I Really Wish I Could Social Distance from All These Thoughts

21 Jun
White Farms

The scene at White Farms in Ipswich, Mass., on Saturday, June 20, 2020.

Yesterday, I went up to the North Shore, to explore the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway, which I heard was a nice and picturesque drive. Turns out, either I didn’t know the area well enough, or I should have parked my car at various points and walked to the water, or something else, but with very few exceptions, from Lynn to Gloucester, the drive was neither coastal nor scenic, and I was disappointed.

So, after what felt like a couple hours of aimless driving and wasted gas, I turned around and headed back to the city. (At least, I think I turned around. I really didn’t know where I was or in which direction I was heading for much of the time, but I do know the full route goes all the way to Salisbury and I’m pretty sure I only made it to Gloucester.)

I didn’t want the day to be a total loss, so before I left the area, I decided to stop and get some ice cream at White Farms, a small local stand in Ipswich that had been recommended to me. It was quiet when I got there, thankfully, which meant I could go right up to the counter and order a two-scoop waffle cone — Mint Oreo and Vanilla Fudge Brownie, yum — then go back to my car to enjoy it.

There was a minor comedy of errors, naturally, as the ice cream started to drip on my hand while I was walking away from the counter, and I went to lick it off, forgetting I was still wearing a mask. Whoops!

Anyway … all of a sudden, while I was standing next to my car, enjoying my cone (my mask was now off), car after car after car pulled in to the parking lot, each one with three or four people in them — groups of friends going for ice cream or families meeting up there to hang out. People who looked like they’d just come from the pool or the beach, and who wanted to cool off with a cone. Mostly teenagers and college students, but some folks older than that, too. Some wearing masks, some not. Some who decided to go back to their car and get a mask when they realized they should be wearing one. But lots of people, out and about, going for ice cream. All arriving, not together but at close to the same time.

To be honest, the scene didn’t make me anxious, as you might expect. Instead, it made me really jealous. And confused.

I was standing there, watching all these happy, healthy people. And in the back of my mind, I started thinking about a friend of mine and his family, and his brother-in-law’s family, and his in-laws, and how they were all together at their lake house this weekend.

And I was thinking about my nine-year-old nephew FaceTiming me the other day to ask, if his family came to Boston, if I would I see them — because apparently, that’s a legit question for him.

And I was thinking about my coworkers who have been going to their parents’ houses to live and work for extended periods in recent weeks.

And I was thinking about friends who’ve actually gone on dates recently.

And I was thinking about friends who’ve gone out to eat or who’ve met up with folks for drinks.

And I was thinking about all the people who’ve been out protesting.

And I was thinking about the rally that night in Tulsa, and how much I fucking hate the president*, and how I was actively trying not to think about him.

And I was thinking about how it’s almost the end of June, but I guess I won’t be creating or sharing a half-year wrapup video this year like I usually do because there’s been nothing to include.

And I was thinking about how I wasn’t even comfortable enough with wanting to do all the things I wanted to do.

And I was thinking about the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, which I had just received in the mail earlier in the day, which featured on its cover the new Christopher Nolan movie Tenet — a film I’m really looking forward to seeing — and how I would really like Warner Bros. to delay the movie’s release long beyond July, until it’s truly safe to see it in a theater, because I don’t want to miss out on seeing this one on a big screen.

And so I stood there yesterday, eating my ice cream, by myself, thinking about all this stuff, while everyone around me was hanging out with friends and family members and having a good time.

And I was also thinking about all the stories about case numbers going down in Massachusetts and New York recently, and how those states are now “reopening.”

And I started to really question whether these people at White Farms had the right idea, and whether I was taking all of this social distancing stuff too seriously, even though I know it works.

And if, because I’m solo, and I have no one to really talk about this with every day, and I’m relying on Twitter and CNN for my information, that’s only making me more anxious and unsure, and leading to me being too cautious.

And if maybe, since I’ve been keeping to myself for three and a half months now, and cases around me are going down, maybe now it’s safe to do things with people again?

And if maybe, after weeks of going back and forth, but ultimately, stubbornly, saying I wasn’t comfortable doing so, if I should finally make plans to go to NY after all and hang with my sister’s family for a bit — even if I’m still not sure it’s completely safe to do so.

And also, how I wish I had more people to hang out with here in the Boston area.

And also, how I’m so tired of people asking me how I’m doing, or what I’ve been up to.

And also, after I posted on Facebook and Twitter yesterday about feeling like this, how I’m tired of people trying to empathize with me and saying things like, “We’re not doing much, either.” Key word: We’re. We.

Yesterday, it really hit me that after three and a half months of doing this self-quarantine thing, that I’m really tired of being on my own and not having a life right now and purposely avoiding spending time with people. As Stephen Sondheim wrote in my favorite musical, Company, “Alone is alone. Not alive.” He’s right.

And then I woke up this morning, and was, like, well, here I go again. Another boring day by myself with nothing to do, while the rest of the world seemingly has BBQs and goes swimming in their pools and goes for ice cream and is out and about doing stuff. So I decided to write a blog post about not doing all that much, with nobody, because unfortunately, I was in that kind of mood today.

I really wish there was more consistency in the guidance I’m receiving about what I can and should be doing right now — from medical experts, government leaders, the media, friends, and family members — because I think I’m doing the right thing, but I’m so tired of being smart and good … especially when an ever-increasing number of people around me appear to be getting out and doing things that I’d like to be doing, too.

On the good side, yesterday was another reminder that I’m not truly alone right now. I have a lot of thoughts to keep me company.

But if I have to keep social distancing and stay on my own, I truly wish that I could social distance from all these thoughts, too. That would make this time a bit easier to handle.

10 Responses to “I Really Wish I Could Social Distance from All These Thoughts”

  1. Roberta Messuri June 21, 2020 at 9:14 pm #

    Martin. You’ve hit me to the core. I relate to your thoughts and feelings, caution and concern. Keep on being Martin – smart and good. I for one so appreciate you. You’re one of the best humans I know, really. I too wish we all had better guidance from the ‘experts’. This is truly a once in a lifetime global catastrophe that no one was prepared or equipped to handle. Human to human, you’re not alone. Especially when you share the way you do and write so soulfully about your experiences.
    xo Roberta

  2. Deb McCormick-Cusumano June 22, 2020 at 3:25 pm #

    Hard, lonely times indeed. Sending my virtual *hugs* from Atlanta.

    • Martin Lieberman June 22, 2020 at 4:19 pm #

      Thank you, Deb! Not every day is hard, but this weekend had a couple challenging ones. I appreciate the comment. 🙂

  3. theemailcompany June 25, 2020 at 6:47 am #

    I think we all need to do what feels right for us….even if it is wrong for someone else. As for me, I’m putting on my mask and gloves and heading to HomeDepot @ 7am to avoid the crowds and get what I need to isolate another day @ Jeff and Bronna’s House Of Love


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