On afternoons when I don’t have a lot of meetings, I like to order tea from the Starbucks down the street from me. Although it’s only a little over a mile of distance and so theoretically very walkable on my lunch break, the Starbucks in downtown Edmonds is located in what’s referred to as the Edmonds Bowl, which is a valley about 400ft of elevation below my own house. So in other words, to get back home I have to walk up a very steep hill….so I usually opt to just drive to fetch tea.
I absolutely love downtown Edmonds. Even though I could probably find a parking spot right in front of Starbucks, I usually opt to park a block or so away so that I can take a short walk and pass by the shops and restaurants that line Main Street. Never before in my life have I had such a sense of place as I do here. Now that I work from home full time, I get to spend more time in my own community and it has really reaffirmed to me that I picked the right place to call home.
Although I usually skip the Main Street hill during the middle of my work day, Bill and I do climb it nearly every evening after work when we take our walks and on weekends when we venture into the Bowl on foot. Last Saturday we walked down, got takeout from Rory’s, one of our favorite restaurants, and ate our lunch at the beach. I was surprised that the waterfront wasn’t more crowded on a nice summer afternoon, but we were easily able to distance ourselves from other people and found a spot to sit and eat our food while we watched cars load and unload on the ferry.
When we talked about things we wanted when we were house shopping two years ago, Bill and I both agreed that we wanted to be within walking distance of downtown. We knew that finding a house or condo in the Bowl that was in our price range and had everything we wanted was unlikely, but we both wanted to be close enough that we didn’t have to rely on the car every time we wanted to go out to dinner or to the Saturday Market in the summertime. Even as I write this I’m still amazed that we were able to find our condo, which is so perfect for us and gives us the walkability we wanted so much.
Today I was in sort of a funk, so I ordered myself a tea and headed down to Starbucks to get it. I was instantly cheered up by the atmosphere in downtown Edmonds as I parked a block away and walked the rest of the way to get my drink. I admired a cute outfit on display on the front porch of Rogue, a boutique clothing store that I love. Even through my mask I could smell the delicious scents of food being prepared at the Market, a great place to get fish and chips. I could look down the street and glimpse views of the Sound. Just the experience of being there, even for a few minutes, lifted my spirits and completely changed my mindset.
The hit of caffeine didn’t hurt either, though.
Right now, I have a very love-hate relationship with Facebook.
I still remember the morning that social media entered my life. It was 2005, and my then-boyfriend and I were house-sitting for his parents, and it was back in the day when I was still working weird shifts as a 411 operator and had a random weekday morning off. Alone in the house, I made myself some coffee and sat down at the computer in their den to check my email. I had an invite from a friend to some website called Myspace. I had no idea what social media even was, but as I curiously set up a profile and began searching the site I discovered that a lot of people I knew were also on it. People I worked with, people I’d gone to school with – the majority of them also had Myspace profiles.
For years afterwards, I really enjoyed Myspace. It was so frivolous and entertaining. You could customize the backgrounds on your page and select a song that would play when anyone visited it. There was a section where you could publish blog posts, which was how I first got into blogging. And on the bulletin board people would fill out random surveys and silly quizzes. I never got tired of the site, but over time fewer and fewer people were actually using it and it got a lot less interesting. By 2007, pretty much everyone had stopped posting on Myspace and migrated over to Facebook, and not wanting to lose touch with people I followed.
Facebook has evolved a LOT since I first joined it. The ‘On this Day’ feature that lets you see your posts from the day’s date in prior years is a humorous reminder of what the experience used to be: the reactions to posts was limited to liking (at first you couldn’t even comment, people would post on your wall and you’d go post on theirs to carry on conversations). The post feature always started off with “so-and-so is” so all our posts followed that pattern and the older posts are always such gems as “Veronica is getting ready to go to Costco”.
Ahhh, simpler times.
Now personal posts are actually rare and my Facebook timeline is filled with people sharing articles they find interesting, mixed in with some photos of pets/kids/the trademark homemade banana bread of the pandemic. There’s a lot of squabbling. People who don’t even know each other call each other snowflakes and libtards and all sorts of other stuff in the comment section of an article shared by the New York Times. I wish there was a way to hide comment sections so I couldn’t even see them. I’ve made a habit of keeping my friend list smaller, because over time I feel less like knowing the opinions of people I worked with fifteen years ago. It’s not because I don’t like those people anymore, it’s that it’s impossible to maintain emotional connections with so many people. There’s a theory called Dunbar’s number that says that human beings are only capable of maintaining a maximum of 150 connections at once. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad to have a thousand Facebook friends if that’s how you want to use social media, but for me it’s overload.
