A few years back, I read Station Eleven, a dystopian novel about a world collapse, thanks to an explosive virus. While reading, suddenly every little tickle in the back of my throat, every sniffle and sneeze, every tiny head throb, was The End Of The World. I remember thinking, This is definitely not a book to read if you’re sick.
And now, over the last couple days, Life As We Know It is screeching to a halt, thanks to COVID-19, and, in a weird tongue-to-sore-tooth way, I can’t stop thinking about the book.
And so I put it on hold at the library. Maybe, in light of all that’s going on, it’ll feel less terrifying and more cathartic?
My allergies are going bonkers, which kind of makes it awkward being out in public right now. (I’m not sick! Promise!)
Nights are the worst. Even though I take Allerclear daily, I wake myself up sneezing and then, sometimes for an hour or more, I can’t fall back asleep because my nose keeps running and I have to bolt upright and grab the toilet paper.
Clearly, I need a new allergy med asap. Help?
The other day my younger son said, “So if all those countries [referring to the ones in Asia and Europe] are shutting down, then isn’t that helping improve the climate crisis?”
Which sparked a conversation in which we imagined what would happen if global leaders treated the climate crisis as a Pandemic. It’s kind of neat to think about…..
Then the very next day, I heard a report on NPR about how China’s efforts to control the coronavirus have led to less air pollution. In just a little over a month, the decrease in China’s greenhouse gasses equaled what a state like Ohio emits in a year — a small amount by China’s standards, but not nothing!
“This is the biggest ‘snowstorm’ you’ve ever had,” I told the kids the other day, after yet another looked-forward-to activity got wiped from the calendar. They’ve — we’ve — never seen such widespread closure. Right now, the novelty blunts the disappointment.
But that will soon change, I know. Already the future feels dulled. No church, no plays and concerts, no trips. An extrovert, I can already feel beginning twinges of the impending downward suck.
How will we cope?
The other night, I messaged my sister-in-law Kim who lives in Hong Kong with her two kids and husband, my husband’s brother. They’ve been dealing with the coronavirus for two months now, and I needed perspective on what to expect. Below are excerpts from our conversation, lightly edited and paraphrased.
“Are schools still closed?” I wrote.
“Oh yes, she said. “Schools have been shut down since the end of January, and they will stay closed until April 20, at the earliest.”
“Do you go to coffee shops?” I asked. “Like, what’s shut down?”
“We go out all the time,” she wrote back. “Shut down = no one on public transportation, no one on the roads. We can see a major highway from our place … No traffic at all since January. To be honest, what seemed like massive overreaction to me now seems very sensible.”
“But what about grocery stores?” I pressed. “Is everything else still running? Like, what about movie theaters?”
“We’ve been to the movies: every-other-row seating and temperature check before entry. Grocery stores all stocked, except for the fancy one that has most of the expensive imported stuff.”
She advised us against going to my grandparents 90th birthday party this weekend (and then it got canceled), and we made sad little lists of all the events we’re missing, or that are up in the air.
“Today is the first time I’ve really felt down about this whole situation,” she wrote. “It’s so out of my hands yet my kids are so affected. I have to keep focusing on the positive. We are almost two months in and it’s the first day of despair.”
A track record which was, we both agreed, pretty darn amazing.
Hearing her perspective was so refreshing.
(Well, except for the part where she noted that the United States is way behind Hong Kong on getting a handle of this. “Hong Kong was massively affected by SARS so people were on the ball straight away,” she wrote. As a result, they’ve only had 129 cases, mostly from overseas. She noted that the United State’s messaging about the virus has been disastrous, as seen from over there, anyway. That part wasn’t quite as comforting, but it wasn’t surprising, either.)
Actually, our family is in an ideal place to handle this sort of thing. My husband works mostly by himself. I write. The younger kids are homeschooled. The girls’ jobs are both outdoors and with few (to no) other people. Over and over, I find myself noticing how much I have to be grateful for.
My older son, though, is having a harder time of it. He’s thick in the nursing program, clinicals, and social events. For him, the changes and the unknowns — What about grades? What about tuition costs? How will this impact the course load for the next semester? — are stressful.
Last night, disappointed and frustrated, he came out to eat supper with us and rant. Afterward, he shuffled around the kitchen, grumpy and on edge. And then he dug out the big bag of gorp began stuffing nuts and raisins into his mouth at a rapid clip.
Goodness, I said, with mock alarm. I’m glad you don’t get a period. You’d be a mess.
Maybe I am getting my period! he shot back.
