Back in the ’90s, if you would have told me I’d live through a plague, I wouldn’t have believed you. I would have said, “You’re crazy!” shook my head, assumed you were trying to pull a fast one and sighed audibly at your attempt. A decade before that, somewhere in the ’80s, you would have received a better response if you told me the same. Growing up, I was a good catholic girl and had read about plenty of plagues. There were locusts and water that turned to blood, frogs fell from the sky, flies, boils, and hail, to name a few. So, if you said, “Aryn, one day, you’ll live through an honest to God plague!” I would have conjured an image of Moses or God or some other biblical entity and been like, “That’s totally awesome!”
Because even in the bible–plagues are sexy.
Now, if you weren’t raised reading the Catholic Bible, or any religious books at all, you’re still not ignorant to plagues. You’ve heard of the Black Death. Also a sexy plague. Sexy because it didn’t happen to you. Sexy in a “Man, why were they so dumb? I’m smarter than that!” way. Then, you would think about the Spanish Flu.1918. End of World War I. Also sexy, in a “that’s crazy” kind of way.
And now, in 2020, here we are in the middle of a plague–and you know what? It’s not sexy in any way at all. However, it may be sexist or racists, depending on who you are. But for everyone, it is mostly depressing.
Even with my love of history and a general understanding of how cyclical it is, I attached myself to the idea that something like a plague could never happen to me. Still, I’ll give myself, and all of you, a pass for not predicting the last, nearly ten months of pandemic bliss on planet earth.
But! And this is a big but, while I can give us all a collective pass on not anticipating a global pandemic of this magnitude in our lifetime, I’m having a hard time giving a pass for how humanity has dealt with it.
Since March 13th, I have lost my job and been at home with minimal to no venturing outside. If you know me personally, you’ll have a general understanding of how hard this is for me. In the pre-COVID world, I planned my child’s life around his school breaks to include so many day trips, we’re out in the world more than we’re stuck in our apartment. As this plague pulls longer and longer, and the number of times I’ve had to explain to him that COVID-19 is not my personal doing and I’m not intentionally keeping him at home out of punishment for something he said/did is wearing on me, heart and soul.
Since the beginning, I have spent my days playing schoolmarm, being a best friend, a play companion, a parent, and a cook to a twelve-year-old who ended fifth grade in quarantine and started middle school–at a new school–the same way. In between those moments, I squeezed in workouts, chatted up people on social media, joined a writing critique group, and worked on writing projects and pieces via google drive–because it’s easier to use a platform I can seamlessly jump from device to device. I’ve grown accustomed to drinking too much coffee during the day, too much alcohol at night, and then sleeping too little after that because, as it turns out–none of this is sexy. I have remained inside my apartment nearly all day, every day, for 289 days. When I do go out, I wear my mask, even when I’m jogging. If I’m at the grocery store, I wear latex gloves to be extra safe.
Some days I’m so crabby I turn off all devices and do nothing but the mom bit. Other days I cuddle my dog and listen to music. The Gods created headphones for this very thing.
To put it plainly, I am tired. Still, I remind myself I am fortunate.
I’ve watched the rise of domestic violence in our country; the proof is in police blogs and daily newspapers listed as “murder-suicides.” (Rise in child abuse and abandonment as well.) I’ve monitored how the opioid crisis no one seems to talk about anymore is also taking more and more lives during this time of isolation. Then there is the massive hike in homelessness not only in Los Angeles but across the country as a whole, on top of suicide rates topping the charts.
I know I am lucky, even if that luck does feel more like survivor’s guilt, the longer this plague continues. Antsy. Tired. Angry. I stay in quarantine to ensure the safety of my family and of those who can’t stay home because they’re essential workers.
Then I see all the people who don’t stay at home. Those who go to parties and are traveling from one state to another. The people who are hosting picnics and barbeques for birthdays and graduation. And all those who refuse to wear their masks because they believe rantings on Facebook over scientific data. Then, I get angry.
While I use the word lucky attached to my life, it hasn’t been easy. None of this is easy for any of us. The only difference is how we deal with it. That is the part I’m having issues forgiving. Out one side of everyone’s mouths, we cry for this pandemic to end, and then out the other side, we have that choice to do something about it: stay home or go out.
Back in the ’90s, if you’d known and told me about COVID-19, I wouldn’t have believed you. Right now, as I live through COVID-19 day in and out, I believe every word of it. I also think I’ve had the wrong picture of humanity wedged in my brain all of my life. I embraced the term, “Avoid it like the plague,” not realizing that people would say no when it happened. “I’ll be careful.” “It can’t touch me.” “But, it’s the holidays.” Through all of this, I have learned that we have come to sacrifice community wellness for individual comforts. This idea of embracing ourselves over society has happened for such a long time we can no longer see humankind as part of a global neighborhood. We no longer can accept that sometimes we should do what’s right for everyone–even if the immediate benefits isn’t our own.
The next leg of this plague for me, I will be working through all this because I don’t want to live in a world where people pick the selfishness of a single moment over kindness for longevity. I’d rather be part of a world where we tip essential workers; we miss this holiday so we can be together at the next one; we believe scientists and doctors, so this pandemic ends.
So, maybe I didn’t know what 2020 had in store for the world, but I have always believed it’s best to give humankind the benefit of the doubt. So, while I juggle with these emotions, please, be safe, wear a mask, stay home as much as you can. Know, you’re not alone in this. We’ve made it nine months; we can be strong a little longer.