the “normal” you seek isn’t normal

HI, all.

Hope everybody made the best they could out of the holiday season.

I think I might actually be more fortunate than a lot of people out there, since for the past 15 years or so, the vast majority of my friends are folx who live at great distances from me, and we’ve spent most of our time communicating via email, text, phone, snail mail, and other messaging services for years. So when the pandemic really cranked up, I didn’t miss “hanging out with my friends” because they’re all elsewhere. We continued to just do what we’d been doing and communicating like usual.

I also didn’t miss going out to restaurants or bars because prior to the pandemic, I lived in a small city for years with limited dining options (that I liked) and limited bar options (again, that I liked). I spent most of my time hanging out with my neighbors, as we shared a driveway and had more fun grilling out and shooting the shit than going anywhere.

So I didn’t really “miss” anything except being able to go to movies on a regular basis and hang out in a coffee house. And I do miss being able to be in a public space without a mask, but the reality is, that’s just not what the situation offers, so you make adjustments to circumstances. In this case, it’s a matter of survival. I’m in decent health, but I don’t even want to dare gamble with covid-19. I mean, read this about how covid pneumonia destroys your lungs.

No fucking thank you.

And here’s the thing. This virus is here to stay. It’s out of the box and will most likely never be eradicated. We will eventually have better treatments for it in addition to vaccines, but this thing will end up endemic, like the flu, and hopefully with lesser symptoms so that it ends up being like the flu, that the majority of people are able to survive.

That’s years away.

In the meantime, this pandemic has ripped open the realities of life in the US (other countries, too, but let’s stick with the US). It’s exposed how fragile our infrastructure is, how fragile our allegedly democratic institutions are, how fragile our healthcare system is, how exploitative our employment system is, how fucked our climate is, how gutted our education system is, and how capitalism has created and perpetuated gross inequality. It has also exposed the absolute vindictive corporate banality at the heart of US politics. And the pandemic has provided opportunity and cover for theocratic (in particular) right-wing extremism to further burrow into all these systems to ensure that inequity continues and to tear down whatever institutions we have that provide any modicum of support to make everything privatized and thus rife for further exploitation.

Grifters, politicians, and assholes of all backgrounds have capitalized on pandemic mis- and disinformation, which spreads even faster than the omicron variety of covid, and thousands of people in the US have been radicalized into extremist ideologies through the rampant misinformation and disinformation on every social media platform there is.

This IS America. It was built on systemic inequality/inequity and corporate interests, on empty consumerism and white-centric institutions. THAT’S the “normal” people want to “go back to.” What they mean is, they don’t want to have to think about others in their communities (by getting vaxxed and masking up); they don’t want to think about anybody beyond their own noses. They don’t want to think about anything beyond their own comfort, and it probably scares them that things are really screwed up and they don’t have the wherewithal or social/relationship tools (on any level) to deal with any of it. Bravado is often a mask for the fearful, and there’s a lot of that spreading across social media.

The godawful inequity/inequality in this country shouldn’t be “normal.” The continued exploitation of workers shouldn’t be “normal.” The destruction of public education by right-wing corporate interests shouldn’t be “normal.” The constant buy buy buy of craptastic shit that you think makes your life better shouldn’t be “normal.” We shouldn’t be filling landfills with mountains of trash and call that “normal.” We shouldn’t be okay with fucking the hell out of our healthcare system because we want things to be “normal.” The continued buttressing of racist systems that have placed horrendous burdens on BIPOC shouldn’t be “normal.” The continued policies and legislation against LGBTQIA+ people shouldn’t be “normal.” The further demotion of cisgender women, in particular, to nothing more than walking incubators shouldn’t be “normal.” The attempts to further normalize extremism shouldn’t be “normal.” And the constant rhetoric of violence and threats circulating across social media and even in the real world shouldn’t be “normal.”

But that’s what “getting back to normal” means. It means no longer having to think about all the stuff that scares us, no longer having to look in the mirror at what we’ve become, and we can just go self-medicate with whatever to make ourselves feel better and keep on ignoring the fact that shit is really fucked up and the US looks more and more like a failed state.

I don’t want that as “normal” anymore.

