Substitute Library with Friends During Lockdown

I miss libraries, but am lucky that a couple of my neighbors like to read. One of them gave me two books over the weekend. I’m touched that mentioning my library woes weeks earlier had resonated with her. One of the books she gave me is “Everything Happens for a Reason,” by Mira Kirshenbaum, a therapist. Kirshenbaum’s interpretation of this saying is that we can learn and grow from our trauma so we can find a way back to living life.

This open window on the cover lets in an ocean breeze to freshen your room

My other bookworm neighbor is reading the Lord of the Rings series. So far, I’ve read The Hobbit, and look forward to talking to him more about the series when I’m caught up. I enjoyed Bilbo’s grumpy surprise in the opening scene, and the strange wizard, and the dragon’s beautiful gem.

Libraries have been my main sanctuaries outside of the home ever since I was little. It is a loss and a shock for me to not having access to them. It helps having a couple of neighbors who understand this. The three of us can be the librarians of the neighborhood.

Traveling to get a bit of a Break from Restrictions

On Thursday, it was a relief to visit Post Falls, Idaho, which is more open than Spokane, Washington. Since I can’t drive with my disabilities, I burned through a lot of my stimulus check to cab all the way out there and back, but seeing the beautiful library there was worth it to me.

The Post Falls Library has pink roses outside, a rock sculpture with a waterfall inside, and gently lit, beaded lamps at the tables. The featured image is of the sculpture. I’ll post the roses and lamps right below this paragraph, respectively.

Vivid pink roses growing over wooden posts
Perfect lighting to read by

While I was there, I read the first few chapters of a novel called The Stars Shine Bright, by Sibella Giorello. It’s about an FBI agent going after someone who hides his criminal activity under what appears to be a horse-racing business.

I find it sad that libraries in my city still aren’t really open. People can now drop off books, or do curbside pickup, but that’s it. If they don’t open up soon, I plan to post what books I own on a local forum and see if anyone else wants to improvise our own library. I can still try petitioning Governor Inslee to open Washington libraries, but I have more faith in finding a few like-minded bookworms here than in getting someone so laser-focused to care about anything besides the virus.

I Don’t Support Mandatory Social Distancing or Lockdown as Our Response to Coronavirus

I would rather live in a society with more of a balance between health and freedom to pursue our relationships, work, and other activities. While health is important, I don’t believe that governments should require everyone to live a life where it reigns supreme above every other value, especially not indefinitely.

Not even every person in the “vulnerable” group, who the restrictions are supposedly for, want this to be how society handles Coronavirus. I’m writing this as someone who doesn’t have enough white blood cells in my immune system; as someone who still vividly remembers what it was like to almost die of pneumonia that descended to sepsis, only a couple of years ago. Personally, I feel even more traumatized by social distancing and lockdown requirements than by almost dying of a respiratory disease.

Some vulnerable people want to live prioritizing this risk above all else, which I respect as a valid way to live their lives, but not all of us do. I think it would be more beneficial overall if the government gave at-risk people, as well as healthy people who would still wish to live with them, extra support for isolating if they wish, while letting people who don’t wish to isolate go about our lives. I would agree with the government making sure that those who feel the need to isolate have access to food delivery, extra benefits (or work-from-home options, if they feel up to working) and anything else they’d need to feel more secure about their risk level. I do *not* agree with the government deciding our risk level for us or shutting down so much public activity that we’re *all* stuck living this way.

The U.S government has made such staggering changes that I believe it would’ve had the capacity to make just as big a change for a more targeted isolation. By May 28th, Americans had already lost over 40 million jobs over the previous 10 weeks, increasing the unemployment rate to 14.7%. In June of 2018, we had a 4% unemployment rate. Instead of smashing the economy and pumping huge amounts of money into unemployment benefits, I would’ve rather seen our government use that money for voluntary isolation facilities for a more fair balance between people who prioritize safety, and those who prioritize freedom.

Personally, I am especially worried about my freedom to connect with others, who have similar priorities and would consent to the same risks I would. To connect outside of screens, and yes, even to show our whole faces, and, gods forbid, hug each other. Even long before the pandemic, it has been deeply painful for me to deal with a social landscape that further and further prioritizes electronic communication over the warmth of meeting face-to-face, that further and further makes physical contact abnormal outside of romantic relationships.

Trying to find groups and individuals who can accept my disabilities has made it even more agonizing to be an affectionate extrovert. Again and again, I’ve been pushed out of group activities, volunteer jobs, paid jobs, and personal relationships. The group art therapist who yelled at me twice in front of everyone for not being able to paint Christmas ornaments fast enough, the sheltered workshop for disabled people where someone yelled at me for not peeling carrots fast enough and where another person took off with the clothing rack I accidentally banged a couple of times when trying to move it, the book club therapist who didn’t even give me a chance to join her group because she assumed I’d be too slow to keep up with the other members.

If any of you reading are angry about me fighting social distancing and lockdowns, I suggest you not blame me, but the ableism so entrenched in society that even groups specifically for disabled people consider me so incompetent that they push me away. That I can’t even paint Christmas ornaments without someone getting angry! I have already suffered so much isolation for my whole life. I even feel it in my body every day, since well before the pandemic, with chronic insomnia, chronic chest pain, and more. I can’t survive going even deeper into isolation.

