It was hard not to notice. During the pandemic, we watched more TV and movies than the rest of our marriage put together. The only thing that really got obliterated was our watch lists.
There were so many shows on the theme of dystopia. So many apocalypses and post-apocalypses.
A lot of them revolved around a pandemic in some way. The important thing is that there is an apocalypse, right? It must have happened somehow?
Reading this stuff is probably good for us in some way; otherwise, there wouldn’t be so much demand for it. I know I’m not the only person who developed an understanding of basic epidemiology from Stephen King’s The Stand. I read it twice, first when I discovered it in middle school, and then again when the unabridged version was released. My husband and I referred to it a few times during the early days of the pandemic.
We thought we knew what to expect. The first couple of months, it looked like all our media consumption of apocalyptic narratives had prepared us well.
The virus spread from one country to another. It left death in its wake.
Grocery stores emptied out.
People started freaking out and attacking each other, fighting over basic supplies.
In our area at least, robberies went up.
Mentally and emotionally, a lot of us prepared ourselves for the avalanche. Here it comes. The moment our culture has been preparing us for since…
The disaster movies of the 1970s?
The Cold War?
Paul Revere’s ride?
What is it in our psyche that always makes us think the worst is about to happen? That the British are coming or that we’ll wake to a red dawn or that aliens will start blasting our national monuments?
The craziest thing about 2020 is how bad it was not.
How many terrifying outcomes did not come to pass.
I myself got the virus early on. That was never part of my imagination or my preparations, that the apocalypse would come and I’d be one of the earliest victims.
What dystopian literature taught me was that I would be one of the survivors! I would be scrappy and I would come out on top. Disaster would be good for me because it would give me a chance to develop more grit and determination.
Dystopian literature did not teach me how to loll around, trying not to move even a quarter-inch so I could avoid setting off the vertigo, too weak to hold my phone and too washed out to read.
Much less bash a zombie with a shovel or build a siege wall.
All that chaos and mayhem taught us to brace ourselves because the supply chain was going down. Therefore, our two most important skills would be One, foraging for material goods and Two, fighting or killing people who used to be our neighbors.
Those things certainly did happen during the great pandemic of 2020. People, including me and everyone I know, spent a lot of time hunting for supplies.
We did kill a lot of people who used to be our neighbors. We killed them with coronavirus.
At the time I write this, we’ve passed four million COVID deaths worldwide.
This is why I claim that the apocalypse failed. Because in spite of four million deaths, we’re still trucking along.
As far as I can tell, nothing will stop the supply chain of Planet Earth, nothing at all.
Not wildfires, not gas leaks, not volcanic eruptions or meteorites or tanks in the streets or plagues of insects or hurricanes or earthquakes or mudslides or collapsed buildings. Nada.
Wouldn’t you think, after that condo collapse, that everyone in Miami who lived in an older building would be fleeing for the hills?
I turned to my husband and pointed out that our building is around the same age as the Champlain Tower, we also live near the ocean, and that we also had dripping water in our parking area under the pool.
He waved me off - he’s an engineer and he says he checked it out - but I’ll feel happier at whatever point after we’ve loaded a moving van and gone to live somewhere else.
It’s going to take a lot more than a condo collapse to stop Florida real estate. It’s also going to take a lot more than four million people dying of a highly contagious respiratory virus to stop the global economy.
Something else happened in the news around the time I am writing this. The Haitian president was assassinated. This is extremely scary and awful! I can’t imagine how it must feel to live in a country with that kind of uncertainty. Yet at the same time, everything continues more or less as normal. For most of the world, the biggest noticeable difference is that you can’t book a flight to Haiti right now.
My guess is that will be restored before the end of the year, possibly before the end of the month.
One thing that we are easily able to do in our post-apocalyptic world - meaning a world that is basically past the concept of an apocalypse - is to section off any area that is struggling for any reason. Like a collapsed tunnel in an anthill. We all just scurry past and think “don’t go down that tunnel” and continue working and shopping.
The pandemic of 2020 is now also the pandemic of 2021. More people have died of COVID-19 this year than last year. Financial devastation has hit many families, but not others, and so we continue. The difference is that now we can buy everything again, toilet paper and bleach and Lysol wipes and probably even ventilators.
Now we can go everywhere again, concerts and movies and restaurants - everywhere except the Tokyo Olympics. And Haiti.
What all the apocalypse shows got wrong is that even a global crisis is not evenly distributed. Some areas will probably always be fine, while others will probably never really be okay. We’ve all learned to live that way without concern. It’s only really an apocalypse if it’s mine, if it hits me and my family. Right?
Maybe now that we’ve all lived through a global crisis and realized that the movies are wrong, maybe we can let go of the fever dream of imagined disaster. Maybe instead we can start imagining something better, something appealing. What would we actually want to happen to everyone in the world at the same time? What would be an outcome that we could all cheerfully work toward, something that we brought into being through conscious intention?
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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