Posts Tagged ‘pandemic’

So this month has been all author memes, which has been super fun for me (and hopefully you). But why all memes brilliantly created by others and no words from me? Here’s a mini vlog to explain!

Christina Bergling

https://linktr.ee/chrstnabergling

Well, here we are: pandemic Halloween.

Restrictions may vary by region, but in Colorado, Halloween celebrations as we know them are largely cancelled. No school costume parades, no drunken costume parties, no trick-or-treating. I hear pumpkin patches and haunted houses have been operating, but I have not been. Largely, the season has been reduced to decorations and horror movies.

Which begs the question, what is Halloween? What is the Halloween spirit? What makes Halloween Halloween?

Is it Halloween without trick-or-treating down a dark street, dead leaves crunching beneath your feet? Is it Halloween without disguising yourself in another character in a drunken crowd, losing yourself in the night? Is it Halloween without being scared in a haunted house or during horror movie marathons, clutching someone’s hand tight as you cry out?

For me, I would say Halloween is all of these things. And more. I take the entire month of October to indulge in Halloween, and I truly try to do it all. Pumpkins, haunted houses, horror film festivals, parties, costumes, trick-or-treating, all the things. And I have missed all those things this year.

I resolved earlier this month to try my best to adapt and enjoy October 2020 as best I could. I decorated, even though no one will really see the house. I got my kids Halloween costumes, even though they won’t be trick-or-treating. I attended the Telluride Horror Show, even though it was all online. I decided to go all in, even if there wasn’t much we could do.

Even though it feels frivolous and borderline fucking stupid this year, I am wearing and posting my Hallowear every day. I am playing #31DaysofHorror bingo and watching a horror movie every day. Inside the house, it is still everything October and everything Halloween. I try to force myself into that Halloween spirit.

Yet it does not feel the same. Because the Halloween experience, like so many things, has a community element. Trick-or-treating includes going around a neighborhood, to other doors. Parties include groups of costumed friends, neighbors, or classmates. Haunted houses are filled with the screams of people.

The real terror this year is the distance and the isolation. The real fear is all the unknown ahead. And those are not the fun kind of horror that Halloween is about.

I just finished writing a novel that ultimately questions if someone can love the horror genre after real horror has happened in her life. That theme echoes strangely in my head these days.

Personally, I do not think Halloween is embodied by any one activity or celebration. I think it is a unique expression for each person. It means different things to different people so can’t be quantified by trick-or-treating or getting drunk dressed like a slutty pumpkin. So a pandemic Halloween can still be Halloween. It just might take some creativity and commitment.

Every year is not going to be perfect. Every year is not going to be the same. I can resign myself to letting 2020 go, to doing the best I can with the options available.

This year, Halloween might be watching Trick ‘r Treat with a bowl full of Reese’s pumpkins and a tall pour of whiskey in my Morticia costume on the couch… but it would still be Halloween. Just Halloween 2020.

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Christina Bergling

https://linktr.ee/chrstnabergling

To put it frankly and in my signature vernacular: things are fucked.

Around this mark in the calendar each year I tend to fall into a depression sink hole, even in this best of years, and this is far from the best of years. I don’t know if it is the transition from hated summer into welcomed fall or some repressed trauma milestone, yet it arrives as regularly as the seasons themselves. The bald patches where my hair has abandoned my head for the first time since I was 17 testifies to what is being internalized below my scalp. I definitely find myself in brief moments rapt in the siren song that 2020 is the end of the world.

However, I do (logically) know better. Despite how good the memes are, there is nothing supernatural or maybe ultimately even that exceptional about the year 2020. This is not the world’s first novel virus or pandemic. Climate change didn’t start in 2020. Governments aren’t suddenly corrupt. Racial injustice didn’t begin when cellphones captured it and social media made it go viral. The well of human atrocities is deep and chronologically expansive. And I doubt when humans decide to start saying “2021”, the world and all its events (or the consequences for our own stupidity and selfishness) will decide to yield.

Though, illusory correlation or not, it does feel like 2020 is a convergence of many of these things, a culmination of numerous building unsavory aspects of our reality. And personally, the macro level has been paired with upheaval and chaos at the micro level. The last time my faith in the world and humanity was uprooted, it was in global ideas. Yet I could still take solace in my personal life, the little things I could touch. This time, no perspective or granularity of experience seems safe.

