March: Into isolation

I am actually typing this a close to a month after the last update, realizing that this month of chaos has been one I entirely missed on the blog. To be fair, the world right now does not look the way it did a month ago.

At the start of the week of March 9th, the spread of COVID-19 was starting to make real ripples in the world.  We weren’t in lockdown then, but that week was when we started to really think about it.  By the end of the week, Sarah and I managed a pretty intensive grocery run, figuring we weren’t going to want to get out to the stores again for a while.  That Saturday, the 14th, we had a gathering with volunteers from CVG.  We were in the same room, but there were fewer hugs, no handshakes, and a palpable difference in people’s body language as we got used to stepping one more pace back from each other.  We didn’t, then, know anyone who was sick.  We figured the world would have to go a little quieter, that people wouldn’t hang out as often — but not that no one would leave their homes.

Sunday the 15th, Sarah and I celebrated Ostara with our Clan.  We had our traditional egg hunt and the giving of chocolate.  It was also a celebration for me, because Friday the 13th had been my last day at the previous job and I was taking a week off before embarking on a new phase in my career.  We played games until 11pm-ish, glad for the big dishes of food and company.  But even then, we were still talking about seeing each other sometimes.  Not often, but sometimes.

Monday the 16th, Sarah changed her mind, the of us to really declare a full lockdown.  She asked me to cancel all hanging with people, and pretty much forbid me from running errands or doing other tasks that might put me into contact with others.  She worries because she knows I’m vulnerable.  We took off in the car to deliver Ostara chocolates to those who hadn’t been able to come, and we spent a little time wandering around Northfield because we were there anyway.  But we felt a little bit like we were the odd ones out.  After all, kids were still going to be in school for a day or two, and the distancing was more voluntary than necessary.

That whole week went by in a blur, partly because we both got hit with absolutely horrific seasonal allergies, and partly because the news in the world was rapidly worsening on every front.  The common areas in the condo closed, cutting off access to our pool and workout room.  Schools in MN shut down, ostensibly for a longer spring break, but the rumblings of something more permanent were present.  By the weekend, March 22nd was supposed to be a ConCom meeting and instead it turned into a series of video calls because everyone who wasn’t “essential” was staying home with almost no exceptions.  Runs for food and basic necessities still happened, but most people had not set foot out of their homes for days, Sarah and I included.

That’s also the point when I started to recognize the effect of isolation on myself and took to ranting on Twitter.  But COVID-19 cases were mounting everywhere, and I was still vulnerable, so I assured Sarah I would not break our quarantine.  We set up calls twice a week with our CVG team just to hang out virtually and keep each other company.

Then I started work at the new company, and the last full week of March vanished into a rush of learning new systems, new names, and trying to do it entirely remotely as the company (and many others) had sent everyone to work from home without exception.  The economy was suffering hard, and all indications were that things were getting worse, not better.  Deaths were piling up, and hospitals were out of PPE.  People were sewing masks out of t-shirts.  Unemployment shot up.  Fox News quit lying about the pandemic.

Sarah and I started trying to do something musical or meditative every other day or so, trying to keep ourselves balanced and positive in a world sliding down an exponential curve to hell.  I wrote a new translation for a cover of “Diamond Crevasse” from Macross Frontier; Sarah is still mixing/balancing the tracks before we put in a visual aspect and post it online.  I started a oneshot on my list from years ago.  I got my first paycheck, but the company also took a hit.  I realized I was going through cycles of not sleeping 3-5 nights, then sleeping well for 2-3 with no appreciation for which nights were in front of workdays instead of weekends.

And now here we are.  March has ended, and April begins with the world fully in the grip of COVID-19.  We haven’t hugged anyone but each other since March 16th.  Haven’t spoken to someone in person other than the security guy in the building when picking up packages or the chiropractor since March 18th.   Haven’t run errands, living 95% off our badass grocery run with 1 instance of delivered food, since March 14th.  We wash our hands between loads of laundry because I have to touch the machines down the hall.  We meet our CVG folks on Tuesdays and Fridays to chat, and the choir has started doing “guided rehearsals” over the internet.

People have said this is like a war, but I think it’s more akin to exactly what it is — a natural disaster.  And so I’ve been reminding myself of the Survival Rule of Three.

You can only go three minutes without oxygen.  Three hours without shelter.  Three days without water.  Three weeks without food.  But you can only go three seconds without hope.  If you lose hope, you’re lost before you’ve begun.

So I’m not always upbeat or positive.  I’m not okay, but nobody’s okay.  How could anyone be?  Most days I can manage my anxiety, push the dread and fear down.  I’m doing much better about controlling my access to social media and the increased stress that comes with reading the latest stats and knowing the current worst case.  Most days I breathe all day long, and I don’t cry.  Most days, I can even find a way to do something that makes me happy, either writing or singing or thinking about cosplay.  Most days, I’m not okay, but I’m surviving.  Most days I’m not breaking the Survival Rule of Three.

I can’t say more than that.  I can’t say it’ll get better, or I’m waiting for it to get worse.  I can’t say that I’ll be able to make it through if I get hit by a bad downswing.  There is no certainty right now.  There is only right now.

And yet, I know I’m one of the lucky ones.  Minnesota acted fast, and comprehensively.  I still have a job, and we can afford to buy the food and prescriptions we need without worrying about bills piling up.  I have a frustrating, hilarious, ever-challenging, ever-entertaining kitten to distract me and cause new problems to solve.  I am in isolation with the person I absolutely adore, the person whose presence never becomes tiresome, the person who makes me laugh no matter what, the person I trust with everything.  We aren’t sick.

And we’re still struggling.

I miss the FUCK out of the people I love.  I miss the FUCK out of hugs.  Out of hanging and watching anime.  Out of being able to cry on a shoulder, or vent, or poke somebody in the ribs.  When I get to life After COVID-19, I am NEVER going to take those moments for granted again.  I didn’t before, having been alone in life already and knowing what that feels like, but even so — it’s different.  A lot is going to be different.  Life BC-19 (Before COVID-19) and AC-19 will be alternate universes of one another.  I’m not sure in AC-19 if I’m ever going to touch anything in public ever again, if I’m ever going to be able to pick up housekeys without wanting to wash my hands before I touch anything else.

But AC-19 feels very far away.  And there’s a very real chance that, when I get there, I won’t be there with everyone who was a part of my life in BC-19.  That all of us will lose someone, maybe many someones.  That all of us will be marked, forever.  That we’ll emerge with new scars is a certainty.  How deep they’ll run, how hard it will be to heal them — only time will tell.

Until then, take care of yourselves, goddamnit.  I want you in the world when this is over.  I want you in the world with me.  Do what you have to, just survive.  Just not from this fucking coronavirus, but from the isolation and the fear and the struggle.  Be selfish if you have to.  Be kind whenever you can.  But just survive.  Hang on.  Be there to hug me someday again.

The rhythm of my footsteps crossing flatlands to your
Door have been silenced forevermore
And the distance is quite simply much to far for me to row;
It seems farther than ever before

I need you so much closer

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