Looking forward…

By Caitlin Kelly


We’re all living in the subjunctive now.

From Wikipedia (for Spanish):

The subjunctive is used to express desires, doubts, the unknown, the abstract, and emotions.


Americans, especially, are a nation accustomed — beyond those in the worst poverty — to a specific sort of aggressive optimism, the “American dream” that life will, through lots of hard work, get better.

A pandemic killing thousands every day has shredded this.


How can anyone look ahead with optimism?

How can anyone plan?

How can we make rational decisions without reliable information?

Can we stay healthy?

For how long?


It’s a challenge to keep moving ahead when you have no idea if you’ll get your job back or your health insurance or if your children will be back at school or college or university.

German schoolchildren are back in their classrooms.

My French friends are celebrating the end of “le confinement” — while a feckless America lurches deeper into recession and chaos and morons carrying guns storm a…Subway sandwich shop.

How are you coping with this uncertainty?

18 thoughts on “Looking forward…

  1. Jan Jasper

    It’s hard not to sink into despair. I’m shocked and dismayed that so many people in the US who, when told to observe social distancing, throw tantrums – sometimes murderous ones – because they think their Constitutional rights are being shredded. And when we finally, eventually have a vaccine – Hooray! – surely some of these idiots will think that’s another conspiracy and refuse to get vaccinated. This pandemic has shown a nightmarish underbelly, a sigificant portion of the American people, the existence of which is shocking. It will be very hard to look at our fellow citizens the same way, ever again.
    Enough about that…
    On a personal level, it is hard to plan for the future. I don’t know if my “Y” will ever re-open, so I’ve just purchased some home exercise equipment which I have to set up. I’ve been walking outdoors, and working in my garden – but that’s not a complete workout. I’ve already gained weight.
    I’m reading a lot. But I should not spend so much time reading Pandemic updates.
    I needed a screening medical test in February – I’ll spare you folks the details, but it’s done every 10 years and requires some unpleasant preparation (OK, that gave it away, ha ha) – it was rescheduled to June. It occurs to me – what if something _is_ found and the test should not have been postponed? But people in much worse health than me are delaying treatment so I won’t feel sorry for myself.
    Should I skip my every-6-month teeth cleaning?
    Sorry I can’t be more uplifting.
    I’m embarrassed to be focusing on myself here, but these little decisions are the only things I have any control over.

    1. I hear you!

      And thanks for sharing….

      I have been really shocked and disgusted by the worst behaviors this has brought out more clearly. It has really made Jose and I question why we live here and whether, in retirement, we still will.

      1. Jan Jasper

        It’s been interesting to read your tally of the pros and cons of moving to Canada. You spoke of the high cost of living in the Canadian cities that appeal to you. On the other hand, I’d imagine you’d save thousands of dollars per year on health insurance. Another angle is the varying energy levels. The lesser professional opportunities wouldn’t matter if you actually fully retired. But IMHO, I can’t see someone with your energy, Caitlin, 100% retired. Even if you did, I have a hunch that – even in retirement – you may find Canada’s vibe much too laid-back. You would not have survived in the NYC area, otherwise..
        Myself, after having lived in Manhattan, then Brooklyn, for many years, I moved to central New Jersey well over a decade ago. I’ve sorta gotten used to it, and I love having a house with a yard and garden, and no neighbors’ footsteps upstairs when I’m trying to sleep. But I am still bothered by the lower energy level here. When I go to “The City,” for every annoying rude incident I witness, there are many more invigorating moments that remind me why I love New York. (Obviously, this was pre-pandemic)
        Well, look at that….we were talking about the US,, and for me it morphed into New York.

      2. Right?

        And, true. I have long conversations about this with a very good pal in Toronto and she reminds me every time how urban I am.

        And, yes, Canada feels pretty snoozy in comparison.

  2. Mostly writing, thanking God I have a job that allows me to work from home, as well as for any good news that I hear (new anime with English dubs starting this month, for example), and a bit of hypnosis. It’s not always easy, but I’ve been coping pretty well. Better than some other people I could name, anyway.

  3. New Zealand’s fast food joints were swarmed when lockdown was partially lifted a couple of weeks back, however nobody was carrying automatic weaponry or rocket launchers, as I see happened in the US. I ask with due hyperbole – for we know the real motives – do Americans fear they will be targeted by a marine fire-team or main battle tanks when they go out to a burger joint? To me the public response to the lockdowns offers a lens on different national sub-cultures around the world in which the apparent need to be heavily armed in public seems uniquely American. But I think the government responses, worldwide, have also reflected differences in national cultures and, to a large extent, also the ideological space currently occupied by different governments at the moment.

    Here in NZ government has behaved with classic Kiwi ‘Boy Scout’ zealousness that went harder and further than a lot of other nations. In point of fact they applied their well-practised animal biosecurity system to humans (cut off the entry point, contain and then stamp out the disease). Even the daily charts were identically set up. All brilliantly led by Ardern, and the method has so far crushed the virus. But that begs the question as to how to keep things that way. The crisis has also generally brought out some abysmal personal behaviours, worldwide, that speak little for the human condition. Will things go back to normal? I think ‘normal’ was on the skids anyway, the way things were going. The pandemic has merely highlighted a whole raft of existing social, political and economic issues – again, globally – and accelerated the direction in which they were going. I suspect the near future will be interesting, globally, and not in a good way. One must, of course, always maintain hope in the decency of humanity; but I often wonder.

      1. Hopefully those grabbing the headlines are a minority – to me the news reports I’ve seen present as much as an indictment of where some of the media have gone in their quest to return advertising revenue through drama, at the expense of investigative and discursive journalism, but not reflecting true America. On my own experience, everyone I know from the US – friends here, people I’ve had ongoing contact with in the US via social media (‘penfriends’, I guess) have been excellent people: thoughtful, smart, kind, reasonable, well-read and considerate.

