A day in the life in the time of corona

It is the end of March and we’re in the thick of it. It will get worse before it gets better, they say.

I write for a daily newspaper and it’s coronavirus, coronavirus, coronavirus all the time.

I feel calm and driven and focused, but the stress is bubbling up in my body.

I have a giant blistering boil on my forehead and a gaping quarter-sized ulcer in the back of my throat. I haven’t had one of those in years. I always get them when I’m stressed.

This is minor, nothing, I know. When nurses are wearing garbage bags because they don’t have enough protective gear and hospitals are running out of ventilators and people are dying, drowning in their own lungs.

My problems are nothing compared to that. I know. This is just my diary. A record of what’s happening here, in my house.

The kids are out of school for the rest of the year, I’m working from home, my husband is working from home. I’m writing about coronavirus, from the periphery, but it’s still high stakes drama.

Child care and businesses closing down and the first local people testing positive for the virus and what that feels like. One person said it felt like his lungs were wrapped in a wet paper towel and how doing anything, like trying to empty the dishwasher or put in a load of laundry, would make him weak, wiping him out for the day and maybe even the next.

I interviewed the family of an 80-year-old man who almost died, in a matter of days, but somehow, lived. Miraculously. Thanks to his doctor and a ventilator.

It’s good work. I’m at my computer at seven in the morning and I don’t leave until seven at night.

But my body is showing the stress.

I’ve been gargling with salt water, trying to eat well, leafy greens (but could they be tainted with corona?!), sleep. I wake up in the middle of the night, staring at the ceiling. I take pills to try to get back to sleep. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

I feel quiet inside, numb. I have my lists: all the people I need to call, all the words I need to write, deadlines, stories due, check in with my kids, are you doing your homework?, why is he crying?, time-out, and then a quick run to the grocery store for my mom. She is so happy to see me, she’s shaking. Or maybe she’s just scared.

What are you scared of, mom?

Dying, she says.

I’m scared of that too, but I have so much to do. And that helps.

I’m teaching a creative writing class at the university, which is now closed due to the corona. We had to move everything online — rapid transition — in two weeks. I learned how to Zoom, like the rest of the world, I imagine. Moving a class online doubles the workload, but after two weeks of preparing, I felt like, I can do this! We had our first online workshop this week. Brady Bunch style, our heads in all our little zoom boxes, stacked on top of each other. Everybody laughing, saying, “Cool cat!” when a girl’s cat jumped up on her lap.

I rearranged my home office. Optimized for zoom. I’m trying to take pleasure in the little things.

The azaleas are blooming outside the window. A wall of pink.

I had to tell the boys to stop playing with the neighbors. Social distancing. It feels so mean, but what can you do? My 8 year old cried and cried. He keeps saying, This is going to be the worst birthday ever! But his birthday isn’t until the end of June. I tell him we will have an awesome party. A rager. As long as we keep it under 10 people.

Or am I wrong? Will it be over then? Or still going?