Things could always be worse and may still yet be… but they just were better too. However, this post is not intended to be about the current state of the world (could be a novel that I may write one day) or my life. Rather, this post is supposed to be about decidedly the opposite, about giving myself permission to turn away from those fixations briefly… for my month: October.

Anyone who knows me or follows me is aware that beyond being a horror author, I am an authentic horror genre and Halloween enthusiast. To suit my extreme/fixative personality, I go all in for holiday and surrounding month of October. (Let’s be real: the entire season, if not year round.)

It may seem flippant (and it definitely is) in times like these to indulge in books and movies and a holiday. However, these social media accounts are dedicated to my horror writing and the simple love of the genre. And I, for one, need the distraction. I need the simplicity. I haven’t stopped caring or worrying about all the more significant or more catastrophic elements around me, but I need to balance that with some irreverent fun. Otherwise, why bother?

While it may seem odd to watch zombie apocalypse movies during a global pandemic or while it may seem stupid to be excited over pumpkin spice and orange decorations while the western part of the country is on fire, my constant devout attention will not solve any of those problems. It will, however, cripple my mental health and cause my hair to fall out by the handful. It was always silly to wear a Halloween shirt every day and watch a horror movie for bingo every night. This year, it just seems ridiculous. Yet I am electing to give myself a little grace to be odd and stupid and find some damn joy somewhere, where I have always found it since childhood.

In my struggle to cope with all the things, I am attempting to come back to my own mantra, the mantra that was born out of the last time I dealt with these feelings. Life is largely shit and can end at any moment, so I need to suck any ounce of joy I can from any given moment. I need to pair this with the sentiment of controlling only what I can control. I may be able to take actions to help these macro problems, but I cannot control them. Some days, I may need to resign to work and worry at the micro level.

It is a luxury to be flippant and to capitalize on enjoyment when possible, so I am going to attempt to luxuriate a little bit. In short, it really is a shit show all around us. I am aware and have not forgotten. But for this month, it is still going to be horror movies and Hallowear and all the spooky traditions!

If nothing else, the pandemic has slowed me down, forced me to be “in” much more than I am accustomed. Historically, in October, I went all the places and did all the things and skidded into November a shell of a person. That is not an option this year.

This year will be about quality versus quantity. I will only be able to do a small subset of my normal activities and celebrations, but I intend to do them fully. Telluride Horror Show will be virtual; no haunted houses; no trick-or-treating; tiny cohort Halloween party. I intend to adapt to experience or create them in new ways. Rather than contorting and trying to shove normalcy into an abnormal situation, I am going to find a new realizations for these circumstances.

But whatever I do, I will be going all in.

Christina Bergling

https://linktr.ee/chrstnabergling

Since this pandemic started (or more since people began reacting to it), I have heard multiple times, “Your book Savages makes so much sense now” or “I really see what you meant in Savages” or “It’s just like you wrote about in Savages.”

The goal of any writer is to produce a work that is relatable and enduring. However, when we are talking about the apocalypse and bringing out the worst in humanity, those are not the themes you want to persist. I got the idea for Savages when I was freshly home from my civilian tour of a war zone and had completely lost my faith in humanity. These are not exactly ways I want to feel forever.

If you ask me what Savages is really about (and I’m the writer, so I suppose my answer does hold some weight), I would say that more than the byproduct of a Walking Dead binge (though that is in there too), the story ultimately is about questioning how human we really are. Are we civilized, or do we just pretend when we are comfortable enough? Are we all truly savage underneath it all?

I took a lot of anthropology electives in college. In those classes, we spent a lot of time trying to differentiate the common human base from the variable layers of culture applied over it. I took even more psychology electives in an attempt to sort out what was happening in my own head at the time (when did I actually have time to take the classes for my writing major?). In those classes, we compared varying theories on nature versus nurture. What are we born as, and what do we learn?

Somehow, all of this academic experience combined with the hopelessness and disgust I felt at my tiny sampling taste warside (plus a dash of zombie pop culture) left me wondering: are we all just animals, pretending to be evolved and civilized? But animals wasn’t the right word. Savagery was what I was thinking about. Savagery was I saw underneath our surface and wondered if it might be our true nature under all our “humanity.”

