When I first heard of the COVID-19 epidemic in China, I assumed it would be contained before it reached the United States. How very naïve! On March 8, I spent the morning out and about, at a meditation meeting and to lunch at a crowded café. When I got home my partner told me the first case had just been diagnosed in our little town. I was jolted out of complacency. I decided then and there that we should isolate ourselves.
The decision to isolate means very different things for each of us depending on circumstance. I am blessed to live in a large home in North Carolina with my beloved partner, one of the most engaging and amusing people I have ever known. He is the person I would choose to be stranded with on a desert island. Fortunately, we are not quarantined on a desert island. We are just outside Chapel Hill, a university town in North Carolina. We live in the woods, with lots of trees on our land, and plenty of room for our newly planted vegetable garden. The local grocery store delivers food to our front porch. When we go on our daily walk, we see neighbours at a distance and wave to them, but we don’t have to worry about getting too close. Because we are retired, we do not need to venture out to work.
Which is not to say this phase of life is easy. The first few weeks of quarantine, I was on edge wondering whether we had been exposed before we isolated. About the time I got over those fears, one of my adult children in New York City became seriously ill with COVID-19. Those were dark weeks, until his wonderful recovery. I am so grateful to see his face on Zoom and hear him tell jokes – it feels like a miracle. And I am well aware that we, and our friends and families, will all be at risk until there are better treatments and ultimately a vaccine. I cherish each phone call with my children around the country and each day spent with my partner.
For me the key to dealing with the lockdown is balance. Every day I exercise a little, I clean and cook a little, I spend some time on the telephone with friends and family. And being a writer, I find that keeping a journal helps. I’m part of a group called “Journal the Pandemic” on Facebook, where people share about our daily lives and our vivid pandemic dreams. I also write erotica, running a free online writing course. I put on music and dance while folding the laundry. We have great upbeat music, like the Bangles and Stevie Wonder. And gardening is great. These days I find pulling weeds very cathartic. If I lived in an apartment, I would order one of those kits to grow a little herb garden in the window. And naturally, I enjoy being intimate. Making love in the afternoon is especially luxurious, and no less an authority than author Joan Price recommends sex before dinner for people over fifty. I have this lovely handsome partner, but if I were in lockdown on my own, I’m sure I would spend time enjoying myself each day. My friend in the sex toy business says sales are way up in the pandemic, and I believe it!
Before I retired, I worked in the biopharma industry, and one of the things that give me great hope is reading about the community of researchers all over the world working to find treatments and vaccines to stop the pandemic. An enormous grassroots effort is underway, involving individual scientists all the way up to major companies, cooperating with each other and pooling information even with their erstwhile competitors. I am sure we will see great results and hope we can all stay safe until that day arrives.
Once we can safely travel and visit again, I have no doubt about the first thing I will do. My new grandson was born in April, and I will not be able to meet him until the pandemic is over. But when it is safe, the first thing I want to do is hold him in my arms. Until that day, I am sending him virtual hugs, and sending all best wishes to every one of us, all over the world.