Updated: Sep 30, 2020
"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 it's only just begun. It's been one week since Michael and I began self-isolating in order to reduce the risk of carrying the Coronavirus to either of our high-risk moms, for whom we provide some care. Both are happy to continue to live independently; but my mom, for example, relies on us to do her grocery shopping, pick up prescriptions and her mail, organize her pillbox each week, do basic cleaning, and fill her bird feeders. (You might think that last one is non-essential, but neither the birds nor my mom would agree!) We have stocked her pantry, as well as our own, as best we can to eliminate the need for weekly shopping trips so that-- other than absolute necessities like prescriptions-- the only times Mike and I will venture out will be to go directly to her house and then back home.
Mike's mom also needs some assistance and, since she has lung issues, this virus really puts her at extreme risk. Any underlying respiratory weakness is a pretty scary situation when we are talking about a virus that seems to specifically attack that system of the body. Mike's sister is also providing care for their mom, so she, too, is limiting her exposure to the public as much as possible. These are not extreme measures; they are just what needs to be done to keep our loved ones safe. We know not everyone is as fortunate as we are to be able to take these measures, and we thank everyone who is putting themselves at risk-- health care workers, grocery store clerks, veterinary staff, utility workers, and so many more-- to keep those vital services and supply chains operational. Please do not underestimate the heroism inherent in their actions. Remember to be grateful for every single person who is helping you in your journey. This really is a "new normal" for all of use. So many of us-- myself included-- are working from home, which brings its own set of challenges even though we recognize that it is a blessing to be able to do so. We thought we'd create an update post once a week as we all practice our social distancing and try to protect those among us for whom this virus could mean illness and even death. It is a sobering thought, the idea that our actions could lead to someone else's death, however inadvertently we might have caused it. We are coming face-to-face with some pretty heavy moral lessons right now and, if you are anything like me, it might be a bit of a "head asploding" moment. It's a lot. So, as we consider the implications of interacting-- or not interacting-- with our fellow human beings, we thought it might also be nice to focus on a few of the less weighty lessons we have learned in our isolation: Week One Lessons Lesson 1: While beans and rice are wonderful, shelf-stable foods, the consequences of eating beans on an almost daily basis are a bit, well... whiffy. Keep in mind that your loved one is (usually) not intentionally gassing you out of the house, and embrace taking daily walks as a temporary escape from the inevitable results of a legume-heavy diet. In all seriousness, folks, those daily walks have been vital for our sanity, too. I am working from home and have made it a point to schedule time for a long enough lunch break to facilitate not just having time for lunch, but also for a half-hour walk along our road. Thankfully, we live in a rural area and are able to walk with little interaction with others, but when we have seen neighbors out and about, it has been lovely to check in with them-- from a safe social distance-- and remind each other that we are all in this together. We even met a couple who knew my grandfather! We are physically "socially distancing" during this crisis, but that does not mean we need to be emotionally distanced. Embrace (virtually, not literally!) your neighbors and your friends during this time. We all need each other right now.
Lesson 2: Technology can be a powerful tool for connection. I am making it a point to make at least one phone call each day to a friend with whom I have not spoken in a while. It might be someone with whom I've kept in touch on Facebook over the years, but hearing each other's voices and checking in is so much more powerful than "liking" each other's posts or even messaging or texting. I urge you to reach out in whatever way feels comfortable to friends and see how they are faring. For anyone who struggles with mental health issues this is a particularly vulnerable time, but let's face it: even the most "sane" among us are going to struggle in an insane time like this. Check in by phone, by video chat, by whatever (safe) means necessary. And make sure everyone has what they need. If you do not have underlying health issues or are not isolating in order to protect someone who does, then consider offering to make supply runs for those at higher risk. Go overboard with the safety precautions: Wipe down groceries, for example. We wear gloves to unpack them outside the house, wipe every item down with isopropyl alcohol and allow them to air dry, then dispose of the gloves, open the door using a paper towel, and carry them inside. The grocery bags never enter the house and go directly into the trash bin. If it seems like overkill, I just remind myself that if we inadvertently brought this virus to one of our moms and they did not survive, we would live with that guilt forever. I'd rather be overly careful and later find out that we took unnecessary precautions than regret having been too cavalier and allowing the virus to spread.
Lesson 3: Find ways to disconnect from the news. Yes, we need to know what is happening. But once you've got the salient bits, make it a point to do something that brings you joy. For some, that is creating art, or reading, or playing a game. For others it will be puttering in the yard or curling up with a beloved pet. Movies and TV shows can be an escape as well, as long as we don't park ourselves in front of the boob tube and never venture away from the couch. Here are our recommendations for this week, and we will plan to continue to share suggestions in each of our upcoming "Coronalone" posts: On Netflix: The documentary, "Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution" (https://www.netflix.com/title/81001496) This film chronicles the long fight for the Americans with Disabilities Act, which finally became law in 1990, through the lens of campers who attended Camp Jened, a camp which existed from the 50s 'til the mid-70s in the Catskills of New York and served kids with disabilities. On your device: The gaming app, "Chess By Post" (free) Google Play store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ChessByPostFree&hl=en_US Apple store: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/chess-by-post/id509928358 Mike has been playing chess with friends from his phone using this app for years now, but it is even more valuable right now, when visiting a friend to play a friendly game is out of the question. The app is free to download and uses very little data. You simply create a user account, and then you can start a game by clicking the "plus" symbol, search for an opponent by user name (Mike's is MSPiper), or even start a ranked game and they will find you an opponent.