Unpacking the Sausage: Insights from the long, ongoing pandemic

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Nobody’s masking, everybody’s coughing. If it sounds like I’m corresponding from a bunker, it’s because I haven’t left the house much. By the time this piece runs, the COVID-conscious arts showcase I arranged for my 35th birthday (in lieu of running for President of the United States — growth!) will be over. 

So, it’s quiet. My household doesn’t have many safe friends left to join us for a “bubble.” I guess that’s to be expected, now that the average death count is down to “only” a weekly 9/11. I seem to know a lot of people experiencing new chronic illness symptoms lately though. 

Real head-scratcher, that one.

Bre KidmanStill, I can’t blame anyone who’s ready to move on from the pandemic and careen gently towards chaos. I spent the year trying to fight the tide, but I guess I’m ready to admit it was a shitty thing to do. By this I mean the times where I was judgmental or unkind. I’m not saying I was wrong.

In my defense, I still think COVID-19 will play badly with my scratch-and-dent body and eventually create a situation that threatens my mobility. At the beginning of 2022, I’d only just clawed said mobility out from under a decade of chronic pain. I was terrified COVID-19 would ruin everything I worked for.

Most things get easier when you stare down the worst case scenario though. I got sick (ironically, not with COVID-19) at the end of March. By July, I wasn’t sure I’d survive the summer. My attitude started changing just before the leaves, when I realized the pain wasn’t going away but I wasn’t dying. At the beginning of November, I had a procedure that was 75 percent effective. Because I hadn’t expected it to help at all, it was a tremendous win. 

You’ve probably guessed this is yet another column about reframing expectations, but it’s also about turning 35 at the end of 2022 and finding myself in a strange position.

I don’t just mean hanging from one limb upside down on a pole — which I’ve finally recovered enough to do again. What I mean is that I’ve accepted that the continued pandemic is probably going to shorten and/or reduce the quality of everyone’s life — even the people fighting it as hard as we can — and I’m embarrassed by how long I mourned the life I expected to have. 

I’m embarrassed by how mad and jealous I was when other people found their footing in it more easily than I could. 

I’m embarrassed for feeling angry about people who didn’t keep fighting this one fight while everything else — work, housing, life — got harder. 

I’m embarrassed by how scared I was when I got sicker, and I’m embarrassed by how scared I am now of the inevitable point where I get that sick again. 

But then I look at it from the vantage of my “professional dominatrix” persona and I think: I’m embarrassed that I was so desperate to spread myself open for a pathetic fuckboy world that can’t even be bothered to use prophylactics. 

(That bitch is so good for my self-esteem, god bless.)

At some point you have to adapt and take control by creating the spaces that meet your needs.

With anything in life the right people will understand you, and the wrong people won’t. It doesn’t have to be hostile, but it is often disappointing. We get close to people and communities and we hope they share our values. We’re surprised — hurt, even — when we find out we differ in ways that cannot be reconciled easily. It’s difficult to part ways without attributing fault when the true fork in the road is simply having different needs. The loss and the grief are real, but most of the time the resentment is just fear by another name. 

To that end, I’m excited to spend 2023 crafting new forums for folks with similar ideas around what it means to care for a community in an ongoing pandemic. I’m looking for ways to connect with other folks who haven’t given up on avoiding the plague, even if the rest of the world marches on without us. We might not get out as often, but I’m hopeful that getting my grief out of the way this year will leave next year clear for building safe pathways out of the bunker.

If you’ve got ideas, my email’s at the bottom.

Bre Kidman is an artist, activist, and attorney (in that order), and the first openly non-binary person in history to run for the U.S. Senate. They would be delighted to hear your thoughts on the political industrial complex at [email protected].

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