The World We Now Live In

September 14th, 2021

In the car, 10:15am. It’s a school day, but Eliza is with me because she’s having a lot of anxiety about her new school and all the recent changes in her life. I let her spend the morning with me under the condition that she go to school after our errands. Now we are driving on a dirt back road from the vet, with Luka screaming bloody murder in the cat carrier on the passenger seat.

The vet has just told me that Luka has a “galloping heart,” which may indicate a heart condition. I should keep an eye on her in case she needs to see a specialist. I nodded while the vet explained this, trying to look concerned as I thought, “Nope.”

Eliza is in the back seat grappling out loud with her indecision about whether she can handle going to school today. She has a lot of questions for me, and needs much reassurance. I have to ask her to “talk a little louder,” repeatedly, so I can hear her whining over the cat’s screaming.

I have had to pee for two hours. I have not had a sip of water or anything to eat. My blood sugar has bottomed out, my mouth is dry, I am getting the beginnings of a dehydration headache, there’s pressure in my sinuses from the cold I am trying to get over (my second in a month), and my back and neck are out of whack from a bad night’s sleep. I can’t turn my stiff neck enough to actually see Eliza in her carseat, so I am trying to make eye contact in the rearview mirror as I drive down Bonnyvale Road.

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I finally sit down at my desk at 10:48 and open up my email. Below the reminder from the school soccer coach that I need to magically materialize cleats and shinguards by tomorrow in a rural sporting goods market bereft of supply, and above the New York Times daily report of the world going to hell in a handbasket, is a marketing message from a local friend, yoga teacher and wellness advocate Amanda Upton. She’s really rad. I love her emails, although I never ever ever have time to act on them or even read through them fully, for that matter.

Today’s message is “What’s your self-care mood today?” The options run the gamut from Zen Mood (candles, incense, calming music meditation, yoga, mantra, inner peace) to Pampering Mood (spa day, homemade face mask, nail polish, mani/pedis, long bubble bath, chocolate). 

I think, “If I have a self-care mood today it’s Fuck. It. All.”

Then I see that one of the options is “Writer Mood” (journaling, headphones, indie music, writing, feeling feelings, pajamas). That actually sounds about right.

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One of the things that’s different about public school is that we get an alarming automated phone message from the school superintendent every Sunday afternoon. Last week, he wove in the COVID update at the end of a long, rambling soliloquy I only listened to in full because I’m a rule follower. But this week, he started with it right off the bat: Two more schools in our district have classrooms closed and are quarantining because of COVID cases.

Just as I found myself thinking “Is this the world we now live in?” I heard him say “Yes, this is the world we are living in right now.”

I miss the Beforetimes, when my anxiety level was always very high, but in retrospect, manageable. That was before it felt like the fate of my family and my sanity was in the hands of a small (but not small enough) group of extremists who refuse to get vaccinated because of “intuition” and “feelings” and “don’t tell me what to do” and “I read this random thing on the internet once that has since been disproved but I refuse to read the follow-up literature because I’ve already decided to die on this hill.” Before every stress-induced sniffle caused massive COVID concern and every small decision about seeing other people felt life or death. Before I became intensely well-versed in the emotional story told by my daughters eyebrows because I often can’t see most of their faces under her mask.

Before I had to crouch down on the pavement in front of the school multiple times in one morning and try to convince my six-year-old that she will be safe if she goes to school, and I will be safe while she is there — even if I don’t totally believe these things myself. 

“The path is uncharted. It comes into existence moment by moment and at the same time drops away behind us. It’s like riding on a train sitting backwards. We can’t see where we’re headed, only where we’ve been. This is a very encouraging teaching, because it says that the source of wisdom is whatever is going to happen to us today. The source of wisdom is whatever is happening to us right at this very instant.”

― Pema Chödrön


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