What I’ve Learned in the Pandemic

This month I rediscovered a bit of myself. A shape I thought I’d lost with the years. With diapers and broken bones, with late-night squabbles and hot flashes.

It seemed that with the realization — not an intellectual knowledge, but a bodily understanding that this life — my life — is finite, I began living too widely.

Trying to fit it all in. And too much of it in a two-dimensional form: via screens.

Maybe it’s the forced flatness of pandemic life that has brought all this to the forefront of my mind. Too much of a thing that had been looking good.

Lately when I find myself wanting to respond angrily to a social media posting of some sort — usually by a stranger, a contact of 2nd degree who pops up because I know someone who knows someone who wants to blow off steam, make a clever cut. I block them without fanfare.

(Well, often I still type out the response, delete it and then block — but I am getting better. I’m finding that typing out the response actually heightens my emotions rather than diffuses them.)

Twitter can be like forcing my way through a carnival crowd if I let it be.

A carnival — every day.

Sometimes I think about the party lines that were around in the 70s and 80s. Did anyone really enjoy those`?

I would block Oscar Wilde’s tweets if he were tweeting today (which we all know he would). I’d still love his poetry. I’d still read his books. Dorothy Parker is only fun when she’s a historical figure, and the people you care about are out of her reach.

I’ve un-followed a lot of connections on Facebook to avoid “hanging out” with people in places I would choose not to go to if I’d been invited to physically attend a gathering. I can love my friend, but choose not to tag along to their AA meeting with them. Or their political rally. Or their bedroom.

I still love them.

It’s not a matter of creating a political bubble. I’ve often blocked people whose politics I agree with. Still follow people whose politics I dislike or don’t even know. So if I’m creating an echo chamber of sorts, at least the echos are pleasant, not hateful. Civil.

Respect should be a word for how we behave in the world, not a word to describe what people owe us, or something that we need to earn. It should be the default.

I’m not shutting out ideas, opposing points of view — I’m shutting out the noise and the drums and the elbow jabs and snickers that tighten the bonds of a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” kind of relationship that lasts until the subject changes and there is a new outrage — a new Venn diagram of opinions.

I don’t believe humans are capable of having thousands of social contacts a day. Imagine if every word came with a touch. How bruised we’d be. How raw.

How raw I feel.

And I miss the freedom that being different people with different people gives us. All the facets of a personality having a place to be. We aren’t authentically any single brand. I don’t want to put energy into marketing myself as a person-of-significance. It’s exhausting. And something I thought I was (mostly) done with at 20.

For many reasons, I’ve never been someone with clearly defined boundaries. And social media has been something of a nightmare for me.

I began this diary entry by saying that I thought these frustrations had to do with aging. But I am more convinced that it has to do with my not maturing. Being dragged back into questions that I’d once resolved — resolved sometimes by comfortably resting in a kind of negative capability.

It’s been almost two decades since George W. Bush said, “You’re either with us or with the terrorists”. A moment in history that could have come and gone in the experience of heightened emotion. But it seems that there’s been no letting-down. Just a constant change of targets.

I’ve not been able to watch A Clockwork Orange all the way through, much less read past the first few pages. But I remember a scene where Alex is strapped into a chair watching image after image after image of horrors.

I don’t think the world has ever been less messy than it is now. That the struggles and cruelties and hates haven’t always been there… somewhere. But there’s also been space for refuge. Not ignorance, but rest.

A little space for all of the tiny creatures that make us who we are to thrive again. And rise again. In a world that’s not a matrix, not a thought experiment.

What I yearn for now may well be something we yearn for more as we age, but it is oddly familiar to what we were given naturally — what we allowed ourselves — when we were very young.

cut roses drying
in the vase — fragments of dead
leaves turn to powder
wedging themselves in the grain
of this old oak writing desk

5 Comments

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  1. Wow, Ren. I deeply relate to all of this. And this is so so so true:

    Respect should be a word for how we behave in the world, not a word to describe what people owe us, or something that we need to earn. It should be the default.

    All best,
    David

    • Thank you – I think there is such a huge misunderstanding so many people have about how to be respectful. At least – they definitely see it differently than I do. And I really do like my way best 😉

  2. This is so eloquently put, and I wholeheartedly relate despite being in my 20’s. Maturity is something of an elusive concept nowadays, I find. Thank you for sharing.

    • Yeah. I thought of the people who’ve grown up in this post Matrix, largely 2 dimensional world .. but can’t speak to your experience. And you know I think maturity is neither linear nor comprehensive. How nice to know you read this. I hope you’re doing well. So much love to you.

  3. “I would block Oscar Wilde’s tweets if he were tweeting today (which we all know he would). I’d still love his poetry. I’d still read his books.” This cracked me up! Agreed!
    Someone I follow was just talking about that fine balance of discernment when it comes to appreciating the art but possibly loathing the artist. The same applies to life and the pandemic has most definitely forced many of us to revise our boundaries. I’m right there with you, creating more space for dimensional life.
    ❤️

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