John and I were talking about how pandemic life really now has the post-911 feel of irrevocable cultural change, most evident in all the regulations that are slowly transforming from Brand New and Awful to Still Mostly Awful But Increasingly Familiar. As much as it used to feel impossible to imagine a world where everyone is always masked, it’s starting to feel quite difficult to imagine a time when none of this is still necessary (or if, in some cases, not a requirement we can collectively agree is necessary, at least still very much required).

The depressing truth is that when people talk about the “year of the pandemic” I find myself thinking that a year sounds HUGELY optimistic and frankly pretty unrealistic in every way.

Even assuming there is some sort of miraculous warp-speed vaccine (that people aren’t too paranoid to take), it seems to me that some things — masks on planes, maybe — are going to be here to stay. Sort of like how we all just automatically peel off our shoes in the security line and shuffle into a device that scans us from head to toe and then get patted down by a bored TSA agent if we draw the unlucky straw, we will barely remember a time when none of that was part of the flying experience.

The mask-wearing is a thing I truly dislike in every possible way but I can at least agree that unless told otherwise by trustworthy science-based sources it is a necessary evil. I will grumpily mask up as long as it takes, although I will never stop questioning the point of at least 50% of the freshly-installed plexiglass dividers out there.

The smartest-seeming ones I’ve seen are at grocery stores, where the POS situation is limited to a specific area, but there are so many that are just sort of … randomly placed? I was at Best Buy recently and the cashier station had this huge barrier that wasn’t even remotely in front of where the actual customer/clerk interaction happens. I guess the good news is that people in the plexiglass business are probably doing better than most other industries right about now, but jeez, it sure doesn’t seem like it should be that hard to look at where the payment transaction takes place and slap up the sneeze shield there.

Well. If there’s one thing I’m sick and tired of even more than living in an actual no-shit pandemic, it’s talking about the fucking pandemic. I want to go to a movie, I want to go see my mom and aunt without worrying about killing them, I want school to not be a thorny mess of terrible choices for every single parent, I want essential workers to at least be paid essential wages if they’re going to be the ones in the most danger, I want my kids to hang out with their friends, I want us all to go back to life before March of 2020, I want to talk about something ELSE.

I’ve been keeping a paper journal for a few years now with the intent of jotting down a paragraph or two on a daily basis, although in reality I usually only remember to do it a couple times a week. This summer in particular it’s felt nearly impossible to keep up with documenting anything meaningful about our lives, especially as I find myself writing things like “Went swimming at the cabin! Also the U.S. COVID-19 death count is up to 160,000.”

That’s just how things are, though. Mixed in with ever-worsening current events and political/community/school/economic upheavals: life goes on, and it feels more important than ever to hang on to the good stuff.

Summer goes by way too fast, we try to pack in as much as possible but this glorious season is always over in a blink. Soon it will be Riley’s birthday (fifteen!) and then the start of school, which is online only until December but hopefully much more robust than the “Uhhhhh…here’s a zoom link that may or may not work” vibe of Early COVID.

I am of course sad as hell for my boys that they won’t get a normal school experience in the fall and maybe not for quite a while, especially Riley who is starting high school, but I am so so so so SO very grateful that John and I both work from home and that we are very flexible. We can make it work for as long as it needs to, this schooling-from-home business, and I know how lucky we are.

Truth is, I’ve been spending much of this summer doing the mental equivalent of sticking my fingers in my ears and singing lalalalalalalalaWHATpandemic? — which isn’t to say I’ve been reckless, I don’t think anyway, but it’s been easy enough to focus on going from activity to activity and all the prep/laundry/work catch-up that entails to sort of unplug from the The Shit (which is how I’ve come to vaguely categorize this entire nightmarish virus/disinformation/cultural polarization/election combo plate we have all been served).

I’ve been cutting back on my news consumption and doomscrolling, or at least trying to (how often I catch myself doing that mindless phone-stare, hypnotized by the endless stream of screaming headlines). I recognize the privilege of being able to do so but I also fail to see the good that comes from being in a state of constant anxiety and despair.

We all have to live in this mess. There can be no one-size-fits-all solution for making our way through. I’m just trying to live in gratitude and happiness as much as I can, and to soak up every bit of these fleeting days of sunshine.

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