Vay's Place

A Few Days of Soft Social Distancing

I am writing this because all the weirdness around me tells me this will be an important time to take note of, both on a personal and societal (maybe global) level. I love journaling and I think it is important that I document this in real time.

I, alongside pretty much everyone in most parts of the world, am thinking about COVID-19, the Coronavirus Disease. It’s on our news alerts, social media feeds, and in face-to-face conversation. Italy and Norway have officially shut down. Americans are learning how to wash their hands for the first time and have bought out all the toilet paper.

I currently live in San Diego and there is no systemic lockdown so people are acting on their own and doing whatever they believe is best. People are staying away from large gatherings and working from home. As of the week of March 9, the small office I work in is not planning to close up and the work that I do can’t be done from home so I am happy to keep coming in simply because I keep getting paid. With no insurance or savings, I’m 40% reliant on my skinny bi-weekly paycheck and 60% reliant on the Blood of the Lamb. I know it should be 110% on the Blood but I’m a work in progress. Also, rent and bills are not being paused and the likelihood of that happening in the US, specifically in my case, is very slim so I’m trying to match my reality.

It’s Friday morning and I’m on the 10-minute walk to work from the bus station and it’s raining. My flimsy umbrella is keeping only most of my body and backpack dry. As I walk, I think of the chaos all around me, the external joining with the internal to produce.. calmness? I feel numb, like I’m outside of my body watching myself. This is common for me.

As soon as I sit at my desk and turn on the computer, I check my email. I’m reading one absentmindedly then I remember seeing a subject line from a university in the unread list, the university that has my graduate school application. I try to finish up the email I’m currently reading but can’t concentrate enough so I just rush to the other one. From outside myself, I watch my reaction as I read my acceptance to my top-choice graduate school program. I feel very lightheaded, like I’m going to pass out. I screenshot the email and put it in my family Whatsapp group and then send Snapchats to my brother reacting; I can’t believe it for some reason.

I want to tweet my good news but I can’t bring myself to do it. There’s a lot going on my timeline and there’s really no need to add to it, even though, I’ll note tomorrow morning, I waste no time in logging on to complain about the most irrelevant stuff. Moving on. 

Later that afternoon, I receive an email that the opening reception for an art showcase I’m in has been postponed. My friend and partner in this project are honestly relieved at this because now we have more time to pull it together. We’d been so busy that it was hard to meet up as much as we needed to to bring our project to work. It seems like everyone is getting a big life break that we all knew was necessary but not possible based on our society. We are being forced to stop and rest by this pandemic. My roommate texts me to say she was able to buy toilet paper. Good news since I couldn’t find any last night. It must not be that rough out there then. 

On my lunch break I go to see an apartment. I’m moving soon-ish and need to find a place. I don’t like the set up so it goes quick and I get a chicken sandwich on my way back to work. As I eat at my desk I think about my health for a moment: I should probably be eating something nutritious, when last did I take something with Vitamin C? and so on. 

Around 7 p.m., I go grocery shopping with my friend right after work. I wasn’t thinking of going to buy groceries but she thought it’d be a good idea since stores are getting sold out of products and we don’t know how long all this will take. The uncertainty is real. We hit up a 99 Ranch Supermarket and Trader Joe’s. When she gets to my apartment to drop me off, we end up talking in the car for over two hours. We always talk about life, how it is to be us here and now and it always feels good to talk about stuff that really matters. I wonder how important this moment will be if I have to look back on this weekend years after all this.

I have two cups of Trader Joe’s yogurt for dinner around midnight and at 1:44 a.m. I’m still up watching Monse from On My Block talk about being desensitized to pain and loss as a part of being numb to life. That really sounds like me.

A church conference that I was supposed to be at all day Saturday moved to Livestream and so did our Sunday service which means I’m looking at a weekend completely free with no obligations to leave my apartment. I truly can’t remember the last time I had a weekend to myself, when I didn’t have to leave my apartment both days and that stresses me out. I have been telling everyone that will listen that I need to stop being busy and need to start taking it easy. Constant, unstoppable productivity is an evil spirit that is very alive among us and very difficult to stop. This outbreak is handing me that time to rest on a silver platter but I’m not sure how I’m taking it. I stay in my apartment and in my bed for most of Saturday.

On Sunday, I go to a birthday brunch for my close friend. The restaurant is still open, packed even. It seems like with schools and workplaces closed, people are now having time to hang out with their loved ones. In other words, people are taking the time off from responsibilities to do what they actually want to do with their time, even if it is hazardous. This is interesting to me: our reality is looking very different because people are taking risks for what is important to them.

There are a lot of discussions on social media about the selfishness and privilege of going out and not properly observing social distancing and I understand those arguments. Still, I can’t stop thinking about what feelings of uncertainty and lack of control are doing to us. 

As someone who has been in a long self-improvement process of unlearning my need and desire to be in control of my life and all that concerns me, this is a massive test for me. I have things to do and moves to make that are time-sensitive and I can’t put things into motion that will let me know where I’ll be for sure in six months. I see a lot of people also being tested on a personal level. Folks are defying the new social norm of self-quarantining because they feel their comfort and freedom being threatened. Some people think doing the recommended and the needful, which is staying at home unless absolutely necessary, would mean some type of loss. Someone I know expressed not wanting to “give in to the hysteria.” Let me say a little about this person. He is the type who prides himself on being rational and logical in the face of anything and what I see going on with him is that his sense of worth and value is being threatened in this crisis. For someone who has always believed he is the level-headed one in the room, going with the crowd to feel worry or concern is against his brand. Instead, he has taken up a face of annoyance. From the people on this side of the spectrum to those on the other end of absurd panic who are buying out the stores, we are all acting out on our fears. And we all know what fear can make people do, regardless of who they are or what they know.

This common feeling of helplessness is definitely exposing capital and property ownership for the shams that they are. Our lack of control, which was already a pretense, has come to light. My roommate was let go from both of their jobs and has no idea what to do next. With a lot of people suddenly in this situation, we are collectively understanding of the fact that people need a place to live and the other things necessary to have a good life regardless of their ability to pay for it. We seem to easily understand that no one should have to suffer because of situations that are out of our control. An empathy that is aggressive is being shared by all of us and we are showing what love in action means. I really hope I don’t miss the point of all this, that I get out of this thinking of society and work differently. 

It’s around 2 p.m. on Monday and I am at work. I feel like a panic attack is coming on but I’m not sure if that’s what it is. Earlier on my throat felt weird and now my head feels fuzzy. I have had a lot of anxiety recently and being someone that does not express stress outwardly I am always concerned as to where the stress goes and how it is going to manifest because I’m pretty sure it stays in my body. I am already dealing with trying to find a place to move to by the end of the month and figuring out the road to actually get to the school I will now be attending. 

I noticed I am posting a LOT. I’m Very Online, even more than usual if any of my mutuals can believe that, and the hysteria mixed with humor is taking a toll on me. The fact that I can notice that means it has already done too much damage. I’m thinking of how to save myself. 

Journaling really helps. Keeping record gives me the freedom to check in with myself and how I am feeling in the midst of all this. I have shared a tiny bit, and I’m still working through the rest. It’ll also help me if I start to live my life more from day to day instead of in six-month time blocks.

I am taking advantage of all the free time I have now to stretch my body and read—two things that I hardly have time for in my regular routine—because they help with the anxious feelings by keeping me in and connected with my body. I’m still going to work, but I would say that my main responsibility right now is to take care of myself. I can’t say how long this will last but for now, I am thankful and mindful.

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