When I last left you, we were cruising our way back from Mexico and praying that when we woke up, we’d be docked in San Pedro, California as planned. I knew from the other cruises where issues occurred that if there was a problem, we’d be floating out at sea, not docked, so I was relieved when I opened my eyes at sunrise and stepped out on our balcony to see shipping containers, concrete and graffiti, instead of open water. I can safely say I’ve never been happier to see a shipping container in my life.
As we disembarked, we gave each other air high-fives for having made it to terra firma and laughed as the customs agent made a K-pop reference to my son, eyeing his hair in the latest shade of light pink, his glasses frames reminiscent of something my father had definitely worn in the 1950s. We’d cruised, we Mexicoed, we were unstoppable.
It was only when we got into the car and drove home to Arizona that the new reality of life really hit us. The streets were bare and I wondered for a minute if we were the last family left on earth, like a weird episode of Black Mirror (or the Twilight Zone for you boomers). My texts lit up with friends making sure we’d disembarked, warning us there was nothing left at the grocery store; that the country was in a state of emergency and that coronavirus cases were tripling, if not quadrupling by the minute in our country.
It was then that my panic set in. We’d left the country a week before, optimistic that this virus was manageable, containable. We returned to a completely different time and place.
At home, we readied for a self-imposed fourteen day quarantine. With my husband’s office closed, my daughter’s school closed, it made it easy for us to hunker down in our home and stay in for the long haul, waiting out the prescribed days for signs of infection, to protect those who had not chosen to cruise out of the country. My normal work from home routine already well established, my dog and I prepared for the invasion and interruption of our daily process.
When Monday morning arrived, I moved my work station to the kitchen table, since my husband needs dual screens for work more than I do. My daughter’s school had not yet made mention of online classes, so she easily continued in vacation mode and slept until noon. The dog, not used to having so many of us home during the day, paced back and forth between my husband’s feet and mine, finally settling on a sunny spot outside on the patio. I guess even dogs understand the need for social distancing.
Outside it was a usual Arizona March day – meaning it was perfect; sunny, somewhere in the mid-70 degrees, with a hint of the scent of fresh leather and string from a newly sewn baseball and the itch of yellow pollen that would make anyone’s eyes a watery fountain on the best of days.
See, whoever put this virus in the middle of allergy season has a very sick sense of humor. Any minute, I feel I could be either dying of the virus, or out of breath from hay fever, who can tell? Either way, I keep my inhaler close by. Any time we feel the slightest bit warm, out comes the thermometer to confirm we have no hint of a fever, the one attribute of the virus we’ve clung to as a tell-tale sign. Seven days have passed since disembarking the cruise; so far, so good.
I find a 30 day yoga challenge on YouTube, Yoga With Adriene, my go-to yoga teacher when I’m on the road traveling. I’ve been eyeing this particular challenge sequence for over a year and this week, with my normal studio closed (not to mention the whole self-quarantine thing) it seemed like the perfect excuse to start it up.
With tensions high and growing higher each time the pandemic numbers increase, we all need something to keep us calm right now: running, meditation, tequila. My thing is yoga. Even B.C. (Before Coronavirus) my husband used to nicely suggest when it was time for me to take a yoga class anytime I got out of sorts. Snippy or overly complaining? “Hey, so when’s your next yoga class?”. I know that meant it’s time for me to take time for myself.
Another thing that calms me down is cooking. Now, making a meal may be someone else’s worst nightmare, but for me, nothing is better than chopping and creating and sautéing to slow the mind and offer your family a little bit of warmth and love.
This week, I feel like I’m on an episode of Chopped, where they put a basket of random shit in front of the contestants and see who can make the most magical, edible thing. In the wake of coronavirus shopping, where we got whatever was left on the shelf (and I mean whatever), I’ve had to get creative.
Not knowing when we’ll be able to get the things that reside in our refrigerator again, I try to ration the proteins and stretch the fruits and veggies. I save leftover cooked chicken and ground beef to use again in super-nachos or as supreme pizza toppings later in the week. I almost literally cry when I eat my last Granny Smith apple and wonder why I didn’t grab more.
