I am calling this one #47, because that’s how many days I have been stuck here. I am too tired today to coming up with a more clever headline for another dispatch from my home office. When I woke up, I learned1 about the passing of Toni Lane, a crypto-currency enthusiast. I met her once — in Oslo, Norway — before I embarked on a journey northward. She was a lively soul, energetic and filled with ideas. It was such a great conversation. No emails were exchanged. No text messages went back and forth. Just a few hours over coffee, dinner, and company with some other friends. All that remained was a memory.
The sadness of her passing is only compounded by the general malaise I feel. Last night wasn’t the most comfortable, as an old ailment got the better off me. I woke up more tired than I have in many weeks, not physically exhausted, but mentally and emotionally. The endless stream of incoming text messages, Zoom calls, and emails that need responses, and all the daily decisions that now seem so fraught, it’s all starting to take a toll.
The whole thing reminds me of that “30 Rock” episode where Jack Donaghy, while in the hospital recovering from a heart attack, wishes he could have worked harder.
Or maybe like others, I am suffering from the Zoom burnout. 2
“With Zoom or FaceTime, you can’t rely on body language for communication. For those with social anxiety, Zoom or FaceTime makes it harder to draw boundaries. People get to see into your environmental context, it becomes unclear when ‘socializing’ should end, and certain social cues that are easily read in real life can be harder to read virtually.” -Jamie Aten, a psychologist and an associate professor of humanitarian disaster leadership at Wheaton College in Illinois.
I don’t have those issues. My problem is exactly the opposite. Everything seems the same. The day, the location. I can’t tell the difference between YouTube, Netflix and Zoom. They are all coming from the same screen. I need people. The lack of social contact — in real life, not through a screen — is a problem. Many are on their third week of isolation. Wait till you get to week five. You will start to feel the anxiety.
For me, as I said, it is Day 47, and there is nothing I would like to do more than sit with my friend Chris and talk about photography. Or visit the founders I work with and give them a hug. It seems like that is all from another time. As one smart writer put it: that’s B.C. (Before Corona.) Apparently, exhaustion is “a normal response to an abnormal situation,” she argues. 3
It is not just work. It is life’s random decisions that previously seemed normal, now feel abnormal. Take diet, for example. As someone who has to watch what he eats all the time even in normal times, the isolation has been a high-risk decision zone, especially when it comes to food. Some have argued in favor of forgetting about exercise – go ahead and eat more, gain weight, and learn to live with the quarantine. 4 That may be okay for some, but it’s not so good when you a diabetic and have a heart condition.
This morning, I had to make a call that I likely would never have had to think twice about in the B.C. era. I wondered if I should go to the hospital to see my doctor, considering that I am more likely to catch the virus in a hospital than at home. In other words, was I willing to risk my health for my health? These are the insane daily decisions we are making, and no wonder it is exhausting. It is relentless.
And even though I feel as I do, I am overcome by guilt. How can I complain when others are putting their lives on the line making society’s essentials work for the 29 percent who can work from home? I should STFU. And get on with life, and do some work. I’ve made it this far, after all.
April 15, 2020. San Francisco