Corona Diary #15: Existential issues and pet peeves

Existential issues

The first anniversary of our Pandemic Realization Day (the day we realized we “weren’t in Kansas anymore,” and that we’d have to take the pandemic seriously) is coming up this week, on March 5.

(It was my last day at work at the new Moveworks facility in Mountain View, and the last day of our Kennedy/Sheehan Winter Quarter class at Stanford, in an auditorium packed with 300+ “mature adults,” none wearing masks. The class was titled, appropriately, as it turned out, “The Elusive Quest for Global Order.”)

A lot has happened in our lives since we published Corona Diary #14 (“Betwixt and Between,” in September of 2020).

In that same month we moved to Sonoma County, and in October we paid a short visit to see our Blomquist family in Minnesota. We spent Thanksgiving with the Livengoods in San Jose. The Blomquists were sick with COVID-19 (all have fortunately recovered). Throughout the second half of the year a number of close friends and family members died (none from COVID). We agonized over and suffered through the presidential election and its aftermath.

We had hoped to get the whole family together over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays (as we have done most years in the recent past), but travel and other restrictions made that impossible.

We’re humbly grateful for all our blessings, but there are days when we feel lonely and overwhelmed. We’re trying to hang in there and keep it light. In the spirit of doing just that, I’d like to tell you about our number one existential issue and pet peeve.

Existential Issue #1: It’s hard to really communicate with ANYBODY

It seems to come down to this: humans REALLY ARE social animals (surprise!).

Of course, we’ve very much missed the meaningful, in-person get-togethers we’ve been lucky enough to enjoy  with close family and friends over the years.

But who would have expected that much of our “contact angst” during  the past year would center on virtual strangers we see (at best) only occasionally?

Gone have been the small but satisfying opportunities to casually greet other pedestrians out for a morning stroll, exchange a quick status with cashiers in the grocery store, and verbally acknowledge the superior service of our restaurant wait-staff.

It seems to us that these informal, in-person exchanges go a long way toward keeping loneliness in check and setting the stage for deeper contact with our nearest and dearest.

We’ve made a concerted effort to make “family time” work in the age of COVID-19. Like so many others, we’ve used Zoom (or equivalent) to simulate events that in times past would have been held in person. We scheduled two  “family check-in times” on Thanksgiving. We’ve attended virtual birthday parties and celebrations of life.

We’re  humbly grateful for all the friends and family we have, including our BFFs, pictured above, who accompanied us on our move and continue to be “there for us” day in and day out.

But we still yearn for, and look forward to, a return to the warmer, fuzzier, in-person communication (hugs permitted and even encouraged!) we enjoyed in the past.

Pet peeve #1: We’re sick and tired of “dining out”  by picnicking in the back seat of the car

"Fine dining" during the plague
“Fine dining” during the plague

We’ve tried to be good sports about having to redefine “dine out.” With only two people to cook for, and a galley kitchen to work in, we don’t tackle many gourmet meals. Well, how about none?

In the past (it seems so long ago!) we enjoyed rotating through our lunchtime favorite restaurants. Lately we’ve resorted to combining grocery shopping and takeout, and eating in the back seat of our car before we head home.

We’re humbly grateful that we have food at all, but we’re also looking forward to the absolute LUXURY of lunching at a table, indoors, with real plates, glasses, and non-plastic “silverware,” and being cooked for and served by others.

And we’re happy to see creative little restaurants coming back and contributing to the local economy. As of this writing we’ve made it back to patio dining already. Fingers crossed!