The four dozen eggs, that I actually laughed and scolded my husband for getting before we left for the cruise, now sit in our refrigerator shining as if they were laid by the golden goose herself, precious commodities nestled in their little individual cardboard cocooned thrones. As the week progresses, I start to use them sparingly. Who knows when we may get more.
While my husband inadvertently planned for us with stocks of toilet paper, Clorox wipes, Purell and the aforementioned eggs in his usual “if it’s on sale, I buy it” mode, somewhere in my infinite wisdom I decided to start a weekly packaged food delivery service a month ago that I magically picked to begin on Friday of this week, when I would have been done with all of my traveling and conferences for the month B.C. On the day our first shipment was set to arrive, we found our neighbor standing outside the door, putting a box on the front step. With the screen door closed, but the front door opened, he called in and said “this was accidentally left at my door instead of yours.”. If it wasn’t for the virus, I could have opened the door and hugged him. How easy would it have been for him to have kept that box of food for himself?
We eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together and walk the dog every night. I take time every day for my yoga, I cook, I rest and I enjoy not having to travel, not having to go anywhere during the day, comforted by the lack of FOMO (fear of missing out). I’m not missing out on anything.
As I turn off my alarm on Tuesday morning, I find a notification from American Airlines sitting on my screen: There’s still time to check in for your 9:36am flight. Oh yeah, I was supposed to be in California today. I quickly open the app and cancel my flight. On Wednesday, the skies open up and give us a rarity in Arizona – a full day of rain. As I unravel my yoga mat outside on our covered patio and practice to the sound of rain tapping on the tin roof above me, I think about the conference we were supposed to have the next day, and the pre-conference outdoor yoga event that had been planned for that night, with zero thought given to alternate indoor space. We never have a backup plan for rain here, it’s as useless as procuring prescription glasses for a blind man.
On Thursday morning, right about the time I should have been standing at a podium, welcoming eighty people to our annual mobility conference, I’m making breakfast for my family and sipping coffee on my patio, enjoying the freshness that only comes after a day-long rain.
My friends and I, taking our minds off of long days of work, have started having virtual happy hours, mixing ourselves Quarantinis, Quarantina-Ritas and Palomaviruses, because you can’t have pandemic virtual happy hour without catchy, fun drink names. I’m warmed by the sight of their families in the background of the frame and we laugh at our social distancing mishaps. We announce how many rolls of toilet paper we have left and how many cups of milk we have, because gone are the days when we referred to milk in gallons. For some reason, none of us have a shortage of alcohol, go figure. We laugh as some learn how to use new technology (PS-shoulda bought stock in Zoom) and I’m immediately grateful that these things exist, that these people exist.
And yet, with all the wonderful things that have happened this week with our insular shift in lifestyle, there sits a little ball of gloom that rests somewhere near my heart. I don’t now how else to describe it, but I know it’s there. Sometimes, I notice it less than others, easy to ignore. At other times, it feels all-consuming.
When I check the official pandemic case stats each morning and night in Arizona, in New Jersey and New York where my family resides. In California, Oregon, Colorado, Texas and Washington State, where my closest friends are. In Italy, where somehow in my mind, the devastation in that nation has time traveled and ravaged my ancestors years before – that lump of gloom moves from somewhere near my heart and makes its way into my throat.
I think about my almost 88 year old father, whose stubbornness endearingly knows no bounds. My 70 year old mother, going to the store for the both of them and group texting us the gospel passage of the day (evidently that’s a thing), making sure we don’t forget that virus or no virus, Lent is still happening and God still exists. My brother and his family, residing in the most infected state in the nation and my sister and her family, caring for everyone around her. I worry for all of my family, my in laws, my sister in law, unable to get the Purell she needs while on dialysis. My friends, some pregnant, with newborns, with elderly parents, with a wedding that was supposed to take place today that’s now postponed, flight attendant friends who are more exposed than any of us and some single and self quarantined at home, alone.
