• Meghan Rose

The Situation

It’s 1:52am eastern time and of course the motivation is here. I have to grab it now because it is so hard to come by these days. I have to grab it now. It visits me late at night normally, but especially these days. Especially late and especially fleeting. So I have to grab it. You understand.

I don't have it in me to do funny pictures for this one. I might not even be funny. I don't care and I think we all need a little "fuck it do it anyway" for survival right now.

I hate the word coronavirus and I have the word COVID. A dear friend of mine calls it “the situation” and I’m going to steal it for this word spit. But yes, this is all about The Situation. Which unfortunately I think someone from Jersey Shore was also called, but I’m just gonna have to live with that.

I live in New York City. It’s not so different from the rest of the country, although I’m sure the news makes your brain think it is. I’m privileged to have my own apartment and a job where I can work from home. I have two cats. I am dating someone so I do have real life interaction on a regular basis. I do ride my bike into Manhattan from where I live in Brooklyn to see her and that gives me exercise and a perspective to how the city is doing.

New York City is on ‘Pause’. Every state is using their own terminology to help us all not lose our shit. “Shelter-in-place” was such a scary legal-sounding term when San Fran did it that our NY Governor Cuomo was adamant to stay away from it. He is the closest thing to a president that we have right now, and thank god for him and his leadership. We are on the downward slope, but it isn’t going down very fast. The death rate and infection rates are still crazy high. But the emotional panic has lessened. My therapist calls it “seeing red”.

I go to the grocery store, the laundromat, the bodega, with my mask on. There are lines outside most grocery stores during busy times, but I don’t go to those, I go to a smaller food market. I have gone to grocery stores late at night, one in Brooklyn and one in Manhattan a few different times. There is no shortage of goods right now. This is just my reality. Supply chain into New York seems to be fine. In early March there was still the Costco panic buying of toilet paper, but that was mostly the outer edges of the boroughs.

When I ride my bike there are lots of people exercising, some with masks, some without since exercising with a mask on is highly unpleasant. Those who are walking almost always have a mask on. The parks aren’t closed. There are yellow warning signs outside all parks and basketball courts. I don’t see groups hanging out anymore at all. Families and partnerships and individuals and six feet apart. Manhattan is the least affected borough.

I work in IT for a hospital in Brooklyn called Brookdale. When The Situation first hit, I felt useful because they needed some changes to the computer system to support their documentation. To flag a patient as a Person Under Investigation (PUI) or Positive. The test at first took 3 days for a result to come back. I believe the first day we started working on it was March 11. March 25 was the first day that Brookdale rolled out an in-house 6-hour test. I recall 30 or so positive patients around that time at our hospital. The hospital acted quickly to convert existing units into isolation ones.

We didn’t get approval to work from home until March 28. My coworkers were frustrated, especially those with school-aged kids. No one was wearing a mask but we were keeping our distance from each other and making jokes about it. I remember that the bodega I always went to for lunch…the day the owner started wearing a mask. My grocery store clerks. First a mask. Then a mask and gloves. Then a mask and gloves and plastic wrap around the checkout area leaving just a small window to place your food under.

I have an app called Citizen app where you can see alerts if there’s criminal activity or a dangerous event like a fire, car crash, etc. ‘Fist Fight’, ‘Man with a Gun’, ‘Apartment Fire’ are common. It’s helpful so you can avoid going down that street. The police are still busy with all of these things. Just wearing masks now. I haven’t seen any evidence of police enforcing social distancing, though I did read that they enforced non-essential businesses to close. And they are all closed now. It is so surreal in this city. The liquor store closest to me is closed unfortunately, even though it is by law considered essential. I hope nothing happened to the store owners. I don’t know.

I only know one friend personally who has gotten infected. My age probably, in her 30s. She has recovered and said it lasted about 11 days and was god awful. Patients of a friend who works with a longterm care facility have died. I am surprised I don’t know more people who have gotten it, but I am a middle class white person in her 30s. My guess. Who knows.

The trains are still running. There are very few people on them. The homeless don’t have masks.

There are some bars in my neighborhood who open a window and sell reusable glass jars and make cocktails for you. They’re staying in business, but barely.

It’s Day 47 since The Situation started getting real; since the country started realizing what was happening. I consider that March 11. It’s only Day 30 of quarantine for me; since I started working from home on March 28. My usefulness has gotten much lower.

My response to the stress of The Situation has been to feel alive very late at night and then sleep too much during the day. I do have work to do, but not enough, which enables me to continue my fucked up sleep schedule. I feel guilt about this. I feel guilt about not being an EMT or a nurse, even though I'm queasy with body blood stuff. I feel guilt whenever I experience moments of joy and serenity. My guilt is not helpful to anyone. I have to not judge my guilt in order to accept it and let it go. I'm getting better at doing this.

7pm every day in Manhattan people bang pots and pans and clap and holler and make noise outside their windows to celebrate essential workers. It has become a new tradition. It’s a really good one. The sound of cheering is as appreciated as what's being celebrated.

I am grieving just like most people. Grieving going to bars, going to shows, feeling the energy of a group of people. Grieving feeling the life that buzzes in a city where everyone is trying to connect and sell and perform and entertain and get your attention. Attention to commune. Something we can’t do right now.

