Skip to main content

Second Spring Breakdown

It's the second spring of the pandemic, and it's... not all better. Time to break down how bad it is and how good it can be if we can get through this year’s spring fever. Case rates of Covid-19 are far higher this March than they were last March when the big lockdowns happened, and the infection rate is roaring upward because people are losing their minds faster than they are getting vaccinated. Italy is going into its second Easter lockdown, and the United States has made a clear collective decision that the mindless consumption of novelty products and services matters more than human life. As a nation, despite the refreshing progress and signs of hope coming from the new White House, we're done pretending to care about each other. We still haven't agreed that childcare and elementary schools are more important than bars or that real children's childhoods are more important than adults' rights to party like Florida Man. Our culture of overwork and gross consumerism means that our lives aren't worth living if we're not willing to sacrifice ourselves on the altars of wage slavery and wasting most of our puny paychecks on disposable garbage, addictive substances, and numbing activities that make us so sick, poor, sad, and crazy that we can't help shopping for magic pills and chintzy gadgets that promise to alleviate the existential suffering of our pointless existences. Whew! (If this triggered you, scroll to the bottom of this post. I'm not kidding.) I still believe that we can rise above death cult capitalism, but we're not all going to make it there at the same time, if ever.

Think spring! Spring is here. Suicide season. Don't lower your guard; watch yourself and your family closely, and hold each other in care. This spring, the madness of crowds flouting public hygiene and human decency standards does not provide a mental health respite from the stress of quarantine, it makes everyone's mental health worse. And there's really no other upside either. Spitting on and sexually assaulting restaurant workers is not supporting the economy. Screaming about "freedom" while spraying your fellow citizens with face juice droplets is not public service. The return of FOMO and all of its glamorized stupidity is not therapeutic. Acting like everyone needs to make a choice between 100% isolation and 100% anarchy is not a useful decision-making framework. And none of that matters to anyone whose brains have been pickled by internet conspiracy theories. This spring, the world is a minefield for morons and a torment to the aware, who witness the tragedies unfolding and can't stop them.

This spring does bring us closer to a possible end of the pandemic with the rollout of vaccines and the hope for herd immunity. But I believe that also means we are now facing the big boss bad guy at the end of the game. I expect a large number of people to flame out tragically, right before they get to the finish line. It's frustrating because it's so preventable and pointless, and yet it's inevitable because our society was already sick before Covid-19 came along.

The dangerous wave of "spring fever" rising with the temperatures is not relieving our mental health crisis, it's amplifying it. I fully intend to enjoy this spring and every pocket of joy I can find in it. And that means doing my best to keep myself and my family alive and well and protected from the growing mobs of people who are losing control.

A whole lot of people need a whole lot of help right now, while trying to find a therapist has turned into The Hunger Games. Covid-19, reckless behavior, self-harming behavior, and aggression are all on the rise, and I have personally known people who have died of all four in the past year. Meanwhile, collective trauma caused by police violence, domestic violence, gendered violence, and racial violence against Asian Americans and other scapegoated groups has boiled over. Smoking, drinking, and opiate abuse have spiraled. And, because of all that and more, traffic deaths have risen by almost 25% per mile driven in just one year as people not winning their battles with substance and impulse control problems have taken over the roads.

No 2021 road trips for my family, thanks!

On top of considering apocalyptic traffic fatalities and outbreaks of mass violence, parents have additional burdens on making ethical decisions about what we can do this year because our preteen and younger children cannot be vaccinated until maybe 2022. Even if our children themselves aren't at high risk for serious illness, they can spread the virus around and help keep American society's new variant factory churning out tougher viruses that could potentially win the arms race against vaccines. And our understanding of "serious illness" should honestly extend beyond sick feelings and hospitalizations, because children infected with Covid-19 who aren't aware of experiencing any symptoms are showing serious heart, lung, and blood vessel damage and then long Covid syndrome. As a mother, I can't imagine any mathematical equation showing that skipping one more birthday party will somehow harm my child more than putting her at risk for organ damage.