I will not limit myself to electronic communication or even socially distanced hangouts as a substitute for human warmth. I will not push anyone to see me in person, or take off their mask around me, or touch me, but whenever I come across anyone who is willing to connect without these regulations, I will jump at the opportunity.

It was a wonderful surprise when a neighbor hugged me when I dropped off some dog food. The homeless people I see on my trips to Walmart have still been happy to talk to me face-to-face, not just six feet away.

Someone on OkCupid, in a somewhat more relaxed state (I’m in Washington, he’s in Idaho) even invited me to meet him in person. I had assumed that everyone on OkCupid would be too focused on the virus to meet in person, so I haven’t been taking an active role in dating like I was used to. He had messaged me about the popcorn chicken and mashed potatoes he bought at Walmart, and I said, “It’s easy to imagine a comfort food date with you!” I had figured, if that went anywhere at all, maybe we’d have a video chat date while eating comfort food to feel a bit more like we were together, but he said, “If that’s how you feel, why leave it to the imagination??”

I’m so relieved and excited. I hadn’t said on my profile that I’d be up for meeting in person, because I figured that I would get a lot of angry messages, but there are apparently like-minded people out there. I got lucky that he had the intuition to read me and the courage to make that offer, given how hostile the atmosphere has become to people who don’t already live with a partner, and need actual contact. I’m desperate enough for contact that I’m going to blow a crazy amount of money on an out-of-state taxi to meet him, but to me, it’s worth it, with the new rules making an already difficult social landscape even harsher for finding connection. This is a big gamble for me, since it’s a lot of money for someone on disability benefits, and what if I get stuck out of state if the taxi turns out to be unreliable, etc, but I need to do this.

The point of my tangent is that I’m willing to do everything in my power to resist these draconian measures and pursue the contact I need with others who feel the same. I encourage others to do this if that’s what they feel the need to do. I also respect people who prioritize safety, but I will not roll over and agree that it’s okay to trap me, or anyone else, into a similar lifestyle. A respectful society would do a better job balancing different peoples’ needs and priorities. If enough people would be unwilling to consider that as a possibility, I would also support just splitting up into different societies. Ones where safety from disease is the ultimate priority, and everyone there can keep living this way if they want. And ones where people have the freedom to pursue other priorities.

I deleted my previous posts on this blog because I can’t pretend to agree that I’m okay with this situation. I can’t even ignore it and only post about neutral topics. I’m 25, and have blogged with WordPress on and off since I was 17, often about mental health and trying to overcome loneliness. I hope to branch out a bit more with my themes, so that being lonely won’t dominate my creative history as much for my whole life, but I’ll probably at least touch on this issue for my whole life. I consider loneliness to be a public health issue, and myself to be an advocate for the cause.

As an advocate for it, I have decided to be transparent that I am not okay with people being mandated or shamed into social distancing and lockdowns. My goal is not to “make the most of of lockdown,” but to work around it as much as possible, to fight against it and for more fair solutions to coronavirus. As for the shaming part, people have the free speech to do that, but I have just as much free speech to share my disagreement and link to others with a similar perspective, which I’ll do further down this post.

I, some stranger on the internet, say that it’s also valid to be more worried about your relationships, your job, your gym workouts, or whatever else you need for your peace of mind, than letting everything sink for the virus. I don’t agree with other posts I’ve seen that it’s selfish, because it could be just as selfish to insist that we all have to adhere to quantity of life over what feels to some of us like quality. Not all of us feel that death is the worst possible thing that can happen to someone. I feel that some fates are even worse than death. I have almost died multiple times. I know what I’m saying. Different people can have different perspectives and priorities. That’s okay!

I have talked to my own therapist about this. She said that she’s worried that lockdowns have gone too far, due to their effects on mental health, and that the cure has been worse than the problem. That doesn’t necessarily mean she would agree with my post, or that I’m scrambling to go on a date in another state (I don’t know her reaction to these things yet because it has been several days since our last appointment) but I appreciate that she at least shares some of my concerns.

Christine Louise Hohlbaum is one of the very few writers I’ve found on a mental health site so far who questions these socially isolating regulations. On Psychology Today, she published an interview with Vikram Mansharamani, a multidisciplinary professor. He encourages us to think for ourselves, listen to multiple sources, draw from multiple fields to see a bigger picture for making decisions. He doesn’t say not to listen do Dr. Fauci, or care about health, just to keep in mind that there is more to the picture.

Reddit has a Lockdown Skepticism community. It has been my lifeline through this. If you’d like to find like-minded people, or learn more about our perspective, I recommend this community. People here draw from multiple fields, respect different stances (ie, there are both liberal and conservative posters, who get along better than most other places I’ve seen online) and there are areas to support each other about how this affects our personal lives.

*Edit: Now I have found other people on WordPress who have concerns about social distancing and lockdowns, too! It looks like I just couldn’t find them before because I wasn’t using the right terms. Searching “libertarian” helped me find someone today. This person is Kevin Morris, a poet, who has a post about how lockdown complicates life with a visual impairment, another criticizing a U.K law against having sex with someone outside of the household, and so on.

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