Distantly Social

It’s been over a year since I last updated this site.

Welcome to 2021, I suppose.

It’s hard to convey what life has been like since March 2020, when my husband and I went into lockdown shortly before the rest of the country joined in. We’ve moved. Twice. We watched two Tour de Frances. We’ve cooked. A lot.

We did not make any sourdough bread. Nor did I take up gardening. (I probably would have, but would have involved having a yard or, at least, a cat that did not insist on eating every plant in her vicinity.)

From March 2020 to October 2020, I left our 700 square foot apartment three times. Once to walk around the block. Once to stand outside of our apartment and talk to a friend. Once to go to the doctor’s for a flu shot–which seemed somewhat silly, as you have to catch the flu from somebody and we saw nobody.

We lived on the top floor of our building, one of those new ones that are all over New York City–built out of matchsticks, glue, and a little bit of spit (not that we knew that at the time). The roof started leaking in five very different spots.

So away we went.

Being mid-pandemic, pre-vaccine, and planning on moving out of the country if Trump was re-elected, we put most of our stuff in storage and rented a furnished month-to-month place a few blocks away.

While the roof was several stories above us and, as far as we could tell, behaving properly, our ceiling and walls had rats. And our upstairs neighbors had an unfortunate condition: extreme idiocy, which manifested in symptoms of pandemic denial and mask allergies.

Once the election passed and we determined that this country was at least another couple of years from sinking into the morass of the great unwashed, we moved into our own place.

That was late May. Now four months in, the roof has held and our new neighbors are the pleasant sort that wear masks in the hallways and keep to themselves.

Since the pandemic began, I have been… not unable to read, but having great difficulty. Fiction is easy–especially genre fiction. Everything else? A struggle. I have gone from reading a couple of books a week to a couple of books a month, assuming it’s a good month.

I can’t focus.

I thought that I would read so much during the pandemic, being that I would not be going out adventuring all the time. All those hours freed up. Instead, I would pick up a book, read a few pages, realize I had absorbed nothing, and set it down. Again and again. Book after book. All of these books I want to read, sitting right there… unread.

So much of my identity is–has been?–about reading. Ever since I learned how to read, I have rarely been far from a book.

My parents had to negotiate with me when I was little, I could only read during dinner every other night. Those nights where I was not allowed my book, I would inhale my food and get back to my pages.

I would walk and read. Trips to the grocery store, I would trail behind my mom, nose in a book. I only walked into a pole once–in a Home Depot–when I was in my early teens.

Family road-trips, six to eight hours in the car, I would pack my books into two grocery bags, content to be in the car all day as long as the roads weren’t windy–I would get motion-sick but keep reading until I was on the edge of puking.

As an adult, I would go out to dinner by myself, sit and read in the restaurant. Go to the movies, sit and read while I waited for the show to begin. When I needed a new purse, I would bring a big paperback with me to make sure whatever purse I was considering could fit all of my stuff and a book. If it couldn’t, I wouldn’t buy it.

My ideal afternoons always involved me sitting somewhere with a book and a coffee–for hours. I would spend entire days this way.

Now I can’t. My brain, whatever is going on up there, doesn’t allow it. Too much stress, I suppose. Some weeks, I am able to read a nonfiction book and I enjoy the hell out of it. The rest of the time, it’s genre. I love genre, don’t misunderstand. But, as I’ve aged, I’ve tilted much more to nonfiction.

As I type, next to me is an anatomy of yoga book, a history of trolley cars, a history of railroads in America, a history of the interstate system, a history of the FDA, a history of Chicago, a history of Broadway (the street, not the institution), a running guide, a sociology book on traffic, and that’s only what’s in the bedroom–most of my books are in the living room.

I’ve had trouble adjusting, answering the question of who I am when I am not a reader. When I am not reading. When I can’t even walk into a bookstore.

Who am I now? What is of value to me? What do I do with myself? What do I do with these hours that are no longer occupied with books?

A year and a half later, I still don’t know. I do my best. I read a book here and there. On the rare occasion I go out for coffee, I take a book and find a place outside to read. And that’s nice. Almost feels normal.