I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I knew it wouldn’t be easy. Back in March, in what I’ve begun referring to as “The Before Times”, the idea of a lockdown wasn’t so bad. My two-and-a-half year tenure as my father’s caregiver had come to an abrupt end shortly before the new year. I was grieving and exhausted; I welcomed the opportunity to stay home and take care of myself.
At first it wasn’t so bad. I thought of it like a snow day, a separate and almost surreal (in a good way) reality during an otherwise devastating storm. I remember joking that at a certain point I would become Jack Nicholson in The Shining, losing my mind from lack of social interaction and contact with the outside world.
I wasn’t wrong. Every day there were new updates about Covid-19; some good, some terrible. The reporting was like a train wreck I couldn’t not watch. For me, having lived most of my adult life with a rare and deadly autoimmune disease that activates when my immune system is overwhelmed, I thought understanding the virus and resulting pandemic was my best bet for survival. I was grateful for my solitary life deep in the woods of western Maryland because, in my mind, other humans equaled danger. Ever so slowly, my “snow day” was beginning to feel like a prison sentence as new cases spiked and the death toll steadily increased. The healing progress I made early on began to reverse.
Meanwhile, the world was struggling to maintain a sense of normalcy. The estate my brother and I were tasked with settling still needed attention. Forms had to be scanned, emailed, and faxed several times because they had been lost in the shuffle of businesses closing and switching to remote systems. Family property had to be appraised and converted into a cash value. The celebration of life for our father had to be postponed indefinitely. There is still no closure, not even the ashes from his remains that were not donated to others.
I’ve always believed in the inherent goodness of people, that we would do the right thing when it really mattered. I want more than anything to hold this belief safe in my heart as the evidence continues to tell me otherwise. I feel foolish in my idealistic naivety, realizing that booksmarts seem to carry little weight in this time and place that is our home. Our cultural landscape is shifting and I’m struggling to find my footing.
Now, here I am, six months later, and every fiber of my being is still completely and totally exhausted. I’ve watched the world from the safety of my seclusion, seen the blatant disregard and disrespect for others perpetrated by our leaders and fellow citizens. I’ve watched their efforts to preserve systemic racism, to rob my community of our rights, to protect the 1% at the cost of the masses, to spread lies and misinformation for personal and political gain. My heart hangs heavy and tired because I want to be a force of good but I don’t know how I, a single person, can make a difference.
Then I remembered that although I am physically alone, I am also a member of an ever-growing movement for change. In the past weeks and months it has been heartening to see members of my community stepping up to the plate and leading the charge. These folx have consistently and concertedly countered racism, transphobia, and advocated for the marginalized and oppressed at every opportunity. I am grateful for these leaders, and I hope you are, too.
As we now celebrate Independence Day, let’s not forget that ours is a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” (Abraham Lincoln). The Before Times are gone and the future is uncertain. It is we the people who make the future. Our voices matter and we’ve seen that our voices can and do create change (even if they are masked and six feet apart).
If you’ve been struggling your way through 2020 like me, I’d like to encourage you to find the power of your own voice. The world we knew is gone; now is our chance to build a better, more inclusive, more diverse place to call home. When the path is unclear and your footing is unsure, look to yourself for guidance and consistently and concertedly do the next right thing. When we all do our part, the work moves faster. Do your best. Try hard. And please, wear a mask in public.
- Brian George Hose has been an advocate for LGBTQ persons and issues all his adult life. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Shepherd University and looks forward to pursuing a Master's of Social Work with a focus in mental health. A former musician, Brian served as minister of music for New Light MCC for several years and incorporates music into social work practice. He lives in rural Western Maryland where he has amassed a sinful number of books, yarn, and books about yarn. He has been writing for Baltimore Out Loud since February 2016.