"Coronalone". It's like "Home Alone", but without Macaulay Culkin. And without the burglars (we hope). It's our ridiculous name for the surreal and strange circumstances in which we currently find ourselves.
And we currently find ourselves not knowing quite what to say, which is problematic when one is trying to compose a weekly blog post and tends to make one miss deadlines, which I have for this (er, last) week. The weeks are running into one another, the stress level remains pretty constant, and-- even for those of us who enjoy each other’s company—the long-term constant close quarters are beginning to take their toll.
We’ve baked, we’ve straightened, we’ve rearranged, we’ve organized. We’ve tried to incorporate meditation and exercise and yoga into our daily lives, with varying levels of success. We have settled into a relatively regular pattern of no-contact grocery pickups, visits to “the moms” for cleaning and other odd jobs, and we have tried very hard not to get on each other’s nerves… also with varying levels of success.
This “new normal” doesn’t feel very normal, and we are tackling situations that would have been completely foreign to us even six months ago. What do you do when you really need medical advice, but visiting a doctor’s office seems too high-risk? How do you grow a budding art business with no possibility of direct contact with customers for the foreseeable future? For the first few months, finding within ourselves the creativity required to navigate some of these new situations seemed like a novel challenge, but at a certain point it threatens to wear one down.
My goal in these blog entries has been to remain positive and find the blessings amidst the chaos surrounding us, and I’m not saying that I am giving up on that mission. I’m just realizing that if I want my writing to be authentic, then I am going to have to allow some of these less-than-sunshiny moments to guide my (virtual) pen.
I had to make a couple of decisions this week that were anxiety-ridden and unwelcome. My mom’s pastor is leaving to go to a new church, and we decided that taking Mom to the farewell service this weekend was too high a risk because of the amount of people that would be there, even with social-distancing and masks. That led us to try to find a safer alternative that still allowed Mom to say goodbye, so we landed on a short, outdoor visit with just the pastor, socially-distanced and masked. Believe it or not, that was my first public interaction since March 20th, and it felt pretty weird. I couldn’t see denying Mom the chance to bid her pastor farewell, and for both of us to thank her for everything she has done for us, but it was still a nerve-wracking decision. Life in the time of Covid seems to supply us with an unending string of stress and worry. Should I or shouldn’t I? Is it worth the risk? What if…
And then I had to decide what to do about the week-and-a-half of ear pain I had been suffering. Honestly, it wasn’t just pain. I swear, half the time it felt like something was crawling around in there! My doctor’s office is further south in the state in a large medical facility, and traveling to an area with a higher rate of Coronavirus cases and entering a place where sick people congregate seemed irresponsible, at best. On the other hand, so did ignoring a potential medical issue for fear of exposure to the virus. It took me days to decide what to do. Finally, I was able to finagle an appointment with someone in my mom’s doctor’s office, which is local, and we ruled out infection… and anything actually crawling around in there. Don’t laugh: As I checked out of the office, one of the staff members told me a story about a little boy who came into the office many years ago and actually did have a bug crawling around in his ear. The story goes that the doctor asked the staff if anyone had any Italian dressing, which someone did, and he applied it to the boy’s ear, killed the bug, and removed it. (Have I mentioned how grateful I am that she only told me this story after I had already been seen, and after any foreign-- and potentially live-- objects had been ruled out?) Long story short, she thinks there may be fluid behind the tympanic membrane (that’s fancy-talk for eardrum) and that the Eustachian tube isn’t draining, causing the pressure, pain, and creepy-crawliness. Treatment consists of ibuprofen and “wait-and-see”, thank you, and that will be $75.00.
So we are now at our most “exposed” in almost four months, and it’s freaking me out a little. All the proper protocols were observed, I dutifully used hand sanitizer upon exiting the office and thoroughly washed my hands (and changed clothes, and wash hands again) upon returning home. But because our greatest concern is potential exposure of “the moms”, there is a lot of worry that goes along with having gone out into the world at all, even for good reason. One could drive oneself mad with the crazy-talk of the mind questioning whether one should have just waited, since it wasn’t serious, but then again how could one have known it wasn’t serious without having it checked, but maybe one should have waited until things got more serious, but then it might have caused damage or been harder to treat if it had been an infection, or, God forbid, something that actual had crawled in there…
Well, you can see where this goes. Nowhere fast.
So, this week’s reminder is about reining in the little voices in our heads, trying to make the wisest choices we can but also recognizing that nothing in this life is without risk, and doing the best we can in what is turning out to be a prolonged period of “surreal and strange”. Be gentle with yourself when you tackle some of these novel difficulties. Remind yourself that no one knows how to handle a situation the first time they encounter it, and we are all on a really steep learning curve right now. Be kind to each other, do everything you can to keep one another safe, and keep reaching out to each other through letters or phone calls or blog posts, or whatever will keep you connected to your fellow humans. As I’ve said in prior posts, socially-distanced need not mean emotionally-distanced. I love you all. Just please don’t come visit!