So…2020 has been a clusterfuck so far, huh?
Before I continue I feel I should point out that when I first contemplated writing this post I had conceived of it as being an eloquent, lyrical, almost poetic treatise on expectation vs reality. I had the notion of reaching rhetorical heights that were both moving and gave genuine insight into the nature of disappointment and failure. But as I sat down to actually write it the only word I could think of was “clusterfuck.” So, you know, I’m gonna roll with that.
At the time of this writing we (meaning the world in general) are in the midst of a global pandemic. I am currently in self-quarantine due to a statewide lockdown. I spend my days working online, counting rolls of toilet paper, and furiously Googling COVID-19 symptoms every time I cough or sneeze. But a pandemic lockdown is only the icing on the custerfuck cake that is 2020. In fact the whole thing started with sickness.
I rang in the New Year in bed with a raging fever, a hacking cough, and aches that made simply moving my head and breathing a painful experience. This lasted for weeks. I have had people tell me that I must have had an early case of Coronavirus, and as much as I would like to be a disease hipster (I totally had Coronavirus before it was cool) no I didn’t. What I had was simply the flu. A really bad case mind you, but just the flu. This is why I am truly paranoid about contracting the virus now. Because if Influenza A could knock me out for weeks I am deeply frightened of what Coronavirus could do to me. And I am also immensely sympathetic to those who have contracted the virus because – good lord – it must be simply awful. Wash your fucking hands people.
The culmination of my illness resulted in me losing my voice for another two weeks. While to many that know me this was an ideal situation, for me it was a nightmare. You see I record podcasts and the use of one’s voice tends to be an asset for that particular hobby. Also, I have had a love affair with my own voice for decades now and the ability to spout off my options in a semi-humorous manner has been a favorite pastime of mine for pretty much my entire adult life. In all honesty though the ability to communicate with those around you, to simply talk and tell jokes and just share the experiences of the day, is something I think we take for granted and when that is taken away it truly hits you how important those interactions are. Anyway, that was January.
In February I began preparations to move. My wife and I had decided to separate after 22 years. This was not a new development. I won’t go into the details of why we made this decision – that is for another essay or perhaps not at all – suffice to say that for a while now we had come to the conclusion that we had grown apart. Our child was grown and moved away leaving us to realize that after two decades we had become different people. We had different interests, different priorities, different goals and different ideas on how to achieve them. There was no animosity, no arguments or disagreements. We made the decision to part ways as friends.
All that being said making a decision is a much different matter than actually following through with it. And while I knew this time was coming nothing prepared me for the range of emotions I felt as I packed up my belongings, cataloged them into neatly labeled boxes, and stacked them in a corner to await the day I would leave. I was sad at leaving behind a life I felt comfortable in, annoyed at all the garbage I had collected over the course of 20 years, nostalgic for the past, and excited for the future. (And I came to the realization that I was leaving our dogs behind. That was a seriously depressing thought.) So February ended with a strange combination of sadness at something ending and exhilaration of a new beginning.
On March 1st I moved to my new home. Well, to be exact, my new temporary home. A friend of mine left to teach in Europe for several months and the plan was for me to move in and watch his place in his absence. During that time I would look for a more permanent location while getting a grip on my new situation. It was a good plan…for a while anyway.
The first two weeks of March were a bit of a blur. I busied myself with work and unpacking, all the while having an odd feeling of melancholy. Not depression mind you, just a feeling of being displaced; a feeling of not knowing what to do. I wandered about in a daze. Just going through the activities of the day with no real sense of why I was doing what I was doing. I would get up and go to work, drink coffee and eat dinner, read a book and go to sleep. Everything seeming to run together while at the same time something seemed off. And it occurred to me one day that this was the very first time that I was living by myself. All my life I was living with parents and siblings, roommates, or a wife and child. I’m 50 years old and for the very first time I was alone. It was disconcerting. I came to the realization that everything I had ever done, every decision I had ever made was done in conjunction with another person. Now for the first time in my life everything was up to me. This scared the shit out of me. But in another sense it was liberating. And by the third week in March I began to feel comfortable being alone with myself. At this point I began to make plans – I would write more, try to reconnect with old friends, I would get healthy, exercise and cook gourmet meals. Maybe I could change up my look, perhaps start wearing suite jackets with the patches on the elbows for a more professorial look. I could do anything; the sky was the freaking limit. To be honest what I really began doing was watching reruns of Star Trek and playing video games…but the point is the opportunity was there.
And then the global pandemic began to hit full swing. My friend whose house I was living in was kicked out of Europe and forced to return to the States. Upon his return there would be quarantine protocols and I would have to leave by the end of the week. Suddenly I had nowhere to live and nowhere to go. So that was unexpected. (On a side note: if you ever get the opportunity to move twice in the span of three weeks – don’t. It’s not fun.)
In desperation I called my wife and asked if I could come back – just for a little while – just till I find something else. Of course, she said in her calm and reassuring voice, you can always come home. I cannot convey the profound relief and gratitude I felt at that moment.
And that is where it stands today. I am back at my old home, in comfortable surroundings that are familiar but different now. My wife and I have agreed to stay together as friends for a bit just in case this whole pandemic thing goes south and money dries up or – god forbid – health goes bad. Regardless of our disagreements and idiosyncrasies we were partners for a long, long time and getting through this will be a hell of a lot easier working together. Plus I get to be with our dogs again, so that’s cool.
April will begin soon, no clue what that will bring. My initial thought is to say, Hey! It can’t get any worse! But that would be a naïve and quite frankly stupid thing to say. As we all know things can get ridiculous really fast so I have come to the conclusion that I will hope for the best while preparing for the worst. If the clusterfuck continues I hope that I am emotionally equipped to handle it.
So in the end what is it I’m trying to say here? What is the point of recounting all this? To be honest I’m not really sure. I’ve gone through some highs and lows so far this year and it’s only a quarter of the way through (Jesus there’s a presidential election coming up in a few months – God save us all!) But if there is a point or a lesson to be learned it is this:
When things get bad, when times are tough it is easy to despair. But before that happens reach out to those you love – even if there are problems or differences – because in the end we are all we have. Don’t be too proud or stubborn to ask for help. No one knows what the future will bring but it will be a hell of a lot easier if we usher it in together. We’re all we got, be good to each other.
And wash your hands for fuck’s sake.
Originally published Mar 29, 2020