There Are Two Americas Now, the Sick and the Bored
The art of balancing immense grief with a rich indoor life
A month ago, I had plans. I had a calendar filled with events I looked forward to: a friend’s DJ set, a reporting trip to the Pacific Northwest, a dinner party with my cookbook club. I was feeling burned-out from a dating life that seemed to be going nowhere, but energized professionally. While on the shortlist for the kind of New York-style journalism job that rarely occurs out here in Los Angeles, I remember thinking, It’s going to be a career year. Now we’re all stuck inside, and millions are filing for unemployment. And that journalism job has evaporated, too.
It has not been difficult for me to hunker down. As a freelance writer, I’ve worked from home for the majority of the last decade. I am also single and childless, a combination of usually frustrating factors which for the first time ever has placed me in an enviable position in that I don’t have to worry about taking care of anyone else, or God forbid, homeschool them. Other than my new, exclusively two-dimensional social life, the day-to-day fabric of my life today does not look so different from my life last month — or even last year. I continue to live alone in a 600-square-foot studio apartment filled with things that I love, with lots of art on the walls and thriving plants and the cat I adopted in college. I’m always happy to be here. Even now, when I cannot leave.
I’ve had a head start on learning to live with grief this year after a dear friend died of terminal cancer. At the time, I couldn’t imagine the year getting any worse. Now I see her timing as a blessing: As a person at high risk of having severe Covid-19 who lived in the city now at the center of the global pandemic, she didn’t have to die alone, the way so many do now, and was spared an ending even worse than the brutal one she suffered.
My friend Lizzie’s life motto was: Yes! She said yes to everything, and even had the word hung above her mantle in big red block letters. She didn’t want to miss out on anything, wanted to have fun always, and eat at her favorite restaurants all the time. I try to operate this way, too, but lately there’s a disconcerting dissonance, bordering on tone-deafness. We are now living in two Americas, stacked on…