I don’t play obsessively, but the number of active games on my phone is at a record 5. If you, like I do, play the free games on your phone, you know that they come with ads for other games. One of these ads (for Fishdom) is utterly horrifying for me: to win, players must save an adorable goldfish who is suffering in a dry compartment of a tank. They do this by choosing among bars and levers that lift to (hopefully) release water into that compartment. But, of course, if they make a wrong move, lift the wrong bar, it sends fire instead of water. And yes, there are sound effects, which further devastates me when I can’t mute the volume in time before turning my phone face down. Something good…I have been assured by a trusted source that the real game looks nothing like the ad.
This ad has started to blur and conflate with the decisions I make around how I move through this pandemic. Instead of one fish, there are many. What I decide to do or say affects others and each action I take lifts a lever that could send water to some fish and fire to others. But none of my actions are ever absolutely the right ones. And there’s always another level to navigate. And I am not expert. I am inconsistent. Perhaps even hypocritical. Like everyone, of course I worry that some of my actions could physically sicken someone.
However -and to some this may be sentimental [self]-indulgence-, even this far into the new way of living, I’m incapable of brushing aside the affect to concentrate on biology. If you’ll permit me this clumsy and maudlin metaphor, I am as (and often more) concerned about coughing on and infecting your feelings as (than) I am transmitting actual disease. This in no way means I’m exceptionally altruistic or sensitive or considerate: it’s just how I’m…wired and being overly invested in emotion is usually more disadvantageous, in less-charged times. Feelings and emotions to me will never be trivial, and I struggle with not being able to put aside some old habits of relating to and with others in light of the new perspectives that we are supposed to have now.
I am not looking for advice or reassurance * because I know that there are many wrong and right ways to care for others and ourselves now and I think I am right in supposing that each of us questions, in our own ways, the way we are performing pandemic.
*Even as I instinctively and automatically offer it to you.