And so I do my yoga every day to feel centered, to keep the ball of gloom at bay and find funny memes to keep me smiling (thank God for memes). I schedule more virtual happy hours and celebrate when companies like “Geeks Who Drink” announce virtual trivia nights, Indigo Girls stream a jam session from their living room and Trevor Noah continues the Daily Show (now called the Daily Social Distancing Show) from his couch. I smile as Jimmy Fallon holds up his daughter’s hand written sign announcing the charity of the day in glittered pink writing and sing along as Lin-Manuel Miranda gives us Hamilton at Home on his synthesizer, a well-earned Grammy visible on the shelf behind him.
I’m comforted by the friends who no-contact drop us off baked goods that they’ve made at home for us, with love and peanut butter. I try desperately to keep my teenagers from having contact with others. The same teenagers that you had to bribe to leave the house on a normal day, suddenly all want to be at their friends houses or walking to the convenience store to get slushies. It’s a daily struggle to continually ensure that they understand what’s happening in the world, how important it is for us to keep those safe who need protection the most. All I know is that when all of this is over, I’m just going to tell them that they can’t leave the house and see if the reverse psychology still works then.
Somewhere early in the week, my self quarantine turns into self protection. Sometimes, I hope for Arizona to call a shelter-in-place so we can all stay the F home and get this under control.
I read quite a lot, probably a book every two weeks and was in a World War II historical fiction phase for a bit last summer, mostly focused on female spy networks during the war. I recall distinct scenes of food rationing, of staying indoors with little contact and I can’t help but draw the beginnings of comparisons.
I’m proud of the individuals, groups and companies stepping up and taking matters into their own hands. NY fashion designer Christian Siriano tweeting Gov. Cuomo that he has sewers and pattern makers working from home, ready to turn out masks and gowns, followed by a tweet from the NY governor saying they’ve been in contact to get them made and distributed. Elon Musk making ventilators, pharma research companies coming up with faster testing capabilities, nurses and doctors coming out of retirement, and here in Arizona, my own alma mater creating their own materials for lab tests from scratch with plans of a drive-thru testing facility.
In the end, it won’t be the big businesses and the government that saves us, it will be ourselves.
Our fifteen year old shows me videos of dolphins swimming through clear blue Venetian canals and says to me “maybe we’ve been the virus all along”.
So who in your life needs a phone call, or a step by step instruction on how to install a video conferencing app, or an old fashioned letter, a poem, a song? Who might need some groceries delivered or some cookies (or maybe cough, Granny Smith apples, cough) left on their doorstep?
Who in your life might need to borrow a laptop or the gift of a month of WiFi to allow them to work from home? They may not know who or how to ask. Who of your friends own a small business that you could buy a gift card from? What local shop do you frequent to get coffee every Saturday morning that may have an online monthly coffee delivery program you could purchase? Who might need your mom’s Netflix code…errr…I mean…your own Netflix code…
My sister, an amazing artist and person, went out this week “chalking” with her kids, leaving visual messages of hope and joy on sidewalks and driveways of those they knew, fighting the gloom with literal rainbows and sunshine.
So I challenge you this week, what can you do to bring a little smile (or toilet paper) to those around you? What can you do to keep yourself sane during this time of social distancing? What can you do to make WFH continue to stand for Work From Home and not Wife Fights Husband? What can you do to keep that little ball of worry inside you from overcoming your mind and your body?
As testing gets more widespread, we’ll start to get official emails informing us of infected people in places we’ve been and we’ll worry and wonder if we were near them. We’ll start to find out friends we know and people we love are infected, and we’ll need to stay centered to “be” there for support. Some of us reading this will also face our own time when we may be the ones dealing with the sobering results. The more we do now to take care of ourselves, to take care of our families, to take care of our bodies, the better we’ll be able to add one more to the green “recovered” number.
It’s week one, my friends. Take a breath, take time for yourself amid the chaos, and this too shall pass.