Parents and caregivers of people who cannot be vaccinated are in a special web of catch-22 situations right now. First, there are many caregivers who don't have the ability to stay home and provide 100% of the care, so risk calculations are complicated. I am fortunate not to be in that situation--I can stay home 24/7 because I can work from home until I get vaccinated, and I have a spouse who can do all the errands.

And because of this privilege our family enjoys, we were able to make the choice to send our daughter to one last season of in-person education at her beloved elementary school, where they are following a thorough, tight set of safety protocols that give us the confidence that the benefit she receives there is worth the tiny risk. And at the same time, the risk of in-person school is nonzero (especially as community spread blows up in our area due to sportsballing and binge drinking establishments reopening under pressure by deranged idiots who would rather plot to kidnap the governor than go another day without their sports-and-drinking binkies), so my family has the responsibility to be even stricter about minimizing our exposure to other people outside of school. It's not fair, but it's unavoidable: My daughter has to give up a portion of her actual childhood because of mentally stunted adults throwing toddler tantrums. It enrages me, obviously, so I am trying to focus on other things so I don't have to dwell on it.

My solution: Think small, slow, and savory.

My family and I have learned new skills over the past year that will help us carry on until it is safe for us to resume non-essential public activities. We've become better cooks and home designers, so it's never been nicer to spend time at home. And we believe in science, so our nearest dear ones outside of our household are starting to get vaccinated! Soon our daughter will be reunited with her grandparents, and we might be able to enjoy dinners or beers with a select group of friends from 100%-vaccinated households by this summer. We are focusing on and looking forward to quiet, simple joys and quality time with a trusted circle of family and friends. We are setting aside fantasies of travel, parties, concerts, and festivals for the next year because we don't want to waste any emotional labor on setting ourselves up for disappointment or unnecessary tragedy. Why would we do that when this year could provide a sweet time of quiet, renewed intimacy with those most important to us?

With the new tools of vaccination and economic stimulus at our disposal, we can expand our lives a little bit this year, and we can have a 2021 that is better than 2020 was. But only if we keep our optimism tempered with realism and patience so that we don't smash into this spring like a bug into a zapper.

Below are my lists of how I am behaving the same or differently this spring compared to last, based on what actually has and has not changed since then.


what I'm still doing, just like last year:

  • making my own espresso at home and watching the sun rise from my front porch
  • "escaping" through novels and foreign films instead of physically traveling
  • cooking and baking wonderful dinners in my own soon-to-be-renovated kitchen and my beautiful backyard with rustic fire pit
  • going on family bike rides on walk/bike trails through beautiful nature settings, separated from motor traffic
  • allowing my daughter to socialize with other kids outdoors, with masks on
  • getting all the sleep I need, having blissfully forgotten what FOMO even feels like
  • wearing comfortable, worn-in clothes
  • taking 15 mg of CBD oil on nights when I feel anxious

what I'm doing differently:

  • hiring professionals to complete repairs and renovations to the house
  • socializing indoors with my vaccinated parents and a few other 100% vaccinated households
  • walking my daughter to in-person school and hoping that this time, schools will be prioritized over non-essential entertainment and leisure industries as community infections spread
  • gardening more extensively
  • catching up on routine medical, dental, and optical appointments that I skipped in 2020


That's all! I've come to enjoy the simpler life that the pandemic forced me to adopt, and my home life keeps on getting better as the world outside continues its meltdowns. I prefer to let that nonsense run its course before I resume too much interaction with it. Maybe if we can all keep our expectations humble and hold onto a little bit of chill, we'll give ourselves the chance to accept this spring's gifts and new pleasures without tripping over ourselves and ruining everything at the last minute, wasting all the efforts of the past year.

Meanwhile, if you suspect that you or someone you know might be suicidal, please take it seriously. Spring is the time when suicidal thoughts and feelings can become most dangerous. Mayo Clinic offers this advice on how to support someone and how to protect yourself when you care for a person with suicidal thoughts.


