The dark and the light
Updated: Nov 6, 2021
How are you doing out there? A lot has changed in the past couple of weeks, and we are in the midst of the light and the dark. Which seems fitting as we are on the cusp of the darkest day of the year, winter solstice.
Here in California most of us are under stay-at-home orders as the virus runs through so many of our population, and our hospital situation recalls the somber days of spring in New York and Italy. So many dying, the numbers keep getting bigger every single day. And a vaccine is here. A highly effective vaccine, apparently. I'm amazed by this development, but I'm hesitant to regard it as salvation yet. There are so many things that need to happen to get vaccine shots into people's arms, and our federal government's ability to respond has been hampered by ineptitude from the start. Even with the incoming Biden administration I wonder if we have been so hobbled that it will take not months, but years to finally reach something akin to immunity stateside. It's clear that global immunity could take a generation. I don't want to be a downer about it, I want to feel hopeful and I especially want to see our caregivers protected and our students back in school. But I can't do a happy dance yet. Many millions of people in other countries don't have a hope of getting the vaccine anytime soon. There are daunting hurdles to clear that we don't even know about yet.
That being said, I was very moved to see the people getting the first vaccinations, and I was also glad to see that our elders in vulnerable situations are to be next in line. There has been an underlying vibe of "let 'em die, they're old anyway" from some of our political leaders, and in some cases, an overt case made that old people should sacrifice their end years so the rest of us can shop and eat in restaurants. Save the economy, as if that is the job of individuals and not government. Part of me is surprised that our elders were not told to go last so the rest of us who spend more money could get back to "normal".
Ageism is a huge problem in this country, and I do think it's worse in America than in other places. It reflects our need as a country to always project strength, eternal optimism, and dynamism. We haven't been very creative in how we include wisdom and experience as part of our national character, and one could easily make the case that we discount these two things for the excitement of youthful exuberance. Even if that means repeating mistakes and making catastrophic decisions that hurt our national interest. Ageism is singularly peculiar in the suite of
"isms" because unlike race or gender, we are all moving inexorably toward becoming that thing that our culture despises: old. And in being ageist, we deny the reality that old age is coming for us.
The death of so many older and elderly people during the pandemic is more than a tragedy, it has cost us thousands of stories that will now never be told. Personal history, family narrative, perspective. It's a piercing loss, and I hope distribution of the vaccine in our elder care homes will help stem this tide of death.
I have taken note that there has been very little of the normal end-of-year wrap up that usually comes as the year closes and January calls. Who wants to re-live this year, even in snappy and colorful little segments? Also, not a lot of New Year resolution chatter either. I think many of us are sharing the same resolution: stay healthy, avoid getting the virus.
This resolution was almost upended in my household this week. My husband, who has been working in th
e field steadily since the pandemic started, was exposed to a co-worker who was diagnosed with an active case of covid the next day. This immediately started the scramble of scheduling tests, isolating from each other in our small home, and sending texts to contacts. It was a hard slap from the leather whip of Madame Covid, who enjoys punishing those who let their guard drop for even a moment. That was the final nail in the coffin of our modest Christmas plan. (My test came back negative, we are still waiting on Andrew's, but he is showing no signs of sickness almost 2 weeks after exposure.)
I think in place of new year resolutions for 2021, there is a larger reckoning of how we want to move forward with all that we've learned about ourselves in 2020. We know that new year resolutions are temporary by nature and I think that a search for something of more substance and longer lasting than a week or a month is in the offing. I doubt it was a coincidence when two different podcasts in my feed this week posted episodes about the futility of American-style productivity, and its unfulfilled promise of contentment. I stopped playing the productivity game a long time ago after burning myself down to a little pile of ashes attempting to maximize my ceramics business. I slowly replaced my bad patterns with routines and habits that actually work for me, which necessitated giving up self-flagellation for not working at peak output at all times. My business is smaller because of it, but I also have s
pace for other things in my life that I'm interested in.
_I think about my future self. She’s more organized, in better shape. She wakes up early, she’s a great friend and she has really nice hair. I think I’m scared that if I don’t get to everything on all my to-do lists, I might never get to be her. Instead I’ll feel like I’ve wasted my time._
Productivity Won't Save You- Rheema Khrais, This is Uncomfortable podcast
_And yet the truth is that more often than not, techniques designed to enhance one’s personal productivity seem to exacerbate the very anxieties they were meant to allay._
Why Time Management is Ruining Our Lives- Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian Long Reads podcast
One last thing, while I'm on about podcasts. I just listened to a podcast series about Bay Area homelessness, specifically Alameda county homelessness. Alameda county was my home for the 23 years that I lived in Oakland, and I watched as tents started springing up where you never thought a tent would be, especially in the last couple of years I was there. So this podcast drew me in. It has that mix of story, education, and good reporting that makes for something that can lead to a deeper understanding of why homelessness persists in the richest country in the world. This show was produced by 99% Invisible, a podcast about the hidden side of design and architecture, and it's telling that a popular podcast like this would expand its storytelling into the hidden side of our social architecture .
The way homelessness has exploded in California over the last decade, you’d think there was no system in place to address it. But there is one — it just wasn’t designed to help everyone. -Katie Mingle, According to Need podcast
I hope you are staying safe, healthy, and sane, staying occupied with the things you like to do, caring for the people in your life. I will see ya'll in 2021!