It was a small thing on top of a lot of big things. My laptop stopped charging, and when the battery died, I could not revive it.
My day job is full-time when Congress is in session, and I have a year-round, full-time editing/consulting business of my own. I work all day, and sometimes I work all night. My sense of self is way too wrapped up in my work, and my work is no longer really possible without a computer.
I've tripped over the charging cord more than once, so I figured — I hoped — replacing the cord would fix the problem. But I work on a MacBook, and all the Apple stores are closed, and Apple couldn't deliver a new cord before Wednesday.
I ordered one from Amazon that advertised same-day delivery, but once the order was placed, the delivery date changed to Friday — and later, to between Saturday and Monday. Best Buy couldn't deliver the cord until Wednesday, but I had an adapter I thought I might be able to rig up as a workaround with the right USB cable, so I went to my neighborhood Best Buy to buy one of those. As it turns out, Best Buy is not really open yet — you can order online and pick up your purchase at the store if they have it in stock — but the lady behind the acrylic shield at the entrance was very nice, and I got my cable. Which did not work.
Since this is 2020 and I am a creature of privilege, I do also have a smart phone and an iPad, so I could answer email and could call in to a Webex meeting. But I haven't learned how to write anything longer than an email on my phone or my tablet, and I don't know how to mark changes on a document in anything but Microsoft Word.
"You need a vacation," said one of my colleagues on the Webex call, and my eye started to leak. What does that even mean, in this environment? How is anybody taking a vacation? The country's falling apart, I'm alone in this apartment, I have no means of transportation other than the half-open Metro, and I have all this work that isn't getting done . . .
And then, at 7:30 Thursday night, I tuned into the tribute to John Prine streaming on YouTube and Facebook, and Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires opened the show with "Hello in There." And I lost it, for the first time since this lockdown began.
It was an ugly cry, and I can't even list all the things I was crying about. The loss of John Prine, absolutely. The tens of thousands of people who have died from this virus, and my friends who still aren't completely well. The loss of our old life. The loneliness of lockdown. The hatefulness, selfishness and willful obliviousness of my fellow Americans who put that mindless, malicious man in the White House. The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and every other black person killed by figures in authority over the past 400 years. The fact that my daughter's going back to Asia next week and I never even got to hug her while she was home. I could go on. I did go on. I went on to the point of thinking, "Okay, I need to stop crying now," but I could not. Eventually it ran down.
My day-job boss brought me a PC laptop from the office, so I managed to write Friday's weekly newsletter. I got the MacBook power cord yesterday evening, and it did fix the laptop, and today I need to catch up with two and a half days' worth of missed work.
But three days later, I still feel shaky. I'm afraid that having stopped I won't be able to get started again, because momentum is the first law of motion. I remind myself that this — all of this, life, work, the fight for justice, everything — is a marathon, not a sprint, and it's not all supposed to get done today. In the words of the Mishnah sage Rabbi Tarfon, "It is not your duty to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to neglect it."
So my laptop is recharged. I'm about to open my email folder, with a sense of dread. Dread about what? Nothing I work on is a matter of life or death, but I do feel entrusted with my clients' hopes and aspirations, and I take that seriously. Plus, the work makes it possible for me to make contributions to organizations like NAMI, one of the beneficiaries of the John Prine tribute, and more essential now than it's ever been.
Back to it.