In the last few days, I’ve seen social media posts from friends in states where restrictions have been lifted. They’re going out for dinner, for cocktails with friends, and I feel envious. But also, nervous. For as much as I crave human contact with people other than my family, I’ve also read too many gut-wrenching articles about overwhelmed emergency rooms. I’ve listened to too many podcasts about respiratory droplets and contact routes. I care about how the virus disproportionately affects the most vulnerable in our society, and I respect the information being disseminated by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control.
So yes: I’m nervous about re-entry because I’m worried about exposure. There’s still so much that we don’t know about this brand-new disease. Does it transmit via surfaces, or is it primarily airborne? Why do tests give so many false negatives? And why are children, initially believed to be less impacted by the virus, now developing Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, a dangerous condition associated with coronavirus?
The first person diagnosed with coronavirus in the U.S. was a Snohomish County man on January 20. The first death was in Kirkland — my city — on February 28. Experts now believe Covid-19 was circulating on the West Coast up to six weeks before governors ordered restrictions. Around that time, there was this weird flu cutting a swath across Western Washington. A bunch of kids at Evan’s elementary school had it. Some of Steve’s co-workers had it. But we were still living normally — going to school, having play dates, going to concerts. I flinch a little bit when I think about it, but back then, we had no idea.
Being quarantined has sucked, but there’s some relief in it, too. In early March, before Governor Inslee locked it all down, I worried endlessly about whether it was safe to do normal things. My friends and I blew up each others’ phones asking each other whether we should let the kids go to school, to birthday parties. “I’m supposed to fly in two weeks,” I remember texting to one group. “What should I do?” I got a range of answers. Nobody knew. At least when the lockdown happened, there was an answer to the “Can I?” questions. The unequivocal answer, to all of the questions, was “Hell no.”
Trust me: I want to send my kid to sleepaway camp in August. I want to eat a meal and have someone else worry about the cooking and the dishes. I desperately want to visit my family in the Bay Area. But I’m scared. I’ve been duly intimidated by this virus. And it’s not going to be easy for me to fling open the doors and resume life as it was.
We’ve all changed. Or, perhaps I should speak just for my family. We’ve definitely changed. Steve, my even-keeled husband, flies off the handle more often. My second-grader throws toddler-like tantrums. My middle-schooler has gotten used to “seeing” his friends on video games. And I have struggled mightily not to go to the dark place with my eating disorder. The four of us are more anxious, more irritable, and less patient.
During this period of quarantine, I’ve become supremely lazy. Oh sure, I still do my daily workouts, but I spend a lot of time sitting on my ass. I’m trying to coax Evan to write a book review. I’m playing four simultaneous games of ScrabbleGo. I’m binge-watching “On My Block” with Bini. We’re sleeping in until 9 a.m. some days. And why not? There’s no carpool to drive, no commute to the office. For someone who used to be in constant motion, this inaction is weird. I feel drowsy a lot.
It’s not just the sitting around, though. I’ve become accustomed to not interacting with people, period. Grocery delivery? Yes please. Waiting in the parking lot at Total Wine while someone brings my booze order to the trunk? Sounds good. And if I select “contactless delivery” on my lunch delivery order, I don’t even have to look at anyone. I just get a text that my ancient grain bowl has arrived. All of my life, I was sure that I was an extrovert. Now I’m starting to wonder.
I’m also not sure I want things to go completely back to normal. I grieved every social event we erased from our calendar in March, but now it feels kind of good to do nothing. Our family has spent more time on the living room couch in the past 10 weeks than we have in the previous four years combined. We all have our favorite throw blankets, and our usual “spots” on the couch to watch shows. Right now, we’re watching “All American,” which is not at all appropriate for Evan. Ask me if I care. Before coronavirus, the hours between school getting out and bedtime were often frenetic — gotta get dinner on the table, gotta get the kids to bed. This feels better.
About a month ago, I signed up to support the Hmong flower growers, who were being hit hard by the closure of Pike’s Place Market. Every Friday, I pick up my bunches of tulips, or daffodils, or lately, peonies, and deliver them to friends. I know they’re home, because we’re all home. And my friends are always so happy to see me, happy to chat from a distance. We all need to see a colorist and we’re wearing yesterday’s yoga pants, but it feels intimate to see each other this way. It’s real. It’s spontaneous. And I like it.
So, as we awaken from our forced hibernation, I hope that we don’t crank up too quickly. Yes to getting back to work, no to clogged freeways. Yes to play dates, but no to double-booked weekends. I don’t know if I have it in me to stuff my day with tasks anymore.
Plus, I’m getting really good at ScrabbleGo.