Popular posts from this blog

35 Great Things About Turning 35

The prime of life starts at 35! It's the best-kept secret from younger people, but your 35th birthday is a major cause for celebration. For mine, I have made my own listicle of 35 reasons why experts agree that 35 is the best age to be: You get to say, "I'm 35." The number 35 carries so much more gravitas than 30, but you're only a few years older. At 34, I've started fudging my age--by adding a year. People automatically take me seriously, and if they don't, at least they tell me I look young for my age. (Eye roll, hair toss, "whatever.")    35-year-olds DGAF. Inner chill reaches new heights at 35. Despite its #2 status on this list, it's the #1 response I hear about what's best about hitting 35. My gorgeous friend Nerlie was beautiful and resilient and wise beyond her years in high school, but now, at age 35, she gets to fully enjoy being herself on her own terms. She writes,  "I've survived so much that I don't

Happy Daylight Spending Time!

Happy Daylight Spending Time! It's finally our chance to enjoy the quality of life offered by Real Time. Now we can sleep until almost dawn, commute to work and school in the actual morning instead of during the night, savor the golden hour of the evening with active quality time outdoors without pushing into what should be winding-down time, and then relax into the beauty of a backyard bonfire or a candlelit dinner or a holiday light viewing stroll before the hour required of most human beings to go to bed in order to receive a healthy amount of sleep. Ah, what a relief from the unsustainable grind of Daylight Saving Time! It is fashionable to hate on the end of Daylight Saving Time, but I will not be fooled into participating in that griping. I believe that most of the whiners are conflating the onset of Standard Time with the time of year when the overall amount of actual daylight decreases naturally in the northern realms of the Earth, which is a fact of life outside the contr

Have a Vaxxed, Relaxed Holiday Season!

You deserve it. You've survived almost two years of a global pandemic and done everything in your power to take good care of yourself and your family and your larger community, all during a surge in stress, meanness, white supremacist violence, basic Karen-ing, economic hardship, unnecessary bad vibes, and rants about the government infecting people with magic octopi. Good onya, champion! You made it this far! Last year's holiday season was sketchy and filled with family drama (or isolation from family), but this year's doesn't have to be. This year, everyone ages 12 and up (without medical conditions that preclude them from gaining immunity via a vaccine) has had a chance to get fully vaccinated by Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. And everyone ages 5 and up (without those medical exceptions) has a chance to get fully vaccinated by Christmas. Pregnant and breastfeeding parents who get vaccinated can even confer immunity to their little ones in the womb or via breastmilk. How

Pocket of Joy: Starting a Shiny New Project

Oh, the buoyant thrill of a sparkly new idea! Ooh, the giddy joy of starting in on it--like planting the first footprint on a blanket of new-fallen snow, or drawing the first line on a clean sheet of paper, or sweeping the first brushstroke of slick, wet paint across a wall! Of course, it takes follow-through to manifest a dream through the sweaty, dirty, messy middle of any big project. But when you know you can do it, you can hold onto that shiny new feeling to sustain you all the way to the finish. Here I am chiseling away at the remains of my old kitchen back in the spring, when my new kitchen lived only in my imagination. My husband and I have been working on our kitchen (with my parents' help early on) for four months now. Our summer has been a marathon of hard, sweaty, dirty work littered with setbacks, frustrations, and frequent changes of plans--including the decision to redo our main bathroom at the same time, while we're at it! Anyone who has repaired or remodeled a

Shots All Around!

My daughter got her first Covid vaccine shot over the weekend! Lots of her friends have also received theirs or have appointments coming up soon, and most of her older relatives have been boosted. We are all so happy and relieved that we can look forward to celebrating winter holidays and birthdays indoors with friends and family this year. We've waited so long for this! And it was free! And, according to her, it didn't even hurt! She felt a little bit of soreness at the injection site for a little while, and she was very sleepy all weekend, which I understand is a good sign that her immune system is working hard to gear up in response to the vaccine. We are very pleased, and our extended family is feeling major relief and hope for a more relaxed, pleasant winter. Michigan is having a particularly rough go with the Covid at this moment in time, with outbreaks driven by Michigan's preteens and teens, and in these dire circumstances, it is so good to have a real reason to hop

