Saturday, March 21, 2020

Plague journal #2

It has been one week now that we've been isolating at home.  John worked Tuesday, and then they closed the library because too many people were congregating there. Luckily he is on civil leave and is still getting paid. So far I think we have escaped being exposed, though it's hard to say because the incubation period is so long. The kids have played with one neighbor, but I've kept them away from everyone else.

John has gone out to get meds and pick up takeout one night from a Chinese restaurant that is still open. I have not left the yard except for a brief walk Sunday. I should take another one soon. I've never been one to go out if I didn't have to; leaving home exhausts me. But I worry that, having lost the habit of going out, it'll only be harder for me to get back to it later. And probably taking a walk would help my mood.

I'm struggling with anxiety and sadness. It's so hard to deal with knowing the virus is marching on while we hide from it. Reading the daily death tolls. Seeing the posts of doctors and nurses telling what they are dealing with; the masks they don't have and the contagious patients they still have to see. Hearing my friends say they are sick and can't get tested. And worst of all, the people saying it isn't really a big deal, it's a hoax, it's no worse than the flu. I know carelessness will cost lives. So I feel like I should argue, but looking up the data and the symptoms to respond just makes me more anxious and upset.

And there's nothing, nothing at all to distract ourselves with. The kids are doing fine; their imaginations are vast and they aren't worried. After all, they're safe at home, where they can't catch anything. But we adults can't so easily tune it out. We've done a lot of cleaning. I've tried to craft and do puzzles and read. It's hard to focus though. If I could finish my novel, it would be something, but it's hard to keep my mind on it.

I did manage to write a short story. It's about pandemics. I'm pretty sure nobody is going to want to read it anytime soon; and by the time people are over our collective trauma and ready to read about it there will be thousands more jamming up the editors' inboxes. But it made me feel a lot better--both writing it, and later showing it to people and having them say it was good.

At night, I try to fill my head with nice things before bed. I'm rewatching Good Omens and planning craft projects. So I try to think of those things as I go to sleep, but instead I think about the virus and my stomach and chest are caught in a vise. It's hard to make myself relax and rest.

I haven't felt that great for about four years now, since I got pregnant with Jackie. I felt like it was slowly getting better, as she gets older and I get further from the horrific memory of that pregnancy. But this school year has been hard. When it's just me and Jackie at home, she gets even more clingy and demanding. And work on top of that hasn't been so much a break as a source of stress. I was badly needing a break, or I thought I was.

But now that the break is here, and I don't have to work, and John is here to help, and Jackie is playing with her big siblings, I don't feel better at all. I feel a lot worse. I'm not completely sure if it's worry about the world, or just being forced to pay attention to how I feel instead of being numbed with hours of children's nursery rhymes. All I know is I haven't felt this bad in some time.

I think it's time for me to go see a therapist. I don't want to, because it's scary and because it reminds me of spiritual direction. The thought of opening up to a stranger, somebody who isn't anteing up with their own secrets and needing their own comfort, makes me want to puke. But trying to ride this out is not really working. I've been trying so hard to be the emotionally stable one for my whole family, but that extra pressure is only making it harder to manage.

Of course, I picked the worst possible time to decide that I want to make an appointment for anything. Virtual therapy is a thing, but if typing my feelings made me feel better, I'd be fine by now. There's nothing like saying things out loud to a person who's actually there.

There will be weeks more of this at best. The school is hoping mid-April. Others are saying June. And when we do get back--slowly, cautiously, waiting to see if the beast re-emerges--it'll be with a new fear. My dream of spending the summer taking my kids places, now that they're all old enough to be taken most places, has vanished and been replaced with the dream of getting to go anywhere at all.

I am staying very closely in touch with people. I'm on facebook more than ever. I'm chatting in several different bubbles all day. I'm calling family I haven't called in a while. I think this has served to remind me just how important all my loved ones are to me; how irreplaceable they are by any book or TV show or game.

It's too soon to say how much this will change the world. An economic depression is certain. But that won't be all of it. I feel like it's revealing how much of our economy is necessary, how much is optional, and how much is completely fake. We can simply decide to push all mortgage payments back three months, and it's so. Tax day can be pushed back. Rent can be waived, a lot of the time. And yet the truckers must drive, the cleaners must clean, the nurses must work. What will that new realization do? Will we start taking better care of the people who kept us going through this? I certainly hope so.

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