I would love to begin this column with a remark such as, “Last night, I went to visit my friend so-and-so for a dinner in the City and a walk along the Bay.” Or even, “I saw a great movie at the Roxy last night,” or perhaps, “Let me tell you about my day trip to Winters.”
No dice. A stickler for COVID protocols, I don’t go anywhere. My travels are limited to ZOOM meetings and television shows. I’d love to tell you that I’m reading some wonderful novels, but lately I don’t have the mental capacity to concentrate on a novel.
I feel like I’ve wandered into quicksand. I can move around a bit and I haven’t gone under, but my movements are slow. I’d tell you that I’m falling into depression, but I don’t have the energy to be depressed. I know that doesn’t make sense, but it’s the only way I can think to describe what this feels like.
And only yesterday, I was making enthusiastic pitches to my editor.
Life in COVID feels as if I were a ping pong ball in a box, a very small box, that somebody occasionally picks up and shakes. I go ping, pong, ping, pong all over the damn cube like a crazed pogostick. Then the shaking stops and I’m rolling around on the bottom until I come to a complete stop, wondering why I’m still here in a box and nothing has been accomplished beyond a feeling of exhaustion.
And yet, things somehow get done. I have been organizing a decade’s worth of writing and preparing to publish somehow someway. That’s good. And I am painting. True, one painting has so far been on the easel for six weeks, struggling towards completion in tiny increments, but it’ll get there.
Fortunate enough not to have to work due to savings and unemployment and a generous family windfall, I can devote myself full time to my art. At least for a little while.
And the funny thing is: it’s not what it’s cracked up to be.
Art in a vacuum isn’t very satisfying, after all.
This is a time of ongoing trauma.
And that is what it has been like, ever since the so-called 45th “President” was elected, and even after the demise of that “presidency.”
Even COVID seems not so much an event in itself as a piece of the larger picture.
I can only vaguely sense the degree of imprisonment and trauma and deterioration which we are all experiencing. In my numbed state, it seems impossible to fully put my brain around the reality. Perhaps that’s just as well.
What is the point of writing a dreary column like this?
Because witness matters. Some days the best we can do is try to tell it like it is.
There is hope in the ability to bear witness. So that’s what I try to do.
I’m here. I see something of what is happening to all of us. I know I’m not alone. You’re not alone. We’re in this together.
In this teeter-totter time tomorrow I’ll feel better and you perhaps will feel worse and then we’ll change places again.
Meanwhile, we must try to tell what stories we can. Witness is everything.