Saturday, March 21, 2020

I’ve Got No Book in Me

All I can ever do is write.

All I can ever do is shape-shift my private woes until, I hope, I offer story. As writer, I’m an alchemist. I’ll transform my experiences in some uber-act of democratic artistry. My particular stories, for you . . .

Strangely, global epidemic or pandemic happening, Covid-19 shutting down the world, I’m suffering from—of all things—“writer’s block.” It isn’t that I’m speechless. No, not that.

Rather—would you believe it?—I feel like this isn’t my battle. I’ve fought a few. My battles were mostly fought over religion and marriage and cancer. And books, too: of course books. (Am I dying? Is this my death knell?) I hope I have further battles ahead of me; I do. But, I seem to lack the call to write, to share my plight and render it universal. I am not compelled to map out this coronavirus experience.

Alas, I’m still doing stuff. I’m staying home, worrying about toilet paper, trying to keep the kids from killing each other. But I’m okay. I have nothing to complain about.

I’m alone with four people, and it’s tough—but it’s good too. I mean, I love my kids and my husband. Truth!

My pets think this is a great big party. I’m serious. During this first quarantined week, one of my daughters dragged her mattress into the other daughter’s bedroom (the novelty of this wore out TODAY—she’s moving), and the dog burrowed into the blanket mess. The cats are a tad miffed by our exceedingly great presence—but they’re pretty in-your-face felines—so it’s a BLAST.

We’re okay on food. It’ll run out, yes, but we’re fine right now. Tim’s going to start complaining about his need for whole milk yogurt soon.

Our jobs are taking a hit, undoubtedly, but it’s also okay. We can do remote work. This may be the one time that educators can truly celebrate our plight. They need us.

We have friends, faith, books, Netflix, Hulu.

I finished chemo a while ago. So I guess my immune system is not compromised.

I had no essential doctor appointments on the horizon. I will need to color my hair soon.

My kids’ school is on top of things. Next week, they enter google classrooms!

My last book came out in January, missing the DOA-routine some of my friends are encountering with their new novels. (I truly commiserate with my fellow-writers and artists who have to experience this unhappy fizzle. Ugh. I’m sorry.)

In the midst of Covid-19, we still sleep at night. We still laugh a lot. We still cuddle even. We’ve got fart jokes and personality flaws and someone’s always grabbing the new-ish cat (we’ve had Beesly—named after Pam Beesly in “The Office”—since August).

There have been good times! I’ve rather enjoyed the White House press conferences, and our sense of a global community. And, really, I gotta say that I do see many, many, many people rising to the occasion in tremendous ways.

All of this is not to say that there have been no losses for me personally. There have been.

Um, toilet paper?

I’m very, very, very high-strung, and either I’m imagining it or it’s true: chest pains. (Is this my death knell after all?) Tim says, “It’s stress.”

I say, “I’ve been stressed for my whole life. This isn’t any different.”

But yeah.

So I’m worried about that. And:

Will I run out of cream for my coffee? And:

I’m worried about my husband, who’s not keen on staying-home 24/7. He can do it for a bit—but weeks? Months? And:

My kids ARE restless. I think school will be okay, but they’ll miss big things. And:

My big book debut/launch/premiere at Changing Hands Bookstore was canceled or, well, postponed. As were two breakfasts I was scheduled to appear at. And my writing retreat that was out-of-state this spring. Book sales probably stopped. Book promo seems trite. Book kaput? And:

I can’t believe it, but I seem to have three friends with symptoms! All three have been tested and they’re waiting for results. And:
I wonder about health issues, the economy, the unhappiness in the lives of some of my sequestered friends, the planet really, the fate of Dr. Fauci. But:

As it should happen. I was looking for a job. This was a lousy semester for me financially (I’m an adjunct English professor). My Cancer-Card has expired, and I need more work. Full-time work.

But the job search ceased with this quarantine—just like that.

Now, I’m home all day, every day.

As it should happen: I’m here for you kids!


My writing, though.

This is the first piece of writing I’ve done since the onslaught of Covid-19.

How do I explain my “silence”?

I guess I’d say this: it’s not my moment.

I’ve been all about the privatized moment, the bittersweet spot between girlhood innocence and marital criminality, the existential crisis of cancer, the overblown Gen X-ness of my life. This, this “cultural moment,” is for my children. It’s their 9/11, their assassination of John Lennon on the Upper Westside.

I keep urging my children to write it out, talk about that Saturday we went to WinCo, Trader Joe’s, and Fry’s. Tell me about the paper goods, the canned beans, the empty meat shelves. Write about what makes all your friends so blasé. Write write write, I say.

Because, this time, I’m not doing it.
Girls, this one is for you.

Yes, I’m staying home.

I like a good quarantine.

I got my people, my books.

But this isn’t my story.  

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