And then a minute later, his appetite sated, he said, “I feel great now. Maybe I just needed more food?”
So now what?
For us, life is mostly the same. Tempting as it may be, I don’t want to fall into a Netflix trap so: how to take advantage of this forced break in our routines?
Like I said, I sent the kids to the library today. (Now that we’ve got one COVID-19 case in Harrisonburg, and schools are shutting down, I imagine the library will soon close, too. I mean, the virus can live on surfaces for three days, so do we really want to be passing around books, right?) I’d put the maximum number of books on hold — ten — and told them to get tons more.
So there’s that.
And my daughter is picking up some seeds — lettuce and spinach — from the store. Might as well get the garden ready and pop in a few early things.
I can still go running and cook lots of food, and do homeschooling stuff, blah-blah-blah, but without social outings to liven things up, life feels kind of colorless.
Maybe, if I get really desperate, I’ll clean things? (Nah, probably not.)
From The Atlantic: What Does Social Distancing Mean?
From Vox: 9 Charts That Explain the Coronavirus Pandemic.
And now, for a bit of fun: What Sound Does a Whale Make?
My husband and I were folding laundry when my younger daughter approached. “Hey Mom, What sound does a dog make?”
“Bark,” I said, confused but playing along. “Woof. Whatever.”
And that’s when my older son realized what was happening and started filming….
Have a good weekend, friends. xo!
This same time, years previous: the quotidian (3.11.19), for science, loaded baked brie, kitchen concert, homemade pepperoni, family weekending.
I live in coastal NC and I overheard someone in the grocery store say, "well now the entire country knows what hurricane prep and aftermath is like." We got hit pretty hard with Florence a couple years ago and I fled to Raleigh for the storm. Before I drove home it was, stop at every grocery store you can and buy anything you can eat without power, get gas and extra gas, and body/baby wipes because oh yeah, the water could go out too. So now I pretty much stock my house at all times as if End of Days will come at any second and I have to survive off my supplies.
I read Station Eleven too, if you're looking for another pandemic book- The Stand by Stephen King -is a lot more gross (and loooooong) but interesting too. I love survival and end of the world books, would love any suggestions anyone else has too!
Hello from Cincinnati. Struggling with this whole new world. I'm a retired RN who volunteers at a "shower house" downtown for the homeless. The social distance is 0-8 inches most of the time. At age 64 it doesn't feel wise, but oh….I will miss this activity so much. My husband is in the thick of things as a Chief at the VA. Stressful as the tsunami inches closer which will occur in a few days. The problems everywhere are huge, but I humbly confess I am bored. But I'm never bored and enjoy a quiet life. Boredom must be covering my existential anxiety. Because ours is a very medical and pandemic educated family (plus extended family) we've been seeing this come for the past 2 weeks. My MD daughter just returned today from her 2 week honeymoon in Argentina. Last flight to the US for at least 45 days. To a country that they don't recognize. To a freezer that is mostly stuffed with wedding cake and empty grocery stores. Thanks for sharing your family here and I appreciate venting to a stranger–just putting a voice out there helps.
Greetings from southwestern PA. My daughter and I just arrived here from the city where we live late last night, getting ready to hunker down with my Mom. I was homeschooled, and am getting ready to do some homeschooling for my daughter… Grateful to be out of the city, and grateful for your voice online, as ever!
It has been snowing here for the past 24 hours. Yesterday afternoon school closures were announced followed closely by the closure of libraries (which is what caused me to panic). I keep thinking about Station Eleven. I'm curious to hear what you think of it when you re-read it. Feeling a little trapped. Fortunately our church congregation is very small so we currently still get to attend worship. Best to you and your family. I love reading your blog. I'm trying to think of it as an extended spring break (once the spring weather shows up)!
I use the nasal spray stuff, adding in zyrtec when pollen really hits. I've really felt it this week myself – and my allergies usually take the form of a cough, so that's good.
I too was going to clean the house, but so far am keeping busy helping organize getting lunches to the kids that depend on schools for food, getting my neighborhood organized to make sure all neighbors are looked after. Turns out I will do anything to avoid cleaning my house!
I saw what you're doing. on Facebook — good for you!
My daughter uses the generic of Zyrtec – works better for her than the other allergy meds. And, yeah, this feels like a snowstorm, only longer and grimmer and it's too warm for hot cocoa, right? But at least it's perfect weather for starting the garden. It just feels weird to be "snowbound" without snow.
Switched to zyrtec first thing this morning. I've been much better all day, but I'm worried about the night — will it be strong enough to carry me through?