Procrastination has been my number one coping mechanism since I was a kid. I hated getting up in the morning. I’d put off doing chores until the moment right before my mom got mad. I wrote more than one essay the morning it was due.
“Every teenager does that!” you’re probably thinking.
I also put off college until I was 21. I didn’t get my learner’s license until I was 32. I didn’t move out of my parents’s house for good until I was 33.
“But that’s normal for Millennials, isn’t it?” you’re saying. “In this economy?!”
I’d put it all off until tomorrow if I could. Let the dishes stack up. Leave the laundry in a pile. Set the alarm for just one more hour.
Then a global pandemic hits, and one realises all at once, there are no more hours left. There’s no tomorrow to start again. This life is your life, so it better be the one you want. All those things you thought would happen “eventually” aren’t gonna happen anytime soon.
I’m struggling this week. The mood crash of not doing a market hit me hard this weekend. I’ve been bored during non-baking weeks since the farmers market started in May, but this is now Week #19 of self-isolation, and Canada’s (really, BC’s) momentary success means nothing while the virus in the US is out of control. I can’t stay home extra hard to help my friends in Washington, in Oregon, in California. I can only watch from afar.
The Can-US border closure is heading into its sixth month. Even after 9/11, when the US required passports for land crossings, I never anticipated our border would ever close for good. Most Canadians live in proximity to the border; some estimates say as many as 95% live within 100km of the United States. But me, I’m even closer. Surrey and White Rock are both border towns, sharing the international boundary with Blaine, Washington. When you stand on the beach below my house, you can see the stark white Peace Arch, highlighted against the green tree-lined shore. The gates between the arch are decorative only; they’ve never been closed, and the inscription states they never will be. That arch was erected in 1921. We almost made it 100 years.
I took this photo from the end of the White Rock Pier, on a perfect summer day at the beach with my friend, Elisabeth, visiting in 2014 (from New York at that time, I believe). Past the water of Semiahmoo Bay, from left to right on the horizon, in front of the trees, you can see White Rock Beach, the Semiahmoo Nation Reserve, Kulshan/Mount Baker, Peace Arch Provincial/State Park, with the white monument standing out, the border crossing, and then the city of Blaine, WA.
In my darkest depths this weekend, I told my best friend chat, “I feel like a gaping maw of want.” Nothing satisfies me, even when I indulge myself with hamburgers and milkshakes. Mid-day naps aren’t coming easily, like they did at the beginning of quarantine, and I only wake up cranky besides. I started writing this letter on Monday, then worried it was TOO REAL to send out.
“That means it’s probably excellent,” another friend told me. It was the reminder I needed that I had promised myself to write without fear in 2020. To write the real stuff I usually only put on paper, instead of the pretty stuff I put on my blog.
Out of my gaping maw of want this weekend, we coined a new pandemic shorthand: BLTC. (I even made a Slack emoji.)
Bored, Lonely, Tired, Craving—the four quarantine moods. You’ve probably felt one of these moods every day since the pandemic began. If you feel two, it’s time for a break. Three? Take the day, and remember to be kind to yourself. But when you’re feeling the whole BLTC, please reach out and talk to your friends and/or your partner. We’re all feeling something similar, and perhaps they’ll be strong enough on that particular day to pull you back to your feet.
I got through this weekend by renewing my subscription to Netflix and watching The Witcher in a two-day marathon (I’ll reserve my judgment until after season 2), then The Saint, one of teenage Jessica’s favourites. I made sourdough rye pancakes at 10PM and ate them with Nutella. I listened to Fine Line by Harry Styles, a lot. I stayed in my pjs. I went driving with my brother in his very tiny Smart car. I baked a loaf of bread for my boss. I bought takeout for dinner on my way home from work last night. I chatted in Slack with my friends.
There are a lot more BLTC weeks ahead of us. And with the speed at which our world is changing, our coping mechanisms have to change, too. I needed someone to see me this weekend—because I can watch TV when I’m bored, take a nap when I’m tired, eat some chocolate when I’m craving, but I can’t fix lonely by myself.
I never thought I’d be single this long. The world tells introverts, you’ll find the right person eventually. I’m afraid I’ve missed my chance. This life is my life now. I have to make it what I want.
PS I took a self-portrait the morning my dad and I drove across the river so I could have my first cavity filled. My dentist only started taking patients again two weeks ago—in a different office to allow the maximum distancing. This checkup was scheduled last year, and despite the trip, the unexpected cavity, the screening, the PPE, it was a nice piece of normal amidst everything that’s not.