Watch parties and group video events don’t do it for me. But I try. One on one is okay, but group activities really wear me out. I’m drained easily and the loss of in person communing hits me so hard that I get depressed even thinking about a ‘social event’ being done using the robots. Not only do the little annoyances of technology bother me, but I can feel the emptiness of energy gained and the surge of energy required in order to pay attention to a screen. There’s no splitting off into separate conversations, there's no art of the party. Live streams depress me too. If it’s supposed to be funny, there’s no laughter of other people. It it’s music, there’s no breathing together. It’s barely felt. The closest I’ve felt to feeling like I’m in a group is chatting while a live stream is happening. It feels like the old chat rooms when the internet first happened. Nostalgia is a frequent feeling.

I’m not someone who does well without big group settings. Before The Situation, I went to a show 5 out of 7 days a week. Or I was rehearsing or working on a show. Shows was a way of life, how to survive being alive. For so many people, in NYC and not. Even if you have a family, even if you value alone time, the loss of group energy is felt on a huge level. It’s making us tired.

I had a night alone especially awake where I was having a panic attack. Thinking too far ahead about the future, consumed with loss about the present, buried in longing for the past. Longing for the recent past, the things I took for granted. I texted the NYC WELL hotline. Someone texted with me. It was okay. I decided to stay awake all night to attempt to reset myself. Maybe after achieving complete delirium I’d reboot. It mostly worked. I don’t know if it was the staying awake, the lack of sleep, the accomplishment of a strange goal, the fuck it mentality of letting go, just the sheer amount of time that had passed. Who is to say.

It’s really hard to know what to expect from your own responses right now. It’s like we’ve all been dropped into the deep end of needing to accept our capacities and our emotions whatever they are. We literally have to in order to survive. We don’t have a choice, we can’t resist it, we are just going to feel a lot, have little energy, have confusing emotions and thoughts, be hopeful one moment and full of regret and powerlessness the next, we’ll wiggle around thinking “maybe if” and we’ll shuffle around thinking “probably when” and we’ll waddle around feeling “woe is me” and we’ll jump up and down shouting “help them!” and we’ll collapse into a deep sleep and wake up crying. And we’ll have moments of being okay in between.

I have gratitude lists, I have endless journal entries. I’m hopeful sometimes and hopeless other times. I try and I give up. I am hard on myself and easy on myself. I never thought humans would have to face the loss of communion…something I’ve prioritized and made the whole reason I am a musician. Communion is the reason I I love New York City and moved here. Communion is the reason I have friends and the reason I’m connected to staying alive. We have shadows of it, thank god, videos and books and movies to help escape. But hell, even the cavemen had parties.

Even the cavemen had parties.

I’m not a fucking psychopath protester, I agree that social distancing has to happen, I’m just writing about it to help my own grief and maybe it will help yours too. None of us are meant to live like this. It’s the strangest triumph of the human spirit that our need for connection has been overridden toward preserving as many lives as possible. It is depressing because sustaining life without connection is hardly a life at all. This is why it’s so difficult, this is why we are grieving. At the root is love, and a responsibility to prevent suffering of our species as much as possible. It is a paradox.

I’ve mostly accepted The Situation and have embraced radical patience. Radical Patience. Different than a panic-filled “when will this be over?!!!!” yelling into the void. And different from blissful unsustainable optimism. The definition of patience means “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” I like this better: “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering while managing anger, despair, hopelessness, and other upsetting negative emotions in responsible ways” I think patience can also mean dealing with your feelings either by talking about them or writing them down or just sitting and thinking or sleeping a lot or whatever it is that your body has designed for you to do. Radically learn and accept what it is that your body and brain are doing to keep you going. “Horrible thought!” yep, that’s a thought, that’s okay. “Hate everybody!” yep, that’s a thought, that’s okay. “I’m a piece of shit!” yep, that’s a thought, that’s okay.

None of these concepts are new, I just like to hear them in my own voice because I'm a god damn writer god dammit.

I do my best when I forget about time. When I don’t feel like I have to stick to a schedule because it just doesn’t seem worth it to be on time for anything. Why would I? Everybody is robots. It’s how I’m coping. I do my best when I stare at my cat’s face and am in awe at how tiny her face hairs are and how the grain changes. I do my best when I take a long time to slice a vegetable so I can hear the sound of the cut each time and appreciate it. I do my best when I am aware that the shirt I’m wearing is blue and how about that? Wow, blue. Just think about blue for a second. And how many blues there are. I do my best when I think about the cup is circle, the box is square, the foot has toes, the hands have fingers, the cat…the cat. What. Is. The. Cat.

I have a new kind of anxiety now though. Worrying about what it’s going to be like when society…re-integrates. I don’t know what to call it. I mean when venues and bars and restaurants are open again. It’s going to be slow. Our energy levels won’t be up to par, they won’t be able to handle what they did before. We’ll likely experience a different kind of grief all over again. Intense joy at being able to socialize again, but a new kind of exhaustion. A new kind of anxiety around our ability to keep up with each other. It will again require Radical Patience. Some of us will dive in head first ready to swim to the end of the lake and back, and others will be plugging our noses at the end of the dock, desperately wanting to jump but our legs won’t move. It’s going to happen again.

Maybe we’re supposed to learn these lessons of patience. I’m certain we’re supposed to re-learn how to appreciate the small things. And to appreciate what we had before. Whatever happens, we all will share relief and hope when things start to open up again, and we will all be changed by the same thing. Perhaps this is communion after all.

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