Keeps On Slipping Slipping Slipping

Perhaps it’s because March felt like the month that would never end, but I’ve been surprised how quickly April has gone; there was a point in the middle of the month where I had to look up the date and felt genuinely surprised by how quickly we’d reached the teens, as if they’d crept up behind me and jumped out in surprise: Hello, it’s April 17th already aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! 

What had actually happened, I suspect, is that the strange, disturbing sensation of days beginning to blur together and seem meaningless in this era of self-quarantine was starting to take hold of me, as well. When time itself seems to be an arbitrary concept — is it Thursday or Friday? Oh, it’s actually Wednesday? Really? — then it’s not the biggest surprise that any sense of time passing in a larger sense starts to fray around the edges, as well.

It was, again, mid-month that I realized that I’d lost track of how long we’d been in quarantine; I’d been telling myself it had just been four weeks, but I’d lost one and we’d been internally quarantined for five already at that point. It was a realization that was part oh, I’m so forgetful, silly me and part wait, am I losing it? all at the same time. Which feels entirely appropriate and authentic to the world as-is, to be blunt.

I don’t subscribe entirely to the view that every day is the same now — I’ve always worked from home, so there’s definitely a sense that my day-to-day isn’t significantly different from what it was, just busier and more compact — but I can’t deny that time certainly feels different right now, in ways I can’t fully wrap my head around… More elastic in some ways, more malleable, without the edges and the shape that used to make everything recognizable.

There’s no punchline here, nor a smart realization or wrap up that puts everything in perspective; I’m just living in the moment same as everyone else, trying to make it through. But, as counter-intuitive as it may be, I’m excited that April passed so seemingly quickly; all things considered, I’d rather time flies than crawls as we collectively hope that things can change and we get to open our doors and see people again.

Singing Cathy’s Clown

And then, there was the time where I did four podcasts in a five day period, which was both eye-opening, and somewhat exhausting. All four were comics-based, and all four required re-reading a bunch of material — two of them needed hundreds of pages each — and drawing some kind of critical analysis. Suffice to say, it was a pretty full five days.

The scheduling was actually entirely accidental; three of them were long-standing commitments, and only one had been scheduled significantly in advance — that one was an episode of Drokk!, the monthly series re-reading Judge Dredd with the far-smarter-than-me Jeff Lester; I’d say that was also the least stressful of the four, if it wasn’t for the fact that I had to edit it the next day, too. Each of the others, though, kind of just coincidentally happened at the same time.

(They actually all started to be scheduled on the same day earlier that week, all via Twitter DM. It’s actually kind of amazing how much of my work and/or work-related conversations happen via Twitter DM these days; they’ve started to take the place of texts, which took the place of emails some time back. There’s an evolution of shorthand, but important, ways people get in touch with me for work that’s kind of fascinating. But I digress.)

So, I scheduled the podcasts and staggered them out: one on Thursday, one on Saturday, two back-to-back on Monday. (They were two episodes of the same show, so it made sense.) This way, I told myself, I’d have a breather and time for my brain to readjust and prepare for the next one without it being too much.

Reader, I was wrong.

I was wrong for the simplest reason, which is just that… life happens. There’s relationships and work and, shockingly, a need to actually switch off at some point or else you’ll go mad, and all of that makes fitting in hour long recording sessions, and finding the many hours required to do the homework ahead of time, trickier than I’d initially given any thought to. In theory, I knew this already — I do it monthly for Drokk!, after all — but what I can handle for one event per month is, it turns out, somewhat different than four in less than a week.

Each of the podcasts, I enjoyed doing a lot. I certainly don’t regret doing any of them, and I think I did a pretty good job on each, even if I’ll never listen to any all the way through again. But, in future, if this ever comes up again, I’m going to be kinder to myself and ask for a schedule that lets me breathe and think about something other than comics for awhile.

Oh, It’s Bigger Than The Universe

I think I mentioned a couple of time that I burned out in February and March — I got exhausted and sick and, around the time of Super Tuesday and the coronavirus really making itself felt, I reached a peak of frustration with… well, the internet in general. By which I mean, really, social media and news reporting, which are my two primary uses for the internet beyond “having a job.” (That both are heavily related to my job is neither here nor there, except that it is, of course.)

