So I’m sick again, sore throat sniffles, probably not COVID but maybe and even if it is, who cares – I feel like death, for the third time since October. Between our three core households, someone’s been sick all fall. I can’t remember if it was like this every fall pre-COVID (it probably was). It definitely wasn’t like this during the restrictions of the pandemic.
Inevitable conclusion: we may have hated the mask mandate and the lockdowns… but they worked.
My kids usually get sick first (schools are disgusting) and as soon as any one of them is coughing or sneezing – they’ve been sick so much this fall – I wear a mask to the grocery store, to Pilates, and I don’t go into the office. These days, I feel self-conscious in a mask. I live in Alberta after all, the anti-masking and anti-vaxing capital of Canada. Odds are most of the people I’m trying to protect from my children’s germs are pegging me as a paranoid freak and thinking unkind things about me. (And how whack is that, friends? The worst thing about the pandemic: it seems to have killed the capacity for kindness and compassion in so many of us.)
Thing is, I’m resigned to getting sick myself. If my kids are sick, I’m gonna be sick. In most families, children are the patient zero, binging in diseases from their schools. All I’m trying to do is not to pass o this latest gross thing to you and yours just before Christmas. You might get it from elsewhere – I just don’t want you to get it from me.
(I know you’re not grateful. Whatever. My capacity for kindness and compassion is also not where it was pre-2020. If someone invents a pill or shot to give me back that, sign me up.)
When I’m sick, wearing a mask in public basically doesn’t arise because since my bout with COVID last spring, when I get sick, I get hammered: I can barely get out of bed, never mind the house. Isolation caused by inability to move is my default setting.
I also start to think that life has no meaning and that if the cold-flu-COVID takes a turn for the worse… well. What does it all matter?
Yes. One of my flu symptoms is existential angst and despair.
I had a pre-Christmas weekend full of fun planned as I felt the first tickle in my throat develop into hacking and needles in my lungs. There was to be a work Christmas lunch, a solstice celebration and a crazy 90s dance party, the YC Queer Writers Christmas party and, most importantly, a family pierogi making assembly line… Throughout the week, during the good moments, when the meds kicked in, I deluded myself that I’d be ok, I’d be fine – surely, a sore throat wouldn’t last all the way until Friday, right? I’d be good to go by Saturday, right? I’d get to do all the things on Sunday, right?
Hope springs eternal until the existential angst sets in and I crawl back under my blankets, sobbing.
If I don’t survive – have a merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Rocking Omisoka and a Happy New Year.
If I make it through – see you in 2023… or next week if I have a really good idea for a post.
Two years ago was the worst Christmas ever, a year ago was the most awkward and delusional Christmas ever, and so, this COVID Christmas morning, which finds me alone in bed, a steaming cup of coffee (with cinnamon ) beside me, and cranberry cake too, and, of course, Morning Pages—well, it’s weird and different.
But it’s not bad. Not at all. Things have been so much worse.
I hate it that that’s my yardstick. But it is a pretty effective one, you know? There have been a number of occasions over this past year when I’ve looked at someone totally losing their shit over a quarantine-lockdown first world whine, and all I’ve been able to think is, “Wow, so you’ve never suffered before, not even a little bit… how incredibly lucky you have been… and how ill-equipped to deal with this stumble you are, you child of good fortune…”
To be clear—if I could wave a magic wand and take away Flora’s suffering over the past two, three years—and my own by extension—I’d do it in half a heartbeat. However. As it is the part of the package of my life as I’ve lived it so far? Zoom Christmas Eve was lame but hardly the worst thing that’s ever happened to me, you know?
In my family and culture, we celebrate on Christmas Eve, an orgy of food and presents. This year, we celebrated in three households—the kids and me in my little hobbit house in Sunnyside, my brother and his family in Auburn Bay, my parents on the hill in Signal Hill. One city, three neighbourhoods—I pretended we were in different countries. It was okay. My Mom still cooked all the foods that I still don’t know how to make (I should get on that, perhaps). My over-enthusiastic parents played Santa Claus and braved the winter roads to deliver the grandchildren’s presents after supper. My children gorged themselves on pierogis—the dogs on the Christmas cookies they liberated from the dessert table while the rest of us were opening presents (don’t ask about the results of that). Afterwards, we played Anomia and watched a couple of episodes of Community on my laptop. Laughed.
