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.

Comments

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

TBT: The Magic of Essential Oils

Oh essential oils, beloved friend of loopy-goopy women of my own demographic marketing cohort, along with magic crystals, mystic doulas, organic pesticides, multi-level-marketed leggings, anything labeled as "herbal supplements," and alternatives to vaccination. The essential oil craze is something that has a basis in scientifically verifiable reality but has been endowed with magical, holy, pseudo-scientific properties for marketing purposes. I bought into it wholeheartedly before I learned that not all that crunches is harmless. All too often, legitimate fears based in reality (of toxic chemicals, unnecessary medical interventions, pharmaceutical side effects, etc.) are stoked to induce women like me to jump from the frying pan and into the fire of an "alternative" that may be at least as harmful as what it is supposedly protecting me and my family from. I still use certain essential oils for cleaning and other purposes, and I think everything I've stated in t

$Monday: Bog Witch Style on a Budget

Autumn in a pandemic is the perfect time to tap into your inner bog witch with wild hair, cozy clothes, forest rituals, creepy cats, fire, books of spells, and Dark Cottagecore home decor mood boards on Pinterest . You don't have to live in a literal swamp. The word "bog" comes from a Gaelic term for "soft," and it sounds nearly identical to Slavic words for gods or divinity with Proto-Slavic roots that refer to earthly fortune. Bog witches burrow into the true goodness of life nestled beneath all the hustle and polish and show of making a living. They focus on soft wealth and spiritual power. The vibe is slow, earthy, comfy, moody, sneakily seductive, maybe sticky, wise rather than smart, preferring old things to new, charming rather than impressive. It's about harmonizing with the natural environment, blending, melting, enveloping, and sinking into earthy, downward energy. Bog witchery vibes with hygge, friluftsliv , and the indigenous earth wisdom of whe

The Pandemic Turned My Church Outside and Online

The pandemic might have permanently pushed my church outdoors and online--even after we can come inside again. The radically inclusive church that I work for, UU Lansing , has adapted so successfully over the past year that we've learned how to make better use of technology to reach more people; we've found creative ways to accomplish more effective community care without putting people at risk of disease transmission; and we've connected more deeply than ever with our land and local ecosystem.  As Molly Costello has illustrated with her generously shared activist artwork : Crisis expands our imaginations around what is possible. I'm so grateful right now to be a part of a respectably longstanding faith tradition that never wastes an opportunity to learn a hard lesson and transform itself from the inside out. Unlike some centuries-old religious institutions, Unitarianism (and its more recently evolved form, Unitarian Universalism) had open-mindedness and adaptability

Pocket of Joy: Coming Out

Happy Pride Month! Has it ever been a better time to come out? Lil Nax X has died for our shame, descended into hell on a stripper pole, and slain the devil with his lap dance. Tig Notaro has conquered the undead and possibly usurped Kate McKinnon as most badass comedic lesbian paranormal action hero, which is now A Thing. "Schitt's Creek" has normalized pansexuality and revived America's faith in all kinds of enduring romantic love. Elliot Page has freed the trans man nips in joyful thirst traps on Instagram. After a year in quarantine, drag queens Trixie and Katya have become everyone's imaginary best friends. And my Instagram feed is sprinkled with videos of happily married, openly HIV-positive Jonathan Van Ness doing the happiest gorgeous little back flips. Kids today have all of these pop culture examples of people of every gender identity and sexual orientation living their best lives, creating joy and sharing it with others. Sadly, the danger in coming out

Pocket of Joy: Human Touch

Are you vaxxed, relaxxed, and ready to satiate your touch starvation ? It is time! All human persons need skin-to-skin contact sometimes, even those who value their personal space. It doesn't have to be sexual or intense, but we can't do without it indefinitely. The gentle, electric exchange that occurs between two animal bodies that meet in meatspace boosts our immune systems. It calms the vagus nerve, the heart, experiences of both physical and emotional pain, and the release of the stress hormone cortisol. It stimulates the release of oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. Going without touch for too long can lead to depression, anxiety, and behaviors that exacerbate social isolation. And loneliness can erode bodily health faster than cigarettes. All humans need touch, but it doesn't always have to be human-to-human. Pets can provide beneficial snuggles and wrassles to a person who lives alone. Volunteering at an animal shelter and petting kittens and puppies to socialize th

Vaxxed and Unmasked for Margaritas with Alice

My dear friend Magdalena has always had a special talent for sniffing out delicious secrets. She's an outgoing, bold, colorful woman, but she keeps an eye on the quiet people. She has a knack for glancing over a bunch of same-same-looking folks, breezing past all the dull sad sacks, and picking out the socially camouflaged, melancholy few who seem to be harboring some kind of romantic ennui, guarded eccentricity, or rich private life that they aren't eager to share. And then she goes after those people with the focus of a truffle pig on the scent and won't stop until they reveal themselves to her and let her love them! I had the pleasure of meeting Magda's latest conquest, a silver-haired lady I'll call Alice the Archivist, last weekend in my very first post-lockdown public group hangout (everyone 100% vaccinated!). The following is my understanding of how Magda infiltrated her personal bubble and founded the official Alice Fan Club. Alice is Magda's next-door a

Pocket of Joy: Close Grandparents

One of the best decisions I ever made in my life was to settle close to my parents before having a child. I even convinced my parents to move right into my neighborhood after they retired, a ten-minute walk from my backyard, and everyone in my family has benefited from the arrangement . Grandparents and grandchildren are great for each other's physical, mental, and emotional health. And the support grandparents can provide in helping to care for and raise a child benefits the child's parents. Over the past year, I think we all realized just how important it is for parents to have reliable and safe childcare, and unfortunately our nation has some work to do to provide for the needs of working class families. Those of us fortunate enough to have parents who are willing and able to help us care for our children are blessed indeed. Close relationships between grandparents and grandchildren create well-being and resilience in every generation of the family. It is wonderful to have

How to Make a Grill Out of a Log

Over the past few years, our local power company has had to cut down several trees on or near our property that someone in the past had, according to an inexplicable mid-Michigan tradition, planted in a row directly beneath a power line, resulting in a very slow-motion disaster. By the time the power company finally cut down the trees, some of them had already died, and some had been severely damaged in the past couple of ice storms. We were grateful to see them taken down at no personal expense to us, and we were also glad to have the firewood left on our property because we have both an indoor wood stove and a backyard fire pit. But it turned out to be a lot, and the utility workers left the tree trunks in hearty slices about the size of end tables, which have proved laborious for us to split, especially as a couple of the larger trees were tough old elms. Happily, we have found a couple of uses for them that don't require us to wrestle with their knotty old fibers: outdoor end t

Endo Belly Dance

Later this summer, I have an ultrasound scheduled to begin the process of maybe, finally, diagnosing the endometriosis that I believe I have. Sometimes I feel like my belly is busted. At different times in my life, I've had different abdominal issues at varying degrees of severity. They started in my teens and changed with different stages of biological development, different dietary habits, different exercise routines, and different levels of stress. They were relieved by pregnancy but made childbirth tough. They returned a couple years after I gave birth and have evolved over the past decade. And now that I'm in my late 30s, I have collected some strategies under my belt (yeah that's a mom joke, ha ha) for managing my belly issues in between medical interventions. The most fun and consistently effective practice I've tried is belly dance. I first tried out belly dance in college, when an older friend taught a brief workshop. I only learned a few basic hip movements, b