It’s quiet. Too quiet.
The year started on a promising note. Then, on my birthday, in the middle of my company’s annual national sales meeting, the World Health Organization declared “the novel coronavirus” a Public Health Emergency. No one in my immediate orbit blinked.
Now, 70 days later, I have been relegated to mandatory Work From Home status for a month. And as such, I have gone through the Five Stages of Grief:
- Denial: What do you mean the WiFi won’t connect? I’m sitting right in front of the router!
- Anger: If you play that soothing Relaxation soundtrack once more, I’m going to club you to death with your scented oil diffuser!
- Bargaining: Yes, fine, I will wear the homemade mask if you let me go to the store for cat litter and iced tea. I need cat litter and iced tea.
- Depression: I’m working seven days a week in a cave underneath my home. FML.
- Acceptance: OK, I think I’m ready to turn my webcam on. Briefly.
Apologies to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.
Like many, I have ping-ponged between horror, dismissal, fascination and back to horror as I watched not only what is happening to us but how we are responding to what happens. I have seen some beloved icons pass, but that’s nothing new; dying is not new. In the beginning I was so busy, a literal fulcrum under the lever of COVID-related communications for my colleagues and customers. But life is funny, and today’s “all hands on deck” too-quickly becomes tomorrow’s “new normal.” Which is the slide I’m starting to experience. Maybe you are, too.
There’s plenty to do, I guess. But without the overwhelming pressure of doing something different, every time, it doesn’t feel apocalyptic or – I’m sorry – exhilarating anymore. It just feels like life. A crappy version of life, but life nonetheless. As my wife likes to ask, What am I supposed to be learning from this?
Well, let’s see: Many of my friends are having virtual Happy Hours and Google Hangs and Zoom Somethings to keep connected. Nope, doesn’t appeal to me at all. Virtual Happy Hour? That sounds curiously like drinking alone with witnesses.
Some friends are diving head-first into service, making face masks for friends, family and first responders. Admirable; I do like service. That rings a bell for me. I watched my wife spend four hours on a mask for me to wear to Wegman’s and decided that is way too complicated. I can feel helpless and incompetent while expending way less energy.
SO MANY people have taken to social media either to a) excoriate one of the two leading fringe sociopolitical movements; or b) promote random acts of kindness, creativity and cat videos. I hate social media (I know, I know – what can I tell you?), not to mention fringe ideologies and other people’s cats. Yes, other people’s cats. My cats are cool.
Which brings me back to where I started: I feel a growing quiet, a void, settling in. Like I’m supposed to be doing something else. Something more. But what?
I think, for the moment, I will put this thought bubble out into the ether and see where it goes. A hundred years ago I considered myself a writer. Literally 100 years ago, and it feels like longer. So maybe I will take a page from Hamilton’s libretto and write my way out. Of course, writing without being read is kind of like having a Virtual Happy Hour without a webcam. It’s basically day-drinking. But if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t control what happens, but we can surely control what happens next.
Who knows, maybe I will talk to you soon. Meanwhile, to quote a colleague of mine: Stay safe, sane and hydrated. Yes, that is a direct quote. I think you will agree it’s awesome for three reasons: One, three very important directives; two, in descending order of urgency; and three, employing the time-tested “rule of three.” See what I did there?