The two-year-'ronaversary through 600 texts
Friends! I’ve been very remiss in publishing lately. Things have just gotten busier for a spell, and all my instincts are telling me that embracing the cyclical nature of my writing is a good thing, at least for me. At the same time, I’m grateful for my OG and new readers and don’t want to leave you hanging. I’ve considered publishing some quicker, lighter posts just to get something to you, but then get attached to really birthing out a piece for you all when the time is right instead.
If you would like to hear more often from me, even if it’s not substantial, let me know! And if you are finding a closer to once-or-twice-a-month cadence deeply unsatisfying in the face of your generous donation, I’ll happily work something out with you.
Love you and your readership and thanks for riding the creative waves with me!
I recently completed a weird, small project for my dear friend and neighbor, cataloguing the “small triumphs” we have frequently texted to one another over the past two years, often after long days of locked-down-child-rearing. In order to do this, I basically had to learn how to code (I’m sure on a fancy shmancy iPhone you can just make a cute, user-friendly text file, but with my old-ass Android it took hours of internet research to make some janky output that will probably give me a virus). I also had to/got to read upwards of 10,000 messages, many of them dark, many of them funny, all of them like entries in a diary I never planned to keep, and the process was certainly way more emotional than I’d allotted emotional energy for. Working on it basically completely took me out, feelings-wise, for an entire week. And I am used to having a lot of feelings, so filling up my dance-card in that respect is quite a feat.
Here’s an example, from deep lockdown times:
04/14/2020 9:21:12 PM
Her: Small triumph?
Me: It was a long day with a lot of loveliness and many trying moments. I think my triumph was returning to the loveliness despite the trials
And making up a game called "car wash" where we essentially wash the car for an hour
Over the course of the month of March, 2020, my friend and I exchanged 646 text messages. And, looking back over this often daily, real-time, account of an unbelievable few years of living, it was these March messages, more than any others, that destroyed me. Those few weeks contained multitudes. There were lots of ebbs and flows, highs and lows, dashed hopes and endless optimism and creativity:
03/12/2020 10:47:39 PM
It's been a big shift day. A shock to me.
Maybe we can invent an elaborate pulley system between our houses and other weird awesome thing
We bought a lot of booze today :)
03/13/2020 6:26:16 PM
Trying just not to think about the future yes for macro reasons but also kids "will my family all kill each other??"
And finding a lot of sweetness in this too. Just day 1 though...
I made a Marco Polo group with my siblings. Silly videos
03/15/2020 10:33:30 AM
we found a dope puddle! You guys want to FaceTime?
Oh, the optimism! Usually when I read something I've written in the past, like a journal entry from early motherhood or a totally objectively amazing, not at all derivative poem from my adolescence, I feel like I wish I could reach a hand back in time and grab that version of myself by the scruff of the neck and yell “It's not this bad and you're not that important, you ridiculous pup!”
I never look back at a former self and think that I was too optimistic or didn't take things seriously enough. But those texts from the early pandemic tell another story. Even months in, even when things are pretty close to rock bottom, there is a faith that something logical and reasonable and even caring will take place. That there will be a point to all of this. That someone has a plan. But that point and that logic. that plan, never really came.
I feel a different kind of sadness for myself looking back at those messages. Why wasn't I more outraged? Perhaps because I didn't have time to be. The rage did come, as it did for many of us, in summertime. But the default, the go-to emotion was resourcefulness and cautious positivity. It is adorable. It is admirable. And, oddly enough, it has stayed with me.
03/24/2020 1:46:41 PM
Just dropped a puzzle over the fence for you guys. Cleaned and carried with clean hands but wipe down anyway!
It is a new map of the US puzzle. You can chart confirmed cases by state!
03/29/2020 10:15:14 AM
Trying to decide what to do for my me time today. Drive to a parking lot and read about ADHD? So many options
Also you know what I just thought of? I've always wanted to know what it feels like to live in the suburbs. Now I do! Nothing to walk to, quiet all the time, neighbors are nice but also private...
03/30/2020 4:45:40 PM
Just gave the girls a show. Want to walk around the block at 5?
I'll be standing six ft away from your door in 15 minutes
On March 19th, I enthusiastically shared on the text chain the first published piece that accurately described the magnificent horror of being trapped in an apartment with a partner and small children "We love each other, we yell, we apologize, we laugh, they punch each other, we yell some more, we make up. We live, we try to be compassionate and we hope this will all be a memory soon." I was already ragged, but there was some novelty to it all.
03/17/2020 9:34:05 PM
My parents land in Boston from Central America tonight. It's been a kooky day
I def did the dishes while singing with headphones on and crying
03/18/2020 11:43:47 AM
I'm struggling today. Hitting my limit with kids
03/21/2020 4:08:08 PM
I have typed and then deleted so many dark jokes on the what's app chain. Doesn't seem like the vibe...
