When the pandemic started I felt this need to write about it in this kind of ‘dispatch’ series. A kind of daily retrospective into what I was feeling, what was happening in the world – just so I could look back and remember it all. See the ‘old life’ as it was being molded into this kind of workable piece of something that I hopefully ended up with. My problem was that I was stuck in the deep end.
SARS-CoV-2 has been this ominous cloud, just looming. I work in Marketing – a fickle industry – and within that, my current agency focuses on event & museum marketing. I followed the corona story with clenched teeth before it crossed the oceans knowing if it made the jump what it’d mean. I walked into the agency president’s office in early February, asking what the plan was, what we were going to do, and how we move forward. The claws had already slunk into my anxiety gripped chest. Let me be clear – I said from the beginning, I’m not afraid of getting sick – I have been, and still am, more worried about the world, what will be left for my son, what horrors or glory wait for all of us across the deep canyon of the unknown – but I digress. There was no plan. Everyone, including my boss, was focused on ‘two weeks;’ a lie we told ourselves to keep the creeping terror at bay. Just two weeks and we’d be back – a fortnight. Simple.
On to five months and I’ve moved from the riddled aches of overloaded anxiety and fear, to an apathetic wandering that left me with deep breaths around the house, to now an uncertainty that things not only won’t ever be the same, but that life is seismically different. Society – how we lived our lives, how we go through our days, how we see people, how we view someone coughing in line at the grocery store, to the masks we wear and now attach a sense of fashion – is different. A cure or not – there will be another invisible thing to catch to step up and take hold. Maybe not in a year or ten, but eventually. Existential terror taken hold.
Why the title though? The above should explain, but let me say it in simple words. I’ve felt detached for a while, a feeling of strange wondering – never settled – not so much unhappy as unfulfilled by my work, never feeling what I do is enough both in life and work. With riots in every major city now, unemployment the highest since the great depression, very little financial support for the masses – tensions will rise. The media is focused on sensation, getting back to “a new normal” (when they really mean is ‘as close to before’ as possible) and there doesn’t seem to be leadership from our government. I’ve taken to mostly feeling dizzy reading the headlines and stories of the day making jokes, laughing at memes, and trying to ignore the ever-present, more pronounced than ever feeling of being unmoored.
A coworker told a story very early on in the lockdown that their neighbor had ‘lost it’, climbing onto their roof and yelling about the coming pandemic in a mask and gloves. My first feeling wasn’t pity or concern for the person on the roof but understanding. I knew that for most people staring into the dark maw of headline news, the call to fall into the hole was strong. I could see one bad day, a terrible afternoon, or just being slightly more detached – it could be me up there. Empathy for those on the edge. That feeling never really went away, we just live with it.
Maybe that is the new normal, learning to live with the row rumble of impending doom.