I was, at that time, just done with seeing the same self-righteous and utterly inane arguments day after day after day, each one completely convinced of its own ideological purity and unwilling to imagine compromise as anything other than betrayal. There was a level of confidence that dipped into arrogance in, it felt like, every single statement everyone made, and I couldn’t take it. I wanted to walk away from the whole thing. The internet? I wanted to melodramatically declare, It’s not for me.

Cut to now, when the internet has become everyone’s lifeline in these surreal times.

I’m far from the first person to ask you to imagine the coronavirus if the internet didn’t exist; by the time you’re reading this, I don’t doubt that I’m far from the fiftieth.  But this entire experience, with everyone closed in and reaching out virtually to interact with the world around them — be it through social media, using Google Earth to visit places in the world that aren’t their homes, or Netflix and Hulu or whatever for just the barest glimpse of human contact and the sound of other people’s voices — feels as if it it’s redefined the purpose of the internet once again, underscored it’s importance in so many lives.

I know that I’m one of those people. Not only has my need for up-to-the-minute news grown with everything that’s happened, but so has my need to hear other voices during everything. See others getting through this, or struggle with the things I am, or find humor where I can’t. The whole thing.

It’s an unexpected, selfish silver lining of everything, that my faith in the internet has been restored by watching it be the lifeline I always secretly believed it was. At this time, I’m taking every silver lining I can find.

Ugly Apparition

There’s no such thing as a cursed email, I know this on a rational level. But sometimes, our brains aren’t rational, especially these days, with everything that’s going on.

I’ve come to fear communicating with my ex-wife. “Fear” isn’t the right word, not exactly — dread, maybe — but it’s something I hate doing, something that leaves me feeling nervous and sick ahead of time, and anxious and upset afterwards. I’m not entirely sure why, beyond the feeling of disdain present in every interaction — the continued feeling that she will instantly dismiss or disagree with anything I have to say, purely on the basis that I said it, through an increasingly brittle face of faux politeness. After every time we communicate, I feel like shit. The accumulation of almost two decades of emotional abuse still working its way through my system, I guess.

It’s become clear to me that she’ll choose the path of spitefulness wherever possible in the past few months; I took the dogs at the end of last year after she told me her dad was sick and she was going to visit him, only to discover her posting on social media about scuba diving in another state entirely with her fiancée; she then moved to California with the dogs weeks early without telling me, only informing me via email after the fact that she was starting her new life and they were there with her.

Legally, we share custody of the pups “by mutual consent.” When she told me, months earlier, that she was engaged and would be moving with the dogs, I pointed out that we had to discuss some kind of arrangement where we both agreed on how often we’d both see them; that’s what mutual consent is. “I don’t consent to anything that isn’t what I want,” she replied.

(I got the dogs for a few weeks in March. When it came towards the end of the agreed upon period, I wrote to her to say, “I should keep them for longer, there’s a pandemic and both our states are in lockdown, traveling would be dangerous and stressful, and they’re happy, healthy and thriving here.” She drove from California to Oregon to collect them anyway. So it goes.)

I realized that, because she and I filed joint taxes for the final time last year with what had been our shared house as the address — we’d agreed upon this because we’d started the year making advance payments jointly — this year’s weird, uncomfortable but also increasingly financially necessary stimulus check was likely to be addressed to both of us, and sent there. So, as much as I didn’t want to, I wrote an email saying, basically, when that check comes in, can you let me know and we’ll work out how to handle it. Her response was to tell me that she filed independently for 2019, so there would be no joint check.

I know, I said, my anxiety spiking, but they calculated everything based on 2018 taxes, so please, if and when the check appears, can you let me know. She repeated that she filed independently for 2019, and that I was wrong. That second email sat at the top of my inbox for a day, every other incoming email either junk or deleted, and every time I saw it, my stomach sank. There was something about it that felt ugly and cruel, somehow. Dismissive, disdainful.

I didn’t feel as if I could delete it or move it to a folder, as if it held some weird power that would hurt me if I tried; instead, I just hoped for new emails to come in and hide it. Like I said, there’s no such thing as a cursed email, I know this — but I’ve rarely felt happier to receive a battalion of work-related emails on Monday morning.