Love Life in the time of cholera COVID

Well, um hi, everyone. When last I left off, everything had happened. Now everything has also happened, but differently.

I’ve been struggling with writing a post for weeks because what am I even supposed to write about in this wild world we live in? I have a few posts on the back burner, but honestly finally writing about my non-budget approach to spending money seems ridiculously inappropriate right now when people are losing jobs right and left or losing their lives. Every Monday night I’ve tried to sit down and write something to post on Tuesday and decided to push off posting until Thursday. And then that doesn’t happen either because I’m still at a loss for what to say.

We all know time doesn’t exist right now, so weeks have passed by without me posting. So, for lack of anything better to write, here’s a check in on how life looks at the moment.

What is a weekend? What is a weekday? What is time??

Working from home

Both my partner and I are now on week three of working from home (well, mostly. I went into work on March 17 since being able to walk to work means I’m essential personnel, but we decided that week that even our skeleton crew of essential personnel wasn’t going to happen and no one would be coming in, so that was my last day in the office).

Let me tell you that when we moved into this 600 sq ft 1 bed/1 bath basement with no access to the back yard and no patio or other outside area, we were not planning on having two people working from home in this place. I had to get rid of my desk to move in here and I cannot tell you how much I am missing having that dedicated space right now. Sitting at the couch or our kitchen table all day every day just isn’t ideal and makes for terrible posture.

I’m even more thankful now that this basement is on an alley so we have windows down the side and get light in here during the day.

I guess the good news is that after almost three weeks of seeing each other constantly, my partner and I are still engaged and still planning to get married to each other 😅

Life

I don’t know how I feel lately. Some days I’m sad about the state of the world. Some days nothing feels real, like we’re all living in a weird dream that may end soon or may never end. Some days I’m fine? Ish.

I keep thinking one day this will end (maybe in May? What about June?) and we’ll go back to life as normal. Except it won’t ever be normal. And it shouldn’t be. There’s a very real part of me that wants to burn the system to the ground all the time, and right now we’re seeing just how harmful this late-capitalist hellscape system we live in really is (with so many people filing for unemployment, I honestly don’t see how we’re not headed into a depression, let alone a recession). So I guess what I really want is “normal,” like being able to freely move around and travel and hang out with people and work out and work my weekend job again, but with universal health care and UBI and maybe some goddamn compassion for other people in less fortunate situations.

I am exhausted. I’m going to bed every night and having very weird, vivid dreams—about chorus rehearsal (both my current ensemble and my high school ensemble), outer space travel, planning weddings/getting married to nameless and faceless people who aren’t my fiancé, and a number of other things that leave a lingering “that was weird” feeling when I wake up. Despite the fact that our weekday alarms are an hour later now than they used to be since my partner no longer has to commute, I’m still waking up utterly exhausted. If I didn’t have to get up and clock in for work I don’t know how much longer I’d sleep.

I am trying to still walk more or less to work in the morning for some continuity and an excuse to get outside, but it’s easy to push that off. Especially if I’ve snoozed the alarm and am now in a position where I need to get up and start working right away. I keep saying I’m going to start a habit-tracking streak for moving my body at least a little every day, but I haven’t started that yet.

I’m still paying for my barre membership, since it gets me access to online workouts (and now, both live Zoom workouts and pre-recorded workouts from the DC instructors). I need to do more of those workouts. But again, it’s easy to push things off.

I’m sad that the weather is getting better but hiking isn’t really a thing anymore. Two weekends ago we went hiking both Saturday and Sunday but it was so hard to responsibly social distance from people who don’t apparently give a fuck about doing so. I’m all for people getting outside, but there were so many people on the trails, who weren’t distancing, who were making it hard for us to do so, and who apparently have not typically gone hiking before and don’t know the rules of the trail. So any other hiking we were going to do would involve us getting up at 6 am to try to beat the crowds.

