Privilege Blog

Yes We Will Yes We Will, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:13am

Today is January 30th. In about six weeks, we will have quarantined for a year. By “quarantined,” which is a fluid term, I mean all groceries delivered, masking at all times when within 20 feet of other people (except last summer when California was doing well and we ate outside twice), and avoiding public interiors except three retail moments.

I write this not to complain. Not that I might not complain another day, but this morning I was instead asking myself what I might have done differently 11 months ago, had I known how long we’d be in. Do you ever wonder?

I would have visited my best friend. I was set to go back East in the third week of March, but since the outbreak in New York was just getting serious and she lived in New Jersey, I did not. Had I known that Liz’s glioblastoma by then had almost certainly taken hold, had I known she would die 10 months later, I’d have bought a face shield, masked up, paid the price of a first class ticket, and flown hungry and thirsty across the country. I would have been safe enough in a way that I could not have been once the pandemic exploded.

Maybe I would taken her early symptoms more seriously, if I’d seen her. Maybe I could have gotten her in turn to see a doctor. For now, I will imagine her as best I can on that white beach in Scotland, turning a cartwheel, hair flying.

I would have set up a room for myself first thing. I know this feels ridiculous, in comparison to my best friend dying without my saying goodbye in person. But such is life as a human. And maybe the ideas are related, I do not know. When you ask a large question, answers come back as they must, big or small. But last week I finally bought a sofa to set up my room.

To be clear, I hope I am that person who washes their car in a drought and wakes up to pouring rain. The day after my purchase arrives, the days will warm, we will achieve herd immunity, and we’ll all rush into the streets rejoicing. It’s OK. I’ll still be glad of a place to write where I can’t see the kitchen and nobody’s on the phone. Alternatively, a place to be on the phone where no one else is writing.

So thank you all for the recommendations on what to do about furniture sizing. I cleared out what I would not be using and made templates on the floor. The sofa will go here, its place now marked by tape. It’s from Pottery Barn, as that was the only sleeper sofa that fit in the space I had that also came in natural fibers. I chose Textured Basketweave in Flax. I should write an essay on beige.

I may need to move the rug so it runs the length of the room or I may need to cut it down. I am not even trying to decide until the sofa arrives. But my yoga mat fits nicely either way. Now I need to choose a lamp for my mom’s oval table. I’m thinking super-modern.

Her desk is just opposite.

We will set up a treadmill, in the other half of the room, where you see the rectangle of packing paper. With any luck, it will face the bookcase in the first photo, and I will watch television on the monitor you see there. Stacks of paper will be replaced by a filing cabinet;  exercise clutter will be contained in a basket.

The thing is, if I had actually known in March of 202o that come January 2021 we’d still be quarantined, I am not sure if I could even have absorbed the knowledge. It’s been so cataclysmic. So much has changed and so much has stayed the same and in retrospect there was no way to have known which would be which. I can imagine a sofa between painter’s tape, and a lost love on a beach, but those are my limits.

Today I hope that you’ve found something of value in these months, and that you do not berate yourself for any failures. Cue Diana Ross and the Supremes. Some day, we’ll be together.


Links are not monetized. Another day they might be but I will always tell you.

34 Responses

  1. I love the fabric, Lisa. And I remember when you bought that wonderful rug. I hope that you don’t have to cut it down.

    If I’d known in March that I would still be working remotely and having everything delivered a year later, it would have been devastating. And when my beloved son, who graduated from college (virtually) and found a job (remotely), moved 3000 miles away, I wouldn’t have been able to bear it. When he left in July, I told him that it might be a year before we saw one another again. He did not consider this a possibility, I knew that it was, but did not think it likely. Now I know that we will be fortunate if we can see each other in June.

    I’m glad you’re setting up the room, Lisa. It will serve you well even after this is all over.

    1. @Marie, I can only imagine how you must miss your son. 3000 miles is so far when we can’t get on planes. I hope June comes true for you both. I am prepared to have to wait until September, although not at all happy at the prospect. I am glad I’m setting up the room too, thank you:). The rug was a present from my mom in her last year in Santa Barbara. I chose it, of course, but she liked it. If I do cut it down, I plan to have the cut piece bound and use it as a mat by the door that goes into my butterfly garden from here!

  2. Good question! What would I have done if I had known this shutdown would last for a year? Basically, I would have done more long-term planning, and less just getting through day by day. (Well, I know what I mean by that!)

