Dear Jill and Nicole,
Nicole asked me how I was over a month ago and I’ve tried to answer three or four times, but I never get past the first sentence or two. The truth is, I didn’t know how to answer this question. I still don’t, but after Jill’s nudge, I’m finally doing the essayist thing and trying.
When this first started, I struggled with the fact that I couldn’t constantly surround myself with other people, especially since I’d just returned from AWP, where I’d spent most of the week surrounded by people I love. I’d never realized how quiet my house was until this, even though nothing has changed. Last week, I went a full day without speaking a word to another person—just a few things to my cat, who sometimes doesn’t even bother to meow in response.
But by mid-April, this felt almost normal. I felt healthy. I felt good. I was taking a walk every day, making most of my meals from scratch, not drinking. Even when things are bad, I can usually see the potential for change, for people to realize that things don’t have to be this way. Aside from the occasional moment of existential dread or anxiety and an inability to write more than an email, I was doing pretty well.
I’m feeling less normal, less healthy, less optimistic these past couple of weeks, though. I’ve lost all patience with people who can’t seem to understand that they should care more about human lives than about destruction of property, about the economy, about their own prejudices. I’ve lost all patience with people who refuse to listen to medical professionals because science is inconvenient to them, with the people who can’t see beyond their own personal experience. The other day, I realized that my new routine was to wake up around noon, look at articles from The Star Press on my phone, and then yell “FUCK YOU!” at the screen when I saw people, some of whom I actually know, saying blatantly racist things in the comments. I feel like I’m always pissed off about something that I can’t change.
It’s Thursday afternoon, though, and instead of yelling at people on the internet, I’m sitting here trying to write on my front porch, a McDonald’s unsweetened iced tea in the cupholder of my camping chair, my feet up on a plastic egg crate I got precisely for this purpose, listening to cars speeding by too fast on University, to my air conditioner humming a few feet away, to the guy mowing his lawn across the street. Right now, the wind is blowing and it’s not too hot and even though I’ve had about six mood swings in the hour or so it’s taken me to write this, things feel pretty okay. And when I’m not doing okay, I’m trying to be okay: to be healthier, both mentally and physically, to be a better ally and teacher, to not risk someone else’s health, to perfect this sourdough bread, to not be so angry all the time, which is, I guess, its own form of optimism.
I miss you.