2024

THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT DYING. IT TURNED OUT TO BE ABOUT NOT LIVING.

There’s a Bonnie Raitt song I love called “Nick of Time” from her 1989 album of the same name. (My cool Aunt Cathie turned me on to that album. I must’ve been about 11 or 12. Her early influence on my musical tastes persists.) There are several simple observations and lessons in that song. This is my favorite:

Life gets mighty precious

When there’s less of it to waste.

I’m not sure that more of a truism exists in any other song. I think about it when I think about living life and dying death. And lately I’ve been thinking about both.

On living life: I’m not doing a very good job of it, to be honest. At first glance, you might think otherwise. You’d see my marriage, family (including our pets of course), a job, a home, access to healthcare, an advanced education, music, and lots of stuff and things, and you’d think, “He must be really living life.”

I’m thankful for every element I’ve listed there. Beyond thankful. But I’m not really living life.

I often blame the pandemic as the start of a slow and steady disengagement and disconnection from people, places, and things. If the pandemic wasn’t the catalyst, it was certainly part of the burn.

I don’t ruminate on it so much any more, but that shit fucked me up. Seeing the revolting and unkind face of humanity unmasked (literally and figuratively) surprised me. It stunned me, shocked and scared me. Are we, as a species, really this selfish and uncaring? Are we really this ignorant? This undereducated and gullible? Why are the the worst of us so loudly and proudly on display, making our dumbest conspiracy theory videos on YouTube? Why are people watching them? And for fuck’s sake, what in the hell is the goddamn president of the United States doing driving around in a limousine waving at people while he’s kicking on death’s door? And why the hell didn’t someone push him through that door?

And later, when Republicans and billionaires couldn’t pretend like they cared any longer and started calling people back to their workplaces prematurely, is this really happening? What if I catch this and give it to my husband who is still recovering from a double lung transplant? What am I supposed to do with the Trump supporting red hat employee I supervise who boasts about refusing to wear a mask anywhere he goes and who caught COVID at least twice (and milked it for every day off with pay it was worth)? Am I supposed to tolerate that? I am? And what do you mean we need to turn our flagship training program upside down - the one that we’ve already planned from start to finish as a solid, virtual learning experience? Why are we making it in person now when this thing is still going around? And there’s nothing I can do about it? Ok. So wait, one of the participants who attended that first week told us afterwards she’d just tested positive for COVID. We put these people together in an enclosed space for a week breathing the same air “just because”? And you’re fine with that just because it was your preference? What on god’s green earth are you trying to prove to people? What is this obsession with a return to what people thought was normal? And why does the email I send about our COVID positive participant with panic in the subject line and “I told you so” subtext in the body get me in trouble? Why does that deserve a counseling/verbal reprimand session from my cunt boss? Why does she get to tell me, “You need to just get over it and accept it,” and to, “Take a walk next time or something.” We just potentially exposed 25 people to a deadly disease on a whim, you dumb cunt. And I’m just supposed to take a walk and breathe? Instead I sit there and let angry tears burn my cheeks while she dismisses every completely legitimate concern I have with a flick of her fat wrist and her Minnie Mouse voice and her I’m A Lawyer And You’re Not clip clop shoes?

During the height of the pandemic, the worst of us were so ubiquitous that I’m sure I completely lost my faith in humanity, and any hope I had for the future. I had no idea how important those two things are to living life until they were gone.

The pandemic started to ease, thanks to the amazing scientists and discoveries they made. And once or twice during it and the end tail of it, I tried to maintain a couple friendships and relationships. But then I just kind of stopped reaching out. And people for the most part stopped reaching out to me after I’d declined invitations so many times.

I found out about my neurodivergence around this time, and learned about what masking is and does, and realized that I’ve been masking for most of my life, and admitted and accepted that it’s hard for me to be social. That it takes work to put on and portray a positive attitude all the time, and to do it without the social lubricant of booze takes even more work. And I’m tired of all that work. And so now I’ve started avoiding it at every turn. Because planning to hang out with a group or a couple or even a trusted, dear friend feels like standing on the edge of a cliff and looking down. The closer the event gets on the calendar (if we made it to scheduling because I usually crap out right before the scheduling part unless the other person takes control and says when and where to meet), the closer to the edge of the cliff I get. I worry that I’ll feel trapped. I worry that I’ll get anxious. I’ll worry about the energy I’ll expend being positive. I talk myself out of it and stay home way more often than is healthy for me. It’s so much harder for me to push through these days.

So I’ve isolated myself a great deal. And that’s not living life.

I’m sure I’ll write more later, but this is enough for now.