    Ah – the fabled Room of One’s Own – congratulations on making your own version come true! And how wonderful to have your mother’s elegant antique desk to inspire you.

    1. @Victoire, I know what you mean about getting through the day. I bet almost everyone does. And yes, I’m absolutely letting my mother inspire me. xox.

  3. So very sorry you didn’t see Liz one last time. Timing is everything, and this pandemic has surely taught us all some lessons.

    Holly Rose

  4. Lisa, When I hear about your friend it makes me sad for you both. Death is all around me now and sometimes I am overcome with numbness.
    I have few regrets about quarantine time. Each day I pretend I’m a school girl following a schedule. It seems to help me.
    I wish you love and inspiration to complete what you desire.


    1. @Luci Short, Thank you. I can imagine being a schoolgirl following a schedule might be deeply comforting. I am sorry you are surrounded by death. It is something I know more about than I used to.

  5. I’m so sorry about the loss of your best friend without getting to say goodbye in person. That is a huge emotional reality. Compared to that, I have a zillion regrets and no regrets at all. There have been so many things suspended—school plans: moving plans (though I press on, masked and distanced, or FaceTimed, but cities and real estate have all been complicated by the pandemic in multiple ways); car lawsuit settlement; travel to Lawrence, KS, NYC, Britain, Italy, the South of France—sometimes I feel enraged and trapped by the ticking on of time no matter what, other times I just feel accepting, but with a lot of sadness. My saving grace is exercise. My reading ear perked up when I noted you’ll have a treadmill in your writing room. Our city gym closed, so we let our membership lapse, then our building gym closed, now I walk at our lake or at the bay or in the canyon. With endorphins comes acceptance of what is, at least for me that’s how it works. If I don’t exercise, I can get fall-off-the-edge sad, so I try to make it a daily priority. I read regret is pointless and gratitude is the thing, but some days gratitude eludes me, though I should be grateful for health and safety, and warmth, and a friend with whom to weather these days. Sending you love and support as you grieve your friend. Also, sending you gratitude for the weekly posts you write that make me organize my thoughts based on your generosity and willingness to write down your thoughts and share them. I hope you love your new sofa. Beige and white and black and gray: all more complicated than they seem.

  6. This was a question that made me think…for long enough that I realize I probably have done the best I could. I was very lucky that I’d pushed myself to visit my daughter’s family in Rome at the end of 2019, even though I’d already been to Europe that June and had spent time with my granddaughter—and even though I made that December trip through all the hassle that a French general strike can bring. Some of that trip was gruelling, but even that short visit has sustained me over the past year. . .and we’ve managed to take advantage of every period of lower numbers and loosened restrictions to see the others.
    I’m also pleased that I decided to carry on with the Italian classes I’d begun in Fall 2019. I don’t love the online format, but if I’d decided to wait out the Covid restrictions, I’d have still been waiting for in-person classes to resume. . . I’m hoping they’ll be back by this Fall, but there are, increasingly, reasons to question that optimism. Hoping, though. I’m aching to see my little one. She was five when I last hugged her, and she’ll be seven before I do again.
    I’m sorry you didn’t get to see Liz again, and glad you have so many good memories of time with her. And really pleased you’ll have a room of your own for writing. Xo

    1. @Frances, I am so glad that you gave me some of your time and considered. To hear you say you did the best you could makes me tremendously happy. I hope you will be reunited with a seven-year old as soon as possible.

  7. Your regret over missing your friend is why my sister and I have each vistied our Mother twice. Travel in March when tests were impossible to come by is one thing. Since Summer the testing situation has improved considerably and with the thought that time waits for no one we’ve gone and stayed with her.

    1. @RoseAG, There have been so many unknown variables that looking back there would only have been a short window when cases were low in New Jersey and California, and planes were limiting passengers and the risk would have been acceptable to me in my own calculs. I admit I was as worried for my own safety as for hers.

  8. I don’t have any regrets about things not done, had I known how long this would go on. We made a big move to Ojai, had been on a great vacation in February and came home to lockdown a few days later. I think you’re really going to enjoy your room and I know this was something you were thinking of pre Covid. Glad you’ve decided to have the treadmill inside, rather than the garage. Hmmmm, a lamp.
    It’s going to be a very cozy room.

    1. @KSL, So glad to hear that you have no regrets. Yes, the treadmill just seems so important that it needs to be prioritized.

  9. So glad I journeyed to this blog. You are such a wise, deep, and beautiful person, Lisa. I feel blessed to have known you for so long, but more that our paths have intertwined recently in a more meaningful way. I look forward to learning more from you as the time passes.

