Trying to Sleep Through It

What struck me in the early days of the pandemic was the kindness. It was mid-March of 2020. School had just been canceled, so my teenager and my 20-year-old college student were at home. Along with my mother, a retired elementary school teacher, we locked ourselves in the house immediately following the closure of my workplace (non-essential retail.) We ordered grocery pickup and had things shipped. We played board games and watched ridiculous amounts of TV. None of us was bored. There were daily Coronavirus updates from the Governor. There were televised socially distanced concerts and inspiring speeches and sweet, relatable commercials about taking care of each other and “getting through this together.”  Your utilities wouldn’t be shut off if you were behind a little, because everybody was struggling and that struggle mattered. The kids’ online games offered free play and upgrades. Networks offered movie marathons. Dozens of friends learned how to make cloth masks to donate to healthcare workers when there was a huge shortage of protective gear. People who’d lost their jobs (at the time, many of us thought, only temporarily) received generous unemployment benefits. At my house, things were good. I mean—for a pandemic year. Cases of the virus were in the double digits in my state and single digits in my county. We felt safe and believed we were doing our part.

Enter summer. People had become weary. They hated masks. Hated missing vacations. Hated not being able to eat in restaurants, see movies, go to bars, go bowling. This mindset was amplified by people screaming in public into bullhorns, hanging effigies of government officials and spreading conspiracy theories on social media, determined they were giving up “freedom” by behaving responsibly. So, they just stopped behaving responsibly. Cases of the virus exploded into the hundreds per day in my state.

Meanwhile, the kindness tapered off considerably. No more gentle “love your neighbor” or “we’ll make it.” No more generous unemployment, though by now, many people’s jobs had been permanently closed or downsized, so they weren’t just furloughed—they were fired. No more fun movie marathons. No more perfectly acceptable late payments. Everything was due and payable, only many didn’t have a dime. It had ceased to matter if people were struggling.

That was when I started taking a long nap every day. By the fall, when cases were two, three, even four thousand daily and nobody was kind anymore, I took two naps most days. It was a necessary escape. My body and mind were weary. I think my soul was weary.