Pocket of Joy: Wearing Purple

Being human is crazy, full stop. It's a blessing to be able to transcend the drama, rise above trends, and get to a place where you can just start wearing purple. My daughter is a pretty normal kid who had a pretty normal childhood up until the pandemic, compared to how her parents grew up. We are beyond proud and happy that her first decade of life has contained far less drama and trauma than either of ours did. And yet, there is no escaping the broad insanity that is human life, for everyone, everywhere, in every generation. Fortunately, our daughter has somehow inherited our creativity and wicked sense of humor without being forced to develop those traits as coping mechanisms. What fun! She loves campy horror and the cheesy occult. Her style is a little edgy without any true angst behind it. At the moment, her favorite colors are black and purple. And I feel like, somehow, some way, all of this has helped her to take the pandemic in stride. She has a firm grasp on fantasy versus

Treat Yourself to a Good Old-Fashioned Novel

'Tis the season for reading! Many people have done their holiday shopping early this year or simplified or opted out of a lot of the usual hustling and bustling of this time. Here in Michigan, we're still in a high risk pandemic situation, and now there's a new variant circulating in the world that might render our exciting new booster shots less effective than we had hoped they would be. We are all in need of safe comforts at this time, and what could be safer or more snuggly than an immersive adventure tale full of purely fictional drama and peril that has nothing to do with the real storms outside of our windows right now?  It doesn't matter much whether you cuddle into bed with a luscious, thick hardcover object of beauty or a sleek ebook reader. The benefits of reading anything that engages your mind, but especially fiction and most especially literary fiction, are vast and well-documented. You can read all about it in  Harper's Bazaar , BBC Culture , and Healt

Pocket of Joy: The Indiana Jones Door Slide

I find that sometimes when the gods close a door, you can run and slide through the crack at the very last second. And even reach back to grab your hat, if you're quick! Indiana Jones Door Close GIF from Indiana Jones GIFs   This feels like the vibe for all of my home and auto repairs over the past year as well as how I released my novel, and it feels like how I'll need to finish my 2021 Christmas shopping. Over the summer, my family went through a harrowing adventure in major home repairs and maintenance that suddenly seemed financially possible due to those stimulus payments and that free student loan forbearance. My husband and I, with the help of my parents, spent the summer and early fall doing most of the work ourselves to demolish and rebuild our kitchen and main bathroom, which had seemed to fall to pieces all at once, just like our furnace and vintage pickup truck did the moment we finished renovations. Thank goodness for emergency savings and credit cards! In the Tim

LEIRAH AND THE WILD MAN Now Available in Ebook Formats

It's my last 30-something birthday today! And in celebration of what I hope will be my last birthday that requires me to work creatively around plague conditions, I have released Leirah and the Wild Man in affordable ebook formats!  Are you bummed out about travel difficulties and shipping delays as we enter yet another Covid-complicated holiday season? Relief is here! Enjoy this cheap, instant-gratification ticket to a wild and exciting adventure full of 100% imaginary peril, which you can enjoy snug within the comfort of your own bed, pillow-and-blanket-heaped couch by the fire, or bubble bath if you have the right kind of protection on your reading device. Read a free excerpt of the Kindle version at Read a free excerpt of the Nook version at Leirah and the Wild Man: A Tale of Obsession and Survival at the Edges of the Byzantine World is a historical thriller set in the 11th century. Leirah dreams of stealing a Viking longship, hunting pirates,

Pocket of Joy: Supply-Unchained Gift Giving

Happy Hannukah, St. Nicholas, Solstice, Christmas, Three Kings, Kwanzaa, birthday, or other winter celebration that involves gift-giving! This is a great year to try out some buy-nothing-new gift ideas that don't fit in a box or that can be wrapped creatively, using found-around-the-house materials like old scarves or tea towels, craft materials, holiday catalogs from your junk mail, or painted-over shoeboxes. There are many ways to get festive and express generosity toward loved ones without spending a lot of money or worrying about shipping and delivery, such as... delivering homemade baked goods or casseroles giving handmade crafts hosting a game night, in-person among the vaccinated or virtual to include parents of young children, the immunocompromised, and others too vulnerable to gather safely indoors regifting new stuff you don't want or need regifting your own used books scouring thrift stores for funny/ugly holiday sweaters getting vaccinated, then offering childcare,