Updated: May 10, 2020
Continuing on from last week's post, in which I explained the title of this series in this manner: "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 heading into week three of our self-imposed isolation. It occurred to me on Saturday that it had officially been over two weeks since I had left the house for anything other than daily walks on our road. Mike has handled any absolutely essential trips out for supplies (groceries, Mom's prescriptions, etc.), keeping our exposure at a bare minimum to avoid potentially exposing our high-risk moms (and, frankly, ourselves). Our pantries are well-stocked, and we will, Deo volente, require even fewer public trips moving forward. I did see Mom on Saturday, keeping myself socially-distanced and touching nothing during my visit. We made the decision because we were unsure when I will have a chance to visit her again in the near future, as things are expected to get much worse before they get better. We assessed this visit as minimally risky for Mom, since Mike was going anyway and I've had no contact with anyone other than him in two weeks... but I doubt I will risk visiting her again anytime soon. This novel Coronavirus is a scary proposition for someone with any lung weakness, and having asthma has made me a bit more paranoid than usual about my own health, too. The seasonal allergies are kicking in now, so every time I need to use my inhaler my mind gets completely away from me, spinning ridiculous and horrific scenarios of suffocating in my own bodily fluids because I've somehow managed to contract the virus regardless of our vigilance. If you don't have breathing issues this will seem like, well... a slightly insane response. If you do, then ten bucks says you were nodding your head as you read that last sentence. A lot of us are scared, and it is not an unreasonable fear. Please remember this when you can't seem to get a handle on your own anxiety, or when you perceive someone else's as irrational: We are experiencing a sane response to an insane situation.
In this household, our sane reaction to insanity includes this weekly blog post so, as we did last week, we thought we'd offer up a few lessons we have learned during our isolation: Lesson 1: I stand by my lesson from last week about a nearly daily diet of beans but-- despite all that-- I am incredibly grateful to be able to self-isolate with someone I love. Beans or no beans. Not just someone I love, in fact, but someone I like. My heart goes out to health care workers and others who are having to isolate themselves from their families for their own safety, and to anyone who is having to go through this alone. Mike and I feel very fortunate to be able to lean on each other right now. If you are "cooped up" with your loved ones right now, try to focus on the positive. (If you're having trouble finding the positive in a sea of remote learning, or teenage angst, or way too much "quality time" with your significant other, I'll get you started: how about the fact that they are with you and-- hopefully-- safe and healthy? OK, now you go.) I'm not saying that it won't be trying, but it still beats the alternative, right?
Lesson 2: There is a lot of stress and anxiety in the world right now, and it is virtually impossible for any of us to escape it. One thing that has helped us to see that the world is not completely crashing down around us-- even if it sometimes feels as though it is-- is witnessing and appreciating the nature all around us. It is a reminder that the world continues to spin, that nature continues to honor the change of seasons, and that life, in a sense, goes on. Now, if someone you love is gravely ill or has succumbed to the virus, this may be of little comfort right now. I do not mean to belittle the horrifying experiences that so many others are having. I am only trying to find the calm in my own storm as best I can and share it, in case it might help someone else.
Lesson 3: Many of us are feeling helpless right now. One of the best ways to combat that feeling is to find a way to be useful. Not only is helping others the compassionate thing to do, it is also a very healthy form of self-care. It should be prioritized even when we are not experiencing a pandemic; and I am hopeful that we, as a society, will remember this lesson when we emerge from the other side of the current crisis into what is sure to be a very new and different world. When we lift others up, we cannot help but lift ourselves up as well. (And for anyone who is scoffing at that sentiment because it seems too cliché, I encourage you to try it, and experience the added side benefits of “good deed doing” for yourself.)
I have witnessed so many amazing examples of community involvement in the face of adversity over the past few weeks. I have seen our friend Doug-- who has a 3D printer and the skills to use it-- fabricating ventilator valves, face shield head sets, and face mask extenders. I have learned of friends and neighbors with sewing skills making fabric face masks, and musician friends giving virtual concerts to entertain and connect us as we navigate this strange new world. I have seen people offering to do grocery runs and pharmacy runs, leaving items on doorsteps, sharing what little they have in their reserves to help those who have even less. I have watched it all from my isolation in my little cottage in the woods and wondered, “How can I help? How can I be of service, without jeopardizing our high-risk moms?” And then I spoke to my friend, John.
I have learned over the many years that I’ve known John that he is not only a compassionate soul, but also a practical one. That, by the way, is a kick-ass combination. You see, John is the director of the technology department of a local school. He saw 3D printers lying dormant due to school closures, he saw a need in New Hampshire for medical supplies, and he decided to do something about it. Within 24 hours he had created a website, and facilitated the communication necessary to connect the printers with local “makers” to allow them to create personal protective equipment and other components for our healthcare professionals who need them.
Now, I have neither a 3D printer nor the skills to run one, but I do have past experience with fundraising and publicity. I suggested that the next logical step was to create a crowdfunding campaign so that people like me—without equipment or printing skills, but with a sincere desire to help—would be able to make donations to help purchase the necessary materials. Thanks to John, I found a way to be useful and make a difference without putting our moms at risk. There is always a way to help, and sometimes the universe very kindly presents it to us. Sometimes, we have to do a little more digging. Either way, the rewards are well worth the effort. You can learn more about “Supporting Our Healthcare Heroes”-- where you can also make a donation or join the project-- at nh-heroes.org
Lastly, we did promise in our first "Coronalone" post that we would share additional recommendations for entertainment or stress relief. Here you go: On Amazon Prime: The TV series, "Monk" (https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/B000VB0CH4/ref=atv_dp_season_select_s1) Tony Shalhoub's portrayal of Adrian Monk, the former homicide detective with obsessive-compulsive disorder and multiple phobias has always been both funny and moving, but I have to tell you: His behaviors somehow seem way less crazy in light of our current circumstances. If watching someone with germophobia is going to trigger your already rampant anxiety, then this one may not be for you. For us, it has been an amusing distraction. Also, the theme song in later seasons is Randy Newman's "It's A Jungle Out There", which as far as I am concerned is pretty much the theme song
for the world right now.
On your device: The gaming app, "Tiles By Post" (free)
Like "Chess By Post", which we highlighted last week, this is a free gaming app that allows you to play games with friends from your cell phone with minimal data use. "Tiles By Post" is a word-finding game that looks suspiciously like Boggle. Games are two minutes long and can be played as practice or against other players. (Mike's user name is pashka, and Robyn's is robynpiper. Feel free to challenge us to a game!)