My family had the flu all last week. Just a normal flu. We all hunkered down. Since it was spring break, meaning all my kids as well as my husband and I who are both school district employees had absolutely nothing to do, we pretty much cut ourselves off entirely.
And then woke up to the world ending.
We knew about COVID-19 going in. There were no confirmed cases of the virus in Alaska at the time (and only one isolated case has been confirmed in the time since [edit: uh-oh, looks like we have two cases right here in Fairbanks as of earlier today]), but we knew it was coming. We had already been talking to our kids about germs and how they spread, and our stint with the flu was a good time to practice better hygiene, both physical and social. We had our food storage already set aside (one of the principles our religion practices so that we are ready to take care of our families and neighbors when the need arises), so we didn’t feel the need to rush out and stockpile now that the disaster was about to strike.
What we hadn’t anticipated is that people are crazy. My first grocery trip after our family had recovered was a bit of a revelation, unfortunately.
Most people were very polite. Even cheery, really. But there was also an undercurrent of fear. There was not a single roll of toilet paper to be found. The dry goods section was empty, as were the canned goods and the frozen food aisle. I didn’t even glance into the first aid section to see how the hand sanitizer supply was. And then the evening after my grocery trip, the kids’ return to school that I’ve been anticipating so desperately was cancelled.
Things are a little wacky. I’m very glad that people (most people? I hope?) are listening to the experts and taking this seriously. And it’s been very instructive to learn just how often I touch my face. (Oh gosh, why can I not stop touching my face??) And it’s also been good to learn, really learn, just what rock stars my kids’ teachers are that they can handle thirty of these monkeys at a time and still manage to wedge some knowledge in their spastic little brains.
Until the school district rolls out its home study program, I will be homeschooling my kids, plus the two buddies who I babysit while their parents have to keep working. We have a bell schedule and everything, complete with lots of recess. They’ll be studying math and vocabulary and French and the Western Expansion of the US in all its awful glory. And of course, the immune system and how viruses and bacteria spread.
So as I’m working with the kids all day and then go immediately into evening chores, where does that leave my writing?
Daytime is an absolute bust. I can’t sneak it in during the day between things like I’m used to, and that’s been tough. And I can’t sneak it in during the evenings either since the kids don’t have activities that I can hide in corners with my laptop during. And a few of my freelance jobs have fallen through as customers have decided that maybe now really isn’t the time for that new marketing campaign. So I’ve had fewer jobs, less time for writing, and a heck of a lot more noise and distraction.
Sounds like a challenge! *cracks knuckles*
Adjustments are always difficult, and the whole world is still adjusting to COVID-19. There’s nothing I can do about losing writing work, but I can just look at it as focusing my already limited time on the jobs I already have. Instead of seeing myself as a beleaguered survivor hiding out in my basement while the world implodes, I can see myself as a good citizen doing my part to keep the most vulnerable members of my community safe. Instead of whining about how I don’t have writing time because I have all these kids around, I can teach the kids about the most important stuff they need to know—sure, math and science and art, but also caring about our neighbors and checking in with the elderly couples on our street (via phone and email and notes in the mailbox) and taking extra precautions not to spread our germs around the town we love.
Illnesses like this can be scary. But I am blessed to be healthy and secure. Maybe I’m losing work, but my husband is not. Maybe I’m cooped up in the house, but you know what, I’m an introvert anyway so never having to interact with other humans is basically like my daydreams come true. I have nothing to complain about.
I will keep writing. I’ll level out and make all the adjustments. And maybe I’ll even get better at washing my hands and not touching my face.
I hope all of you are doing well and staying safe. Be sure to wash your hands and practice social distancing. And if you can squeeze it in amidst all the craziness, happy writing!