It’s been a month today since the Engineer and I started “sheltering in place.” Yesterday, I wore a mask to the grocery store and had to sign up for my turn to go inside. Life has taken a strange turn.
Last summer I decided to publish daily posts here as a writing exercise. Seth Godin has said something along the lines of, “if you don’t have at least one interesting thing to say every day, you’re in trouble.” Obviously I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the message I took from it. I had lots of really good excuses to stop blogging daily last fall, but now, life has gotten really weird and small. It seems an ideal time to challenge myself to find something interesting to say every day.
For the last month (plus), my thoughts have been thoroughly dominated by COVID-19. I really should write a short story about it, as this is the moment anxiety has been preparing me for my whole life. I had the foresight to irrationally and somewhat obsessively worry about global pandemics, so I was all stocked up on rice and beans and toilet paper (the TP was just lucky Costco timing, I didn’t actually foresee that particular shortage) by the time the rest of America was panic-buying hand sanitizer. I remember thinking to myself the day the first community-spread case in Washington was announced, “I’m not going to look back on this moment of panic and regret having wasted it.” as I bought four heads of cabbage (among other long-keeping produce).
As it happens, I over-shot on my panic, but it’s reassuring that my pantry is well-stocked and it’s easy for me to limit trips to the grocery store. Which leaves me plenty of time to stew about other things. Like guilt, for example.
The ability to strictly comply with “stay home” orders is such a privilege, and I struggle with it. (To be clear, when I say “struggle” I mean, like, philosophically. I’m personally just living my introvert’s dream right now.) I don’t have well-developed thoughts on this topic yet, but I spend a lot of time thinking about it. I think about “essential” workers and the class system that allows me, a knowledge worker, to stay home and benefit from their sacrifice. They’re not compensated commensurate with their contribution to society, and they should be. But how? The price of food goes up, which is fine with me, but then other low-income workers struggle further… I get here, feel discouraged and then usually feel the need to check Facebook for a couple hours.
I can see ways to massively overhaul our system to make it more equitable, but I feel quite pessimistic about such measures in 2020 America. I have learned the magic of daily incremental progress toward long-term goals in my own life recently, and I think that it’s important to keep the power of that in mind. We should have big goals (like reducing income inequality and improving access to health care), but it might take us all pushing rope uphill for a long time to make that happen. American culture is all about instant gratification, more, cheaper, faster. That approach is unlikely to work in solving big problems. So rather than focus on the big, sometimes seemingly unsolvable problems, I’m going to look for ways to push things forward. It may require small, but meaningful progress. But if we all commit to small, meaningful, and consistent progress, I’m confident we can accomplish big things.