So I used the story in Savages to sort the problem out in my mind. Not surprisingly, my protagonist sounded a bit like me, asking all the questions I had batting around my head. She’s even as resistant and depressed as I would no doubt be in that post-apocalyptic position. Sometimes, you write what you know, and I know myself.

Where did I… I mean, she end up? What did she decide about humanity? To find out, you will need to make the journey through the fallout with her and read (or listen to) Savages!

And what about now? A decade later, I had improved my world outlook or fallen back into a comfortable complacency, however you want to look at it. I came home and lived my comfortable life, focused on my family. Then the world swelled back in ways I could not ignore. Pandemic, quarantine, police brutality, a scrolling list of awful—of savage.

But I feel the same way I did those years ago again; my mindset has returned. Savages makes sense. Everything I meant resonates for me again. And I don’t like it.

Last time, I dealt with these feelings with complacency. I accepted our savagery. I was able to accept the world being shit and focus on finding my own happiness within that. Yet, I am different now. I am less complacent. Perhaps it is motherhood, but I do not want to leave things this awful. I do not know how to change them, but I want to, and that desire is unsettling.

Maybe that is what my next book will be about.

At the moment, I am not happy to be reanimating the feelings of Savages. I would rather be reliving The Rest Will Come instead, if we’re picking from my bookshelf.

Christina Bergling

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Before you read my blog, read Khaya Ronkainen. Her poetry chapbook From the Depths of Darkness, took me on a heart wrenching and emotional journey.

Before you look at my horror photography pictures on Insta, check out @love_paperdoll who did the sickest Beetlejuice cosplay and @yoyosuicide who has fantastic horror tribute shots.

Before you check out my dwindling horror tweets, check out @AshleeTakesNote, @BlackGrlsHorror, and @blacula who know the genre better than I do.

***

Well, it seems like quarantine has come to an end, though it is up for debate as to whether the pandemic is behind us. It seems to be more of a political debate on social media than a public health question anymore, which is absolutely maddening as it muddiest the waters of decision making.

While I would love for the worst of it to be behind us, I don’t feel like it will be over that simply. I fear we will see at least another wave, perhaps more devastating than the first if history repeats. But only time will tell, and the wait and the uncertainty are torture.

But sometimes, history seems to converge. America did not take a break from its bullshit during the pandemic. Black people continued to get killed by the police, and videos continued to surface. When the video of George Floyd’s death got out, the entire country was largely still locked down, all watching with rapt attention, no longer distracted by their own lives, pent up and full of rage.

Minneapolis (where our families live) erupted, and so many other cities around the world responded with their own protests and riots. It is a response that is long overdue, that could have happened for so many deaths before his, but it happened now when these factors in history aligned.

There are MANY people with more to contribute on this topic than I can. I was insulated by my privilege my entire childhood. I was not really introduced to the extent of what that meant until I was in an interracial relationship, especially when we briefly lived in The South, and started raising a mixed family. So I go through this event as an ally on the outside, with part of my heart directly affected on the inside.

I don’t want to be silent because I am not compliant with how wrong things are. I don’t want to speak when it is not my conversation and not my turn to have my voice heard. I want to be an ally, but I don’t want to be told how to do it right because that is not someone else’s job to teach me. I want to try, even knowing I am going to do it wrong and fail over and over. But mostly, I want to get my children, particularly my child who cannot pass as white, through this and prepared the survive all the bullshit the world has waiting for them without destroying their childhood.

In short, I have no idea what I’m doing. Much like going through a pandemic, I am just at a loss. I feel like I am treading water as the waves keep crashing over my head.

I don’t have the scripts or life experiences to explain to my children how these things might affect them, how they might happen to them in their lives. My parents taught me about racism and hate when I was young, but it is such a different conversation to tell a child about something happens to other people versus something that could happen to them or their family. A “don’t do this” versus a “be scared of this” distinction.

I don’t know how to teach my daughter to be the only brown body in a classroom, the only curly head on a dance team. I only know the things white people tell themselves, which I have learned over and over are often only to make ourselves feel more comfortable. I can only speculate from the sidelines, defer to my partner who has lived that life.