But now there are shelter-in-place orders in DC, MD, and VA. In theory the shelter-in-place orders don’t apply to outside exercise, and VA’s order specifically lists hiking as an allowable activity. But it’s irresponsible of us to cross the state line into VA and travel far out towards Shenandoah or other hikes. There’s plenty of outdoor space in DC itself, but not a lot of hiking. And any outdoor space we go to (minus the mall since that’s big enough) is likely to be extremely crowded with people. So those 52 hikes we were trying to do this year? Not gonna happen.

“goodbye to you / goodbye to everything that I knew”

Remember that goal of mine to lose weight in Q1? That’s extremely hard to do right now. I constantly have the urge to stress bake and then stress eat ALL THE THINGS, but so far I’ve held off on baking any sweets. I’m not making any promises on how long that’ll last, though. I’ve made progress this year but I still have some weight to lose. But at this point I’m going for more maintaining the progress I have managed to make, now that I’m not walking five miles every day and going to barre and hiking on weekends. That’s involved no longer eating breakfast (coffee and half and half counts as my breakfast) and actively trying not to eat huge portions at dinner, no matter how much I want to. Turns out being in a pandemic makes you just want to eat 🤷‍♀️. I could just say fuck it, we’re in the middle of a goddamn pandemic, eat all the things, but at some point I’m going to have to wear real clothes again. And those already weren’t fitting me well.

I have a sweet tooth, and in the interest of cutting out carbs and refined sugars for our new diet (in the “way of eating” sense, not diet diet), I’ve finally weaned myself off also adding sugar (well okay, agave syrup) to my coffee. Boy, do I miss it though.

Money

Income

Since first starting to work from home and isolating mid-March, I’ve had a lot of opportunity to reflect on how lucky I am with my weekend job. It’s a service industry job, but it’s a part-time job for extra income, not my full-time job. Loss of income there is solely gravy in my budget and temporary. And no one is getting fired from this job, we all just won’t be coming in/getting paid for…a while. As soon as we’re able to work again, all of us can just sign right back up for a shift.

I have a sibling who works at a coffee shop and while they’re getting two weeks of hazard pay, there’s uncertainty about what happens after that. Not only am I not in their position, I am also in the privileged position of being able to help them out if they need it.

However, I am missing my weekend job and the friends I have there. I am also very much missing the extra income from that job. March still saw some extra income, both in the form of my weekend job and overtime at my full-time job, so April will be the real test with no extra money coming in. There’s a part of me that’s looking at this lost income and wondering if I’ll be able to pay off my credit cards next month (although April should be a lower spending month than March was). Mostly I’m feeling this way because I just moved all my extra cash to Ally for the extra 1% bonus for the next few months, which is artificially making me feel broke. I can always pull from my savings there and just get a lower bonus. It’s fine. But I am also very much missing the extra paycheck every two weeks—even if, so far for the year, I sent all of it straight to my Roth IRA instead of spending it or keeping it in cash. I’m about halfway to maxing out my Roth for this year (which, yes, is amazing progress considering we’re only a quarter of the way through the year) but looking at that remaining $3000 is very tough when I’ll have to fund it from my full-time paycheck (with no extra hours worked).

Lowering my 401(k) contributions from 41% of my paycheck back down to something more…reasonable(?) is always an option, but I’m trying not to take that option. I will need to lower my contribution at some point because I’m on track to max out too early this year, but that’s a problem for me later down the line since the rest of this year is pretty up in the air right now.

Granted, at some point I’m going to get my $900 tax refund from DC (ANY DAY NOW WOULD BE GREAT, but no, it’s still apparently being processed despite the fact that I filed my taxes back in February) and my $1200 check from the government, so that’ll go a long way to making up for lost extra income.

