Letter from Joy
August 23, 2020
Sorry that this letter is a bit late, but the sad truth is that there really isn’t a whole lot to say. As long as Covid persists, our options are all rather limited. And not just our options, but our experiences and energies and just about everything else. Having said that, let me also say that I know I’m one of the lucky ones. I don’t have to worry about paying the rent or looking for a new job or how to feed my family, all of whom - touch wood - have stayed healthy. And I’ve always worked from home, so this is nothing new or difficult for me. A good part of my life is spent alone in a room with nothing but my imagination and my computer.
But the truth is that I have neither the concentration or the energy to do any work. The threat of this virus has robbed me of my ambition and made me so irritable, it’s a wonder anyone can stand to be near me. I am always either angry or depressed, and often both. While I have moments of happiness, I have far more of anxiety. I miss seeing my family whenever I want; ditto my friends; I miss going out to dinner and the movies and the theatre. I don’t even have any desire to read, although this is the perfect time to catch up on all the books I’ve been accumulating. It seems as if the only thing I have the strength to do - other than the necessary daily grind of housework, meal preparation and laundry - is watch TV. The only things saving me are long walks with my sister, golf a few times a week, and the occasional socially distant get-together with a few friends.
I was supposed to teach a course in creative writing this summer at the University of Toronto, but obviously, that got canceled. And any trips we’d been contemplating have long since been abandoned. We’re not even sure we’ll be able to go to Florida at all this season, and I miss it already, although not the politics. I worry about the state of democracy in the U.S. and what will happen if it continues its present course. I worry about my daughters’ futures and the world my gorgeous grandchildren will be inheriting. I worry about the coming fall season and the expected second wave of the virus. I know I’m not alone in feeling these things, and again, I acknowledge my privileged position, but it’s hard to feel hopeful when things are so unsettled and the world is so divided. Why do people believe outrageous conspiracy theories over common sense? Why do they shun science in favour of wishful thinking? Why is wearing a mask in public in the middle of a highly contagious and deadly pandemic even remotely controversial?
All this reminds me of something that one of my favorite writers, Fredrik Backman, wrote in his book, US AGAINST YOU: “People will always choose a simple lie over a complicated truth, because the lie has one unbeatable advantage: the truth always has to stick to what actually happened, whereas the lie just has to be easy to believe.” (How I wish I’d written that line!)
Having said all this, I have managed to read one book, Don Winslow’s book of six separate stories, called BROKEN, all of which, while well-written and highly entertaining, were instantly forgettable. I honestly couldn’t tell you what any of the stories were about, although I enjoyed reading them. And I’ve just started reading Mary Trump’s book, and it looks to be both informative and depressing. As for TV, I’ve started watching the excellent Lovecraft Country on HBO, although I gave up on the very atmospheric but equally listless Perry Mason. And my Housewives of Beverly Hills are almost over for the season, so that’s too bad.
And that’s about it for this month. Hopefully I’ll be in a better mood and the world in a better place by the time my next letter is due. Meanwhile, stay healthy, be kind to one another, think of others, and WEAR A MASK when you go out. Till next time,