It was the end of days. Pantone Orange 9–2020. Images of the orange sky in California went viral. Looking at the sun confused my daughter. She thought the orb in the sky was a bleeding moon. She wanted to give it a band-aid. I didn’t know if the earth could be healed. Then Oregon caught fire and I knew we were closer to the apocalypse than ever before.
I’ve been preparing my entire life for this. Since I was a teenager, I’ve dreamt the world was ending. My dreams were like blockbuster movies; full of fire, earthquakes, tidalwaves, and of course a Will Smith hero. They were scary but exciting. Plus, I always managed to escape….climbing to a snow-capped mountain in Montana. I was always with someone, helping my loved ones navigate the way out. I was a hero too.
This end of the world feels different. It isn’t a blockbuster movie but a slow painfully drawn-out drama series like Showtime’s The Affair. It’s super painful to watch, but you do anyway because well, you can’t leave the house.
To be fair, 2020’s end of days started more positively. In April, in the early COVID days, my family sat around the table each reciting their Win of the Day. I had lots of things to feel good about. I had my job, my health, and was able to spend more time with my kids. We were tired, but saving money on expensive San Francisco daycare. I could celebrate small moments like potty training (finally!), the cream on my coffee, and the fact I lived near redwoods. Perhaps I was trying to be a hero.
But each day the stresses piled up. The 2020 apocalypse was slow and philosophical. I compared it to the sagging foundation of our 100-year-old home. On the surface, things look fine. It’s well decorated. But with time, the dry rot and the sloping cement might slowly bring the entire house down.
My vivid imagination went from writing a book to circularly dwelling on worries. I was afraid to see family and friends. I was worried about my parents, who have asthma and diabetes. I worried about working mothers who lost their jobs. I worried about the #BLM protesters and the injuries they endured for fighting for justice. I worried about justice. I worried about climate change. I worried there wouldn’t be enough eggs at Safeway so I could enjoy my one sole reassurance of the day — a fried egg.
I worried about the fires, watching places I love burn. I worried about breathing, I worried about the heat. I worried I would never be happy again.
I worried I’d end up alone.
My partner and I fought. Because we had no place to go, we’d argue up and down the hills of our neighborhood, hurtful words escaping through masks drifting up through the smoke.
I struggled to balance childcare and my job. I was continually failing my daughter. She saw how much work I did, instead of playing with her. Mom guilt coursed through me.
When the dry lightning windstorms came, branches of our redwoods broke and crashed through the glass windows of our car.
My toddler stopped wanting to go to bed on her own. I was reprimanded for trying to stay with her as she fell asleep each night. No one understood that laying with her in the dark is the only time I felt love. At least a love without complications.
All these stresses made my heart resemble a piece of Swiss Cheese, each hurt a little hole you could look through to see the red sky.
Hold times on mental health hotlines are 22 minutes. I have kids. I don’t have 22 minutes. I have five. Just enough time to fry an egg…on a hot Californian sidewalk.