I have accounts on Instagram and Twitter too, and neither one of them ever makes me unhappy like Facebook does. I think that the reason for that is probably partially because of the way I use it and because I have fewer friends, people who I tend to be closer to, and so it bothers me more when people I love are hateful, narrow-minded, racist, or when they behave badly online. In the past I scolded my dad more than once after he left rude complaints about his service on the Facebook page of the company I worked for, reminding him that I didn’t appreciate him doing that because the company literally paid all of my household bills and that he could let me know he was having a problem and I’d get him in touch with someone to help him.
It probably seems like I just hate Facebook now and should deactivate my account instead of complaining about it, and I actually did do that but only lasted about a week before I got sucked back in. Every single day, someone would ask me if I’d read or seen something on Facebook and then I’d remind them I didn’t have an active account but I was missing out on the things that I actually did want to see, like photos of my friend’s new puppy and an invitation to a Zoom happy hour. I like those aspects of Facebook.
For now my compromise is that I’ve deleted the app on my phone but left my account active and set up email notifications if someone tags me in something or invites me to an event, so that I don’t miss anything but am not tempted to mindlessly scroll and find myself wound up either.
I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing those Myspace quizzes, though.
Not for the first time in my life, I feel like I am living through history in the making. Years from now, kids in school will learn about 2020 the way they now learn about the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001, and they’ll try to imagine what it was like to be alive for events they either were too young to remember or weren’t alive to experience at all. They’ll hear about the COVID-19 pandemic and learn about how different countries around the world responded. They’ll memorize statistics about how many people got sick, how many died, how many businesses ceased to exist. They’ll learn about protests against police brutality and racism, and I can only hope that they’ll also learn about how real change came out of them and how police were made to be better trained and better held accountable and that as a whole our country took a hard look at systematic racism and began a years-long effort of policy and social changes that moved us closer to real equality in America.
Even though there’s so much upheaval and uncertainty right now, we still go about our daily lives. It’s strange to be simultaneously engrossed in updates on the pandemic and on protests, and to also have normal daily tasks to focus on like picking up groceries or finishing a report for work. I think about how it must have felt to be alive during other historical events, like World War II. The war is raging and all you want is for life to be more like you remember it before the war, more normal, but even though what’s playing out is terrible and hopefully ultimately makes things better the normal that you remember is gone forever. That’s how I feel now, like the “normal” I knew before March 2020 is never coming back.
It’s exactly the same understanding I had as I watched the footage of planes flying into towers when I was seventeen years old. Things will never be the same after this.
Right now, normal is working from home and mostly interacting with my family and friends digitally rather than in person. I have a select few people outside of my own household that are in our little circle now, people that I feel reasonably comfortable seeing in person. We’ve gotten used to making plans with friends that let us follow the social distancing guidelines: meeting up at a park, or in someone’s yard, or in the adorable gazebo in front of my condo building. Normal is washing my face masks as part of laundry day, then putting them in their individual Ziploc bags and stowing them in my purse so that I always have a fresh one at the ready if I am out and need to run into a store or if there’s a crowd of people where I wasn’t expecting one to be. I own enough of them now that I have a variety of colors and I know which brands fit best on my face. Normal is really weighing the risks of doing things that I used to not even think twice about, like whether it’s a good idea to get my hair done by a stylist or go to a store in person rather than ordering from their website or whether I feel like I can appropriately social distance on the deck of a favorite restaurant or if I’d be safer just getting my food to go and eating at home.
When my husband and I set foot into our lovely condo for the first time, on a Sunday morning two years ago, I instantly fell in love and knew it was where I wanted to live. At the time I had no idea just how special the place is, how grateful I’d be for this open and comfortable home that is now also serving as our work spaces and our gym. Bill and I are able to both do our jobs without interrupting each other, we have a nice-sized deck that lets us enjoy being outside together and also gives us the feeling of doing something fun and different when we opt to get takeout and then eat outside as a treat for ourselves. Sometimes I feel a little cooped up, but I guess that after being at home most of the time for five straight months that feeling is normal.
And so, we’re grateful and we’re making the best of it.
I have no idea what “normal” will look like, post-pandemic. Will wearing masks in public just become part of everyone’s routine? Will I ever really go back to working in an office building, or am I home for good? What I hope will happen is that people won’t forget about this year, forget that it became a luxury to enjoy a glass of wine on a restaurant deck or to hug a friend or to go to a party. I hope that we’ve discovered what’s really important and that we’ll live differently because of this.