I am not a natural optimist. Realist bordering on pessimist perhaps, glass half empty–but because I drank it. But definitely not an optimist.
There is no sunshine in my Suzy. There is no Anna in my Polly. On the other hand, there’s no rain on my parade either.
But there are definitely clouds. Sometimes wind.
So color me surprised when, in the midst of being semi-locked up, down, and in, I found myself peeking over the bright side.
It all started when I was having trouble typing. My nails, usually short and gnawed on, are the longest they’ve been in ages. That’s right. Constant hand washing, being uber conscious of keeping my fingers out of my mouth, and incessant moisturizing means my nails look….fantastic.
Admiring them was my first moment of stopping to smell the disinfected roses in this whole mess.
Are there roses in all of this? It seems almost a sacrilege to ask. It feels decidedly wrong to look for those small moments, and yet they are so necessary.
Now is not the time for joy, and yet, at the same time, we need joy more than ever.
Is there good in all of this? I’m not talking about gazing into the future and fantasizing about good like strengthened worker’s unions and FDR level New Deals (yes please!) or lower carbon emissions and less urban congestion (ask again, yes!). I’m talking about smaller joys, personal roses.
Can we, in the midst of the fear and the panic and everything else, appreciate them?
Though I can’t wait to paint my fingernails blue to match my hair, the longer nails are just a metaphor for the unexpected bright spots which have started to come to light after being stuck in the house with one another for weeks on end.
Maybe I’m only seeing them because I’ve finally cleaned the windows. I don’t know.
When we go on vacation, we usually digitally detox. There’s always a day or two of ‘what the hell are we going to do or talk about?’ until we work our way back toward one another. We play cards. We make up dumb games and take quizzes. And without fail, I always come back feeling closer as a unit. I breathe easier knowing I haven’t lost my children’s eternal souls to Fortnite or FIFA, that they have not, as I sometimes fear, made a pact with the Devil of YouTube.
But as soon as we get back home we fall into our old patterns. We sit in different rooms or on different couches with different devices and the only thing we’re sharing with one another is the WiFi.
So when we were thrust into this new Covid reality, I struggled. What I was supposed to do? What was this? Would it be a prolonged extension of our normal home time where we retreat, into ourselves, meeting for meals and outings here and there? Or was this more vacation scenario where I bug the kids to play Gin Rummy with me until they relent so that I can feel less like a failure of a parent?
What the hell were we supposed to do?
So here’s a disinfected rose to smell: We’re all still talking to one another after three and a half weeks of constant togetherness.
We’re playing more games–Scrabble at lunch? How decadent!–Monopoly. Settlers of Catan will make an appearance this weekend. We’re watching more television together in an effort to cut down on 24/7 screens. That’s right. I don’t count television as a screen anymore, judge me all you want.
We’ve been organizing and cleaning and rearranging. I’m researching house plants. My husband and I have been going for long walks up the coast, like the old people we are but don’t like to acknowledge, dodging Danes on the sidewalk to maintain social distancing. At any given time I have a zillion messenger chats open. It’s been a literal avalanche of communication. I’ve never been in such constant and close contact with so many. Old friends, new friends, Zoom friends. Ex-boyfriends, school friends, online friends. We’ve done virtual happy hours and virtual pub quizzes and the other day, a virtual birthday party.
Another rose? A renewed appreciation of how important all of these relationships are to me.
Of course all of these things-the games, the family time, the communication, even the retirement preview walks up the coast–they are all things we should have been doing all along.
It just took a virus to come along and remind us.
Remember what I said at the beginning: I’m not an optimist. I may buy some nail polish, but I’m not skipping around thinking that semi-quarantine is the best thing since sliced bread. I miss seeing real people in real time. I miss my extended family. I miss the idea of vacations. I worry about too many things to list. I still crave the quiet and look forward to normalcy–even if it’s a new one– and a routine that involves everyone out of my house and my hair. But among the smell of bleach and cleaner, I have found a rose or two to stop and smell.
Eventually we’ll go back to ignoring one another. The closets will get messy. The communication will slow down, the urgent need for connection will soften. We will look back at all of this as a time jarring abnormality. We will discover a new appreciation for our normal, messy, unorganized lives.
Hopefully we will learn to keep a few of the small joys we find along the way, but I doubt it. Life doesn’t usually work that way. Instead we’ll lament the loss of those good things too.
But hey, we’ll always have Corona, right?