I usually don’t know what I’m doing as a parent, usually am fumbling through at best; however, this level of ignorance makes me feel helpless, makes me feel worthless to them as their mother. I can only be as transparent as possible and seek the wisdom I lack from other sources. It will take a village to raise these children, even if that village is current convening via Zoom.

As the coronavirus and the protests slip from the news (yet both continue to happen), I cringe at the thought of the next surreal event to come surging on the horizon. I’ve heard murder hornets, asteroid, Yellowstone volcano. I can’t even tell the different between real and sensationally fake news anymore. At this point, I would not be entirely surprised (or upset) if alien overlords decided to land.

I only hope these major events channel us towards change. I hope a global pandemic directs us to better healthcare. I hope protests demand equality and justice. I am happy to suffer (especially at this low grade inconvenienced level of suffering) for things to get better.

 

Christina Bergling

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This pandemic is going to change everything. That goes without saying. Globally, that is a given, at least in the short term until history wears the ridges down smooth. But it is reshaping my life personally. Beyond the ways it will impact my children and the literal experiences of quarantine, more than the surface changes and logistics, I can feel it undermining deeper, rippling farther into me and into my life.

These events and situations are bringing out the worst traits in people, myself very much included. So much ugly and unsavory is rising out of people I know, people I love, exposing and highlighting things I didn’t see or chose to ignore. Confronting those realities upsets me, leaves me questioning which relationships I want to maintain and return to on the other side of this and which might be best left to wither in isolation.

I understand the psychology and the sociology of it. I can see what fear is doing to people just as I am aware of what fear is doing to me. Yet understanding the dynamic doesn’t make what it exposes less unappealing.

The pandemic definitely surprised me. Maybe it shouldn’t have, but the response definitely has not. How governments, people en masse, or my people close to me have reacted is not unexpected. I am not surprised at all… I am just disappointed. Disappointed to my core. We can do better. We can be better. And I must be clinging to some kind of hope because my resistance to the reality is infuriating at times.

I honestly do not know what the hell I am doing–with any of this. I feel lost and just wrong most of the time. I am just guessing wildly and winging it, hoping I am not fucking it all up. More, I’m just holding back and playing it safe, waiting because I don’t know, holding my breath because we have high risk in our house and I’m unwilling to gamble with it.

My mind runs rampant over the possibilities, swims and drowns in the “what ifs” and “maybes.” One minute, we need to stay in strictest quarantine to keep our high risk out of the hospital; the next, I’m just being a paranoid hermit, and we need to go out again. One minute, we are just going to be home watching TV and ordering carryout for a few months; the next, it’s something so much bigger. One minute, infection is inevitable and necessary for herd immunity; the next, we have to avoid everyone to not catch it. One minute, the state is coming out of lockdown too early; the next, lockdown isn’t the right approach.

Am I crazy and paranoid for being so cautious or are so many people crazy and careless for being so cavalier? We won’t know until it’s all over. But we play it safe because we don’t get to take it back, and it’s not just about us, and we don’t want to do hospitalizations again.

My mind whirls so wildly that I lose all orientation and forget my instincts. I am constantly having to sort through the wreckage in my head (generally caused by exposure to stupidity on the internet or unpleasant interactions with loved ones) to unearth myself again. I always find the same thing and wonder how the fuck I keep losing it.

Reeling. I think we’re all just reeling. Posting articles and memes about how we should be dealing with and coming out of lockdown when we don’t even know what it means or how it will go yet. Talking about reaching a peak we won’t be able to identify until it is far behind us. We are all just desperate to quantify what hasn’t even finished happening yet. The situation is big and unknown and terrifying, so we all want to scramble to the other side and look back on it, but we are not there yet.

We don’t know where we are yet. Beginning, middle… I just have to take it one day at a time slowly and remind myself that this too shall pass. Right now, I have that luxury and will take it. If I think much beyond that, I might go into that rabbit hole in my mind again.

 

If we are honest with ourselves, none of us know what we are doing. We have educated guesses and informed hypotheses. We can look to the past with the Spanish flu or other pandemics and we can build numerous varied data models, but we do not know how this will play out, what will happen. In that shared blindness, we are all truly together.

This pandemic/quarantine experience is definitely amplified for me by being a parent. It would be different if it was just me or just me and my partner. My children change everything for me.

