The Quarantine Diaries: Week 2

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While we adapt to this new reality of social distancing and COVID-19 quarantines, I’ve been journaling about my experiences. This is the second installment of this series (see the first post here).

Uncertainty: Monday, March 16

Still not feeling well this morning. Dragged myself to work, grateful that my commute only involved carrying my laptop to the dining room table. Received emails from both my employer and my doctor that I’d been denied COVID testing. I expected as much; my symptoms (muscle aches, exhaustion, mild cough) don’t include fever and I’m not high-risk.

On one level, I totally get it. I don’t want to waste one of those precious tests if this is nothing. But it’s so rare for me to feel this bad for this long, and it definitely feels like I’m fighting something off.

But what? A different virus? Or is it something else altogether? Could it be just a physical manifestation of the existential dread that’s building up internally?

No answers are forthcoming. Normally, I can coexist just fine with uncertainty. But it has been hard for me not to obsess over wanting to know what this is. Especially since having a definitive answer would affect my actions. Since I don’t know for sure, I have to wonder: should I continue to isolate myself (and my family), since I don’t want this malaise to spread to anyone else?

My answer, obviously, is yes. So all of us will just continue to hunker down.

Guilt: Tuesday, March 17

Will I ever feel better? I’m so tired of this lingering exhaustion. My husband wasn’t feeling great last night, and we also heard that a few others I had contact with in the days before I got sick aren’t feeling well, either.

Was it me? Did I infect them? What if my husband gets worse and we’re both sick at the same time? (He’s been doing the majority of the housework since I am fairly useless these days.)

I’m trying to cut myself some slack. After all, I don’t know what I have, and don’t know that I passed it on, and anyway it is impossible to trace such things, and there’s no reason to cast blame.

And yet… on a larger level, I do feel somewhat responsible for this pandemic. I know it’s totally irrational, but whenever something in one of my stories leaps off the page into my life, or the life of someone around me, I can’t help but feel like it’s partially my fault. Because there I was, writing about a fictional zoonotic respiratory infection, and as soon as I began to move toward publishing the book, this happened.

True, there are some significant differences between the disease I wrote about and the novel coronavirus now infecting the world. But at the same time, I know in my heart that stories are powerful. Magical, even. So… have I merely been harnessing what already is, or have my stories somehow set this loose, causing this massive shift in our world?

It sounds silly when I write it out, and more than a little egotistical: as if my words are important enough to shape lives on a global scale. I read an op-ed from another author who has a pandemic book coming out soon, and he seemed utterly unbothered by thoughts like these. Maybe he’s just more evolved than I am. Or maybe he doesn’t want to take responsibility. I don’t know what it all means. Just that today, I’m feeling guilty AF.

How my daughter feels about this. Note the dry skin due to frequent handwashing.

Worry: Wednesday, March 18

Others are getting sick now. People in my family, several states away. Maybe it’s nothing. But maybe it’s something. I worry about them. Texting people to check in seems to have become part of my daily routine. A low-level, constant anxiety now underlies everything I do.

But in brighter news, my husband is feeling better, and the kids have been amazing this week. I had zero energy or motivation to deal with schooling, but they wrote out a schedule all on their own, and my daughter (12) has been keeping my son (9) on track, making sure they are sticking to the stated “bell times.” And he’s got his own ideas for projects:

I’ve been wanting to do this for some time… I want to write a long, like 10-20 page long, essay about quantum physics.

Sure, go for it, son! Hmm, maybe I’ll be learning some new things during this time, too.

Recovering: Thursday, March 19

Finally, FINALLY, I’m starting to have a little more energy. After my work shift, my daughter and I got out on a walk at a nearby garden. It was my first time out of the house in over a week, so I was ridiculously excited to immerse myself in the sun and fresh air. I had to walk slowly, still tired and dealing with lower back pain that hasn’t subsided yet, but it was a lovely stroll nonetheless.

And it’s the first day of spring! So maybe I’m feeling a little more optimistic. Like this won’t last forever, and we can get through this, and so far we’re doing all right.

But at the same time, I know that there are many, many others out there who are far from all right. I haven’t been able to do much to help; my husband was laid off so we’re in a bit of financial uncertainty, plus I still want to keep myself quarantined just in case. I know that this isolation has been keeping me from seeing the full picture: there are many stories that are not being told. Maybe, soon, I’ll be able to get out there and help, though. The thought makes me feel better, but tired at the same time.

Evolving: Friday, March 20

We’ve been watching competition-style TV shows in the evenings. They’re a good distraction. But it seems strange, now, to watch the hosts and contestants shaking hands and hugging. How long will it be until we get those things back? Or will we ever?

I read a sobering article arguing that this period of social distancing will not be short-lived. As much as I don’t want to believe it, it’s probably accurate. The world has already changed. It won’t go back to the way it was anytime soon. And things will likely get worse before they get better. (Oh, how I hope that things WILL get better when this is all over someday.)

I’m supposed to be planning my book launch. I used to dream of hosting a party to celebrate the occasion. But even though the release isn’t until June, I’ve decided to put it on hold for now. So I’m trying to think of creative ideas for other ways to mark the occasion.

The Week in Food

Now that it’s the weekend, I’m realizing that I haven’t mentioned what I’ve been eating this week! I wish I could be among the people creating marvelous, intricate baked goods as a means of coping, but I haven’t had the energy or lower-back stamina to get there quite yet.

But, luckily, my kids’ school schedule includes a block for cooking/baking time! So they made us sushi for dinner one night, and Boston cream pie cupcakes another. My husband made a loaf of really fabulous sourdough. As is our tradition, we celebrated the beginning of spring with Persian food (recipes coming soon!).

We also were lucky to snag a batch of leftover vegan croissants from the cafe where my husband worked (now temporarily shut down). What a treat it was to crisp them up in the oven and eat them together on a sunny afternoon.

I was also delighted to see some volunteer parsley popping up in the neglected front garden bed, which made me want to do some more ambitious gardening this season. It always leaves me with such hope to see the plants springing back to life after their winter sleep: a sure sign that brighter days are coming.

volunteer parsley in the garden bed

Your Thoughts

How have you been doing this week? Anything you want to talk about? Or, any thoughts on creative ways that I can celebrate my book launch? I’m all ears!

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