        (That media issue is a major one here, too – there are some appalling commentators in the NZ media whose interest is purely ratings. It reached the point where someone, this week, posted a YouTube clip showing how one contradicted himself across a couple of weeks.)

        Meanwhile here we’ve had Australians asking if we can lend our PM to them. Whether Ardern will win the upcoming election is another matter. Memories are short and September is time enough for the economic down-side of the lockdowns to be widely felt. The fact that those voting for the opposition will doubtless include some who are alive because of Ardern’s policy won’t matter. Such is human nature. Sigh.

      2. I agree that highlighting the worst and ugliest behaviors will guarantee views, clicks, comments and outrage. But it also needs to be shown. There is a really ugly side to American “rights” — almost never ever accompanied by the acknowledgement that you also have responsibilities to the common good.

        Cuomo, the NY state governor, gives his daily press conference at 11:30 or so EDT. It would be worth it to watch it. One thing he has done very consistently, and I applaud, is thanking NYers for behaving like adults and being so cooperative w social distancing and masking. We have — as he put it — tamed the monster (for now) — by being diligent.

        Even so, daily deaths were 700 (!) a day, now down to 161 yesterday. And we were SLAMMED by millions of unknown/untested arrivals from Europe who spread the virus all across the country — 20,000 deaths in crowded/dense NYC alone; 25% of the entire nation.

  4. i’m coping pretty well, but am shocked and saddened daily by thoughtless, mindless behaviors, and a daily dose of ignorant misinformation from our ‘leader.’

  5. I think that a vaccine may be a long way off and much of what I’m reading suggests it will be similar to the flu vaccine in that it will target the worst strains of covid with some hitting and missing. Many researchers are more focussed on anti-virals. The possibility is that we may need to learn to live with this virus.

    I’ve decided that I’m just going to roll with it. This virus is going to replicate and mutate and do its thing and there’s nothing we can do about it (right now at least and possibly for a long time), so we may as well get on with figuring out how to live life while maintaining a reasonable level of operative safety.

    I was and wasn’t surprised at what has happened in US. I used to live in Phoenix and suspected the probability of a much more dangerous underside. Guns and the much-touted “freedom” can clash in the most violent way, and I think that’s what the world is now seeing, that and a clearly deranged narcissistic sociopath for a “leader.”

    Trudeau is doing fine, and I’m happy he’s in the driver’s seat. There have been a couple of watery attempts here from the lunatic fringe at copying the US and protesting the lockdown, but those gained no traction at all, and I’m happy to live in a country where most people look at those idiots, refer to them as idiots and watch with satisfaction as they are carted away. Trudeau has been steady through all of it (I have to say I’m jealous of NZ’s Ardern too though).

    You seem to be pulled both ways, Caitlin. I think you love the melting pot cacophony of working in US but you also miss your first home and its tolerance and tact. You may have to listen to your body on that one. I know that I’m slowing down, for instance. I’m not slow, but I know that my energy levels aren’t quite what they used to be, and I’m trying to be better about hearing myself.

    1. So true….this IS the new normal: caution, wariness, a lower emphasis on $$$$$$$$ and speed, two qualities that define the American POV on most things. I will be very curious to see what changes, if any, this makes to public policy — not just now, in reaction — but planning ahead for a smarter (kinder?) nation.

      I am always glad to come back to Canada and visit with friends. I do miss elements of Canadian life, and values, obviously. But I search in vain for a way to return to Canada and live the life I enjoy here…Real estate anywhere BUT the boonies or the Maritimes is just really costly and I don’t want a lower quality of life. I’ve been very spoiled here with a MUCH nicer life than I could ever have had in Toronto: better work, better pay, a larger stage for my skills — and a very different attitude to risk than Canadians. I have lost patience many times working with (trying to) Canadians in the past few decades…they often ghost and I have zero tolerance for it.

      Broadway and the Met 40 minutes away….

      We’ve discussed maybe renting an apartment in Montreal, a city we really enjoy, and much more affordable than Toronto.

      Retirement means (we hope!) lots of travel. Not sure what else.

      My hope is to “divide my time” between our NY home and one, possibly, in Canada or in Europe.

      I don’t want to be subjected 24/7 to America’s relentless racism, violence and greed. I really don’t.

  6. I’m trying to cut out “I wish” and “If only I could” from my vocabulary. It’s hard to see an end to this. Even in countries like France and Spain where they have slowly started to lift the lockdown, going back to ‘normal’ life (normal as in being able to go out and about, meet friends and family, gather together) is a distant dream.

    I’m a regular reader of Oliver Burkeman’s column in The Guardian — he’s a psychologist/writer based in NYC — and I could relate to his most recent piece about coping mechanisms. “The real skill – while doing your best to prepare for the future – is to avoid expecting anything”. Easier said than done, though.

    1. Thanks for this…

      It’s got to be more difficult for people in their 20s and 30s, with their whole life ahead of them. At our age, we’ve (gratefully!) had many of the experiences you hope to enjoy.

      It sounds really weird, but Jose and I are actually enjoying this time. We’ve had great conversations, had a lot of time together with only (!) one blow-up. I don’t miss the normal insane frenzy of American normal life.

      1. It is very hard at times, and I miss face-to-face human interaction. Screens are a poor substitute.

        But, in many ways, I feel happier with the slower pace of life that the lockdown has brought for me. I have more time to think, plan, study and focus on what I really want in life (and no office politics or small talk!)

        I agree with you that less busyness is a good thing.

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