Time capsule: Life in the time of coronavirus

Maggie in a mask

After a long time away, I logged into the blog and found this draft post from June 2020. A year ago. A lifetime ago. Weird trip down memory lane.

Dear Diary,

It’s been twelve weeks since shelter in place hunker down quarantine safer at home “guidances” went into effect in California. I had all sorts of good intentions to document what was happening. I even started a post:

So, I’ve been anxiety-spiraling a bit for the past week and I’m not alone, I’m betting. It seems hard to believe but less than two months ago we were in Africa and Europe having an amazing time, traveling footloose and fancy free. The biggest thing we noticed then was an uptick in security based on terrorist concerns. On our way home we noticed a lot of folks sporting surgical masks and the news was staring to mention this virus that was causing a lot of illness in China…

And then I stopped. And just didn’t have the spirit to continue. Since then so much has happened in the world what started as just run of the mill overwhelming turned into something more like horrendously, completely, jaw-droppingly overwhelming – on, you know, a global scale. For us here in our day-to-day lives, it’s been more like a mini existential crisis in which we feel the all of the awfulness but also feel mildly embarrassed (and extremely grateful) that we have been so little impacted. Since Chuck is considered at risk (depending on what source you refer to) by dint of his age (and boy, is he tired of being referred to as “elderly,” our lives shrank – we have largely stayed home for the last three months and abided by the CDC guidelines for at risk populations, wearing masks when we go inside businesses, social distancing from anybody outside our little bubble and not venturing too far from home.

The anxiety-spiraling I mentioned in that long ago aborted post has continued off and on. I notice mostly in my sleep patterns – as in they are completely disrupted. Oh, and I binge read the news every morning (okay, and some afternoons). It doesn’t help to do that – I know it and yet I still do it. I won’t get too into politics here, but I will say that the lack of federal leadership and the extremely confusing messaging has been of no help in alleviating my worries – in this I know I am not alone.

Chuck has much better internal resources than I do and has figured out ways to stay constructively busy – he broke out his sewing machine and went to work designing and sewing cloth masks for friends and family. I still am working from home, so that part of my life hasn’t changed (I constantly tell that to my brain, and my brain consistently refuses to listen and makes me go read some more dire news reports). I’ve thought about taking an online course, start studying a new language, but they would all cut into the time I spend voraciously reading coronavirus news. :-/

We have decided that given a clear lack of unity on what to do or not do especially now as things are reopening that it is for each of us to determine our risk tolerance. I like to think of it as the Dirty Harry approach – as in, “You’ve got to ask yourself a question, do I feel lucky? Well, do you, punk?” And our answer is that on a Dirty Harry scale of 1 to 10, 1 being ready to lay down and die and 10 being certain that we will live forever, we are around a 7. That’s unusually optimistic for me (I’m a glass half empty kind of gal). Why such optimism, you ask? Well, therein lies a tale.

We had an absolutely lovely time in Spain – 10 days barely scratched the surface of all the things to see and do there (we never even made it to Barcelona!). We wrapped up the trip in Madrid which was pretty packed with tourists even though it was the off-season.We weren’t paying much attention to the news, so really didn’t hear anything about this new virus floating around. At the Madrid airport, we got the first inkling that something was afoot – probably half the people at the airport were wearing masks (many sporting the below-the-nose look) and there was a lot of coughing and sneezing (ack! droplets!) and absolutely no social distancing happening. But at that point we felt fine and weren’t worried. In all the international trips I’ve taken, the only time I got really sick was my first trip when I was backpacking and on a budget and got the world’s worst cold.  About a week after we returned, Chuck came down with a fever, aches and chills, a cough and felt generally tired and lousy. He went to the Minute Clinic and they tested for flu (yes, he got a flu shot this year) and the test came back negative. They asked him if he had traveled to China, and when he said no they told him it was probably some sort of virus and to go home, rest and drink plenty of liquids and take Tylenol for the fever. A few days after he got sick I came down with a similar bug and was told the same thing. We felt really crappy for about 10 days (crappy enough that we didn’t see anyone or go anywhere) and by late February we both felt fine.

Fast forward a few weeks and it’s March and the whole world is talking about coronavirus. Did we have it? We’ve talked to two doctors who both think we probably did but the only way we’ll know for sure is when there’s an easily available (and reliable) antibody test. So we wear our masks and practice social distancing and wait for better days. Or a vaccine. Or better days AND a vaccine.

One bright spot is that as a longtime solo runner, my chosen pastime is perfect for a world where physical distance is the norm. And the dog needs regular walks so we get outside every day with our masks at the ready for any close encounters with other humans. Life in the time of coronavirus.