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

$Monday: Corona Summer Self-Care

Nobody wants to hang out in a waiting room at the height of this pandemic summer. One of my friends just dodged an outbreak by procrastinating on having her cat's claws trimmed. Now everyone who's been to that vet during the past few days is supposed to do the two-week quarantine routine. Now on top of copays and the usual discomforts of obtaining care for our furry friends and our human selves, there's the risk of catching the cooties. Definitely go and get any treatments that you need, but it's great to not need as many office visits. I'm doing what I can do at home to take care of my own health and have all of my stupid, silly summer fun in relatively safe ways--like having a redneck pool party in the lawn with my daughter and husband. Here are some other ways I'm staying healthy, safe, and sane while maintaining social distancing and a spark of faith that my kid might somehow be able to go back to school next month: keeping active with silly st

$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

TBT: Full House

Remember when co-housing, roommates, and multi-generational family homes were good ideas? Those living arrangements still have their advantages, but during a pandemic, it is much safer for individuals, romantic partners, and caregiver/dependent units to have their own spaces, amenities, and entrances. I miss the days when that wasn't so. I hope that one day soon, this pandemic will end, and the Great Recession-era post below will once again be relevant... at least for some people, at some times in their lives. I'm sure it is still relevant on well-governed, geographically isolated island nations such as New Zealand and Iceland. Oh, to be in one of those nations at this time! I sure do miss hanging out with my friends and having overnight guests, but in this very particular moment, I am grateful to live in a single-family home with only my husband and daughter and to enjoy the ability to stay put in it most of the time. I sure did not see an out-of-control pandemic coming

TBT: Fast-Forward Fashion

This blast from the past is funny, because my personal style and shopping habits have evolved quite a bit since my 20s--in fact, full circle to the advice in the first paragraph I wrote, which I went on to reject at the time. In my 20s, I enjoyed extremely silly fashion. I'd look at Vogue magazines and then imitate designer looks in ridiculous ways. I tried to anticipate near-future trends, which I nailed in the first picture here, where I've "put a bird on it" before the meme was born. Yus! ...But. Now that I am a fully fledged adult with a more relaxed budget, I hardly ever shop for clothes or accessories, not even at thrift shops, where I am now more afraid of picking up bugs. I still have a lot of clothes, but I rely heavily on swaps and hand-me-downs from friends and family. Occasionally I browse garage or church sales in communities I trust to sell clean garments. The world is now drowning in excess clothing, so it's easy to rake in quantities of barely-wo

$Monday: We Can Rise Above Death Cult Capitalism

Mmm, doesn't the smell of a bonfire make you feel punkin' spicy? Growing up, I internalized the United States cultural values of hard work as its own reward, high scores, and monetizing everything. From the age of 13, I scrounged for paltry wages (childcare, tutoring, arts and crafts sales, retail and food service and office temp jobs) while earning high grades at expensive private schools. I learned to feel guilty about "wasting" time relaxing without multi-tasking or enjoying a hobby with no intention of turning it into a hustle . I didn't have enough time to eat or sleep properly, and it made me sick and tired all the time. I was curious and drawn to new experiences, but I always felt ashamed of spending any time or resources pursuing an interest that offered no clear path to a paycheck or an award that would reflect a flattering glow upon my forebears. I had a healthy rebellious streak, but I learned to justify my transgressions with proofs of respectability a

$Monday: Testing a New Kitchen Design Before Renovation

My husband and I planned to renovate our worn-out kitchen this year, with my dad's help. And--oop!--we all know what happened to everyone's plans for 2020. There is no way I can keep my family fed properly through the pandemic in my designed-circa-1990, tacked-together, corner-cut, stingy-cheap, crazy, nailed-it-wrong kitchen nightmare that has been crumbling, grumbling, rotting, rusting, and breaking since we bought this house in 2008. We have to do something, so we turned a setback into an opportunity to slow down and beta test some of our new kitchen ideas with temporary staging. It might look insane, but who cares? We won't be having the queen over for tea anytime soon, so we can take time to play with space and function before we commit to building permanent structures and finishing surfaces. For example, open shelves are not practical for everyone. They don't hide clutter or protect things from dust. However, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and prefer

$Monday: Can You Breathe?

You can't earn or save money if you can't even breathe. One reason why "it's expensive to be poor" is that people who live in lower-income neighborhoods don't get enough clean air to breathe . I've demonstrated that " You can't afford a poor diet ," and it's even more obvious that you can't give up oxygen to save money. Poor air quality destroys productivity , and the terrible costs of air pollution are mainly borne by the individuals who suffer health conditions, disability, cognitive impairment , and premature death due to their lack of access to clean air. Before the pandemic, air pollution caused mostly by fossil fuel burning was killing about 200,000 Americans a year , and now it is accelerating American Covid deaths by over 15% . Meanwhile, cries of "I can't breathe" draw our attention to escalating police brutality and our federal government militarizing Brownshirt-resembling forces against its own citizens who a

TBT: The Best Free Medicine (Hint: Not Hydroxyclean)

It's not Hydroxyclean. Or any kind of disinfectant. Or hydroxychloroquine. It's not anything hocked by our joke of a president. But it is jokes about that and anything else that makes you laugh instead of rage. Humor has become more important than ever to my family's mental and emotional health during this global crisis. My tastes may have matured (or... something) since my days of watching Sacha Baron Cohen movies--now I prefer watching YouTube shows Trixie and Katya Save the World (WOWPresents) and I Like to Watch (Netflix) and following @knee_deep_in_life on Instagram. My husband and I laugh so hard we cry over a well-timed fart joke. Our nine-year-old daughter is a bit more sophisticated, but she shares the dark side of our sense of humor; we all adore Christina Ricci's iconic portrayal of Wednesday Addams. The news is, as usual, full of horror that isn't funny. Right now, the two main themes seem to be pandemic tragedy and racist violence. My husband and

TBT: Buddhist Meditations

Zen meditations! Inspirational quotes! Sick burns! Buddhism offers them all. As many American college students do, I enjoyed studying and practicing Buddhist rituals in college. As a recovering Catholic from a weirdly fundamentalist, Germanic-ish family tradition, I found the "bells and smells" of Buddhist temples familiar in a comforting way and the anti-dogmatic edge of Zen exhilarating in a refreshing way. I learned that extreme prayer and self-control are not owned by Christians, nor is smug superiority. What valuable lessons for a young person to learn. So valuable, in fact, that in our late 30s, my husband and I are still paying the bills for our private college educations. Can you put a price on ancient wisdom? Is that a koan? In my earliest adulthood, I took solace in the meditations below. Please enjoy them here on the Magic Nutshell, free of charge. Buddhist Meditations The Buddha sought a middle path between asceticism and materialism. All over the world, people a