R.E.M. said that I would feel better at this particular juncture in my life. But it feels like the end of the world as we know it, and Michael Stipe, I most emphatically do not feel fine.
2020 has been an anxiety-inducing nightmare of paranoia, but Stipe did get some things right in his lyrics to “It’s The End of the World As We Know It.” (Look them up; the song even contains the word “trumped.”) The back end of the chorus — “time I had some time alone — is even fitting, as I AM IN HOME ISOLATION.
Fan theory: R.E.M. had a time machine to the anxiety-inducing nightmare that’s 2020, said, “Eff this,” and got the hell back to 1987.
The Beginning of COVID-19 Was Bad Enough
My husband was one of the people that did the math early — around March 7th (I remember because his birthday was the 5th, and we had planned to go on vacation for it). He’d seen the exponential growth of infection rates, took out a pen and paper, and said, basically, “We’re fucked.”
He went to Wal-Mart and spent over three hundred dollars. That’s a lot of money in Wal-Mart. Talk about the beginning of an anxiety-inducing nightmare. It may have started there, gazing at that three-hundred dollar receipt, and thinking We will need all these things when the pandemic comes. Because we didn’t know what was coming, exactly, so there was a certain sense of panicked preparation.
It may have started the next day, when my kids were reluctant to go to Target. I said to them, and I quote, “Get your fucking shoes on, because this’ll be the last chance we have to go to Target.”
When school let out, we knew it wasn’t starting back up again. I asked my mother to come live with us. She laughed at me. I told her, “Mom, listen. We don’t want you living alone until August.” Until August. We knew even then. We made plans to buy a trampoline and an above-ground pool for the summer. We knew it would last.
Then Came the Anxiety-Inducing Nightmare of Social Distancing
Six feet at all times. The CDC told us to wear masks in public. COVID-19 is Schrödinger’s virus: you have to presume that you’re an asymptomatic carrier at all times, except you’re not, and you have to take all precautions against being exposed to the virus. The trip to the drive-thru pharmacy became a fraught and terrifying affair. Opening the mail even seemed dangerous: we have Mail Protocols. I have been to the pet store and had a panic attack afterwards because people did not properly socially distance.
Sometimes I stare at my husband and say, “We have to stay home all the time because we are living in the middle of an unprecedented global pandemic.”
He just stares back.
Even Nature is Determined to Be An Anxiety-Producing Nightmare
Murder hornets? WTF, nature? Are we living through the goddamn end times? Is this written in the Book of Revelation? And lo, swarms of Murder Hornets were loosed upon the people. According to Science News, they’re huge, they sting people, and they eat honeybees, among other things. They kill 40-50 people per year in Japan. Don’t worry! As long as you’re stung fewer than 50 times, you have a good chance of survival. Phew.
And don’t forget the locust swarms Vox reminds us are devastating East Africa and India right now, where a “plague” of locusts could push an additional 130 million people to the brink of starvation. That’s in addition to the already 135 million people currently starving. If you’re into Christianity in the least, you’re living in this anxiety-producing nightmare that not only has you scared of murder hornets, locusts, and global starvation, but also Armageddon.
Then There Were The Rats?
As if Mother Nature hadn’t gone rogue enough, scientists — particularly rodentologists, because that’s a thing you can grow up to be in this world, warned of “starving, angry, and cannibalistic” rats “getting desperate amid the coronavirus pandemic” according to NBC. Um… what? What anxiety-producing nightmare is this shit? Evidently, because restaurants and grocery stores closed, they cut off the rats’ main food supply (GROSS!) and now the desperate rats roam the streets in “dire survival mode,” engaging in “cannibalism, rat battles, and infanticide.” People in cities are calling to complain about rats in increasing numbers.
But it’s cool. We’re not in like, any danger! No need to panic!
I’ll be panicking quietly in the corner over here.
The Death of George Floyd. Riots. Police Brutality. Finding Out Your Loved Ones Are Racist.
You want to talk about anxiety-inducing nightmares? George Floyd became one more black man tragically murdered by police. People are pulling down Confederate monuments on their own. Police are targeting journalists. Police brutality is rampant. Our president had peaceful protesters at a prayer rally in front of a church tear-gassed so he could hold up a Bible.
We’re doing the hard-but-important task of facing (and changing) any of our own implicit racial biases, and realizing via social media that people we’ve previously loved, respected, looked up to, are actually racist AF.
I want 2020 to end like, yesterday.
Oh, and Michael Stipe? That earthquake thing? We had a 5.5 in California not long ago.
Take me back to 1987 in your magical alt-rock time machine.