Surviving the plague in the suburbs

On losing my mind, and finding it again

America is currently an oligarchy organized by the hierarchy of the white supremacist patriarchy. Pancake Brain is a Friday newsletter dedicated to replacing the status quo with equitable public power, and a community dedicated to building the discipline of democracy that equity requires. We move through the world committed to a daily practice of activism and critical thinking. We reject limitations and embrace the possibilities of social imagination, certain that the queer future is better than anything we’ve yet dreamed up. We insist on our right and duty to the political conversation, and empower others to join us. Out of love for ourselves and the collective, we are engaged in a sustainable practice of freedom, endlessly un-fucking our brains.

Dearest Pancake Brains, 

How’s the apocalypse treating you?

Two weeks ago, my partner and I packed up our Brooklyn apartment and moved in with my parents in New Jersey. I used to joke that being forced to move into my parents’ basement was my worst nightmare, and now it’s the worlds’ worst nightmare. In this time of crisis, it is my great privilege to be safe, healthy, and emotionally 16 again.

Even when humanity is not besieged by an extinction-level event, there is a gravitational pull of recession that tears at my soul when I return to the suburbs. I have yet to find the portal to the void, but I think it might be in the laundry room. 

Since I began my journey to spirituality, I have been mostly able to opt out of this force, but, in the pressure cooker of our quarantine microcosm, I must humbly admit that I’m not meditating enough for this shit. It was a rainy day last week when the demon of my adolescent bullshit fully possessed me, physically warping my body language, and compelling me to yell things like, Dad, can you please get the fuck out of my room though?

There are other factors at play in my apparent breakdown, including but not limited to the total uncertainty that now defines every element of our reality. The shape of this newly terrifying world keeps clicking into sharper clarity, as the virus exposes the depth of the inequities that have been there all along. (America was always an oligarchy defined by the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, and now that’s so painfully obvious that Britney Spears is sharing quotes about wealth re-distribution on Instagram.)

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I had been desperate to click into optimism in that regard, praying that this plague would compel humanity to insist on personal agency and a duty to the collective. I had been studying the news, trying to keep a grasp on our ever-shifting new normal, and protecting myself from the pain by laundering my feelings through the detachment of armchair philosophy. Then my little brother got sick. 

Before we were able to confirm Paul had the coronavirus, I saw the desperate uncertainty now laced into the trivial and mundane. My family was praying and crying, because my 25-year-old brother had a fever. How horrifying and fucking stupid. 

One afternoon, I went for a run around the block in an attempt to cut off the ticker tape of anxiety fan-fiction. I ran past a white dog, so miniature, he may as well have been battery-operated. He yelped at me from the end of the lawn, and I was relieved to see there was a woman in leggings standing in the doorway, watching that he didn’t run into the street. I waved hello, and yelled, “Cutest dog ev—,” and then it caught my eye: The Trump 2020 flag waving overhead. 

I realized this was the same house I’d noticed the day before. There is another house with a Trump flag around the corner. My partner and I couldn’t let it go. One of us would sigh every time we walked by on one of our social distance strolls.

Earlier that afternoon, my friend Omkari texted me to say I should not, under any circumstances, engage with my Trump-supporting neighbors. I laughed when I read it. I had been fantasizing about spray-painting “bigot” on their garage doors. I imagined cursing off my neighbor, telling her about herself, and tangerine Hoover. I couldn’t believe I had accidentally said hello to a Trump supporter. I picked up into a sprint and literally ran away.

Paul has since gotten better. He has underlying respiratory symptoms, so we were especially worried, but that’s almost irrelevant. The terror of the coronavirus is defined by how little we know about it, and that dreaded uncertainty can live on countertops for up to four days no matter who you voted for in the 2016 election. Even a cough is cause for terror in this Upside Down.

In the relief of knowing my brother is recovering, I can see clearly the force that made me lash out into nastiness, both when snapping at my parents like an idiot brat and while considering revenge graffiti. I’ll have to work harder to resist it now, the childish anger in which I insist I can defeat my mortal terror with a temper tantrum. Now that I have found the space to cry, for myself, and my family, and the whole goddamned world, I’m dreaming up the story where that lady in the leggings finally sees the light. She called out “how are you?” as I ran away. I wish I would have turned around and said, “My brother is sick and I am scared. I hope you are OK.”

With earnest irreverence,

Lauren

p.s. Next week will be our first virtual book club. We’re reading Their Eyes Were Watching God by Friday, August 3rd. Join us and invite your friends?