  10. yes. i think it is a gift that we didn’t know how long this would be … that we were allowed to imagine the fantasy of a shorter quarantine … even now, we’re chasing mutations (or maybe the press is selling fear of mutations: too early to know which is the truth) … but am sorry that you weren’t able to see your friend one last time. i hope that you can forgive yourself that choice … and i hope we all will emerge from this a little slower, a little kinder, a little more mindful of the preciousness of life (all lives; not just our own, though it’s easy to fall into that “self”ish mindset). i am so ready for this to be over and yet i am very aware that, at this moment, we are just at the beginning of the end.

  11. It took me about 8 weeks to move my “office” off our dining room table and into one of our guest rooms. I hadn’t been thinking big enough; both of our guest rooms are set up solely as guest rooms. It hadn’t occurred to me to simply move a bed around in one of them to make room for a desk. The next step will be doing as you’ve done: ordering a sofa bed to replace the actual bed. It seems like it will be a very long time before we need to use both guest rooms concurrently again, and the sofa will be more practical now that the room is my office. Happy to have the Pottery Barn tip, so thank you for that! xo

    1. @Arlene Wszalek, It took most us a long time to think big enough, I believe. I hope you find a sleeper sofa you like! I also love Interior Define, but theirs just wasn’t small enough.

  12. I’m very sorry you did not get to see your friend before she died, but please do not beat yourself up about it. Back then the virus was out in the wild in NY/NJ, hospitals here were already overwhelmed, and doctors did not know how best to treat it. You were wise not to come.
    I am just grateful to be in line to get my second shot and to have hope of being able to fly cross-country and hug my grandchildren again in the foreseeable – no longer impossibly distant – future.

  13. Great, thoughtful essay. I am not sure what I would have done differently had I known we’d still be “staying at home” 10 months later. We returned from the Bahamas on March 16, 2020 just as Los Angeles was entering lockdown. Over time I turned the guest bedroom into an exercise room with fold-up stationary bike, fold-up rowing machine and the various yoga items. It’s been great to have the equipment but I’m not sure what will happen when we welcome guests again. Alas, I don’t have to worry about that for several months at least.

    The idea of containing the yoga stuff and weights in an attractive basket is brilliant and I will be doing that!

    What a long, strange trip it’s been.

  14. If I’d known we would still be in quarantine a year later, I’m not sure I would have been able to bear it. I would still have had to put my mother in the long term care facility two days before they declared a lockdown at the facility on account of COVID-19 (although we didn’t know this at the time). because it was becoming impossible to care properly for her in her home. Yes, it hurts that she passed away ten months later without her family by her side and didn’t live long enough to see the end of the quarantine to have a real in-person visit instead of a socially distanced, masked one with my brother and sister and FaceTime with the rest of us. In the end, it was all we could do and we wouldn’t have done it any differently.

    I am so sorry about your friend. You must be feeling devastated. Try not to be sad that she’s gone but glad that you shared such a precious friendship.

    I’m envious that you’ll have organized a room of your own.

    1. @Jane, Oh, no, having to know that your mother’s death would require that of you. It was required. But so hard. Sending you hugs.

  15. This is such a marvelous question. Certainly the lockdown experience has helped me slow down, which I needed to do. More precisely, the lockdown has helped me to *calm* down. I needed to do that, too. I am so grateful for the space I created, and the courage I found. For me it all boils down to health, loved ones, and showing up. Also: Humor! Good food! Getting outside! Agree with everyone about being a hairline from over-the-edge sadness. Of course that’s where we are. There’s so much power in community and sharing — thank you for this! Eager for the next question!
    P.S. Yes to using parental desks, cups, scarves, cookbooks. I have a pair of scissors that my dearly departed father used every day. Two decades on, it’s comforting to cut things with his tool.

    1. @Sarah, I love your priorities; “health, loved ones, and showing up. Also: Humor! Good food! Getting outside!” I have to remember to get outside more often. Can’t wait until it’s gardening weather.

  16. Darling Lisa,

    We can certainly identify with much of what you write here.

    Lockdown in a foreign country since 11th March [and counting] has been a somewhat surreal experience but it has provided much time for reflection.

    We do not yearn for times to return as they were. Rather we hope for a new future where we all manage with less and we appreciate people much more.

    Kindness is the best thing…. we are certain that your friend appreciated yours.

Comments are closed.