Columnist

Beth Dolinar has been writing her column about life, both hers and the rest of ours, for over 20 years. When not on the page, she produces Emmy-winning documentaries, teaches writing to university students, and enjoys her two growing children.

Has anyone else noticed this?

For the past few months, the world seems to be wonky, spinning like a warped bicycle wheel. We have to blame the pandemic for this; COVID and its many vicious tentacles have squeezed normal from everyday life. Each one of us could write 600 words about how life is different now.

But I’ll use my 600 words to enumerate the myriad ways I am off kilter – small slips and foibles and blunders; lapses and botches. I’ve been a mess lately.

Socks that don’t make it into the washer; line-dry items tossed in the dryer to shrink; exiting the grocery story without the one item I went in there for.

One sunny day last week I was halfway to the bike trail before I realized I’d forgotten to put the bike on the rack. I’ve headed into a store without my mask so many times I’ve taken to wearing it like a bracelet, so it’s there when I need it.

Early-onset memory loss, you say? It’s not that. When I focus at my desk my work is fine. It’s during the daily routines that things go awry in a hundred little, mostly benign ways. Last week I pulled up to the gas pump on the wrong side, and I hadn’t done that since the week I bought the car.

“Is this happening to you, too?” I asked my friend Dana. She gave me a couple of examples of her own scatterbrain affliction. She had some good ones, but of course I don’t remember them.

It’s as if the weight of all the billions of particles of the coronavirus are slowing down the pace of the Earth’s rotation, and we’re wobbling.

And we humans aren’t the only ones who notice the difference. Our collie pup has taken to chewing holes in the walls. Boredom? I don’t think so. The screwy world has got him all confused.

When my son was turning 2, we moved to Connecticut, to a town where I knew nobody. The first few months there, I felt as though the world was tilted – like I was walking on unsteady ground. Walking on eggshells. Doctors dismissed it as stress (the move to the new community was disorienting), and finally a specialist said it was probably something with my inner ear. Eventually it went away and never came back.

But the pandemic reminds me of those months – I was in a strange land then and we’re all in a strange land now. We find ourselves wandering around in the safe spaces we’ve carved out, trying to find our footing.

So we all shall forgive ourselves if we leave the milk out, bang our head because we left the cabinet door open, leave dental floss off the shopping list for the third time. Much has been written these last few months about how we’ve become scruffy, fluffy, gray and pasty. Also, grumpy. We’ve all been stumbling around some.

Eventually this will end, and we and the planet will be back in sync again. And we’ll look back on these months as ridiculous, nonsensical and hard. Dropped socks and spoiled milk and forgotten masks will come to mind, and we’ll wonder how we ever got through it. And if we’re lucky, we’ll laugh when we think about it.

Me, I’ll remember how the dog ate the house. Literally. Someday that will be funny.

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