1 august 2020

i started a piece to submit to the new york times' "modern love" column, then didn't finish it because i never came back to it until today; it is revised and less like a piece for publication. i haven't blogged in a while, so i'll put it here.

i'm tired. quarantine life in the age of COVID-19 is doing things to everyone's lives and mental health in some degree. 

In the early weeks of quarantine, I would I blink my eyes open around eight in the morning on workdays and involuntarily reach for my phone to scan the news, social media, and a dating app. I was an automaton, moving wordlessly from bedroom to bathroom. I removed my night guard, stared briefly at my drug-store bleached hair (brunette roots cresting against multi-tonal yellows and golds; not quite the look I had gone for), and lean down to tap the handle of my bathtub faucet until the water began to trickle out. Moxie, my slim, gray cat, dipped his paw in and out, drinking droplets off his fur.

Working from home began at noon on March 11, 2020, when my manager called the entire team into a conference room at 11:53AM. We were told to go home to ensure we could remotely login to our desktops and access all necessary programs and network folders. I left in a fog, saying goodbye to coworkers on other teams who hadn’t been told to go home yet. Weeks earlier, C and I had planned to spend Friday the thirteenth at Disneyland. The most remarkable moment at the end of that day was the myriad cast members waving at guests exiting the park (C and I left just shy of midnight). I waved back frantically, yelling out words of gratitude and trying to make eye contact while fighting the urge to ball up and sob; it's August 1, 2020 and Disneyland is still closed.

I cobbled together a home office at my kitchen nook and waited for various auxiliary equipment to arrive in the mail when my remote connection locked up a week later. Desperate calls to internal IT support netted mounting frustrations: “It must be your internet connection.” “Everything is fine on our end.” “Oh, you have a Mac?” “It’s your personal laptop so we can’t open a ticket.” I finally asked to pick up the work-issued laptop I’d declined just hours earlier because everything had been fine. I left the office that afternoon, laptop in tow, wheeling my office chair into the elevator and across the parking lot because by god I was not going to break my back trying to make my kitchen chair work any longer. I felt gloriously defiant.

Now, 143 days into working from home and primarily staying home, I rescued a calico cat (found in front of the neighborhood library; friendly, flea-ridden, and pregnant), received an "exceeds expectations" review at work (plus, earned a raise), begun an at-home yoga practice, single-handedly sustained a local ice cream shop, become a regular at the neighborhood farmers market (hooked on the unlikely pairing of kettle corn and kale), finally made it to week four of Couch-to-5K (just say no to shin splints), and joined an antiracist book club (we're reading Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad for August).

I chatted with M a couple of days ago about work. She's at a bank in Orange County; it's not her normal branch, which got closed temporarily (albeit indefinitely) in the early weeks of California's shelter in place orders. She highlighted for me the nightmares of being a frontline worker: angry customers, shorthanded-ness due to coworkers calling out sick/quarantining because of  COVID-19 exposure or illness, stressed out managers who pass that stress onto the staff, ever-increasing anxiety manifesting in shortness of breath that is exacerbated by wearing a mask all day, and all while having more work to do and fewer hours to do it in (the branch shaved an hour off their opening and closing times).

An acquaintance I volunteer with got COVID-19 from her roommates, who went to a bar during California's momentary reopening of many establishments. The roommates experienced mild symptoms, while S has asthma and struggled to catch her breath without having a coughing fit for a week. S recovered without being hospitalized, but it was hell. Also, her longtime employer has been shuttered since March 14, 2020; she has to work the graveyard shift at her new job. 

Last weekend I rearranged my bookshelves by color, played Pok√©mon GO, and watched old episodes of Property Brothers on Hulu. 

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