It’s a Time
Note: This is the first time I’m writing anything about the coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic, and in this, I am admitting that, while I’m also sensible and reasonable, I am, also, sometimes scared. If it wouldn’t be helpful for you to hear about that kind of mood right now, please don’t read this.
What’s the title mean? Well, it’s been a time – quite some time, in fact – since I’ve felt compelled to write down what I was thinking here. Also, the last few weeks have been “a time” – quite a time indeed. Both are true. And there’s a third reason for the title. I’ve mentioned here before the “ancient curse,” “May you live in interesting times.” (In fact, I used it as the title for the series of posts I wrote in 2013-2015 about cancer. You can see them most all listed here and one more here.) But that “curse” has rarely felt as true as it does now.
Because, the thing is, while stories are great, you really don’t want to live inside one. Narrative arcs require conflict and drama and problems, of some sort or another, and you don’t actually really want too much of that in real life, do you? You want to live in such a calm, lovely time that it would make a terribly dull story.
But here we are, in the midst of interesting times. Possibly some of the most interesting times in history.
Where I am, it’s just beginning. Only yesterday did I hear of the first person I know to test positive. That’s going to change quickly. From now through about Memorial Day it will spread and worsen here. What a spring it will be. Ideally, it will be less bad than it could be, and it will improve throughout the summer. But we can’t know till it happens. All we can do is take what preventative measures we can, and look to countries that are further along their curves than we are to guess what will happen for us.
I’ll write this here because I need to get it out: I am so scared.
Many years ago, I watched one of my best friends sicken and die from cancer that spread to her lungs, and ever since, I’ve been terrified of not being able to breathe. And I’ve lived alone for 11 years, through my cancer diagnosis and treatments, and ever since, I’ve been terrified of dying alone.
I do know that I’m unlikely to get sick, both statistically and because I’ve been social distancing and self-quarantining since quite early on. Furthermore, even if I were to get sick, I’m not at high risk, so I’m unlikely to have anything other than a mild case. I know that I’m doing what I can to keep the people around me healthy by following the rules. I know that most everyone I know will be okay.
But, even being optimistic and logical, things are scary. Even if only 1/3 of Americans get sick (which I believe to be a very low estimate), that’s about 33 out of 100 people. And even if only 20% of those require hospitalization, that’s about 7% of everyone overall. That’s a small percentage of the whole. But even those optimistic numbers mean that about one in ten people I know are going to end up in the hospital. I’m definitely no mathematician, but I think that’s true. And it’s more than enough to be very scary to me.
I’m also terrified of my livelihood. I’ve worked as a freelancer for almost eight years, since I was laid off shortly after after my cancer diagnosis. I love what I do – and right now, I have plenty of work, because my clients are trying to keep their own businesses going and so we are writing a lot of communications to send to their own clients. But as the companies who pay them see the oncoming recession and cut their budgets, my clients will cut theirs too. As a freelancer, I am disposable. And so, yes. I am terrified.
This fear is a lot harder to apply optimistic logic to. A global recession, or depression, is beginning, and it’s like nothing in living memory.
I do know, in my sensible moments, that I should not be letting myself get upset. It doesn’t do any good. And I think most of my moments are sensible. But I do sometimes run low on sensible moments, especially around three o’clock in the morning. And so I’m being honest here, because I want to get it out “on paper” instead of letting it continue to tumble around locked up in my head.
It’s important to say the good stuff too, though. For the time being, I am fine. I have work to do for now. I am safe. I am healthy. I have everything I need. I have good neighbors and friends nearby.
But I think it’s healthy for my head to get out the rest, if only here. To acknowledge that, yeah, I’m not scared… but I’m scared. I know to be sensible… but that is, at some moments, hard to keep at the front of my mind. Particularly when routines have been upended, the news is unsettling, and the world seems a little out of control. Internal calm is harder to come by when outer calm seems harder to come by too.
So. It’s time for lots of meditation. Lots of deep breathing. Lots of fresh air. Lots of keeping in touch. Lots of writing. Lots of doing all of the work that I can, while I have work to do. Lots of remembering not to overdose on social and news media. Lots of appreciation for all that is so good. And lots, and lots, of waiting.