Living in the Past, Away from Home

For people without family, quarantine means loneliness – or liberation, free of the outside world’s unreasonable yet constant demands.

I suppose for people with family, the past year could have induced claustrophobia. It’s not hard to imagine a family in quarantine, struggling with even more constant unreasonableness. Learn to love that. That’s good advice. And it shouldn’t be originally attributed to me, obviously. Maybe I am firmly in the former category, the heavily populated, lonely one. After all, this year's pandemic has meant a lot of alone time for me, a time of reflection and of the past. I walked the neighborhood around my apartment.

Our parking lot also bears an innumerable amount of my tracks. I did my work online and remotely. I strode around what little inside space I rent, thinking or brooding. I watched TV or movies, or I played video games. Have you seen cloud computing and gaming stocks? I read, but not enough.

Unsurprisingly, my family – far away in the Midwest – ended up elbowing and shoving its way into my time of reflective solitude, into my head. To Hell with nature’s coronavirus, that natural revolt against the globalized economic order and its rules. They were going to have their way. This is inevitable, even among the most reserved of families. I tried not to live too much in the past. It was hard. I tried, but a person can only spend so much time alone in the present, before they slip far into either the past or the future. It's not all negative: strangely, the pandemic proved to be both optimistically clarifying and horrifying for me. For me, I find little use in prognostications about the future, tomorrow being malleable and all.

Anticipation is helpful in some cases, I guess. I suppose. On the other hand, I found reflection both seductively enticing and enlightening. You know what they say: one lesson learned about the past is a future mistake avoided. I relented. I revisited my resentments. I mused about my triumphs, the perceived ones. I thought about my brothers and my relationship with them, their families and my assumptions about them. Some are stupid assumptions, baseless. Child-like. Have I recently acted like a child, constructing those realities, those assumptions and those expectations? I’m embarrassed. I thought about our childhood, and I missed them. But I don’t feel rushed to see them. The virus. I also thought about my parents’ marriage and divorce, with the marriage gleaming in my childhood body’s inner eye. In reflection, however, that faded memory of childhood, a shiny thing, is violently punctured by hard truth – by a reality, a later one that is constructed by me. Is the virus puncturing America's shiny thing? For the first time, I think about their childhoods, both their fatherless childhoods. I hadn’t thought of that before, really. I knew the fact then. I know the immeasurable damage of that, now. Back then, but years ahead for my parents, the divorce’s damage seemed only incalculable for me. Only me. I wonder if they themselves held onto that gleaming vision of their marriage, that dream, as much as I did for the same purpose. This year’s solitude, during a time of public suffering, gave me an opportunity to reflect on this and many other personal topics. It gave me an opportunity to practice empathy for others, both near and far. I came to terms with things, many things. God willing, I will stay healthy for the remainder of the year, for I hope to be better in the next – with the past’s help. I think I will be better.