I was not doing well at all, in fact, I was on the verge of cracking. Thursday was a convergence of a lot of unfortunately events that nearly broke me. It was my mother’s birthday (she’s been gone for 6 years – seems like yesterday!).
After a fitful sleep, I woke up sad, but that was nothing compared to the sheer terror (and I’m not kidding) I felt because I HAD to go to the grocery store. A friend of mine works there and she told me the store was immaculate, the cashiers clean the registers after each customer and the store is constantly being disinfected, but that meant nothing to me. As I put my rubber gloves and mask on, I ignored the beautiful sunrise and glorious morning, shaking as I drove over a mountain.
I nearly choked for breath as I went inside the grocery store. My heart pounded and gasped for air through the mask that clouded my glasses. The produce section was amazing – so many wonderful fruits and vegetables to choose from! I tried to keep calm as I went up and down the aisles because even with a list, I couldn’t remember what to buy. On the way home, I realized I forgot half-and-half and beat myself up for it. I put all of my groceries on the outside picnic table and wiped each one off with a Lysol wipe – which, fortunately, the store had.
I come inside and my phone is ringing. It’s my boss. There’s a crisis at work. We’re in danger of shutting down. It’s all hands on deck as we scramble to find ways to keep our ship afloat and out of danger. In record time, we craft a feasible solution to several dire problems that threaten our viability. We think it’ll go well, but hold our breath until we know for sure. She hangs up and I go about my daily tasks for my job. I take over the kitchen table for most of the day, leaving my other desk for such pleasantries as writing my book and this blog.
Since our clients are in various states of distress, we’re focusing our efforts on providing assistance and support. Part of that effort is to create positive and helpful posts for social media. I prepare a few posts and hop on Facebook. Naturally, there are all sorts of postings about Coronavirus: an international body count, what it’s like to die from the ravages of the virus, how I should treat my mail, food, countertops, newspaper and takeout meals. After reading each article, I realize I’ve been doing everything completely wrong. Each one put a nail in my coffin. But first, I had to deal with my job, so I had to finish my tasks. It seemed my boss would survive; I would not.
At the end of the day, my boss called and said any drastic action was on hold, at least for now. I enjoyed not one sigh of relief. It’s six o’clock and all I’ve eaten all day was a tiny bowl of cereal and a banana. I choked down a few bites for dinner.
As I head over to the sink to plunge my plate into a sea of foam and bleach, I noticed my body trembled. My head pounded, my skin burned, my muscles ached. I have no thermometer. My breath was short and since I have asthma, that Coronavirus is heading straight for my throat and lungs. So this is it? This is how it ends? I head over to my work laptop, post angry words on Facebook, cursing those who chose to leave not one hopeful, optimistic or even humorous post. Swore off Facebook and sank to the couch, sobbing and wailing. I have no one here with me, not even a pet, and to die alone is my fate.
Not more than two minutes passed before my sister called me. She saw the post. Took her about 15 minutes to calm me enough to speak clearly. Then she walked me through the logic of the situation. Yes, she’s had bad days too. Her husband has severe asthma. But my grocery store-working friend hasn’t dropped dead, nor has anyone else who works there. Neither has the mailman, or the guy who delivers my paper. I cook my food and have always rinsed my vegetables before eating them. I barely leave the house and when I do, I don’t stray from my property and I have no visitors, so why am I washing my hands 400 times a day? My knuckles will probably stop bleeding when I do (which they are – they’re so dry). Two hours later, I realized my shaking was coming from nerves and the fever I felt was a hot flash brought on my descent into hysteria.
But perhaps the best thing I can do for myself is not to go on Facebook. My God, if ever there were a billboard for the apocalypse, that’s it. Yes, I still have to post for my job, but that’s it. I can’t subject myself to this anymore for my own sanity.
Yes, I’m scared. Terrified, really. I can’t even grasp that people are dying in such numbers and the only leader this country seems to have isn’t even the president. I live in the epicenter of Coronavirus and there are people in my town with it. But from what I hear, they’re miserable and short of breath, but they’re not dying by any stretch. They’re just sick. And are recovering. And while people have died, it’s a relative few compared to the number of cases and those that are recovering.
I stay at home, doing the best I can. I’m not reading everything I come across. I scan the headlines and check the town’s Facebook page for alerts. That’s it. I stick to a routine I’ve given myself: exercise, eat breakfast, work from 9-5 (sometimes longer), make dinner and then have the evening off. I sit outside if it’s nice. I have to do yard work too.
Life is going to continue after this crashing wave breaks over us and recedes. As Governor Cuomo said, this pandemic is horrible but will change us forever. We will emerge stronger and more empathetic from this, and ultimately be better people for it.
So believe me, I feel the terror. But it’s important to remember that it’s temporary, even though it seems like forever. It’s almost like a societal reset. Pollution is going down, people are getting to spend more time with their children and realizing what’s important in life and what’s not. But fear is a form of terrorism. It disables us from thinking clearly and sends us all in a tailspin.
There are also things to be done, objectives and goals to reach and a life to be continued, even if it seems like solitary confinement. But now I choose to believe that instead of being trapped at home, I’m safe at home.
I hope and pray that all of you are, too. And that this nightmare ends soon.
Be well. I know this sucks