It’s the last day of 2020.
I know there’s no real magic, no solid reason tomorrow will be better or the day after that, but there’s definitely a psychological difference between December 31, 2020 and January 1st, 2021 and I’m looking forward to it. Just because we don’t know why placebo studies show some folks improving when the real medicine isn’t administered doesn’t mean it’s not real at some level and I guess I’m holding out hope that it’ll be the same for this next year. Back when the pandemic felt like it had become ‘real’, I had just bought a new batik shirt. When I got it, I set it aside and figured I’d save it for when things were back to normal, but it’s been almost 10 months and here we are and I’m both here in this timeless Neverending Month of March and feeling like it’s the mid-2000s again. I’ll explain.
About 15 years ago, I got laid off and spent a terrible, no good, awful year-plus in flux, even after I was hired into a new job. We lost family to tragedy, we lost our savings keeping our home, we went into debt that was affecting our daily lives until just a few months ago, it was a bad year. The whole time, I found myself making decisions based on dealing with issues ‘for the duration of the crisis’. Everything I did fit into this model, fit into this structure of ‘I know this isn’t perfect, but this is the kind of thing I need to do for the duration of the emergency’. Going from one crisis to the next is normal for many folks for reasons ranging from financial to medical to situational and more so I was grateful that I could couch my plans in terms of ‘for the duration of the emergency’.
And one day, I was able to tell myself the emergency was over. That didn’t mean everything was fine, it didn’t mean all of our problems had gone away, but I was able to allow myself to start making longer term decisions that went beyond ‘put water on the fire’ or ‘hold onto the rescue rope’ or ‘don’t sink under the water’. The bad stuff had still happened, there was still uncertainty about the future and what would come next, but thinking beyond the immediate crisis suddenly felt possible again.
Since March, I’ve been living and deciding within the context of ‘the duration of the emergency’. I have what I have to acknowledge to myself is a serious medical issue that I may not survive, we’re going through a global pandemic that’s tearing families apart in so many different ways and has killed almost two million people so far, and as a nation we’re in the midst of an absolutely unbelievable schism of ignorance and arrogant, conspiracy-minded racist demagoguery that’s proudly embraced lawlessness and sociopathy. That shirt I bought in March, it’s sitting in my closet, unopened.
Things are not good, but there’s a chance they can get better.
My medical thing is being treated (if not improving yet) so there’s still a chance. The vaccines are being approved and administered, more than two million in the US have gotten their first shot so far. In three weeks, the General Services Administration will be sending a team of contractors through the White House to thoroughly disinfect every disease-ridden surfaces possible before a new administration comes in, but a new administration WILL be coming in. A month from now, I’ll probably still be sick, people will still be dying of an avoidable disease that was somehow politicized, and we’ll all still be burdened by the dumb, foolish, and uncaring monsters that were in our lives this whole time that we tried to ignore, but there are good things happening too and maybe things will trend towards better.
But that’s a month from now, for today I’m gonna try and ride out the last hours of 2020 knowing that a new year’s just around the corner. I’m going to hold onto that hope for the future that’s been so hard to believe because I need it, I need that hope, that hope that ‘the duration of the emergency’ has an expiration date because it has before. I’m going to put a lot of pressure on the concept of ‘Maybe’ because that’s what I need to move forward.
Maybe my medical thing will start to get better. Maybe the Constitutional and law will push back against some of the corruption. Maybe the racists will start to be afraid again. Maybe in two or three months if we’re all lucky and get get our shit together as a nation, I’ll be able to go to a ‘normal’ feeling meeting with friends, the kind where we can hug again and maybe…
Well, maybe I’ll be able to wear that shirt.