Today marks 170 days of quarantining here in Pittsburgh.
At first, I didn’t track this particular statistic, it would only be sad to watch the number climb. That was in March. By the time August rolled around, I wanted to be conscious of that number so I started posting to my Instagram daily, a photo of our pets and the quarantine count-up.
Time has taken on new meaning in this reality. I absolutely lose track of days of the week due to having a rather monotonous routine. The absurd weather fluctuations don’t help. Having the windows wide open in early August after weeks of stultifying temperatures messes up my internal calendar and clock. The “end of summer” rituals such as the public pools closing or Labor Day plans coupled with the lack of back-to-school shopping exposure leave me unsure of exactly where I am in time, as it could easily be March or May or October.
Since 170 days ago, I have been inside one grocery store (May 18) for about ten minutes and inside Lowe’s Hardware for about 30 minutes in late July. I’ve been inside Walgreens maybe 2x/month and I go into a Starbucks to pick up drinks.
That’s it. So my exposure to notebooks and trapper keepers and the latest duds for schoolmates is null. And I feel that, not just as an unfamiliar lacking but also as a signifier that the old normal is done.
Nobody likes to hear that. The “new normal” is both irritating as a turn of phrase and terrifying as a tacit acceptance that we’ll just be fine if we embrace what’s normal, now. As if we have no business reflecting and responding to all of the terrible things that brought us to this moment, as if they will be shed in the old normal with the weak and disbelievers struggling to turn back to something that no longer exists.
Perhaps one day the 2010s will take on the false legacy of the 1950s or the good old 1890s. We Americans do erasure very well after all.
This summer has also been one fraught with mental health crisis for me. I was quite ill for about three months, experiences I documented here on this blog, and the residual effects linger in my days and nights. I’m past the point of fearing a relapse, but conscious as never before that another crisis is always possible, always looming.
Restoring my mental health has been a central theme these 170 days. My therapist and I have begun to take up the trauma processing work, but even with two therapy appointments a week – I feel so constrained in what I can do.
The proximity to one person for 170 days is a blessing and a curse. We are fortunate to be of like-minds when it comes to exposure, risk taking, and other decisions. We have so many examples of good fortune including no lost income, a big green backyard, a car to take us away from everything, and lots to keep us busy. But the wear and tear of forced quarantine, even with the person you love most in the world, is new territory.
Obviously, it is stressful and anxiety-ridden. So my precious trauma processing time has to concede this point and focus on developing coping mechanisms that are brand new.
I just want to go have breakfast at Eat’n ‘Park. But I won’t set foot inside a restaurant until, a vaccine is readily available? Dear God.
What is helpful is the practice of acknowledging privilege. I grew up Catholic, often told to suck it up and to ‘offer up’ my suffering to the saints and the Holy Mother. I came up of age when therapists and life coaches told us to be grateful and mindful and basically, suck it up and offer it up. Those things are not what I am describing.
Reminding myself of my privilege helps me stay anchored in the here and now, versus some realm of “if only” that many people seem to enjoy visiting. It doesn’t negate my struggles, demons, or hardwork.
When I feel trapped and stressed, I have a car that I can drive to a place that is not here. I am grateful when that is necessary, but I am also able to chill myself out a bit by remembering – its an option. I don’t have to hit a full head of steam over these feelings because I have tools. Getting a grip on myself is good for me and for others.
So on Day 170, I wrote this post. My partner went into her office for six hours. Our housekeeper was here so I spent most of the day in the bedroom out of her way. The windows were thrown open because she was here so the house became very warm. We are having Chinese food for dinner. I cleaned the foster kitten crate. I blogged about this.
I still have hand tremors and somehow developed golfers elbow that hurts like a bitch. I’m dizzy most days and have to go to the PT place to get my head wrenched into place. Or something.
I don’t feel great, but I do not have COVID-19 symptoms.
In ten days, this will be six months. On my 50th birthday in October, it will be eight months. For Thanksgiving, nine months and Christmas will be ten months.
But today is Day 170.
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