Another friend said something the other day I've been turning over and over in my mind, which I'll paraphrase here. “I discovered how resilient I am, how much resilience I have. But in the future, I would really like to use less of that resilience.” We have all thought a lot about resilience during this period of our lives. I certainly got burnt out on being resilient, again and again and again, over the ensuing months. But in March the resilience had a freshness, an energy to it. I feel less in touch with the downtrodden, hopeless woman of the deep pandemic, who was stripped completely bare and then asked to locate another layer, than I do with the somewhat naive, hopeful dumb dumb of those early days.
That dumb dumb is hanging around, still. She inspires me to start way more projects than I can finish. To try new things and reach out to new people, despite failure, awkwardness, and rejection. She knows the world is ending, but she somehow manages to feel light about it, often.
In my 20s, when I lived in LA, a delightful thing happened. My friend Jake, a kind and game sort of guy, was outside a club we frequented, about to head home for the night. A dude passed by him on the street and said “hey cutie, you going home?” He replied in the affirmative. “Want me to come with you??” the man asked. When Jake hesitated (he did not, in any way, want the man to come home with him, but he also was wrapped up in the good-natured vibe of it all) - the dude saw his opening. “Why NOT?” he asked, with a big shrug. Jake had a million good answers, but also, as he told as later, with joy, this question was too perfect to be casually turned down.
Over the years, “why not?” said with the confidence and zest for life that we all imagined its original author possessing, became a staple of our repertoire. The March 2020 me said it a lot, is still saying it. Put a sign for strangers in our window? Why not? Start a newsletter about how hard and ridiculous it all is? Why not? Lower your standards for everyone you love, and maybe even for yourself? Why not?
The thing about friends is they see you but they aren’t you. I could never be friends with myself. I would drive me crazy, or be so defensive of my me that we became codependent. But seeing my March, 2020 journey, not just through my own repetitive self-examinations, but through conversation with someone who knew me well, was more dynamic than a diary (though not more dynamic than my adolescent poetry - I’m telling you I had promise).
There is this one exchange that I have read over and over, that cuts through the positivity, the settling, and each time it catches me off guard. Just when I’m sure I will be able to sustain the work of being only one, intense version of myself, the people I love remind me of the complexity of it all. Let down your guard you fuckwit. You don’t have to do that with me. I’m a bit afraid to name the darkness then, though I don’t feel afraid now. But friends will name it for you, thank goodness.
03/25/2020 9:33:54 PM
Momo was "driving" the car yesterday and (I) asked where we were going. She said "Um... Sunday!"
Yes!!!! Stella has a new imaginary friend named Gigglish who is from the North Pole.
We have been saying she reminds us of stelly with her funny delivery
Oh man that girl
I miss them
I miss all of us.
Oh yes, isn't there the truth.
I do miss all of us. The March 2020 me and the March 2020 you and even the empty shells that they turned into, that are now filled up with something else, some mixture of ourselves, part phoenix, part sludge, that is both better and worse than it was two years ago, and might be gone soon.
Pour one out for the second anniversary of your rally monkey, friends. She really was a small triumph.
Because I am a perfect, research-based parent who cultivates her child and never wrestles them to the ground to keep them from breaking her glasses, I have been taking my six-year-old on “museum days” after school one day a week. Sometimes the museums are grand, sometimes they are small and local and funky. Sometimes I want to have a very different experience than the one I’m having with child, but other times, he is super into it and it is actual, literal, heaven. Get thee to a museum, with or without a child, but you might be surprised what art does to even the most rascally youngin’. Our library offers free museum tickets, many small galleries and museums are free, and many museums have free family days. Hot tip: SF MOMA has a cafe where you can get a mocha with whipped cream AND chocolate sauce. BLISS.
I savour your messages in my inbox. And when I find a moment of quiet and solitude, I read every word. The 2 year anniversary of this wild ride we have been on came and went in our neck of the woods. Without much fanfare or introspection. It was acknowledged by a shift - optional mask wearing at all the schools in our school district. At our breakfast table, we talked about how our boys had worn masks for 2 years and now it was optional and how it felt for them. Excitement, uncertainty and an absolute "I am so keeping my mask on" from our eldest. But your post gave me pause, to take the time to go back. To Insta posts and FB posts and text exchanges with the mamas who got me through. Thank you for giving voice and space to look back and digest.
What a beautiful and poignant reminder of those early days. My teenager was talking yesterday about how weird our memory of pain is. She was talking physical paid but I think it’s true of emotional pain too. We remember we felt pain but don’t remember exactly how it feels. (Hello, childbirth!!) You brought me back to the challenge and weird optimism of those early Covid days. I especially appreciated your admission of the rage that sets in when the story we’ve been trying to wring from events never materializes. And we have to dig for another layer of resilience we don’t really think exists. Anyway, thanks for another lovely post.