I’ve never understood how people who once loved and cared about each other can not merely drift apart (which is far more normal than we think) but who end up hating each other. In my early twenties, somewhere around 1969 (I think) I had been living in Berzerkely and wasn’t taking very good care of myself. I became very ill with a form of asthma. I ultimately decided—thanks to the I Ching; the Chinese Book of Changes—to return to Los Angeles and get medical help. I don’t quite remember how I met Susan, but we ended up living together and she literally nursed me back to health. Our relationship didn’t last that long, mostly due to my being an asshole, but we’ve remained friends over the years; perhaps because we shared a lot of the same friends. Susan Marlow is her name, and she sent me this short essay, which I want to share. Self-isolation, social-distancing, shelter-in-place, whatever we’re calling it . . . seems to be fueling some interesting creativity and innovation. I’m happy to share it.
PS – Thank you, Sue . . . for this and, especially, for taking care of me way back in the wayback machine. I’ve long regretted how I acted back then, but I’m pleased we both went on to have wonderful, interesting, and fulfilling lives and that we remained friends. Hopefully, we’ve got another decade or two to enjoy . . . once this is behind us.
by Susan Marlow – 26 March 2020
I am finding this Covid-19 isolation, while mostly strange, not entirely unpleasant. The disease has me frightened. It is such an unknown and one that I want to keep that way. Yet clouds can be fluffy and white and pretty or dark and sullen. They bring us rain which cleans and they filter and cool the heat. So too has this isolation that we are living through brought some very interesting and beneficial changes for us all.
“This too shall pass” and “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” are my favorite quotes. And perhaps that is what is happening. I actually do not mind being home I am not bored. I have oodles of half baked ideas and partially concocted schemes that I can pick up and play with. Who knows I might finish the knitting project, or begin my composting and renewed vegetable and flower garden. The composter has been ordered through amazon prime. I have learned to order household items to avoid shopping. My pointer finger is getting stronger, as I push those order buttons. With each boxed item it’s a bit like Christmas.
I have gone into the garden to collect worms for the composter. They are busy I hope eating what is in their temporary home. Now I’ve read that there are specific worms that are better than the garden variety. Wouldn’t you know it there are designer worms available on line 1000 per pack.
I am not much of a cook and my husband (the cook) has grown tired. His meals are not so exciting after 37 years. So we joined a meal delivery service. The food comes fresh and ready to prepare with complete instructions. Surprisingly it is a lot of work but very tasty. My back aches as I stand by the sink cutting chopping and stirring. So I prep the meal early allowing myself time to rest. Then maybe 2 hours later together we finish. It’s become a very nice, even anticipated activity for the two of us. Time is not of the essence anymore or maybe it is but there is a lot of it to spread about. We don’t have anything to argue about and we are able to laugh at ourselves quite a bit. I like that part the best.
I should tell you that I have actually been in semi isolation since 2/27 so I consider myself the expert. I love the quiet streets which remind me of my childhood where a kid could safely ride a bicycle at break neck speed down a hill across a residential street without much chance of getting creamed unless you hit a pothole and there were fewer potholes back then as there was less slurry, trees were younger and their roots had not yet begun to encroach. People are out walking cranky children or happy dogs. We are walking Peanuts twice a day and he is now a very happy doggy. We waive at our neighbors most of whom we have never even met. Hundreds of bees are darting to and fro through rain soaked flower beds.
Maybe people will once again remember how nice this all is and make the necessary changes to keep it that way once this crisis passes.
The amount of world nastiness seems to be reduced. Everyone seems to be getting the message that we are all in this together. Borders, walls, languages will not protect us. Jobs have changed and are still changing. Many types of employment never to be seen again or never seen before. Creativity is running high. California needs ventilators and someone is crafting them on 3D printers.
My husband and I seem to be getting along better than ever which amazes me. We treasure humor and stuff that makes us giggle a bit. I am checking on friends whom I rarely see. Despite our limits we are finding common concerns. People are caring for each other even at a distance which I find nothing short of magical. The meanness that Trump fostered has finally been challenged by something far bigger than that “Stable genius.” He can not buy it, sell it, hide from it, or manipulate it. Nevertheless, I know he tries.
I am learning more about myself. I’ve been sequestered for a month now. I can withstand a fair amount of isolation from others. But I can not stand our 24 hour news cycle. Our TV isn’t going on until 5:00.
I am finding that when I casually throw out “I love you,” I really do. I mean it. Likewise, the kiss throwing emojis have sincere meaning to me now.
And so to all my essay girls and guys—stay safe.
March 29th, 2020 at 1:30 pm
Ok, I’ll give you a tongue-lashing for this one. The author must not have been laid-off, furloughed, or otherwise be without income because of this crisis. She must not be trying to either work from home while homeschooling children or trying to figure out how to make the rent or mortgage payment. This is the essay of a person who is not financially strapped, nor stretched to the breaking point trying to parent, work, or just keep a family/household going. I agree that the pace of our culture is insane and our 24-hour news cycle is detrimental to our collective health, but this essay reflects only the experience of one specific subset of people right now, one I would argue is small and utterly disconnected from the rest of the world struggling to get through this.
March 29th, 2020 at 1:44 pm
You are correct, Emily. Like me, she is retired and in her 70s (maybe slightly younger.) Her children are grown and on their own. She’s writing from her POV. Is there anything wrong with that? Should she feel guilty because of her position? I know she’s certainly aware of how privileged she is, but I fail to see why that negates her experience and feelings. One could argue virtually every one of my posts are deserving of scorn because I don’t mention favelas in Brazil, hunger in Appalachia, or poverty in Pacoima. I write from my experience as a working class bloke; one who has been fortunate enough to live a fairly decent life. At the same time, I’m well aware of the role American imperialism and capitalism have played in giving me this life. As a result, I am politically involved and doing what little I can to affect change for the better. I think your comment is akin to virtue signaling. I appreciate where you’re coming from, but wonder what you think she should have done. Remain silent for fear of offending those who are having a more difficult time than her and her husband? Sell her home and distribute the money to those less fortunate than her? You’re denigrating her experience because it’s not the lowest common denominator. I find that a bit harsh.