Change is painful and scary and fucking hard. But it’s necessary, and I want a world that does better. I want a country that does better, a political system that actually gives a shit about people, and institutions that actually give a shit about people. I’m hella over this corporate/capitalist bullshit. If that’s “normal,” no fucking thank you.

So it’s on us — those of us who do still have the capacity for empathy and sympathy, who try to do what they can for their communities because it’s the right thing to do, not because there’s anything in it for them. It’s on us to take care of ourselves and each other so we can bring about a normal that benefits as many people as possible in every way possible. Hell, yes I’m scared. I’d be an idiot not to be. This is new shit for me, too, this failed state stuff. But there are lots of people in the world who have gone through similar and worse and persevered and did the right thing even in the face of insurmountable odds.

So instead of “normal,” I like to envision “better.” And that’s what I’m working toward.

Everybody stay safe out there and take care of yourselves and each other. We’re all we’ve got.

I’m not f*cking writing; it’s an apocalypse

Hi, friends–

I really, really hope you’re all doing well and staying safe and I hope that you’re able to find the resources you need to get through this giant bucket of fuck that has beset us.

I’ve been talking to my writer friends and some are throwing themselves into their next writing projects while others just can’t and they’re feeling really freaked out about not writing to which I say:

It’s all right.

These are fucked-up times, and we all have to figure out what works for us to get through. Some of us are struggling with anxiety and depression. Some with hunger. Some are struggling with no jobs. Some are struggling because they’re trying to balance what work they have with suddenly homeschooling kids in the house. And some are dealing with ill family members (blood-related or not) or dealing with illness themselves or, goddess forbid, dealing with a loss as a result of this pandemic.

I’m trying to keep a household with a couple of older relatives even-keel; we’re passing depression and anxiety around like a soccer ball but I’m working on getting household projects assigned practically every day so we all have things to do that maybe have needed to be done in the past.

All these little podunk projects that we laughed off in the past now have profound meaning because they engage us and keep us routinized and no matter how small the task or project, I feel a sense of accomplishment when it’s done. It’s grounding, in seriously ungrounded times.

So don’t feel guilty if you’re not finding the time or the drive to write. It’s okay to freak out and try to deal with things in other ways (please make those healthy things). These are incredibly difficult times, and we’re all trying to figure out how to help ourselves and help others when a lot of us are confined to our households.

So here are a few things I’ve been doing to deal with things while I’m not fucking writing:

  • I’ve gotten a routine going. I’m fortunate in that I still have a day job and though it’s remote, now, I keep regular hours at it and treat it like going to an office. After I’m done for the day, I do evening stuff — make dinner, clean up a bit, then do emails for my writing and publishing stuff (not actual writing) and check in with friends and family.
  • On weekends, I do bunches of little projects. I’ve been painting some trim in my house, for example, and doing some clean-up of the grounds (weather permitting).
  • I’m trying to be kind to myself. So you try to be kind to yourself, too, no matter what form that might take. If you have a few hours and you don’t want to do anything except binge something on TV and you have that luxury, do it. I recommend you watch stuff that isn’t going to increase your anxiety or depression, though. If you can grab a few minutes outside by yourself or with others in your household to play a quick game of catch or something as you’re able, do it. Something that makes you feel good and connected to yourself and maybe others might help alleviate some of the internal turmoil you may be feeling, at least for a little while.
  • If you’re not dealing with as much anxiety and depression as others in your life, check in with those folks and see if they need you to do a regular check-in at the same time every day to help them establish a new routine. It might help you, too, if that becomes part of YOUR routine.
  • Try to do something physical every day. Even if it’s some kind of jerry-rigged home workout using stuff around your house and your body weight. 15-20 mins a day with a set physical routine can do wonders for your state of mind (I also like to dance around my house with earbuds in…SILENT DANCE PARTY!).
  • Make goofy videos or photos to share with your friends and family. And hell, if you want to, post them on social media. Or do like some people and re-create famous artworks with whatever you’ve got.

Point being, shit is real right now, and if you can’t bring yourself to write — if you’re in survival mode however that looks for you — that’s okay. Really. Be kind to yourself, be kind to others, and help how you can.

Take care, all. And if Easter is your thing, I hope it’s safe and happy.