#COVID19 Cat Lady Chronicles — Day 40
I posted this graphic on WeChat back on February 1st. Just a line jumping up and down and up and down, marking the emotional state of social media. The top says “That’s so touching! How wonderful!” The bottom says “Goddammit, what a monster!”
This is the global internet today, this past week. Heroes. Assholes. Heroes. Assholes.
I had a lot of practice living with illness and death at my doorstep. My Dad was dying for a good 15 years. Every year, my mother would sign some intense paperwork, acknowledging that we understood that this time, he might die. Every year he’d pull through, until 5 years ago, when he didn’t.
I had my role to play. My job was to stay cheerful and be OK, because we didn’t need another stressor in our life. My mother’s the caretaker. My dad’s job was to be compliant and stay alive. Was I a nice daughter throughout those years? No, I was often kind of an asshole. Yet people who knew about my dad’s condition treated me and my mom like heroes. I thought we were just humans.
Guess what? Those were good years. Illness clarified our priorities. Fear made me live a little harder and a lot gentler at the same time. Those years made me who I am today. They taught me not to let fear live my life. They taught me to always see the helpers and the blessings along with the suffering.
Illness didn’t stop us from living. It created challenges, and we figured it out as we went. As you do. And even after his death, my relationship with my Dad continues.
Death isn’t the end of love. Death and illness are not the end of humanity, the end of joy, the end of fun. They’re human experiences.
And what I’m getting at is…
There is no “other.” There are the countless frontline people around the world, checking temperatures and travel histories and answering phones. There’s the bartender, barista, burlesque performer, comedian who suddenly has no income. There’s the girl from Wuhan who’s been locked in her apartment for 2 months, even though she hasn’t been to Wuhan in 8 months. There’s the international school teacher trying to fly back to Shanghai to start work, only to be chastised by everyone for being “selfish” and “irresponsible” or “stupid” for traveling “at a time like this.” There is the Canadian metal band in Greece trying to get home after a canceled tour. There’s a mother in Florida, in D.C., in Chicago, in Beijing, in Denmark, just trying to keep the kids from tearing the house down. There’s the adult child in Suzhou, Taipei, Connecticut fighting with the parents for being “reckless” and still going out. There’s this person pointing at that person saying they’re careless for not wearing their mask/washing their hands/sanitizing the table properly. There’s the kid in rural China who attempted suicide because there’s no WiFi at home and he couldn’t access his education to stay in the rat race and compete in the gaokao for a chance at a better life. There’s the student kicked out of her school dorm and now has to decide whether to go home. There’s the girl who thought she’s starting her life in Argentina only to go from one lockdown to another. There’s the hair stylist stuck in Wuhan, not knowing if that job in Shanghai will still want him when he’s finally allowed to travel domestically again.
There are the thousands and thousands of families grieving, and millions more scared but trying, because just like I did for some many years, they’re guarding someone at home who is vulnerable.
Or maybe we’re just all humans trying our best and failing. Maybe fear reduces the most intelligent of us to our reptilian brains. Maybe we homo sapiens as a whole are just having a real. shit. week.
I’m no historian, but I think we’ve survived a few shit weeks in history. Not all of us pull through, sadly, but most of us are still here today. I call that a win.
So how about we just get through it, one shit week at a time, scared, tired, bored, angry, and messy?