Cat holding a This is Going Well mug

Standing still.

When I last sat down to try to write something here I was sitting on my cat-scratched couch, looking out my living room window at the glowing siren-sign of the shut-down Starbucks across the street. Usually when my brain is spinning and I need to sort through all my complicated thoughts I’ll take my MacBook, trudge across that street, order a hot cocoa with whipped cream and a chocolate drizzle, sit down at a table for two, and write.

But Starbucks was closed. Because the world was closed. Kind of.

That was six months ago, a few weeks into the pandemic. Back when we thought that this pandemic would only last a few weeks, be a blip on our timeline, be over before summer hit.

But here I am, here we are, nearly seven months later. And though everything has changed, not much has changed since March. We’re still in the same place. We’re still standing still. We’re still kind of fucked.

My apartment overlooks a Starbucks. So close yet so far away.

My apartment overlooks a Starbucks. So close yet so far away.

In those seven months the Starbucks remained closed for some time then opened up for mobile orders that they brought outside to a table with gloved hands and then, finally, opened up again inside, but only for orders to take away. The chairs are flipped backwards and pushed against the wall, the tables have signs forbidding people to sit, the masked baristas stand behind plexiglass dividers.

In the last seven months the world has changed several times over. My world has changed several times over.

And OK, so Starbucks closing and kind of opening is far from being the biggest change. But it is part of why I haven’t written here. Because I am here. Here in my one-bedroom apartment. A place I have barely left in nearly seven months. I don’t have that space to disconnect, to focus, to write.

But also my thoughts have been too massive to sort through. And any therapy I usually get from writing wasn’t going to scratch this surface. And I was tired. And worn out. And had little energy. And there were cats. And there was Netflix. And there was a bed. And every time I thought about writing, the world changed again. And my draft went back to square one.

I had no motivation to log in here and write. All I had were cats and Netflix and all these thoughts to distract me. Or weigh me down. Or whatever.

If I couldn't go to Disney World I guess walking to Walt Disney's birth house in Chicago was the next best thing...

If I couldn’t go to Disney World I guess walking to Walt Disney’s birth house in Chicago was the next best thing…

Over the last seven months the world has been ravaged by coronavirus. Especially here in the US where a completely unfit administration is doing everything in its power to make everything worse.

My work shut down. I started working from home full time. Luckily the perk of working in digital marketing is that even though the opera company you work may never be able to open its 3,000-seat theater again, they still, at least for the time being, need a website. But we had to cancel a lot of very big things. And some of my friends weren’t as lucky as I was.

Ford is really enjoying my work from home life.

Ford is really enjoying my work from home life.

I spent most of my summer on one specific spot on my couch, right in front of the air conditioner, the only spot in my hell-on-earth apartment that wasn’t dripping in humidity and heat. I worked there. I ate there. I watched TV there. I slept there. I lived on that one couch cushion and it now has a permanent dent.

I started and abandoned a project to learn every shadow puppet in my shadow puppet book over Instagram live. I used Instacart for the first time. I used just about every virtual meeting app there is. I wrote over fifty blog posts for my roadside attractions blog because roadside attractions don’t require as much thought as my own thoughts. I watched every season of Top Chef. I watched every season of Master Chef. I watched every season of America’s Next Top Model. I watched Tiger King.

I bought a Soda Stream. I bought bar shampoo. I bought tablet toothpaste. I bought a collection of reusable masks. I bought a weighted blanket.

I bought a weighted blanket because they are supposed to be good for anxiety but my cats haven't let me use it yet.

I bought a weighted blanket because they are supposed to be good for anxiety but my cats haven’t let me use it yet.

I cancelled a trip to New York. I cancelled a trip to Disney World. I cancelled a road trip to Casey, Illinois. I cancelled every unplanned vacation I had been planning in my head. A wedding I was supposed to attend got postponed.

The world was shaken with the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery. And Black Lives Matter protests sprung up around the nation.

A good friend died of cancer.

The only human interaction I’ve had in the last seven months that wasn’t with a grocery store checker behind a plexiglass shield was at his wake, in a room full of masked-up, six-feet apart friends who I hadn’t seen in a long while before the pandemic even started. The only hug I’ve had was with his wife, my best friend, who I couldn’t be there for like I wish I could have.

I’ve hugged my cats a lot.

It’s hard to imagine a future right now. It’s hard to imagine an end. It’s hard to imagine that there will be a time that we’re looking back at this time. Remembering when.

The world has changed many times over since I last wrote anything here. My world has changed many times over since I last wrote anything here. And I imagine it’s just going to keep changing in ways that keep us standing still.

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Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

  • Lindsey
    September 29, 2020at5:36 pm

    Thanks for writing this! You put into words what so many of us are feeling and it’s so good to read your voice again.

  • Ali
    September 30, 2020at7:06 am

    I really felt your anguish reading this. Things are still f*cked up here too, but not nearly as much as in the US. It pains me to read about what’s going on there, how bad things keep getting, how the people in charge aren’t doing anything to help and if anything are actively doing things that make it all worse. Here in Berlin, life is mostly back to normal, but with mask requirements for public transport, stores, and just about anything indoors. Tables are more spread out and bars and restaurants have taken over more of the sidewalks than they normally would so more people can sit outside. Some things, like clubs and saunas, are still closed, but for the most part, I can almost forget that this hell is still going on. And then something tiny reminds me, and it all weighs down on me all over again. To make things worse, Berlin’s covid numbers are getting worse, and I’m dreading winter even more than normal. The constant change combined with that world in a standstill feeling is driving me nuts and is quite depressing.

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