Sunday, April 05, 2020

what our days are like now

The first week or so of the quarantine was strange for a dozen reasons, which I wrote about for MUTHA, but because we're living (knockonwood) through one of the most momentous non-moments of the past century, I thought it might be good to jot down some notes on this part of it too: the new-normal aftermath, the long days that are mostly okay but missing something.

I have nothing special to add to the already overwhelming amount of content about the challenges of working from home with no childcare, or the dueling manifestos of "Now is the time to write that novel/build that treehouse" and "It's okay to just survive, we're in a fucking pandemic." But this is my blog, and maybe someday I'll want to look back at how we stitched together time during this time.

I wouldn't say we have a schedule, but we have a rhythm. We're not really homeschooling Dash, but he's learning. We've never been especially strict about screen time, but we've kept it to a minimum mostly by doing other things: seeing family and friends, going to parks and museums, going to Target. We still go to Target, but now we is just me. The other day our friend Amy said "My kids have watched all of YouTube" and I was like, yep, accurate.

Dash loves this one extended family of horrible actors with kids named Jannie, Wendy, Emma, Lyndon, and Liam. I think they're Filipino-American. They seem to genuinely like each other, and they live in big homes with very little furniture. The girls all wear tulle dresses and headbands. The aunts and uncles pretend to be shop owners and customers and teachers in little plays with vague moral lessons about being nice and eating healthy food. Recently we watched a video in which a couple of the kids are eating candy, and an uncle comes along to lecture them. He gives them bottled water instead. I kept thinking, Water is not food.

A whole lotta this.
Whenever they're mad or scoldy, they shake an index finger like "no, no, no." Dash does this to me now. Yesterday, AK told him Jannie videos don't come on on weekends.

Dash has also gotten into a couple of educational (or, you know, "educational") game apps. You could argue that one of them has "math" in the title (Moose Math) and that at least they're interactive. But I'm semi-addicted to the two games I play on my phone, and I know how twitchy they make me, how they've shaped my plastic brain, even though I didn't touch a computer until I was eight years old.

The only people we're seeing IRL at a distance of closer than six feet are our next-door neighbors, Jasmine and Juanita, and thank fucking god for them, but also I'm so sick of them. I love them, they're basically my nieces now, but because I'm basically their aunt now, they are comfortable incessantly demanding cheese sticks and playing annoying pranks and hiding in my closet and telling me the beans I just cooked smell like poop. Don't get me wrong: I'm sick of Dash too. I'm sick of myself (that's pretty much always a given).

Yesterday we went on a nature walk/scavenger hunt in our neighborhood because for about an hour a day, I am one of those good moms who comes up with activities. The three kids fought about who got to hold the box or markers, who got to push the toy stroller. Dash complained his legs were too tired to walk. Jasmine is seven, the older sister, and a relentless score keeper about who hogged the swing in our driveway last time they played, etc. She is karma for my own childhood as the petty, perpetually frustrated older sister who forced my mom to police a universe whose laws she did not give a shit about.

Highland Park nature walk, where you can also find a pile of spray paint cans in an alley.

On our walk we met a Siamese cat named Blue, who had giant furry brown balls ("It looks like she's starting to have a baby," Jasmine said) and was in the process of torturing a lizard whose tail he had already amputated.

Fucking nature, man.

Some things are nice: Seeing more of AK. Zoom cocktails with our sisters and Kendra and Rob and Amy and Maria and Holly and Joel. Why were Zoom cocktails not a thing before? You get to drink in bed while talking to your friends. I hope this is one change that stays.

I try to find time to myself when I can. That's the irony of this time: Introverts who live with people are smothered, extroverts are lonely. If you know me, you know that of course I have a list of twenty little household projects and four or five writing projects I'm trying to do between post-play-date cleaning sessions. I finished a comic I'd been working on for Dash, about his birth and adoption story. He's been anti-book lately, but I've managed story time with him the past two nights, so I'm hopeful it was just a tunnel and that there are specks of literate light at the end. I wrote that thing for MUTHA. I don't know what's next.

Whenever we talk about the Time Before Him, Dash says "You were a yiddle bit lonely?"

On solo walks, I feel how much I miss the baby who was almost ours.

We're following the ever-shifting guidelines of social isolation, but we're not bleaching our vegetables and I haven't yet worn a mask outside (I probably will on my next Target trip; don't @ me). I've had my moments of Taking It All In, of fear--especially when my dad's health seemed edgier, especially when we had a one-month-old in our house--but I've also spent nine years living with health- and medical-related anxiety.

I mean, I don't want to brag and jinx myself. And worrying about infectious disease is certainly a new and unwelcome subtype of my hypochondria. (Theory: I worry more about chronic illnesses not just because they've killed my family members and tried to kill me, but also because "There's something inherently wrong with you and only you and it's in your cells" is a narrative that plays to my insecurities more than "There's something wrong externally and it could come for everyone.") But on some level, dividing death rate by incidence rate and calculating my chances--and then, most importantly, trying to get on with my life in spite of it--is a daily practice for me. So yeah, I'm saying I was into this band way before you were.

I miss my family. I miss driving (I know! LA hell has frozen over!) and podcast-listening time. I miss chatting with my coworkers instead of a thousand formal video meeting check-ins in which I hear how they're working twelve-hour days and doing yoga (while I dodge shouting children and feel guilty for trying to compress my workdays). I miss movie theaters. I miss feeling the ineptitude of our administration as an abstract threat rather than a personal one (#privilege, I know). I miss thinking I might get a haircut any minute now. Several months after this is all over, I will probably maybe get a haircut.