home face album

Blogging During the Apocalypse

I want to blog during this time, but it’s hard to know what to write about. I can advise on working from home or dealing with anxiety or grief. But there are a lot of posts out there already about that stuff, and I find the most useful posts on here–for my future self, at least–are just the ones that describe my experiences.

Last vacation before the apocalypse

On March 14th we went to Broken Bow, Oklahoma. The run on TP and beans had begun but a cabin in the woods seemed as good a place as any at that point. We stopped in a little Texas town on the way up and they still had some TP.

We mostly hiked. We returned on March 18th.

On March 19th, I got a tire replaced on the van–two screws had ruined it. I felt lucky to have made it to Oklahoma and back on it. I then bought a new desk. It was clear I would be working from home for a while and I determined I would need a new dedicated space. My existing office had been overrun by children and hamsters. On the way back from picking up the desk I went by my office and got all my stuff. While on vacation I’d received the news that our company is closing our downtown office and moving us to Richardson while we’re all working from home anyway. My next commute to an office will be to the far climes north of I-635.

My new workspace is too far away from the WiFi router to get any decent signal, making my new life of nonstop Zoom calls difficult. Help–by way of a new Google Nest mesh network hardware kit–arrives over this weekend. My new desk setup is also an ergonomic disaster. Speaking of ergonomics…

Riding my bike cured my back

Bicycling is one of the few things that can settle down this constant anxiety. My back had been in pain before and throughout our vacation, and it continued to hurt through my first couple of rides after we got back. But then something amazing happened. The more I rode, the less my back hurt afterward. So I just kept riding a little bit each day and within about five days my back pain was gone.

The mixed-used trails around White Rock Lake were getting far too crowded last weekend, so I avoided them completely, and the city had to shut down the parking areas earlier this week. This week has been much better. The temperature dropped into the low 40s today and the lake was almost empty.

I played D&D last night for the first time in a long time

…and I can’t wait to play again next week. A coworker of mine set up an online game for us to play. I picked an elven druid whose flaw is he “remembers every insult [he’s] received and nurses a silent resentment towards anyone who’s ever wronged [him].” I thought, “I get this guy.” Our party of novice adventures ventured into a tavern cellar to dispense of some rodents of unusual size and I never knew rat hunting could be so fun, or that my coworkers were so funny. I haven’t laughed that much in a long time. It was a welcome break from real life.

I’m now reading The Plague by Camus

I just started so I can’t say if this is a good strategy yet or not. Despite having read The Stranger in college and despite it being one of my favorite novels, I never read any more Camus. I was inspired to pick up The Plague by this video. I’m also reading Recovery by Russell Brand. I also just started it, so I will refrain from recommending it just yet.

Ok, I am going to talk about anxiety and grief

Some people began this period of mandated isolation discussing online streaming services, what they were going to do with all the time they found themselves with, and jokes about how introverts had been training for this moment our entire lives. I’m not sure where all that extra time is. As someone who is–very gratefully–still employed, I’m spending more hours per day in Slack or on Zoom, helping people manage this changing landscape, developing navigational strategies within these raging seas, and otherwise battening down the hatches. Additional time is spent catching up on the news–something I mostly refrained from previously–and communicating with family and friends. Then there is that constant hum, almost a ringing in the ears…that’s the anxiety. There is an invisible, deadly threat out there. It’s taking lives. And it’s already taken 6.65 million peoples’ livelihood in the United States alone. More deaths and job losses are coming. The other side of this sea is far away, and this storm keeps getting stronger.

We’re all feeling it. We can’t not. This is the “new abnormal”, as a friend put it. That same friend sent me a message:

I suppose our relationship is somewhat based on a refined appreciation for the absurdity that life so generously has to offer us.

Life is absurd. This situation is just highlighting this fact in a sharp, painful way. Potentially sub-optimal ways for dealing with it all are:

  • Reading or writing hot takes on social networks
  • Trying to overcome it with deft financial moves, or hoarding toilet paper, or drinking, or binge-watching shows about eccentric persons who keep wild animals
  • Longing for the days when it wasn’t upon us, or for the days when it will no longer be
  • Hiding under the covers until it goes away

I’m most likely to try the latter. I’m short on ideas for more optimal coping strategies. Reading. Listening to music. Talking with a loved one. Walking. Bike riding. Writing.

Now, grief. We’re all experiencing it in various ways. Some of us have already lost love ones to this virus. Most of us are just learning of celebrities passing, or maybe a friend-of-a-friend. But this thing is closing in, and soon it will likely touch all of us in much more direct ways. We will grieve more than just the way life used to be. We will grieve a human life.

Life is absurd, and so is its end. One does not want to spend their final moments in fear, and yet final moments are the scariest of all human experience. This virus kills by taking away the most basic requirement of a living animal, to take in a breath. It drowns its victim in their own fluids, in what must be a terrifying experience of a million cells crying out for the life held in the air they cannot gain access to. Knowing this is how someone you love has gone across to the other side is devastating, heart-wrenching. It’s impossible. It’s absurd.

If we are lucky enough to not experience loss in this way, it will, regardless, be happening all around us. The environment will be thick with grief. All the while, our rituals and mechanisms of survival, be they social or chemical, have been taken away from us. There will be no time for a moment of bedside silence with the still body of our beloved. There will be no gathering of their community to remember their life. At least not along the required timetable.

We will have to be creative to survive this thing, both physically and emotionally. If you have the education and skills to be on the front lines of the physical fight, go with our support and desperate blessings. If, like me, you are left only with these frail words, do your best. This is not normal, and nor will be our worst reactions to it, and nor can be our best reactions to it.

And with all your grief in my arms
I will labor by singing light

1365 words