Risk and hardship were different when we did not have children. If it was just us and we got sick or died, that would be one (awful) thing, even with high risk in the equation. However, with the kids, if any of us got sick or died, it would become a whole other thing with so many more repercussions. Just like we would have bought a house we loved in one neighborhood if it was just us but never with children, the considerations are just different. Everything is more complicated with them, for better and worse. He and I have done hospitalizations and situations that could have killed us before, but their young fear and confusion adds something else.

Beyond the constant, smothering extra layer of worry I harbor for them through all this, they look to me. For information. For example. For an indication of how to act and react. In situations like these, the degree of transparency I share with my children can easily turn ugly. Not that I will turn away to hide now, it just makes things challenging to bare some of the hard truth for them.

My children went from an extended family and a “commune” and teachers (in school and activities) and friends and acquaintances to being encapsulated in only the family unit. While the family is benefiting, recovering from some neglect that came from so much so fast, there are also such huge, gaping voids. There are roles and influences that we simply cannot fill within these walls or on the flat screen of a Zoom call. There are things lost in these formative times for them.

Right now, I am so glad I have more than one child. Just as our family has this time to be together as schedules did not previously allow, quarantine is creating even more sibling time for my children. I watch them bond, relating the way only siblings (biological or not) sharing a life can, solidifying a relationship through entangled, bizarre experience. I think about the way going through this, whatever it may turn out to be ultimately, together will mean to them and their relationship.

I would not want my children to have to survive my floundering and shortcomings through this pandemic stuck in this house alone. I did not want them to have to survive me (and their father) alone in life in general, which is one major reason we have more than one child. In this moment as a parent, I am so grateful it is not just me. I am glad to spread the burden and influence between myself and their father and sibling, to shoulder it all together. I am not enough. Sometimes, even with other contributions and help, I feel like I am not enough as a mother.

As I said, I have no fucking idea what I’m doing. And maybe it’s better that my kids know that. Maybe it’s better that they know that we never have any idea what we’re doing, that we’re all fumbling our way through life and making a spectacular mess of it along the way, hoping for the best. Or maybe that will only scare the shit out of them and compound their trauma. To no surprise, I have no idea. Like all things in this pandemic (and predating it), I am just winging it here. Doing my best, crossing my fingers, and toasting the hope with my wine (of which I am drinking more of locked in these walls).

Christina Bergling

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Pandemic and quarantine have done strange things to my creativity. While I have more time that I could devote to my pursuits, my focus and my motivation are periodically paralyzed. I am off balance in this situation, and in struggling to find my balance, I am also endeavoring to find ways to interpret and express the new ways I’m experiencing my artistic emotions.

Writing has been a particular struggle. Fiction seems largely pointless. I don’t want to write about viruses or pandemics or quarantines, but another other setting or premise seems mute at the moment. And the last thing I want to do is force myself. I am reserving that energy for caging my extroverted self within my own walls and homeschooling my energetic children.

I have always loved photography, being in front of and behind the lens. I can’t shoot with Pratique Photography (or any other photographers) right now, and even if I could, now does not seem like the time for fake blood. Yet I needed something to process my confined experience.  I decided to play with the concept of a selfie series, inspired by the bipolar concept shot with Randy Poe Photography.

I wanted to capture all my varied quarantine emotions, so my quarantine selfie series ended up being almost my stages of quarantine.

Imbalance

Denial

Teacher

Tethered

Depression

Paranoia

Worry

Isolation

Quiet

Lethargy

Altered

Suffocation

As a side note, it did deeply irk my writer brain that the titles of the photos are not congruent (Depressed, Suffocated, Isolated OR Depression, Suffocation, Isolation). However, I couldn’t bring myself to trade the word I wanted to fit a pattern.

 

Christina Bergling

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As a writer (specifically in the horror genre), I have imagined many diverse situations and places, written numerous scary and fantastical scenarios. I have dreamed up what I think the apocalypse could look like in more than one way. Yet I never imagined a global pandemic or living in quarantine, and even if I had, I don’t think I would have painted it like this.

When the quarantine started, I told myself that I would capitalize on the confined time, that I would force myself to finally finish editing my novel, catch up on this blog, do all the writing and authorly things. Those things have not happened. Lockdown has had a strange paralytic effect on my motivation. While I have cleaned all the things (more than once) and have creativity climbing the sides of my brain, I seem inept in expressing and channeling it lately.

