From the looks of it, things are getting better in Illinois. Testing for coronavirus is up. Case counts are dropping. The entire state is on track to move into phase four of the plan to restore Illinois, which is the final phase until we have a vaccine. We are cautiously optimistic. We are running errands but wearing masks, we are going to restaurants but sitting on the patio at tables six feet apart, we are letting the kids play but only outside. We are resigned to a summer without festivals, concerts, or sports. God willing, my daughter will go to day camp next month. I don’t want to overstate the positive. We have lost almost 7,000 people, and people are still dying every day. But the deaths are slowing and it feels like we’re turning a corner.
I’m not resting easy, though. With the recent surge in the southwest, I feel like the virus is getting closer to hitting where it hurts. I came to the midwest by way of the desert and the desert is where most of my family still lives. Most saliently, it’s where all of my older relatives live, including and especially the ones who will not appreciate being called “older relatives.” My grandma and my great uncle live in Phoenix. My parents live in Mesa. My in-laws live in Houston. They are all high risk.
My worry for my family isn’t unusual or new. We’re all worried about our older relatives. Since March, I’ve been troubled that state and local leaders in less densely packed states were apparently unwilling to make the same politically unpopular decisions that ours have in Illinois. Since March, I’ve been handling my daughter’s recurring nightmares about death by lying to her, reassuring her that her grandparents aren’t leaving the house unless they have to, aren’t seeing people outside their immediate families, and are religious about wearing masks, even though I have no basis for thinking that they are taking the same precautions on an individual level that we are taking in Illinois.
The rise in cases out west isn’t all that surprising. From my admittedly distant perspective, Arizona has basically been wide open since memorial day. From my admittedly biased perspective, it’s incredibly frustrating to hear about folks going to restaurants and churches and showers and parties and parties and bars. Make no mistake: I’m not frustrated because I want to do these things and can’t. I’m frustrated because other people don’t seem to get that they don’t have to do these things. There is a third way, a path between total lockdown and business as usual and we’re doing it in Illinois, which is what makes it hard to watch folks in other states throw up their hands and say, “Well, we tried!” As one science reporter put it: “There are ways to be responsible and socialize, but people don’t seem to be able to draw the line between what’s OK and what is not. For too many people, it seems to be binary — they are either on lockdown or taking no precautions.”
And look, I get it. As an ex-binge drinker, believe me, I get it. Moderation is a mindfuck. When I enjoyed my drinking I couldn’t control it and when I controlled my drinking I couldn’t enjoy it. What even is the point of two drinks? The aphorism isn’t limited to alcohol, either. I’m like this with everything! Food, shopping, television, the internet, cigarettes, sex, drugs, art, religion, other people. If it’s possible to derive pleasure from a thing, I want as much of it as I can get away with taking. This is how a 5k becomes a marathon, how a twenty-minute TV show becomes a Netflix binge, how a new acquaintance becomes an internet obsession, how a new single becomes a band’s entire back catalogue, how two squares of dark chocolate become a bag of Haribo and ice cream, how one Instagram post becomes three hours of scrolling. And you know changing the way I engage with the world feels impossible. It’s easier to just swear things off.
“Peaches in the summertime, apples in the fall; if I can’t have you all the time, I don’t want none at all.”
Here’s the thing, though. I can’t whittle my life down to one thin, virtuous core. Nobody can. It’s unsustainable. I had to cut my losses with the things that were killing me quickest in the order that I realized they were doing me in (drugs, cigarettes, booze) and figure out how to take a balanced, reasoned approach to the rest. It’s still a work in progress! But also–and this is key–completely doable. I can change the way I live. Life doesn’t have to be a series of wild swings between ego and id. I can suspend my personal desires, whatever they are–to eat at a restaurant, go to a friend’s house, hang around in a crowd of people sharing air without a mask on–to listen to somebody who might know more than me to help somebody who might need it more than me.
If a want monster (HT to my sister for that turn of phrase) can do these things, then you can too. You too can stay home for 103 days and not drink/eat/TV yourself to death. You can mask up at the grocery store. You can see your friends and your kids’ friends outside. You can do it even if your government isn’t forcing you to and when you see the death toll exploding you too can numb your despair with the smug satisfaction that comes with knowing at least you gave a damn.
3 thoughts on “Quarantine Diary Day 103: Peaches in the Summertime”
you know, in the beginning, i thought, well, at least in the south and west, it’s more spread out and suburban. you have a choice in being able to go outside and being away from other people. whereas, say, in new york, it’s just not feasible.
what i didn’t anticipate was people going OUT of their way to have parties, huddle closely with others, gather en masse in restaurants and parks, deeply inhale each others’ air, and just all-around smush together during a pandemic. because, well, freedom. and who cares about a virus?
my family and i have been saying, “just wait and see–” since memorial day, since abbott declared he would gladly sacrifice bodies for money. and seeing… we are. trump really carried through on his vow to reduce testing: after his remark, they’ve begun to cut federal testing and sites in the areas that need it most (i.e spiking cases.)
it’s not that people don’t know. it’s that people don’t care. they don’t give a flyin’ fuck.
I had the same thought about suburban areas as well and actually briefly considered relocating to AZ to be closer to family and for a little more space. The flagrancy of people’s disregard for the health of the public and the seriousness of the pandemic continues to blow my mind! The NPR article about contact tracing going around today mentioned a party with 100-150 people and, like, I’m pretty sure I’ve never been to a party that big but even if I had that many friends I like to think I’d scale back my house parties *a bit.* People are the worst but I lay the blame entirely at the feet of our leaders who are setting the tone for how people respond.
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I think a lot of people simply don’t believe the news, what media professionals are telling them; people are writing off facts and legit reporting in favor of politicized bull***t. My mom lives in NM and is terrified; I keep telling her that all she can do is take care of herself–wear her mask, socially distance and/or stay home. Thanks for sharing your insights!