“Thank God we have the work,” my godmother and I keep saying to each other, “thank God we have the work, I don’t know what we’d do without the work.” She’s a painter, and I write. We said it last year when my dad, her big brother, died unexpectedly. We’re saying it now.
Everyone copes differently with stress. For me, writing is a solace, but I sometimes get afraid of saying so because people use that as a bludgeon on themselves: if someone else can do it, why can’t I? Because people vary. People and circumstances vary. So in addition to the novel I’m still revising, I’ve written two stories I wouldn’t have thought of without this, not about plagues or pandemics or anything like that, but still, two completely new from scratch stories. This happened when my dad was in the hospital, too. Different things came to me. The exhaustion came later.
What kind of world will that exhaustion come into? I honestly don’t know. I don’t think any of us does. My hope is that we will have an awareness of how connected we all are, whatever happens. There will be terrible losses, both of people and of the kind of small, quirky institution that does some of the best work for change. We are long past the point where we can pretend that those losses won’t happen, and to do so would be inhumane. But I do have some faint hope that while we will mourn them individually, we will come away with a clearer understanding of what kind of global ecosystem we really do live in. We can’t say, “this is China’s problem,” or “this is Italy’s problem.” Like so much else, it is a human problem, it is a global problem.
The very act of trying to isolate shows us how isolated we aren’t, we can’t be. I hope we’ll remember and learn from that. Since we have to be here, we might as well look around, look closely, and try to learn something. I hope it’s that no one is truly isolated. I hope it’s that none of us, not one of us, is expendable.
—March 28, 2020