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May 20, 2020

Finding Our Way

I noticed a chart on social media last week, a list that ranked one’s level of caution and care in terms of exposure to Covid-19, and a few of my friends seemed to find a great deal of appeal in this chart. The idea being that you could determine how you ranked and then find friends with similar rankings to associate with as we slowly expand our social bubbles after two months of quarantine, which makes sense, because you probably don’t want the person you hang out with when all this is over to be Buddy who was over at the Michigan legislature protesting with his machine gun the other week. Not just because Buddy is an asshole, but also because he’s been congregating in large groups without a mask on and likely doesn’t wash his hands.

Of course, there was a level of smugness to it too— I mean, no one who scored “VERY OPEN LEVEL 5” was sharing this chart on Facebook. And I mean no judgment with that either, because I can be as smug as they come, and if you’ve been depriving yourself of human company and good groceries for coming on 70 days now, you have every reason to feel superior to that woman down the street whose kids never stopped having playdates and whose boyfriend sleeps over every Saturday.

But still, it didn’t sit well with me, that list. It was the narrowness, I think—and I would consider possibly because I can’t declare myself a “VERY STRICT 0.” I have not worn masks while walking outdoors, I go shopping more than once a week, I’ve likely been within six feet of somebody while passing on the sidewalk. Although the shops I’ve visited have been small and not crowded, better than grocery stores. But also I live in a unit with shared space with other households. Which doesn’t require riding an elevator and my door knobs are my own, but I am also really not attentive enough at disinfecting doorknobs. Though since people have stopped coming over, I’ve decided not to get worked up over this. But what I mean by all this is what I mean most of the time when writing a blog post, which is that it’s complicated.

Has the pandemic made everyone more annoying, or has it made me irritable, or both, is another complicated question, and the answer is probably yes. (And don’t think I don’t acknowledge that I fall under the category of “everyone” who is more annoying too.)

But I really have struggled these last few months with people’s demands for certainty and clarity in a situation that no one really understands. The week before this all shook down, way back in March we cancelled our trip to England because it was becoming clear that travelling right now would be a really bad idea. Prior to this, I’d been watching government travel advisories and assuming these were gospel, and then had a revelation, which was that just because the government said we could go didn’t necessarily mean that they thought we should. That we live in a country where citizens are free to make their own choices for the most part, and don’t need to be told what to do. I found everyone that first week even extra annoying, because everyone on social media had an opinion about banning flights from certain places, shutting down the borders, etc—when it was clear to me that all this was going to happen, but the government was rolling out measures slowly because they have to. And yet I understand where the complaining people were coming from because there still were people departing on vacation in mid-March, when it was demonstrably clear that this was a terrible idea. But tragically, really (and even literally, sometimes), sometimes freedom of choice means that people are going to make appalling ones.

Or at least ones that are different than yours, ones that you just can’t understand—why that man isn’t wearing a mask, and why that woman brought her toddler to the grocery store, the person standing on the street corner audibly hacking up a lung. For me, much more innocuously, the big one is people who wash their fruits and vegetables in soapy water. I don’t get it—and also, it makes me terribly anxious because I’m just not doing that, and these people doing something different makes me afraid I’ve made bad choices, instead of underlining my virtue and my safety—which is what we all want anyway.

Also: okay. You’re washing your bananas. Great. But why do you have to document it on Instagram?

But my husband has a good point (he is one of the few individuals alive who has NOT been made more annoying by the pandemic) which was that washing fruits and vegetables, and Instagramming them, no less, made those people feel good.

“You know how you liked ordering from the bookstore?” he asked, because this was the week I’d ordered more than fifteen books to be delivered from stores across the city, and he really was bringing this home with an analogy that was so on my level. “Because it made you feel happy, and normal, and like you had some element of control over the world?”

We’re all trying to hard to find our way through this unknown situation. And the people who don’t seem to be trying are trying for the rest of us, and those who are struggling mirror all the ways that I am, and those who seem to know everything only underline just how much I don’t, and I suppose it doesn’t help that my relations with nearly everybody these days are enacted on social media where we are all performing, and sorting our feelings, and showing our best selves and/or our worst ones, and how are the rest of us supposed to tell which is which?

We’re doing it though. By trusting the science, and using our imaginations, we are, no matter how restless and impatient we feel. And that’s the amazing thing, even though nobody really knows what’s what, and it’s never been more apparent what has always been true, which is that we’re all trying to find our way in the dark. But we’re finding it. Day by day.

5 thoughts on “Finding Our Way”

  1. theresa says:

    This is such a good piece, Kerry. My husband, like yours, has somehow retained his common sense and his humour these days, pointing out that some people need to perform their anxiety in ways that might be alien to us (older after all) but serve to keep them reasonably purposeful. But washing bananas? On instagram? I never knew that was a thing. Ordering books, yes, and making sure there’s enough wine, folded laundry. But the bananas will have to wait it out in the bowl, unwashed, and (yikes) possibly vectors…

  2. Dilia Narduzzi says:

    I can’t wash my fruits and veggies either, I just don’t have the energy for one more thing.

    1. Kerry says:

      It’s true! The whole thing is just exhausting.

  3. Diane says:

    Darn you — you’re so right. Why had I not yet come to that conclusion? We’re all trying to find our way in this and, though I grumble to myself, or to my husband, about why people are posting/saying/doing all these ‘ridiculous’ things on social media, they too are simply trying to find their way through all this.

    I’m one of those annoying people who is nearly always upbeat, positive, “we’re good.” But lately, intermittently, I’m getting grumpy and irritable. I’m finding that, like trying to swim fully clothed while carrying a backpack, it’s getting exhausting.

    PS: I’ve been ordering books too, no kidding.

    1. Kerry says:

      Yes, I am an insufferable finder of silver linings. I think people on Facebook hate me as much as I hate them.

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