While my creative writing has temporarily abandoned me, I do find myself falling back to journalling. It makes sense since I only turn to that page to unravel my mind when it is confused or contorted. And it only seems right to document what this looks like and feels like for later.

So, instead of stories, here are random streams of consciousness that I have been processing through…

One month in quarantine. It is strange to say and even more weird how it has become a new normal in that time. Life has stopped for this. It is surreal, unprecedented. The entire experience is so bizarre that it is difficult to wrap my head around at different moments.

Quarantine did not begin very smoothly for us. Our home revolted against having its residents inside so much. A pipe broke and flooded the basement. Then as we rotated towels through the dryer trying to deal with that, the dryer broke. Then cleaning a bathroom, a pipe under the sink started leaking. Repairing that, the adjacent pipe cracked and also started leaking. That pipe was not standard so took multiple attempts to fix (ultimately in another nonstandard way). The dryer belt had to be special ordered, and Amazon delivered a motor before delivering the correct belt. Our dog pounced on a window and cracked it, so it had to be taped together. For a while, I was scared to breathe too hard or touch anything, lest a wall just fall down or something else start spurting water.

The first two weeks were the hardest. They always are. It is amazing how much about myself I learned in my very brief time in Iraq. From how fucking miserable I was in Baghdad, I knew I would be OK after two weeks–and I was. That is my adaptation period. Then I slipped into some kind of acceptance, some kind of complacency.

I haven’t really left the house at all in these weeks. I have run an errand or two, taken my kid to a doctor checkup. That’s it. I stopped running. I haven’t seen anyone except my parents through the front window. Every day is the same, except some days I don’t work or fail at homeschooling. We have deep cleaned the entire house. This is the exact opposite of my pre-COVID life. While I did want to simplify and reign in everything, this is the exact opposite of the life I want. And yet global pandemic offers such an overshadowing perspective. It is bigger than me or my wants or my inconveniences.

True to humans, the stupidity in our reactions eclipses the danger in the actual situation. Despite the fact that the vast majority of the species will survive the virus, people have decided this is the end. They have panic bought all the toilet paper, meat, bread, and eggs. They ransack the stores and stand in endless lines to buy things that make no sense and will spoil before they consume them. Our comfort is showing when we fall apart at the mere suggestion of tragedy. We don’t even have to see it. We won’t know what to do when it’s real. I feel all the same disgust I felt after Iraq, the same disillusionment and disappointment.

Most Americans have enjoyed a very comfortable, sheltered, and entitled existence for generations. Most of us have never felt discomfort or fear like this before so insulated in our decadent comfort. Wars have raged for decades so distant that we have been able to live on as if they were never happening at all. At the slightest rattle, we are willing to fight for toilet paper that won’t save us. I can’t shake the perspective of how much worse it could be, how much more real and awful the world has always been for other people.

So I, the whiny depressive perpetually discontent, am strangely acceptant and complacent in all this. As others around me complain about the end of the world and mourn the nonessential things they are losing or delaying, I just haven’t. It’s uncharacteristic of me, this zen perspective. I hate staying in; I hate when plans change; the kids being home stresses me out. I should be freaking out. I distantly worry about what will ultimately happen with all of this, but otherwise I am satisfied with this being for the greater good.

What the fuck? That’s not me.

I think about my grandfather losing his mother and siblings to the influenza epidemic in Chicago in the 1920s. I think about all the reports I read in Iraq where that was people’s daily reality. I want to save the panic and despair for where it belongs, which is vividly ironic since I had been pinned under depression for months right before this. Unwarranted and beyond characteristic depression. Three months unrelenting, unheard of since I was a lost teenager drowning myself in depressants. I could not figure out what triggered it or how to get out from under it. Yet it dissolved in the face of this global pandemic. In the face of this global pandemic, I snapped into this calm perspective.

Yet, it is not as simple as awkward acceptance. My emotions are never so simple.

There is also such a feeling of derailment. Prior to quarantine, despite the lies my depression tried to whisper to me, life was going very well. My children, in particular, were honestly in such great places, moving smoothly along such fantastic trajectories–and now that’s all gone. It’s a touch heartbreaking, but that is how life goes sometimes. You can’t rage against a global pandemic.