My partner and I are secure in our jobs (mine is by far less secure than his and I’m pretty confident in the security of mine) so we’ve been talking about what to do with our government omg handouts checks. The bulk will probably go to a mix of donations/takeout with only a small portion kept for savings or investments. Because despite the fact that I’ve lost some income and (artificially) feel broke, I’m fine. That money is better spent on people who actually need it. And no, future travel/buying stocks does not count as supporting people who need help now 😒

Spending

We’ve started getting takeout from local restaurants every Thursday. It supports local businesses and is a very good excuse to get outside for a walk. That’s sort of in line with our normal restaurant spending, although hard to tell exactly because some months we eat out often, and some months it’s only once or twice.

One of March’s purchases included blue light-blocking glasses. I’ve always stared at a computer all day for work, but now that I’m not also walking to and from work and going grocery shopping/to barre/to chorus rehearsal, I’ve got a lot more time in my day to scroll aimlessly on my phone or play games. A lot of the library books I ended up with before the library closed indefinitely are dense non-fiction books, so I’ve been slower about starting the next book when I finish one and am not reading as much as I could be right now instead of scrolling. Maybe computer glasses are overhyped and don’t do anything, but I figured now was a good time to try them anyway.

Oh, and March spending also included puzzles. We didn’t have any and that’s been rectified (sadly at full price instead of going to the thrift store to pick up puzzles there but whatever we’re in the middle of a FUCKING PANDEMIC).

At some point here our spending is going to level out: we’re eating out once a week but we’re not going anywhere or doing anything. Granted, our grocery spending is still very high (especially since we’re eating more complicated/expensive meals for lunches now that we’re at home), but eventually that’ll even out with decreases elsewhere. It’ll be interesting to see where we end up in April, the first month spent completely at home.

The farthest afield we’re going nowadays

Miscellaneous

This is an absolutely wild time to try to be planning a wedding. We wanted to get married in October or early November this year, but that’s not going to happen. We sadly hadn’t nailed down a venue or date before all of this happened and now places are protecting their remaining open dates this year for people that need to reschedule their weddings. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise, because honestly who knows what October will look like; will life be back to as “normal” as it can be? Now we’re looking at early next summer, which is fine, but also a bummer that we have to wait that long (and drag out the stress of planning that long).

We did, for better or worse, go venue hunting in March. We social distanced and used hand sanitizer as soon as we got back to the car, but I’m sure it was irresponsible of us. But I wanted to look at venues (there are always virtual tours, but it’s also very difficult to get a feel for how cramped your ridiculously large guest list is going to be in any given space without seeing for yourself) before shelter-in-place orders went out and before even next year’s dates started being taken or protected. We’ve now got a two-week hold on a date next year at a venue that also includes catering (one less thing to worry about!) and are waiting to hear back from various other caterers to know how much money we’d be looking at spending to have the wedding at a different venue. If we don’t hear back from anyone and end up having it at the place we’ve got on hold by default, I’m fine with that.

On top of all of this, we’re still having the “are we moving or not?” existential crisis. We’d pretty much decided to move to my hometown before all of this happened (and were looking at houses and putting in offers for houses), and my partner still would prefer to move over staying in DC for longer. I do not want to fall into yet another year of one-more-year syndrome, but now I’m kind of scared. I have a job here that’s not likely to go anywhere, and the thought of job hunting is revolting and terrifying during normal times. More so now. If we do move, we’re fine if I have trouble finding a job for a while. But it’s so easy to take the path of least resistance and just stay here. For just one more year. I need to get over my fears and start applying for jobs regardless, because I won’t know how that goes until I actually do it.

We’ve made a big financial move (meaning we just made an offer on a house. More on that and why on earth we’d do such a thing in a later post depending on how it goes) during all this, which maybe wasn’t the smartest. But we’re prepared for it. But it’s just another thing that’s reminding us how very not normal everything is right now.

It is—somehow—still spring though

I think that about does it for a (not-brief) update for now. I’ll be back to sort-of regularly scheduled posts soon because I’ve got March spending and a Q1 goals update to write, but I’m again at a loss for what to write after. We shall see how things go in the next few weeks.

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