When I mentioned to a friend that I wasn't sure if NYU would open for live classes in the fall, she said, "I'm not as pessimistic as you are." That is good news—for her—but not for me. I'm as pessimistic—if that's what she wants to call it—as I want or need to be in this moment, right now, today. Tomorrow I may feel differently, and that's my prerogative. I don't want to have to defend the way I am responding to the global tragedy to someone who feels differently. If I had a phlegmatic temperament I suppose I'd be grateful right now, but I'm not feeling grateful, and I can't respond to jokes, or kids playing the guitar on FB posts to entertain their beleaguered parents, or meditate myself into calmness. And when someone tells me that a yoga video class helps, I say, great, let's do it, but I'm not cheerful about it, not at all. I don't want to om myself into such a transcendant mood that I am not paying attention to what is going on, or tell myself that there are still so many beautiful things in the world to enjoy that I don't really have to be worried. That might be you, but it's not me. We may have very different families of origin, different cultural mores that inflect our emotional responses, different life experiences, different triggers. Viva!
As I have written here before: artists and writers are both blessed and afflicted with heightened sensitivity. Our sensitivity fuels our work; we can't just shut it off. Okay, so you're not worried. Hello, dear friend, I am. You should see what I wrote in my journal this morning and the blog post I'm working on. I use my worry in my work. So, please, don't disparage or judge me, or try to jolly me out of the way I feel, just give me a virtual hug and when you need an empathetic ear, try mine. And read what I write even if it's a bit raw and not yet transformed into art. Yes, of course, I know that spring is here. Didn't you notice the photos of buds on my FB page that got more hits than anything else? Now let's figure out how we can mitigate risk when we go to the grocery store.
Another friend traveled up to the city from Washington DC just last week and sent me a gorgeous wide-angle photo of a nearly empty Grand Central station at (what used to be) rush hour. I responded to the gorgeous photo, of course, then I asked, "Why are you traveling?" Isn't that the logical question in the circumstances? Well, not for him. He'd been a relief worker in war zones so what's a pandemic by comparison? Is that how his mind works? Meanwhile, he's on a train from one city to another risking infection for himself and others, maybe even spreading infection. Was this essential travel, or not? I didn't ask. He was entirely comfortable with his choice; I wasn't.
I suppose some people still believe they can defy the odds, that the lockdown is not serious and we only need to pay attention to Executive Orders when it doesn't inconovenience us in any way. This is America, right, and we are all free to do as we please. Individualism run amok. Or is it entitlement? Or arrogance? I wonder if I can justify the resentment I feel as the evacuees from the city arrive upstate to their getaway homes, emptying the stores and bringing more virus with them. When my daughter started a FB thread about overcrowding on a trail she runs, people shmoozing and not moving out of the way, socializing when they've been told to stop socializing, and we learned today that the Mohonk Preserve has been closed because of overcrowding, I was mad as hell. Be I ever so humble, dear reader, I'd do exactly the same if I still lived in the city and wanted to make sure that my family was safe.
Sadly, I've had to stop walking with a friend as there's no way we can keep our 6ft. separation as we chatter away. Sadly, I had to find a solitary walk far away from the maddening crowd. I'm keeping the location to myself, which is selfish, I admit, but I, too, have to maintain my equilibrium, and a sense of safety, no matter how delusional.