I bet I’m not the only one who coughed or sneezed in the past week and thought “Oh no!” I’ve put my forearm to my forehead to check my own temperature. I’ve taken my fair share of deep breaths, just to make sure my lungs are clear. I wonder if that slight headache is due to allergies, eyestrain from being on my computer, or if it’s the first sign of Coronavirus.
I might have tendencies toward hypochondria – there have been a few times when someone told me – after I’d spent a lot of time in close contact with them – that they had just gotten over the “stomach bug”. The next time I ate something, I’d focus in on my own G.I. tract to make sure there were no indications of nausea. But this is different because nausea is unpleasant but Coronavirus can be deadly.
Unfortunately, the pandemic is hitting at the same time that the dead wet leaves from last fall are starting to mold. My allergies are kicking in as a result. My eyes itch and burn, there’s a slight pressure to my sinuses. I know it’s just allergies, but to be on the safe side…
I’m not going near people. I’m staying home – as strongly suggested by the government – because I’m not so self-centered that the thought of infecting someone wouldn’t bother me. Should this not be allergies (which I’m pretty certain it is because I don’t have a lot of contact with people to begin with), I don’t want to pass it on to someone else. Hell – even if I have the common cold and pass that on to someone, their immune system will be impacted and this is a time when none of us can afford a compromised immune system.
So I won’t be at the grocery store for unnecessary items. I won’t go to the post office to chat. I’m not visiting friends or relatives. I’m certainly not going anywhere near a hospital or doctor’s office. I’m staying home and I wish everyone else would as well.
There are nurses and doctors fighting this virus who need to stay as healthy as possible. There are people with underlying health conditions who could die from this. It’s not worth the risk.
So today is the day I really settle in to this self-imposed isolation. I have done what I could to prepare for this. I’ve started to take an inventory of everything I have on hand (and discovered an odd obsession I have with soap) and yes, I have decided I really do possess enough toilet paper to last me a month.
It strikes me as a wondrous thing that of all the items people were worried about, toilet paper became the number one obsession. Honestly, I would have never given that a second thought. I was more concerned that I didn’t have three bags of Doritos and my stash of Reese’s Peanut Cups were lower than I would like. Perhaps I’m just a hedonist – screw the basics of human comfort and sanitation, I just want my snack supply to be secure.
I did not make a panic run to the store. In fact, I haven’t seen the inside of a grocery store in about two weeks. I stocked up the best I could (mainly on dog food) and figured as long as I have a few boxes of pasta and some cheese, I’m pretty much good to go. I’m fortunate in the fact that I’ve never been food insecure – but it makes me incredibly sad that others are not so lucky. So this will be a true test of our ability as Americans (and as Humans) to look out for the less fortunate among us.
Have you heard about the Eight Oaks Distillery in Rural Pennsylvania? (Here’s a link to their site: https://eightoaksdistillery.com/). They saw a need for hand sanitizer and set about creating a way to produce and distribute it to those in need. It’s pivots like this that will make us come out of the crisis stronger. They’re not the only company using this time to make a difference – education sites are opening up their resources for free to help the nation cope with school closures (another link to a great site: https://kidsactivitiesblog.com/135609/list-of-education-companies-offering-free-subscriptions/). So maybe this crisis has a chance to move us all toward a more collaborative society – one where those who have something can help those in need.
I guess we’ll find out in a few months if we’re evolved enough as humans to do this gracefully and compassionately. I think we are, but the fact that everyone seems to be out of toilet paper does put a dent in my optimism.
I admit it, the thought of social distancing appeals to me. I’m not very social to begin with. My idea of a perfect day is really being alone in my house with my dog and having the freedom to bang out a few chapters of my next novel or work on my graphic design projects. The thought of not seeing people for a few weeks (months?) really doesn’t cause me any anxiety or sadness. I know I’m probably in the minority with this, but I’m a true introvert, and being an only child prepared me well for times like these.
With that being said, I also know that at some point I’m likely to find myself stretched out on my couch binge watching some series or another. In fact, last summer I devoted weeks to the entire Boston Legal series and I loved every moment of that. In this current situation, though, the mere thought of engaging in slothful behavior causes me to feel a flutter of anxiety. That could be because last summer binge watching was a luxury that I chose while totally in control of my life and secure in the knowledge nothing big was looming outside my door.
Times are different now. Oh, how they’re different! There’s economic chaos on a Global scale. People are in real danger of hunger and homelessness. At best, we will feel some minor discomfort from this. At worst, we face loss, grief, and horrible sickness possibly of ourselves or our loved ones. Yeah, binge watching isn’t on my calendar today.
I rolled out of bed at 5 a.m., made myself tea, told my dog that this was our “new reality” – and turned on the news for about an hour. When I had taken all I could of the calamity that’s now our daily experience, I set about being productive. I cleaned my kitchen. I did two loads of laundry. I changed my sheets. I checked in at my office – via email – and did a few small projects that I had kept for this morning just so I could feel some sense of normalcy.
Then I sat down to write this post and after three different opening sentences realized that my need for productivity comes from a complete loss of control over my life. I’m not unhappy being here with the dog. I love having the flexibility to telecommute. I feel very fortunate that I’m not worried I’ll starve over the next month. But even I – with my love of solitude – feel anxious that I can’t control any part of this situation. All I can do is sit tight and count my blessings – and be productive in the hope that when this is over, I have done something to make my life – and those of others – a little less stressful.
Stay safe. Practice Social Distancing. Wash your hands. And do whatever you can today to help yourself or someone you care about feel a little more in control in these crazy times.