There’s a lot in my day-to-day that I’m cutting out for these diaries.
I edit out my excruciatingly long skincare routine. I cut the daily useless minutiae of my day, the sad avocado toast for breakfast and tuna from a can salad for lunch. On the whole the cutting is for everybody’s benefit—yours, because you don’t have to read about how I can’t find my other sock in the set; mine, because it makes me more aware of the parts of my day that are golden and good and worth recounting.
One of the good things I have to edit out, naturally, is the five million times a day that I smoosh my dog’s face or make up songs to serenade her. (These songs are usually low on creativity and typically involve me taking a common song and changing the lyrics to her name. She remains unappreciative.) There’s something about having her as a companion that I can’t quite put into words; even with two human roommates and their dog, I would, without my own dog, be very lonely.
I’ve tried to pressure my dad into getting a dog. After I got Pepper, he and she fell into a swift and pure love, the kind that mostly exists exclusively between dads and the pets they swore they didn’t want. To this day, he’s her favorite thing in the world, superseding me and steak bits.
“Get a dog,” I’ve told him a thousand times.
“It won’t be her, though. She’s different,” he says.
It’s a cruel irony that the week he finally moved back to New Orleans, after living in Chicago for years, was the week the city was ordered to begin stay at home. That he’s downtown, and she’s out in Metairie, and he can’t be in my backyard watching her run circles around the shed while the grill heats up—it sticks in my chest, makes my throat choke up. I have to clear away the abrupt sadness before I can speak. I miss something I didn’t get to have.
I miss so many things I wasn’t expecting to.
There are a lot of articles that talk about the importance of preserving rituals and routines where we can. People say it can be stabilizing, can help you be more productive, can keep you in touch with the normal cycle of your life after this all ends.
I think a lot about how this does and doesn’t compare to the hurricane.
I think a lot about how after was completely different to before, like my life was suddenly in the same language but a totally different dialect. I wasn’t the same after the hurricane, and I won’t be the same after this. I don’t think it’s a bad thing—that I’ll come out of this with the tendency to move a little slower, experience more appreciatively, focus on the benefit and consequence equally, to see collapse on the horizon as not an “if” but a “when”—to see the opportunity to prepare. To be made better, to make others better, so we are capable of more than survival.
That’s probably why the idea of preserving my routines seems a little silly to me. I don’t know that it brings me comfort so much as it makes me aware of how much is different. How much of my life I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to before it changed forever.
I suspect I’ll miss that closure for a very long time.
I wonder if the way I used to live my life will stay with me in the after—if I’ll feel the ghost of myself reaching out for something that’s not there anymore. A phantom limb, lingering behind in the wake of the new.
The Corona Diaries is a joint project of the Renaissance Publishing Staff. Each week during the series, a different member of our staff will share their day-to-day experiences with working from home, social distancing and the other ups and downs of living through the pandemic.