I am afraid to look at the news today. I don’t want to read about George Floyd’s murder, or the subsequent white violence against Black protesters. I don’ want to read about the next act of despotism or terror committed by the white supremacist narcissist currently residing in the White House. I don’t want to read about the continued evisceration of my province’s education and health care systems—continuing unabated as health workers and educators have to put in 150% to keep things going—and the dissolution of its barely extant environmental protection legislation by my local moral-less Trumpling. COVID-19? Don’t want to read about that either, nor about the elder abuses the military has discovered in Ontario’s long-term care homes. Don’t want to know, read, see, anything—don’t want, come to think about it, don’t want to, don’t want to get out of bed.
Children. Students. Dogs. Work.
All the things.
One of my students writes a piece criticizing an editorial that says mental health issues will become paramount after the pandemic ends. What the fuck? she essentially says. What do you mean, after the pandemic? How about now?
Things really weren’t that great on the mental health front before the pandemic—for my generation, anyway, she argues. Finally taking mental health seriously because the entire world is fucked? Too little, too late.
Too little, too late, never enough: my newsfeed—fuck, I have to turn off the news tap, again—is full of pap about mental health supports. But let’s face it—during a global crisis, when everyone is traumatized… how helpful, how resilient is your therapist, really? Any chance that she has her shit together any more than you do?
I don’t think so.
Texts with friends: “How are you?” “You know.” “Yeah, me too.” Why burden each other with details? Nothing we can do to lessen each other’s burden. She knits, you mediate, I write. Sean runs. My dad builds me a ranch—I asked for a gate; both the ask and the execution a coping mechanism. My mom makes soup. A lot of soup. Gallons of soup. Delivers it to the grandchildren she can’t see. Flora makes a conspiracy board. (Not about the Plandemic—I may have fucked up a lot of things in my life, but I did teach my children how to think critically and how to evaluate sources; I gotta tell ya people, nothing makes a journalist mother prouder than a teenager who says, “I haven’t fact-checked this yet, do you know if it’s legit?”)
Cinder punches holes in walls and wanders the hill at night—the new job is a life-saver, and I don’t care about the virus germs he might be bringing home, the man child needs to work. Ender—this week, I’m worried about him. This week, he’s not ok. This week, suddenly, he is lost, frightened, alone.
I set him loose on the Common when he hears other voices; I don’t tell him to keep his distance.
I gotta tell you, kittens, this week? I’m not sure if prolonging your Grandma’s life a few more years is worth this. I’m not sure if keeping my parents safe is worth this. I’m not sure if keeping my kids healthy is worth this.
Unacceptable thoughts, reprehensible feelings. Still, do you not think that there would be fewer Walmart-camo militants storming malls, legislatures and hot tubs (when did these become the icons of freedom?) if we were allowed to express these frustrations without being judged by the Quarantine Martyrs?
What’s so hard about staying home? Keeping six feet away from strangers, friends? What’s so hard about wearing a mask? Not getting a hair-cut? Ordering take-out instead of dining in, Zoom meetings instead of in-person workshops, online teaching instead of being in the classroom?
My “quarantine” is the quarantine of a privileged, employed person, what’s so hard about all of this?
Thanks for adding guilt at my frustration and inability to deal to my plate of negative feelings, you sanctimonious “What’s so hard about staying home?” meme-sharing prick.
Sorry, that was meant to be a thought not a holler. Reprehensible. Fuck you, I don’t like you either.
Today, I have a bunch of Zoom one-on-one calls scheduled with students, during which I will be trying to teach them shit they’re clearly not getting from me and the course material via on-line delivery. On my own unpaid time, by the way, thank you, Jason Kenney, for cutting my employer’s hamstrings just before they asked me to run this marathon, appreciate it, hope you get the pox and die—also, I wish cursing worked, can someone find me an immoral witch? Not one of these granola Neo-Pagan types: I want eye of newt and newborn blood in the pot, and…
Reprehensible thoughts. Because, there I will be, trying to teach, but also, really, saying, over and over again, this: “I know you’re not really functioning. I know you’re unmotivated. I know getting out of bed is hard. I’m right there with you. But you’ve got to do the work anyway. This is the test—you don’t want to. You think it’s pretty much impossible for you to do one more thing. But you’re going to do it anyway. I don’t want to get out of bed to have this conversation with you. And I don’t want to grade this work that you don’t want to do. Yeah, we’re all in this together, and if one more person says this to me, in any context, I too will need to exercise all my self-restraint to not spit in their face. Come on, honey. Deep breath, admit you hate this, you hate me, you hate Grandma, and now, get some words down on the page for me. One sentence at a time. Do the work. Write the story. It’s shit, it doesn’t matter, it’s done. File.”
I’ve told Cinder—in a split grade 12 year this semester and in the fall—that if this whole semester, year is a write-off? If he can’t pull it together enough to finish it? No big deal, That’s, frankly, the normal, healthy response: to not be able to focus on Math 30 when nothing else is right.
I can’t give myself, or my students, the same advice.
“This is the test. Do the work anyway. You don’t want to. You think you can’t. Do it anyway.”
Funny thing, at this point, I don’t even know what I miss, what I want. I just know what I don’t want: no more bad news, please. No more Zoom calls. No more statistics, directives, speculations. No more, no more, no more.
What’s so hard about this?
Negative thoughts, emotions acknowledged. Expressed. (See? Me, functioning as my own therapist.)
Time to get out of bed.
Do all the things.
But today? I’m not gonna check my newsfeed. I’m not gonna read the news.