Pandemic journal: Day 1

Saturday, March 14, 9:43 AM

Day 1 of voluntary social distancing 

I was going to say Day 1 of quarantine, but that isn’t us (yet?), and then I was going to say lockdown, but we also aren’t there yet (though there are rumors). What this is, though, is the first day where we are all at home because (a) it seems the best thing to do, and (b) everything is cancelled anyway. Preschool has closed until April 5 at earliest, [E’s workplace] is having everyone WFH indefinitely, schools have closed in Oakland and Berkeley and San Francisco, libraries are closed. It feels like lockdown even if it isn’t officially. I need to go to school later to get the laundry I’m covering since the A family has left the country in a hurry; we can still go to stores if we must, we can go on walks… is that going to change, one of these days? 

It’s a very strange time and I find my imagination inadequate to envision if the direst predictions come to pass: if we lose multiple above-60 family members (or will the poorer members of society bear the brunt as they so often do?) and everyone we know is going through the same fear, grief, and losses; if large parts of the country are really placed on lockdown; if the hospital systems collapse; if there are shortages of food or medication or anything at all really; if, god forbid, anything happens to the internet; if the earth chooses this moment to have the big quake; what happens to the economy globally, nationally, individually. I can make predictions but I can’t actually feel what any of that feels like. And if I picture times in history where there’s been this level of uncertainty and rapid change and potential for widespread suffering — or hell, places in the world where this was true already — I assume the blinkered view that there are places and eras where these kinds of things happen, and ours isn’t one of them, which of course is totally false; no time or place is, until it is. 

Meanwhile, Daddo is still planning to go into the office two days a week, and Mommy is going food shopping today in spite of us telling her to stay home and let S bring her food. E’s parents have hospital visits because of non-COVID-19-related tests. I’m worried about our parents but I don’t know what to do. At what point do we say to them what one online friend said she told her mom: if you catch this you will end up dying alone in the hospital. Which is utterly brutal, but also accurate, because if it gets to that point the hospitals will be overloaded and crowded, we won’t be able to visit, and it will be horrible. At what point do we tell them that? 

Yesterday I took Owl to school as usual, figuring this would be our last day of sorta-normal life and our last chance to see people. I was thinking how extraordinary it is that on Wednesday I was still hugging N (hugs, in the plural!) and 48 hours later we were planning for self-quarantine. N wasn’t even there at drop-off but I texted her and she texted back saying it was her last day of face-to-face clients and big changes were afoot. After the A family’s rapid departure I wondered if N’s family were decamping as well but that seemed too dramatic to even inquire about in a text, and also I was distracted, at a grocery store, getting more supplies.

This morning I found to my horror that I’m out of blank journals, so I’m writing this in an old one from 2006, only partially filled out and mostly on the front side of the page only. I’ve flipped it upside-down so I don’t run into the old writings. It’s a thickish book and I hope it’ll last… I wonder if I can still go to the shop and get journals? Is that irresponsible? It would also be an act of support for a local shop that’s been very good to me.

There’s so much I want to do during this time, from checking in on everyone who’s in our orbit at all, to finally fixing up the apartment, to comfort cooking, etc. I think I need to be really aware of how I’m using my time, so I don’t just end up slumped in the happy chair playing Solitaire for hours. I’ve seen some sample schedules online, and advice on combating cabin fever. I’d better figure out a similar plan for myself, or I’ll be frustrated, irritable, stress-eating, and lethargic. There’s a lot of potential for this time to be richly connective, productive, and peaceful, and it would be great if I could make that happen at least at the beginning before we start fully panicking (and having any kind of routine will also be grounding if things get really bad) (if? when?). 

What I really don’t want is for lockdown to be lifted and all I have to show for it is that Owl played a ton of computer games or watched a lot of TV, I made myself feel bad every day by obsessively re-checking Facebook, I leveled up in my fashion game, and the three of us are still alive but otherwise no different from when we started this phase.

PS. At preschool pickup yesterday one of the other moms said, “See you in a month,” even though nothing had been decided about whether the school would close. It just felt inevitable.