The threats posed by the coronavirus have changed my life, thus far, in only limited ways. The seismic shifts taking place throughout the rest of the world have begun here, but I spend most of my time at home, anyway, so I haven’t been terribly inconvenienced yet. Barren grocery shelves, closed retail establishments and restaurants, and social distancing while “out and about” have been noticeable, but not pestilential in scope. Yet. Life goes on, almost as normal but with a few tectonic upheavals. But I feel the ominous breath of change against the back of my neck. What was, heretofore, normal is fading into the background, leaving an empty space where contentment once lived. I already feel a sense of loss of normalcy; like heartbreak.
“Normal.” The dictionary definition is changing with every breath and each new death caused by the coronavirus. No deaths yet in Arkansas, but it’s just a matter of time. And as those traumas and tragedies mount, and as routines are more deeply interrupted and upended, normal will take on a new, increasingly sinister meaning. Normal will become synonymous with toxicity. Reality will crush the temporary idea of “the new normal” under the heels of a savage enemy. “The new normal” will disappear into the mist and emerge simply as “normal,” the caustic reality that requires us to constrict our movements and limit human contact.
I remember how I felt, as a young man, enthusiastic but inexperienced, when I was spurned by girls I thought would be my “one and only.” Like that heartbreak, this pain will morph into anger and, then, bitterness. But, instead of the flames of anger dying into embers and then cooling into ashes, the anger that accompanies this normalcy could erupt into volcanic rage. But against who? Against what? The only logical place for it is to turn it inward; I hope that will not happen often, but I’m afraid it will. The longer we experience social isolation and the deeper the financial upheavals dig into people’s lives, the more likely we will see explosive rage in public places and the more likely we will see dramatic spikes in suicide rates.
I do hope my dystopian vision is utterly wrong. I hope our society, instead, comes together (albeit at a safe distance) to willingly suffer sacrifice and engage in supportive, helpful, constructive behaviors. It’s really far too early to tell what will happen. It’s probably too early even to predict possibilities. But my underlying pessimism seems to be bubbling to the surface. I would so much rather be hopeful and optimistic. I could really use a hug right now, but that would be dangerous and reckless. So goes reality in mid-March, 2020.
I spent a significant portion of the day yesterday creating an inventory of our pantry. Actually, pantries. We have one small pantry in the house and an enclosed plastic shelving unit, meant for tools but which we use as a pantry, in the garage. I created a list, shelf by shelf, of everything. I segmented each item according to a system I devised but probably will change (e.g., beans, condiments, fish, flavorings, etc.). Then, I further categorized the items (e.g., black beans, canned; olives; kipper snacks, canned; liquid smoke; etc.). I recorded how many of each are on each shelf and which shelves they are on. In preparing the inventory, I discovered that we have multiples of some items stored in different places; we don’t have a particularly voluminous pantry, but we have so many individual items of “stuff” that makes it difficult to keep track of what we have. Consequently, we sometimes buy more of an item we already have. If we can keep up with this inventory, we can avoid such wasteful behaviors.
Don’t think you’re the only one who thinks yesterday’s endeavor was indicative of some aberrant psychological patterns. It’s odd that I can focus on such a menial, repetitive, mind-numbing task for a while, yet usually I can’t keep focused on anything for more than a short while. Like ADHD with anal retentive tendencies. Hmm?
Now, will I maintain and update the inventory religiously? I seriously doubt it. Yet when I discover that it has not been updated and is no longer reliable, I will become agitated and angry at myself for my lack of reliability and dependability. Ah, well. It will give me an innocuous mental flaw about which to occupy my mind.
In just a while, I will attempt to conduct an online audio and video committee meeting with four or five members of my church. The intent of the meeting is to get some feedbak on a section of the church website dedicated to our efforts to collectively treat the planet with greater respect. In addition, I’m going to try to get the other members of the group to commit to write a blog post for the Green Team (that’s us) blog I created. Maybe these activities can take our minds off the impending end of civilization as we know it. If the video and audio segments of the meeting go well, I might try to set up video chats with friends in the near future. I’m looking at you, you know!