• sarahkaingutowski

Something Has Been Destroyed (But Maybe That's Okay)

Merry New Year. We all need some continued good cheer right now, correct?

These first weeks of 2022 haven't been terrible, which feels, sadly, quite remarkable. It's become so normal to be beset by real turmoil -- 2021 was not very good to my little family. We struggled, for myriad reasons.

Last January, at this time, I was sleeping 18 hours a day and quarantining in my basement away from children and husband, battling a second round of COVID-19 (probably Delta?) and feeling like absolute garbage. When I finally emerged from my psuedo-coma on the futon, joints aching and fifteen pounds lighter than I'd been in 2020 -- having subsisted on little other than broth and Gatorade for three straight weeks -- I developed tremors. I shook so badly I couldn't drive. My handwriting was barely handwriting -- which didn't matter much anyway, since my brain was still fogged.

The way every other member of my family struggled isn't my story to tell, of course, so I'll just say that it's been eye-opening and humbling -- what happens when two people struggle to keep themselves and their partnership intact, when parents are so beset with problems that it becomes difficult for them to parent, and to guide and help their children, who suddenly have developed their own serious problems, challenges I never would have imagined my children would face pre-pandemic.

We always imagined disaster and apocalypse to look very different than this, didn't we? I mean, I'm not walking down I-95 toward Florida in a cold gray landscape, evading roaming packs of cannibals and scraping subsistence for my children from abandoned farms. There's no hellfire falling from the sky or radiation pulsing through the air (that we *know* of), but survival is still a preoccupation.

When I write the words survival and apocalypse I'm not intending to be hyperbolic. Rather, I see a very particular world coming to an end. It's not happening under a curtain of falling ash, and for the most part the sky is still a beneficent sky and the earth provides and nurtures -- but something has been destroyed, and with finality.

And when we look at the old life, pre-pandemic, why are we so keen for *it* to survive? What fire from the old life are we carrying into the next life, and is that new life worth this trouble?

A beagle burying his nose under the covers of a bed next to a laptop.
This little dog says what we all feel.

This post might be kind of dramatic after all. But it's apparent that we have to build a new life -- maybe not *everyone* in the *whole* world, but *most* of us. Definitely this small corner of the world, those in my household. We have shape new ways to exist.

So let's shift, shall we? As I began saying with this post -- the new year has provided some relief. The people closest to my heart are beginning to get the help they need. We are rallying together. I can look at the next few weeks with a cautious optimism.

And now for something completely different!

I taught a winter session class for the first time in my career -- it began two days after Christmas and ends tonight. Fully online, it was perhaps the best and kindest introduction to teaching a three-week course that I could have had. Part of what helped was that I had about half the standard enrollment -- the class was added to the schedule fairly last-minute to accommodate demand, but I guess there wasn't *that* much demand, and I benefited. It felt *sane* participating in discussion boards with 15 students as opposed to 31. There was far less repetition in the posts. And my students were, on the whole, really wonderful to work with -- bright, hardworking, engaged. (The ones that showed up, that is -- who didn't take a winter session class thinking this would be an easy three credits and then bail when they realized how much work 15 weeks compressed into 3 entails...)

Usually I use January as a way to focus on my writing, which always takes a backseat to school responsibilities during the semester -- but that didn't happen this month. Even though I have a week between this winter class and the beginning of the spring semester, I'll have to use it preparing for my spring classes -- only one of which is meeting fully in-person. Apparently, students weren't as anxious to return to the classroom as our administration originally anticipated.

And I get it. Everyone is still nervous about falling ill, but also tired of masks, and tests, and distancing. It's easier to stay home, for many people, and do your work from your bed or your kitchen table or your home office (if you're lucky enough to have one). For me, I'm happy to be returning to a commute, to an office, to a classroom that doesn't involve a green screen. I'm vaccinated and boosted and I have KN95 masks and while I'm in no rush to get COVID-19 a third fucking time, I'm not eager to remain where I've been -- physically, emotionally, intellectually -- for the past 18 months.

I'm looking forward to travel again. I have a conference to attend in March (fingers crossed it will still run in-person!).

I'm looking forward (hopefully, again, fingers crossed) to begin exercising again. Thanks to a new med regimen, it looks like this might be possible -- and that will do *so much* to alleviate my anxiety and low moods.

I'm looking forward to reading more (always a goal) -- I have poetry books that I gathered for August 2021's #SealeyChallenge that I (not surprisingly) didn't get through, so I'm going to just tackle them slowly this year until they are all read and reviewed on Goodreads. Then also reviewing another title or two or three for the New York Journal of Books.

And I'm looking forward to writing more -- I received some good writing-related news that's unofficial as of yet, but if it works out I'll be, well, very grateful. To the universe. For a chance to breathe, because that's kind of what the acts of writing and reading give to me.

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