Sheltering 1: Things I Have Learned

1. More than twelve years of working from home as a freelancer / solopreneur / writer has prepared me quite well. I already have a home office set up, I already know how to divide my time and focus and still get things done, even though I’m at home. But this isn’t the same as “working from home,” of course. This is “working during a pandemic.”

2. Why do I wear so many things that are so uncomfortable? It’s hard to justify even “getting dressed,” so why bother wearing things that don’t improve my life? I actually like jeans, though I know not everyone does; I tend to buy the stretchy ones so they are very comfortable and don’t restrict movement. I’m still pretty much every day in a black tee shirt. I hope we can all wear more of what we want to going forward, and less of what doesn’t feel good.

3. Amazing all of the things that we thought we needed to get outside of the home, that we thought we needed to spend a lot of money on, that for me are actually just fine at home. Examples: Haircuts. Eating out at restaurants. Going to the movie theater.

4. I miss the gym. Road trips. Fruit picking at U-pick farms. Body work of all kinds, from massage and acupuncture to pedicures and facials. There’s a lot of overlap between beauty and health. But there’s a lot that I don’t miss.

5. I don’t miss driving everywhere. Being in traffic for hours. All the time between tasks, going from the gym to the grocery store to the cafe to the practitioner’s office.

6. I don’t miss all the time with friends. I miss my friends, sure, but I think I have a lot more socializing than I need or even want, in part because my partner needs it, and in part because I say yes when people ask. Noticing that I don’t really miss it and I’d rather be by myself most of the time is very interesting, very good information.

7. I have been remaking the plans that I made six months ago. It’s all different now. I can’t rely on what was true in November and December. Things I thought I’d do this year are no longer — so what am I going to do? I’m doing a lot of online work, that’s for sure, but that’s not it exactly either.

8. I’m struck by how different this experience is for folks in different situations. I’m sheltering with a partner and cat and dog — not with kids who are usually in school and can’t see friends and are somehow expected to get school work done. Not with roommates I don’t get along with. Not solo, starving for touch. Not working outside of my home at all, not on the front lines, not at a grocery store, not policing the public and whether they are following physical distancing or wearing a mask. I am very privileged in this and I’m aware of that, and I’m grateful for what I have.

9. But I’m also assessing what I have. For me it’s been a huge pause, a vast time of going inward and listening. Quieting. I love it. The opportunity for focus, for clarity. There’s also vast amounts of numbness and confusion, anxiety and stress and fear, of course. But in the moments I can rest in the safety I do have, I can go to another level of assessment about my life and the trajectory of my family and my capital-W Work in the world. Things were already starting to change, but the timeline was longer than it is now. Now, the timeline is different. In some ways, everything is different.

10. I hope we can keep the learnings we are getting from this. The pleasure from cooking at home. How little we actually need to shop or buy things. How much it matters that we have time in our gardens and with our puzzles and crafts. How lovely it is to connect with people long distance. How great our sweatpants are. I hope we can keep that, as we mourn and grieve the over 100,000 who have died in the US, as we work to protect ourselves from the news and the kleptocratic government, as we figure out how to go forward.

14 ways of looking at New York

  1. Fall is absolutely my favorite time of year. Fall is New York’s very best season. Let me always visit New York in the fall.
  2. There are so few dogs in New York City. This makes me inexplicably sad.
  3. I can’t write about New York without talking about New York as an ex-lover, as a former sanctuary that now is only causes pain when I think about it.
    a) It is easier for me to be in a relationship with NYC when I’m alone. My favorite times here were wandering the city alone, engaging, observing; the smells, the energy, when my attention is really devoted to the city. Maybe I am monogamous with cities. Maybe I should live in a city that has no soul such that I can have richer human connection.
    b) Sometimes it feels like NYC is the root of all of my bad decisions, all of the ghosts that haunt me.
    c) … Something as of yet unarticulatable.

  4. I ache for the past, but I don’t miss the drama.
  5. I miss New York City. I could live here. Could I live here? It’s not as scary as I remember. Except the fear, destruction, dysfunction are lurking under the surface, I know they are.
  6. And then I walk around a corner and the entire wall of some high-end sunglasses store is a motherfucking SHARK that is about to attack and I will never survive here. And I can’t even take a picture because your phone is dead and this wouldn’t translate.
  7. The bar for what behavior is “crazy” seems so much lower. “Well, that dog [on the subway] looks well fed, even if it is wearing a superman halloween costume (though it’s well past halloween) and has a pacifier around it’s neck. That homeless woman muttering to herself whom it’s attached to probably treats it okay.”
  8. The cliche of it all. Cabs honking in Times Square, traffic stopped in the intersection as the light changes. A thick male Jersey accent yells: “Shaaaat Aaaap! Knaaak it aaaff!” And everyone around me laughs. “That was perfect!” a woman with a Long Island accent next to me quips.
  9. I think I should only go to musicals alone. They make me cry and cry and cry. They are always, always worth the money. I never regret it.
  10. When the exit is at the opposite end of the train platform, I feel like an amateur.
  11. When someone passes me, walking faster than I am, on the subway platform or sidewalk, I feel like an amateur.
  12. I love New York. I’m not sure I realized it.
  13. I hate New York. I could never afford to live here again.
  14. Maybe if I lived here again, I wouldn’t be trying to figure out all those things I figured out the first time: gender orientation butch/femme lust/longing how to fight how to fuck how to heal how to survive. Maybe the next time I’ll have a vision for how NY and I could collaborate, and I wouldn’t become this hollowed out version of myself, waiting for a strong wind to blow down the Hudson and reanimate me.