These are strange days indeed. The Stay-at-Home orders have plunged us into a new realm we have never been in before. I am retired, so it’s not like I was given days off from work that I could rejoice in. Nevertheless, I still tried to accomplish things that had been on my ‘To Do’ List because I am a person who measures time well spent by how much I have accomplished, not how much happiness was felt. Although for me, they are closely related! It felt like being in a Neverland, or limbo, or suspended animation.
I live by myself with my dog, Lily, so it’s not like I have lots of wash to do or mouths to feed. Just like others, I was frightened somewhat, but because of my microbiology training I knew this event was bound to happen sooner or later. I was already primed by the Ebola outbreaks and so had food I could live on for a time, and had gloves and masks at hand. Still, I became one of those folks glued to the TV reports and especially New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily assessment.
What to do with all that pent up emotion and anxiety? With the shortage of PPE, I immediately got out my sewing machine and sorted all through my old quilting materials, elastic, thread colors, etc. I watched a YouTube video showing how to make a pleated mask. I quickly learned I didn’t have enough elastic but improvised with strips of old knit T-shirt, and used pipe cleaners for the nose bridge inserts. I was energized and felt like I had some sort of control because I was doing something to help the cause! Every night I would listen to the news and sew…and sew….and sew. During the days, I started cleaning up my property and getting it ready for spring; on rainy days I cleaned closets, or did ancestry research. So far I am ahead in the yard work and have made about 170 masks and am still sewing. I made a bed skirt, and 2 sleeping pillows and pillow cases for them.
All my pent up emotions and energies have been fed by the times, and also by the walks I take with my dog, but I’m running into a snag. . . . the weather. Initially the weather was warmer than usual, but now that we are in May, it’s been colder than usual and impossible for me to work outside unless it is sunny! So I have switched back to my ancestry searches online, and now that I can’t go to venues to facilitate dementia support groups, I am doing them virtually. I now have five groups that I am running because each group has to be smaller in order to accommodate everyone. Am I getting tired? You bet! But one luxury I afford myself is a nap with Lily almost every afternoon, about an hour in the late afternoon, and then I’m up almost until midnight. That gives me the stamina to keep going.
During this time there are no appointments on the calendar to worry about or events to plan for. There are some days I don’t accomplish anything at all if I don’t feel like it. Recently I had a flu-like illness and didn’t do anything for 5-7 days.
These tasks that occupy my time have been good for me. They have made the days pass quickly, and I don’t really have a lack of human interaction. There are lots of dogs and people who exercise in my neighborhood, and we can still walk and catch up with each other, maintaining our distancing requirements. This ability to see others without putting anyone at risk had made living in “semi-seclusion” so much easier to take. And like many other Americans, we check to make sure our neighbors are OK.
The thought that has kept me the calmest is how lucky I am. There are so many folks who ordinarily live paycheck to paycheck. Some were barely surviving before the pandemic, and the closing of shops and employment has left them without income, but the bills for living still keep piling up. Because my husband and I saved for our retirement, I don’t have those worries. I know I can make it until either herd immunity or a vaccine is on the horizon, unless I catch the virus. To face the uncertainty of no job and no money on top of the fear of being deathly ill, for many is too hard to take. As far as contracting the virus, I take as many steps as I can to avoid contact, wearing mask and gloves when going to stores. If I catch it, I hope my body is in good enough shape to fight it, and if not, what will be will be. I don’t spend nights worrying about my own health. I may worry about other things, but not that. That is one thing I know that is not under my control as long as I am diligent.
We all live with uncertainty every day of our lives. We just don’t look at it that way. Repetition and doing the familiar makes our days seem “normal”. Anything that is out of that realm for many of us makes us feel unsettled, or off-kilter. It’s just not in our repertoire of what we define as normal. But think of all the things we have learned during this time that will serve us well in the future. We have learned that we have to structure our lives a little differently in order to survive. We can be “better” in this definition of combating disease in our new world, and in Andrew Cuomo’s words act “tougher, smarter, united, disciplined, and loving”.
I know there are those of us who have been impacted significantly more than I. Number one on my list of accolades goes to the health care professionals, police, fire, paramedics and others on the front lines of caring for all the Covid-19 patients! No one has asked more of a people than of these folks who do it day in and day out. Number two on my list are those patients who have been isolated in one room of their nursing home during this time period. People complain about being home, but think what it would be like to be confined to one room for two months! That just blows my mind. We tend to forget about their hardship during this pandemic. Not being able to interact with anyone during this time period except a face in the doorway must be the hardest! That is truly sad, but necessary, considering the logistics of where they are staying: they are a constant, but the staff go home and come back – a possible vector for infection.
So, lastly, I want to give thanks for my situation, and having the friends and relatives I do, for having the governor we have, and that I have avoided Covid-19 to date. I hope you can all join me in celebrating Spring this year by appreciating the leaves and the flowers, and the warmth as it comes. I truly hope our Phase 1 of rejoining society is a great success!