My paranoia grows legs sometimes and begins to walk away with me. I swing between it being an inevitable virus we will all endure and become immune to and agoraphobia to keep my husband out of the hospital until after the theoretical peak.

I stumble across such pockets of rage in my complacency. I am fine until something tips me off balance. If I feel like shit or get overwhelmed or another pipe starts leaking, the entire house of cards implodes in my head. The flash fire rages over me, and I feel alive again before settling back into this flatline of complacency.

I miss life. I miss everyone and everything. If I really consider it, it rips my heart out. Doing everything over a computer screen or through a glass window or six feet away is terrible.

However, I know from previous unpleasant chapters, that life does not miss me. It continues on unaffected, as if I never existed, and will welcome me back when I return, as if I never left. Because just as my problems do not matter to the pandemic, my absence does not matter to the world. But I know (or so I tell myself), from my own past chapters and from my grandfather surviving the influenza epidemic, that this will pass. It may be a long and messy chapter, but it will close, and life will be on the other side, waiting.

That life from before March is GONE–for now. And for a long while. As much as I can (and probably will) grieve that, I just don’t right now.

Instead, I worry constantly about what this will do to my children. How this will scare and shape them; how they will interpret, process, and internalize this; how this will affect their social development and education; on and on. But this is their chapter to live. I know I can’t choose it for them or shield them from it any more than I could change my parents getting divorced or the Twin Towers coming down or the car coming into my mother-in-law’s lane. I never wanted to shelter my children from life. Instead, I need to keep my shit together and teach them how to deal. This all will be so formative, and I can make that better or worse as their mother.

I hope there is normalcy and recovery on the other side of this. I know normalcy is never promised; I know life is never promised. But I also know that humanity and society persist after so many varied catastrophies. Right now, it is the unknown, and that’s terrifying. In truth, every day is unknown, but they all look deceivingly safe and familiar. Once that veil is pulled aside though, we are so fundamentally shaken. I am fundamentally shaken right now. For many reasons. Which leaves everything around me feeling surreal. And I fear the longer we shelter (hide) alone in our houses, the more distorted things will become.

I am quite curious, assuming things return to normal, about the psychological/sociological/cultural effects of all this. What weird ticks will my kids develop from this experience? Compulsive hand washing? Paper goods hoarding? Will people interact the same after or will there be social distancing echoes? After going more virtual, will we come back to the physical? Seeing all the flaws in our systems, will we make changes or just be complacent again? I want to be on the other side asking these questions, not here in the shadow of the incoming wave.

Yet I cannot complain about our individual quarantine. I acknowledge that I write this from a place of privilege where I am still fully employed with access to all the things I need. I haven’t lost my job yet from the shutdowns or the economic response. I am not a healthcare worker or other essential employee that has to be out dealing with people. Our only exposure scare turned out to be false. We are, at worse, currently inconvenienced.

If you took our situation out of context, you could assume it was all deliberate. We are both still fully employed. We have food, shelter, internet. We could be seen to be homeschooling our children and living that simplified life we set intention toward this year. However, it is the causality that changes things, everything that is happening outside this house. It is the involuntary disconnect and isolation that makes this different. It is the big, scary unknown looming out in the world that makes this different.

“Live deep and suck out all the marrow of life” is what I have been quoting to myself for years, what I have tattooed into my wrist. I told myself I would not waste days or minutes because there was no guarantee on how many I had or how many of them would be good. While I have always manifested that mantra by going out and doing all the things and filling every second of my life, it doesn’t mean I can’t extract value from the quieter times I’m experiencing now. Just because quarantine is not what I want does not mean it has to be all bad.

All of this quiet family time is not a bad thing. All of this forced simplicity is not a bad thing. If we have to be here, we might as well find good things about the time. We might as well use it to our advantage rather than be miserable. It doesn’t work every day; some days, the cards fall, and I’m a fucking mess. But some days, I listen to the kids play made up games for hours in a way we never had time for before.

I will edit my novel, if it kills me. I will find my way out of the journal and back into my fictitious writing. I have a couple other projects in mind to outlet the writhing creative energy. If I can keep my mind busy, perhaps I can keep it calm as this situation unfolds.

 

Christina Bergling

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