereabouts when I see fathers and their children. It’s probably a result of my own social conditioning. Here they come again, a fifth revolution.
I’ve sat here long enough. I know because hoverboard boy is back at it, this time a bit more dare devilish with his twirls. I glance up to see him belly down on the concrete. He’s limping back to his garage. He returns with his bike.
I wonder if anyone heard me cackling with my sister for hours the other day or if neighbors watched my husband and I eat waffles, sausage, and eggs in our PJs this morning. Is someone sitting in their home office, peering out their window at the brown woman, wearing glasses, trying to preserve her final month of contacts, while tip-tapping away on her orange laptop? Are they guessing what I’m writing, creating a narrative about why I’ve been sitting here for three days? Or, have they assumed as I have that we’re all creatively sheltering in place?
P.S. I wrote something similar three years ago from Starbucks. It’s funny what can change in a short amount of time. While I realize I cannot go to Starbucks and people-watch, I can make my own coffee, sit on my screened-in patio and create a similar experience. Adjustments. We all have to make them and function according to our current circumstances.
In 1990, when I moved to Covert, Michigan to live with my grandparents, I felt helpless. There was nothing I could do about living in a remote town of fewer than 2,000 people. There was nothing I could do about not seeing my father. And there was nothing I could do about missing my friends, some of whom I’d known since I was six years old.
I had little control over my life, and I’d succumbed to the idea that I didn’t know what tomorrow would bring or how the next day’s unknown events may disrupt whatever today’s new normal was, kind of like now.
So, in between finishing high school, working at a bank as a 10-key data entry clerk, and messing around with my new boyfriend, I read.
I read Stephen King novels. There was something about reading scary-ass narratives that could never happen to me that was more comforting than reality.
Misery helped me focus on a crazy nurse, who held her favorite writer hostage and tormented him.
Firestarter swept me away to unbelievable events centered on a father and daughter who’d gained telepathic powers and the ability to set fires.
The Dark Half is a little harder to explain, but let’s just say reading about a fictional author with dissociative disorder was captivating and kept my mind on other things, kind of like now.
I’m always reading, but lately, I’ve been reading more, faster. I started Octavia Butler’s Kindred right at the beginning of our country’s serious discussion of the pandemic and finished it just as Florida’s restaurants were mandated to do take-out only, about two weeks.
Right after, I was compelled to find another book. As I’m writing this, I’ve decided on Jasmine Guillory’s The Proposal. It’s a light read that shelters me from 24-hour news cycles and fear-based social media updates.
Unlike when I was seventeen, I’m not burying my head in the sand. I’m fully aware of how I feel and what’s going. I sense the world’s pulse. But I’ve easily slipped into a coping mechanism and I wonder if that’s the way we all function.
Hoarders hoard and fearmongers spread fear because they’ve been triggered. Folks who call others “dumb” and “stupid” for attending Mardi Gras or other group activities may be repeating phrases spoken to them during their childhoods. Like me, they’ve been here before on a smaller scale, but maybe they’ve not been able to process their emotions to understand other ways to function. Being triggered is a thing that’s real, inherent.
Usually, I write for others, but this piece is more so a reminder from me to me not to judge how others are handling social distancing, quarantines, and death. However, I’m sharing because I do hope in some way it also reminds us all that we’re each doing the best we can, considering our past backgrounds and current circumstances. Even though it may look a little different, we all seem to be in survival mode.
So, if you have some book suggestions to help me escape, add them in the comments below.
Parts were written for this essay published on The Mighty: How Reading is Helping Me Fight Through Feeling Powerless Over COVID-19.