I walked the kids to their coop house just before 10 pm—the night was warm and beautiful, and it felt like a very, very good Christmas Eve.
I will miss—I do miss—being there for their Christmas morning. Earlier in the week, a friend suggested that there was no reason why I shouldn’t be there. Wouldn’t it be better for the kids if we just did Christmas the way we had before? We’re getting along well, polite and kind, why not spend Christmas together?
I didn’t bother to explain. I’ve learned a lot from watching friends divorce badly for the past 15 years. It behooves me not to repeat their mistakes—I am committed to making only new ones.
So. Christmas morning alone in bed with my morning pages, coffee, cake—maybe a movie—Bridgerton premiers today, no? Christmas night with you—sushi, Bailey’s, Christmas leftovers. The middle of the day? I might write. Walk the dog.
Or stay in bed and binge watch Bridgerton.
A day off.
Not such a bad thing, you know.
Thigs have been worse.
This is actually pretty good.
December 26, 2020
Christmas Eve is good. Christmas Day is good. Boxing Day is passing in peace. It all feels like the calm before the storm though—storm hits in the evening. Nearly breaks me. Ender doesn’t want to come over to my house for supper; his reasons don’t matter—his rejection breaks me into little pieces, makes me barely capable of breathing and paying attention to his siblings. He is my smallest one, my least forged one, the one who needs—needed—me the most, the one who I fear will be the most damaged by our separation.
I scream in pain for hours, cry myself to sleep.
December 27, 2020
I am loved and I sometimes make bad decisions—but that’s okay, that’s part of life. I am loved even when I make bad decisions. It’s kind of strange mantra for the day, but it works. I do things that make me feel good enough to get through the early morning, and then Ender and I end up going on a mega walk with the dogs and with Grandma. I manage to not cancel a socially distanced walk with a friend, even though I really, really just want to crawl into bed and cry some more—and it helps, a lot. (It helps even more that my friend, seeing the state I’m in, says, Fuck Covid, and hugs me, holds me.) I cancel—or rather, skip out early—on a Zoom meeting when one of my people asks me to come run some errands with him. The request, I know, is not company for him, but company for me, because he knows I ache.
We run here and there, accomplishing not very much, end up eating South Indian dosas and Albanian sausages in an idling car for supper.
I am loved.
Ender and I skype: “I love you.” “Me loves you too.”
It’s hard, it’s hard, everything is so hard right now.
I am loved.
I am alive. In 2020, that’s the bar.
December 28, 2020
Morning pages, Laundry Monday, walk the dog, drive Cinder to work—attempts to work sabotaged, interrupted, by self, by life. A text—“We’re just walking past your house. Walk?” And I’m outside in a flash, boots and snowsuit on, exhausted but elated. When was the last time I’ve done something spontaneous? When was the last time that was allowed?
We walk. Talk. Walk.
I am loved. I love. I am alive. I survived this fucking nightmare of a year—and so did you. We did it. Lots of others didn’t, but let’s not think too much about them right now. You and I, we’re here, we did it.
Three more days to go.
December 31, January 1, just days in the calendar… but… aren’t you going to be glad when 2020 is over?
December 29, 2020
I am happy.
In 2020 (in 2019…), these are rare moments, and when they happen, I fuck Buddhism and practice attachment with all of my might. Don’t leave. Stay here with me, for this entire day, DO NOT LEAVE.
We walk in winter wonderland, and I understand why some people call it church—I’d still rather be in my sheesha lounge, to be honest, but I’ll take this, I’ll take this—and for a few precious hours, everything is okay with the world.
I am happy, I am loved, I love, I am alive, I am a tiny speck of light and life in a vast universe, insignificant yet infinitely important. Fine. Church.
Return of pain—memory of the moment of pure happiness—hold on to that.