And it’s kind of freaky.
I had a perfectly nice birthday. Lots of FB greetings. Spent the day reading bookmarked online articles I’d never gotten around to, some of which turned out to be quite useful in various ways. I took a walk, hung out with TYG and the dogs, bought stuff online with birthday gift certifocates and enjoyed a frozen pizza for dinner. I’d picked it up just for food, but in lieu of going out it made a nice birthday meal. I’d kicked myself earlier this year for not making any plans for a big party, but in hindsight, I’d have been bummed if I did.
But hanging over all that was the awareness of what I couldn’t do. No going out to eat. No going anywhere to shop. No going anywhere this current weekend. We’re both at high enough risk that social distancing isn’t only good for our community, it’s good for us. Mensa events: canceled. Writing group: canceled. Vegan potluck: canceled. We’re unlikely to make it to North Carolina Zoo before our membership (my anniversary gift last year) expires. Not going to movies. Not going to plays, even if they weren’t canceled or postponed. Not that I don’t have books and streaming shows to occupy me, but it’s pretty freaky.
And the year ahead? I got no idea what’s coming. I’m not sure anyone does. Who’ll be affected? How many? How long will we have to stay at a social distance? How much will it change society? A lot of the changes won’t even be visible: the people who stayed home and never met each other, or died younger than they would have, the kids who aren’t born to become the discoverer of cold fusion or the next Timothy McVeigh. Of course this could be true with any random decision people make, but somehow, when all of society is shaped by something, it feels bigger. This is the kind of event they write about in history books. I’m getting a crash course in wondering what it felt like to live through WW III or the Depression or AIDS in the gay community with no idea how things would end (I can safely say I do not like living in interesting times).
The economic ripple affects will shut businesses that would have thrived, and they’ll hammer even freelancers like me. As the economy slumps, fewer people buy books, magazine staffers get sick and issues don’t come out (had a couple of sales deep-sixed by that in the past) — it’s scary.
But so far, I’m in first-world problems stage. TYG and I can both work from home. We’re comfortable spending more time together (we don’t work in the same room but even so). We have the dogs. We have savings to draw on. And so far, no corona.
That makes me way better off than some of my friends who are jobless with no way to make up the shortfall (fingers crossed the government sends out some checks soon). If I were living alone, I’d be as shaken as Superman in Ernie Chan’s cover. Even in my 20s, when spending the day at home alone, watching videos and reading, was my idea of heaven, it was balanced by doing theater in the evenings.
For the coming year, most of my plans (travel, explore Durham more, have more people over) are deep-sixed. I’ll settle for staying healthy, finding ways to stay connected, writing more, and getting organized for the new normal (including exercise — it’s time to fight the “COVID 15” as my spouse puts it). And squeezing as much fun out of this strange situation as possible. And finding ways to help.
Given the number of stressed-out posts I saw on FB just yesterday, that I did have a happy birthday makes me appreciate how lucky I really am.
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