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.

Writing is weird, in a pandemic

So y’all know that the pandemic basically derailed writing in my world. Which is fine; a lot of other things took priority. Like, for example, staying alive.

[lol some of you no doubt have no idea who these dudes are or the year this song was released…anyway, here’s the direct YouTube link in case anything disembeds.]

I tend not to kick myself over not writing because whatever, life happens and what are you gonna do?

I have, however, been doing a bit of writing here and there, and I feel like I’ll be able to be more regular about it, but I’ve got a lot of demands on me still and I’m working on carving out some time each day to do some of said writing. It’s not that I feel uninspired. It’s that I have other responsibilities that have taken precedence and I’m learning how to organize those and get used to my new normal, which is not at all what it was when the pandemic lockdowns started in 2020.

I used to think that I’d be making a living of some sort from writing, but the pandemic has made me re-think a lot of things, including the role writing takes in my life. I don’t write the kinds of things that gajillions of people are interested in, so I’m not ever going to sell enough to support myself without other jobs, but I guess somewhere in the back of my mind I thought maybe — just maybe — that could be a thing though I am pragmatic and realistic about it. Heh. Hope springs eternal!

At any rate, the last 18 months have involved a fuck-ton of change, and I’m rolling with it. So I’m re-calibrating my reasons for writing, and really thinking about what, when, and why in that regard. I ain’t no spring chicken anymore, and time is precious and I’m really thinking about what makes me happy and how to spend that time. I’m fortunate in that I have the space and privilege to do that, which means I spend some time thinking about people who don’t, so I also still try to make myself useful in a community sense.

We won’t know for a few years the extent of the societal impact the Covid pandemic created, but I do know there’s a lot of trauma circulating out there and everybody is dealing with it in their own ways (some less healthy and dangerous than others, but there you go).

For me, it completely shut down my writing as I worked to ensure that family was okay, that we were able to get supplies and that we were safe. When vaccines became available, I got my elderly relatives signed up and vaxxed, and then went to get one for myself as soon as that option became available for my age group. At my house, we still live, however, for the most part like it’s pre-vax era, and that’s okay. It is what it is.

The vax did make us relax a bit, but we know that the world is not going back to pre-pandemic happy fun times. Covid is here to stay, and until our immune systems develop natural responses to it and medical science develops better treatments for it, this pandemic will continue to be a danger for years, made worse by people who have succumbed to conspiracy theories and who do not care about anybody beyond their own noses.

The pandemic also exposed a lot of percolating shit beneath the surface, and the effect of that won’t be known for years, either. Basically, this pandemic has changed everything and it’s healthy to acknowledge that the change is not only on an individual level, but a community and global level. Trying to pretend otherwise and go about your business like no big deal, everything’s fine is a gambler’s (fool’s?) errand.

Point being, writing is important to me, yes, but not so important that I gave it primacy over other very important things that came up during the last 18 months. We all cope in our own ways, and an interesting thing for me during Covid is that writing was not an escape as it normally is. Other things were, and I went with them. When writing isn’t an escape for me, then I back-burner it. But slowly, I feel like I’m getting back into the swing of it.

At any rate, if you have any Covid coping strategies that you found worked for you, share in the comments for others. We could all use fresh perspectives and suggestions.

And stay safe, everyone.

Questions from the peanut gallery

And I love me some peanuts!

So here we go, people. Questions people asked me on Facebook.

“What is the most crazy thing you ever did…and why?”

Gurrrrrrrl, there is no way I can answer this with just one crazy thing. And sometimes, it’s not like I planned to do crazy things. Crazy things just kind of happened. And my definition of crazy might not be somebody else’s definition. So here, I’ll share 3 weird incidents:
1. Walked across the border from San Diego, California into Tijuana, Mexico with friends one night. Went bar-hopping then came back and got caught in the middle of a fight between a group of Mexican guys and American frat dudes at the border crossing. I was the mostly sober one, so I had to maneuver a bunch of drunks through that hot mess. I’m pleased to say we made it pretty much unscathed. Why did I do that? Cuz it seemed like a good idea at the time. LOL

2. Got stuck on the island of Lesvos (Lesbos, people) for a week. No place to stay in town, so I lived on the beach instead in this cheap-ass tent I and a friend managed to score in this weird little store. After a week, I managed to catch a ferry back to Athens, but I left the tent with my friend and she went on to Mykonos with it. Why? Hell, it was Greece! Who WOULDN’T want to live on a beach for a week there?

3. Drove to New Orleans from Denver with a group of friends non-stop for Mardi Gras. It took us about 18 hours one way driving in shifts. We’d all pitched in to rent a place in the French Quarter. I slept on the floor all three nights but hey, it was Mardi Gras. Why? Two words: Mardi. Gras. 😀

“Why is New Mexico “the land of enchantment”? Or really entrapment?”

Those of us who are New Mexicans really can’t explain this to someone who’s never been. Trust me on this, people who have not been. It’s the Land of Enchantment because it’s like no place you’ve ever been. It’s where the past has melded with the present in this really awesome blend of cultures and customs across high desert landscapes of such preternatural beauty that you can’t believe you’re on Earth.

It’s the Land of Entrapment because really, once you go, it’s extremely difficult to leave and when you do, you miss it constantly.

“Have you ever worn a flannel shirt with matching argyle socks and birkenstocks?”

I have, indeed, worn a flannel shirt with Birkenstocks. However, I do not wear such an ensemble with argyle socks. Rather, in the winter, I wear my Birks with thick hiking socks. And if all of y’all must know, I have one pair of Birks, the Arizonas. I have worn them for 10 years, just getting them re-soled about every 3 years. Oh, and my middle name is Hermione. (not really, but wouldn’t it be kind of cool?)

“What is wrong with people?”

Gurl, if we knew that, we’d solve all the world’s problems. I’m thinking part of it might be more legal pot and craft brewing and distilling for all. Plus neighborhood community centers that had great day care for working parents, national Hawaiian Shirt Days once a month, more telecommuting, health insurance for all, cheap higher education, and casual Fridays every day.

Would you pay $200 for a pair of jeans? Or even $50? What do you think of Crocs footwear? (There’s only one correct answer.) Who has more gray hair, you or me? I’ll bet it’s you because I dye mine. Finally, and most importantly, what is your secret? You are so much more productive than any other writer I know, by which I mean me. I want to be as productive as you are. Vitamins? A tonic? Electromagnetic socks? What?!

Let’s see. $200? NO WAY. That’s almost a plane ticket! $50? No. I mostly buy in the $30 range.

Crocs: ugh. I owned one pair once. I’ll just take responsibility for that right now. They were red. And they were good for dog walking in Nashville, because the grass was often wet in the spring mornings. But yes, they started to reek. And that’s when I put them out of my misery.

More gray hair: Probably me. I stopped highlighting my hair in 2008 because it cost too much to do that in the recession. So now I have “recession” highlights (i.e. gray).

My secret: A vitamin tonic that I strain through electromagnetic socks. It contains glitter from sparkle ponies and the hair of a unicorn.

“Marshmallows. Where do they come from?”


Karelia Stetz-Waters
“Why is the song ‘Wonderwall’ so great …even though the Wonderwall was just an old school LCD projector?”

The song is way better than those projectors because the song only lasts about 4 minutes while it took about 10 times that to actually get a wonderwall to work.

THANKS, Gallery! Happy weekend!