Hi Darling Ones,
I feel about Weike Wang’s novels the same way I do about Sally Rooney’s novels. While I’m in the books I’m all in. I’m never really sure where things are going or even if things are happening, then I reach a point where I have tears streaming down my cheeks, and by the time I’ve finished the book I have no damn clue what happened only that I enjoyed the journey.
Trying to describe the plots of either woman’s book makes you sound like a post-verbal stoner. Take, for instance, Joan is Okay, Wang’s new book that I finished today. The plot: Joan is a Chinese-American doctor struggling with the loss of her father and familial expectations in the waning days of 2019 and first months of 2020. Actually, that wasn’t too shabby. It’s quite reductive, but does an adequate job of the basics. What it doesn’t cover is Joan’s inner-turmoil, biting humor, ferocious anger, and drive.
It’s a damn good book even if you have to forgive it’s abrupt ending. I read another book this week (The Startup Wife) that also touches on the pandemic and ends abruptly. This is what I am calling a trend, where books with the pandemic just say “fuck it” and end without a lot of warning or reason. It makes some kind of sense, doesn’t it?
What I enjoyed so much about the book is how Joan is both okay and not okay at the same time. Sometimes she was alight with fury on the inside while projecting calm and sometimes her outer world was crumbling and she seemed to take it in stride.
The book got me thinking about okayness and what that even means as we enter year two of this deadly pandemic. Am I okay? Are you okay? What does it even mean to be okay anymore?
Are there people out there thriving and striving and enjoying the fuck out of life right now? Like for real? I’m sure there are some #girlbosses and social media influencers and motivational gurus trying to positive up the joint, but I definitely do not buy what they are selling.
For the most part I think I am okay.
I don’t think about dying every day or how dying might not be the worst thing to happen. However, I don’t feel like I have a lot of zest for life at the moment. Zest for life? I don’t fucking know. I’m angry a lot. I can go from okay to spitting rage in about two sentences if someone asks me about how we, as a country, are handling the pandemic. I get angry at people who are doing this safety theater acting as if they’re being careful when you cannot careful your way out of COVID. I know that is sanctimonious and hypocritical coming from someone recovering from a recent COVID infection. But people, I just want you to learn from my mistakes. Be ye not stupid like me. The past two weeks have not been fun. Even though I’m 95% better I still get exhausted super easily. I have to take a nap every day and not a cozy nap because I feel like it. It’s the kind of nap you have to take because you simply cannot continue on until you restore some energy. It sucks. Hard.
Plus, there’s all the normal rage that comes with living in a country on the precipice of fascism. Voting right? Abortion rights? Late-stage Capitalism? I got rage enough for all of it.
Is that being okay?
Along with that, I have zero motivation for most everything it takes to be a functioning human: work, cooking, cleaning. . . I don’t want to do any of it. I do it, but I don’t want to. This one might be better blamed on January than the existential burnout caused by the pandemic. But then, why can’t it be both?
Maybe this is the very definition of okay. Marking time, going through the motions until something else happens.
Damn, this is not fun.