Quarantine Notes: Trying and Failing, and Trying Again

It is 10:10 on Sunday morning in Ambler. The sky framed in the window is white, the pallor of a startled face. Lately, the weather defines my mood. Sunshine feels like a gift from Apollo. On a day like today, though, I think of Camus’ line from The Myth of Sisyphus: “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide.”

It’s so easy to wallow. It’s so easy to find solace in trite memes. One meme says: “It’s OK to not to be at your most productive during a fucking global pandemic.”

But what if a “fucking global pandemic” is precisely the time to try to be productive, in any way you can?

Get dressed. Make soup. Sew a mask. Read a book. Take a walk. Take a class. Teach a class. Think. Feel. Cry. Laugh. Try and fail. Try again. Day after day.

Put another way, Camus is asking: Is life worth living? This is his answer, and the point of life right now: to try day after day, like Sisyphus, happy at the bottom of my mountain.

For me, this means waking up each day, drinking my morning tonic, getting dressed, and sitting down to write. Of course, so much happens in between, so many interactions and duties, small and large. And this is also the point and purpose of life right now: Karen, Owen, and Ella.

I’ve been teaching the kids Greek myths. Each day we watch a few videos, and then we take a walk and discuss what we’ve learned. Ella loves Athena, the goddess of wisdom. Owen loves Ares, the god of war, hated among men and gods. I love Dionysus, the god of wine and woundedness, who like the grapes from the vine, is torn apart and reborn.

We’re limiting wine just now–to three or four nights a week. I sleep better. The mornings are easier. On days we do drink wine, like today, I feel the excitement of my teenage years, of which I remember so little, only the heights and depths, the laughter and tears, and the incredible momentum, which so often conveyed us to the end of a night, when the only reasonable choice was to go home. We hardly ever went home.

We miss our friends. We miss our family. We miss the easy commerce of the world: the people and things.

But we’re trying not to wallow. We’re trying not to scroll the news feeds, grasping for control.

It’s hard. No doubt. But we’re trying not to see the fear and pain and anxiety as an excuse. What if it’s an invitation—to try harder? How else to show reverence for the lives lost? How else to honor the privilege of being alive in this moment of transition?

Each day I drink my tonic, get dressed, and sit down to write. I’m trying each day, day after day. Trying and failing, and trying again.