Hi! I have emerged from a writer’s block in the middle of this global pandemic to bring you excerpts from my journal that I call “memoirs of a quarantine.” I cannot say that these are the right words, but they are my words:
March 30, 2020
This past New Year’s Eve, I gathered with Charlotte runner friends at Paula and Franklin’s house in Dilworth. We made miniature cookie cakes in tiny cast iron skillets with dollops of vanilla ice cream and sprinkles. As we poured champagne and passed around the chambong, I smiled and thought: this is our year.
I had a plan and a mantra for 2020.
The plan did not work out.
We were supposed to get married this year. Parties, showers, bachelor and bachelorette weekends. Love and happiness. The whole thing.
Then March happened.
“Canceled” and “postponed” highlighted the subject lines of our email inboxes. Stay at home orders and death rate statistics dominated headlines of our newspapers and TV screens.
And then I remembered my 2020 mantra: Be strong, take heart.
Turns out my plan was not THE plan. Now, more than ever, we need this mantra.
April 1, 2020
Have you noticed that we keep asking each other: how are you doing?
I usually answer this question in a brief, slightly positive way. Something like: I am fine. We have set up workstations at home. Cleo is living her best life. We are making it work! How are you?
But how am I really doing?
I am devastated. How could this be happening?
I am okay. I’ve turned the kitchen table into a workstation. I’ve settled cases, sent out demand letters, smiled at colleagues during Zoom meetings. I wake up, take walks, listen to books, work hard, feed myself, John and the cat, watch movies, go to bed. I clean. I wipe down counter tops and groceries breathlessly and with passion. I breathe. I run. I consume the news a little. I call my parents a lot.
I am scared. For the country, the economy, people’s lives, my parents, my family and friends. Homeless people, elderly people. People living alone. Single moms. Single dads. Babies newly born. Pregnant mothers. People in domestic violence situations. People who have the virus and are alone. People who have a family member with the virus. Small business owners and employees. Restaurants and bars. Healthcare professionals. Grocery store workers. People who are not taking this seriously.
I am sad. That this was our wedding year.
I am happy. To spend so much time with John and Cleo. To slow down. I look forward to our long runs and homemade oatmeal banana pancakes on Saturdays.
I miss my friends.
I am hungry. Gah. Why am I always hungry? I cannot stop eating.
I am mourning. The loss of lives, the loss of a season and maybe a year, the loss of memories never made.
I am anxious. About the future. The unknown.
I am hopeful. Maybe the stay at home orders will work. Maybe we will actually flatten the curve. Maybe a vaccine will come sooner rather than later. Maybe less people will die than predicted. Maybe we will learn from this and grow as a global community.
Be strong, take heart.
April 11, 2020
I am running alone. I soak in the sun and warm spring breeze. Jump off the sidewalk to give a man with a baby stroller 6 feet of space and simultaneously dodge an oncoming car. This is just one of the new normal’s. I try to put off worry, fear, anxiety. Focus on hope, love and peace. But how?
How do I navigate my life in this pandemic?
One moment at a time.
In this moment, a memory:
It is April 16, 2018, and I am in the middle of racing the Boston Marathon. Currently it is freezing, pouring rain with 30 mph headwinds. This is one of those life experiences that I’ll never forget because it’s just so crazy and I am growing in the moment. I am… adapting. I have to adapt to survive. Everything from my clothing, to my fuel, to my attitude must adapt in order to reach the finish line. Thousands of other runners with me. A community. I am not alone.
And then I realize: that is where I am now. Adapting.
We are all adapting as a community. Have you noticed?
We have found ways to celebrate Easter, Passover, birthdays, anniversaries, a new work day, another weekend. Families, friends and colleagues meet virtually. We talk, dance, laugh, wave through windows and screens.
Neighborhoods make noise at the exact same time every evening to tell the healthcare professionals we are grateful for their sacrifice and service.
We wear latex gloves and masks to the grocery store. We wipe down boxes, produce, dry goods before putting them away or bringing them into our homes.
We say things like “be well,” or “be safe, stay healthy.”
Some of us sleep more, cook more. Some of us garden. Others run, walk or ride bikes.
Everywhere I look, I see helpers, community and hope.
April 12, 2020
We stream Catholic Easter mass on YouTube in pajamas and sip coffee.
Despite preparing several Lebanese dishes the day before so that John and I can honor tradition on this day, this is not normal. Nothing about this feels normal.
I feel sad. I miss my family.
So, I get up, get dressed, put on makeup, fix my hair. I head to the kitchen, throw on my apron and a Spotify oldies playlist. I heat up Lebanese Fathayi in the oven, chop the salad, pour a couple mimosas. Then, I sing:
When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we see
No I won’t be afraid
No I won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me
And darling, darling, stand by me
Oooooooo stand, stand by me
Stand by me, stand by me
If the sky that we look upon
Should tumble and fall
And the mountain should crumble to the sea
I won’t cry, I won’t cry
No I won’t shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me
After lunch, we visit with family over Zoom. I am okay. I am here.
That’s all I’ve got, my friends. We are here. We are smack dab in the middle of this marathon. I cannot tell you when we’ll reach the finish line. I can tell you that writing a list of your feelings is helpful and therapeutic. Thinking about a prior challenging time in your life and reflecting on the lessons you learned from that experience is important because those lessons may be applicable here.
Remember that you are not alone.
When all else fails, pour yourself a mimosa and sing in the kitchen. I will stand by you. We will get through this.
See you out there… eventually.