Some days felt longer than other days. Some days felt like two whole days.
— JOSHUA FERRIS, “THEN WE CAME TO THE END”
Days merging, time sluggish yet fleeting. Some days do indeed feel as if Father Time decided to add a few days to the week, or more hours to the days.
The following graph attempts to measure reactions to the present state of the world. A few caveats first.
Like anything involving grief – and as I have said in previous posts, most of us are grieving and mourning right now, for the people dying, for life as we knew it – such a timeline places emotions in a linear fashion. But the process is anything but linear. One day, I might feel deep fear, but the next day I’m moving forward, I hope, to being at peace with everything, floating in a sea of gratitude.
Bang. Something happens – a photograph, a song, an aroma in the air. Especially a photograph.
And I’m propelled back to fear by something or someone or somewhere.
Reading words written by others who’ve faced terrible adversity helps me to see my situation more clearly. A case in point, from The Pianist:
To keep myself from going mad in my isolation, I decided to lead as disciplined a life as possible. …
I went over in my mind all the compositions I had ever played, bar by bar. Later, this mental refresher course turned out to have been useful: when I went back to work I still knew my repertory and had almost all of it in my head, as if I had been practising all through the war.
Then, from my midday meal until dusk, I systematically ran through the contents of all the books I had read, mentally repeating my English vocabulary. I gave myself English lessons, asking myself questions and trying to answer them correctly and at length.
A routine, a new one, helps me to chop up the hours of the day. As a writer, during this time I’ve found that I tend to follow my old routine, more or less. But I’ve also become aware that I’m not following it in many different ways. How? I expect less of myself and if I am tired or feeling sad, I allow those things to take up residence in my mind. I give myself a break. Whereas before this shutdown of daily, external, life, I never watched any videos or the like until after my evening meal.
Now, the simple pleasure of curling up in my recliner at 1 p.m. is just that, a simple pleasure. Luxury, for me.
And that brings me back to the impact of a photograph on my psyche right now.
At a food bank in San Antonio, Texas, 10,000 people waited for food. That graphic reminder of how hard people’s lives are becoming brought up memories of my own days on food stamps and living through a year of school subsisting on spaghetti – hamburger was cheap then – and three cases of canned vegetables: peas, green beans, and corn.
Hunger exists in the United States, and always has. Despite all the fancy food sites and foodie-related Facebook groups on the internet and well-stocked grocery stores that’ve been so common until now.
More people will be going hungry. And that means children, too. Schools are still feeding children here until May 1, but they have to get to the school to receive the food. And that means transportation … .
Day 27 ended with an article I read, “Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting“, which I thinks sums up my feelings very well: what kind of country do we want to see after this plague finally burns out or when our scientists can put an end to its lethality with the stick of a needle?
This is worth thinking about:
What the crisis has given us is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see ourselves and our country in the plainest of views. At no other time, ever in our lives, have we gotten the opportunity to see what would happen if the world simply stopped. Here it is. We’re in it. …
We are a good people. And as a good people, we want to define — on our own terms — what this country looks like in five, 10, 50 years. This is our chance to do that, the biggest one we have ever gotten. And the best one we’ll ever get.
I thought about all this as I tweaked a recipe I checked out in one of those food-related Facebook groups. It was just OK.
But at least I had something to eat.
A day symbolizing rebirth and renewal.
And I hope that message will be taken seriously as the country moves forward, toward a better future for all it citizens.
But the constant onslaught of news makes it clear that many of the victims of the COVID-19 scourge suffer from poverty and poor health-care options, as well as pre-existing conditions. All the more reason to think about what kind of country I want to see in the future. Not only think, however. Work for.
First, people must be fed. Here, in my own county, hunger is a big problem. Although the data is old, from 2018, there are around 900 homeless children here. On top of that, over 10,000 children are food insecure and close to 51,000 others who are food insecure. The county’s total population was 266,944 in 2018.
Close to one-fourth of the people I see, then, are likely to be food insecure.
With these very disturbing figures in mind, I spent some time looking for options to help. The situation in San Antonio is as bad a disaster situation as a hurricane or other natural disaster.
Mind you, I am not telling you that you must donate anything. But if your heart hurts with this news, here are a couple of reliable options. Your local area may have others.
World Central Kitchen (chef José Andres’s charity for disaster relief and other actions)
To escape from the news and other such things for a few hours, I tuned into Ken Burns’s magnificent series on America’s national parks. Wild and free. Beautiful and soul soothing.
A perfect escape for a day of renewal. The beauty of nature and the universe.
Usually, Easter means cooking a huge dinner, often a multi-day effort. But this year, with the difficulties of grocery shopping, I decided to make it a pantry effort. And it was good, really. My sister called me afterwards and we laughed, because completely unbeknownst to each other, we’d cooked the exact same dinner!
Stay well, Stay safe. And stay home, if you can.