Maybe I should put down some thoughts on the fact that there is a pandemic. I’ve read some very moving and profound thoughts written by others online. Don’t expect that here.
I am over sixty and a Type II diabetic – the disease that often does not feel real, but does increase my risk of not doing well with Covid-19. If I dwell too long on this fact, it can be scary. I also can worry about coping with long term side effects of having diabetes, I can fear breast cancer, stroke, car accidents, and the so many ways there are to die. But the non-Covid-19 ways to die feel more abstract and distant. Covid-19 is invisible and rapid and it’s still a learning curve to fight it.
I work in a hospital where policies and notices are revised and updated daily. What would have been unthinkable just months ago (i.e. re-wearing PPE, potential lack of supplies) is now the norm. I wear a fabric mask all day at work and with lots of talking, it gets damp and uncomfortable. But it’s not an N95 mask. Those are saved for the healthcare providers who are knowingly taking care of patients who may be or are confirmed positive for this novel Coronavirus. Patients are being asked to wear a mask when we enter their room. (This is when neither of us are positive for Covid-19 or symptomatic.) People working in a healthcare setting are scared and tired and sad. But they are still showing up. My hospital hopes they’ve done too much in creating a field hospital. And I see MWH colleagues applauding as a couple of survivors are wheeled out through the lobby after their stay for Covid-19. I see the community supporting their local hospitals and healthcare providers with car parades and messages of encouragement chalk written on sidewalks, and hearts posted in windows.
Since my husband and I still work, and we go to our places of employment, the financial impact and feelings of isolation are far less than for others. So far. We have no small children to suddenly homeschool or keep busy, we have no small business we are trying to keep afloat, we are not working from home, we are not extroverts, we see people daily at work. Admittedly, it is likely our retirement date may have been extended out now, but that remains to be seen. Lots of people are trying to cope with silence and isolation, lack of physical contact, experiencing financial challenges, not working at all. Or some are coping with not enough silence with children around while they try to work and school them and entertain them and I think we should have had stock in Zoom.
Meanwhile, I’m simply trying my best to comply, and hoping that the daily updates from my employer will slow down eventually and I won’t have to wear a mask all day for months or years at work. Taking our temps upon entry will become the norm. Here’s hoping that that protective equipment doesn’t run out for coworkers who are facing patients with this tiny virus – up close and personal every day. It would be great if the naysayers are right, but I prefer to get my updates from epidemiologists, scientists, those who have studied viruses and pandemics and history; those who are looking for a way to not sacrifice our elders when facing a choice on who is worthy to get the ventilator. Yes, things cannot stay shut down forever, but maybe slow is safer?
At home, I wear a mask and wash my hands when I daily (and briefly) check on my parents (ages 87 and 88) since they live in an in-law set up at my house. I wash hands and wash hands and wash hands. I wear a mask to go grocery shopping and I wash my hands when I’m done and I don’t touch my face while there. I do not wear gloves at a grocery store because it makes no sense unless you are changing them after each contamination, but good luck to those who want to. If I occasionally feel the need to touch my face, I wash my hands before I do. I wash my hands often but now I wash them longer.
I miss what we took for granted. We missed a grandson’s first birthday (no trip to Arkansas 😦 ). Our planned trip to Ireland for our fortieth anniversary – not going to happen this year. We aren’t doing our weekly dinner and a movie with our geographically closes daughter and her husband who are only five miles away. Online church, no meetings with friends, a canceled women’s beach retreat long planned for. But since I remain healthy at this point, I’m not suffering. I’m sad about the canceled trips, but they can happen again in the future. Facetime and Zoom can make people and family feel less distant to some degree. Together but apart.
It seems that there will be a different future than we’d expected as we rolled into 2020, and this expected future is changing daily. There is still so much to learn and can only be learned as the future comes to us, day by day. No expert opinion to be found here on this blog since I am not the one educated in these various fields. I try to read the experts’ opinions, or for my little brain, the educated folks interpreting the experts. Yes, I know even experts don’t all agree, but there is at least a presumption of some knowledge on their part, vs. listening to the talking heads paid to stir things up.
In quiet moments, I think about how the normal we remember is likely changed forever or for many years at least. Our day to day life came grinding to a halt. Who will we be as individuals and as a culture after this virus is conquered or subdued? How long before we feel comfortable with greeting with a hug or even a handshake? When will we feel safe to go back to church, or meet at a restaurant, or visit in homes – even if there is a rush to get it opened up again?
For those who suffer illness or the loss of a family member, or a job, it will be impossible to forget the virus and move back to “normal”. I think none of us will return entirely to the innocence we had. We now know that we lacked preparedness, we had/have some pitiful examples of leadership, and our vulnerability has been revealed. What will we have learned through this?
For those of us who are only coping with the inconveniences resulting from social distancing, there may be mixed feelings when the world’s gears start moving again. I wonder what the kids living through this will remember when reading about it in history books a decade or more from now. The sudden exit from school, the long summer, meeting for school online with ZOOM, social distancing, lots of time at home with parents, missing friends, reading books, playing outside, lots of walks, puzzles, and drive-by birthday greetings, people wearing masks, vacations turned into stay-cations, and parents who seem to be very tired of cooking and serving. Why was there the fixation on toilet paper and washing hands?
There are so many places in the world where life is so much more challenging (hunger, cold, homeless, disease, lack of everything) and has been for decades; many of our inconveniences are just a lesser version of privilege. But it does feel so very different and change is a struggle.
Most of us are complying in an effort to “flatten the curve” to prevent overwhelming the healthcare system, and protect the vulnerable. Some do not entirely believe there is a curve to be flattened, or that we don’t need to do this much, or even that mass exposure will get us through this quicker. Elderly or vulnerable people may be a bit more disposable than previously thought, it seems. “The cure worse than the disease” is starting to be heard. There have been protests about the shut down, and healthcare workers protesting the protesters. Our culture is not used to submitting to what may be best for the group overall, especially to protect the vulnerable or the old.
I see words posted online from people who are annoyed at the overreach of government control in telling us what we should or must do, feeling suspicious about just how long it’s needed or if it was needed at all. So many who seem to feel they are now experts in epidemiology and economics and politics and foretelling the future after reading someone else’s opinion. It’s totalitarianism, say some. It’s just way more than is necessary say others. It’s another round of “these are the end times” for others I know.
Meanwhile – I hope we are learning good things, too. Maybe a bit more on how to be still. Home exercise and watching Yoga online. Based on shortages of flour and yeast, it seems we’re learning how to bake bread. More cooking than ever. I think some families are learning what life was like before there was the endless list of activities to sign kids up for and may make some changes permanently when restrictions are lifted.