Since the last time I danced salsa on Monday, March 9th, so much in this world has changed. A week later, the dance studio was closed along with most of Boston. The virus was here!
Initially, I tried my best to stay home and only go out for groceries and picking up my medication. During weekends, I was guilty of breaking the social distancing guideline by meeting up with a friend couple for dinners, sleepovers, and brunches. The three of us all enjoyed the much-needed socialization. I figured, two days in a week was not too bad of an exception. Besides, I justified to myself, all three of us had simple social habits and limited interactions with strangers. Then came the news and posts from doctors, nurses, and patients. After reading so many heartbreaking stories, I stopped breaking the rules.
It’s an understatement to say that I didn’t like how blank my calendar looked. I knew I needed to keep in touch with my family and friends to stay sane. I started making daily phone and video calls. I tracked them on my calendar so that, for myself, I could see some trace of human connections visually.
I became obsessed with reading the New York Times and the Boston Globe. Before I got started with a day’s work, I would check to see how many cases there were in the US and in Massachusetts. I read everything about the virus, how it came about, how it attacks the human body, what symptoms to expect, and how many people died each day in the world.
Us humans have the incredible ability to adapt. Many virtual things started to pop up and I tried many of them. I did a virtual movie night with a friend which was fun enough. I watched Carmen from The Metropolitan Opera for free. My favorite local music club Club Passim had live stream music concerts almost every night. Watching performances online was still not the same as experiencing it in person, so that didn’t translate for me. I attended a women’s lunch. Unfortunately, it was impossible to socialize but became more of a lecture. I also did a virtual wine tasting. Three kinds of wine were delivered to me. During the session, a wine host talked through history and told us to drink up in the comfort of our homes. I also saw virtual town halls hosted by WBUR and Boston Globe and listened to the latest happenings in Boston, at MGH, for homeless people and prisoners in Mass.
Something didn’t change for me. I was still working remotely and now 100% at home. I still wanted to write a second memoir. Though I was not doing very well with what I wanted to say with this book yet. It seemed unimportant and too light. I had switched to researching the topic more, i.e. reading other people’s books on the same topic. I still loved taking walks.
This whole time I was thinking, I am going to do my part of stay home, not get sick, and not get anyone else sick. I made food for myself every day. I still had my books and songs and movies. I still could talk to my family and friends. Plus animals in shelters are being adopted. The sky of polluted cities is clearing up. I lived on small positivities that came my way. Then the talk and protest for reopening started. More hard choices!
How can we reopen? We don’t have anything more than what we had in February. We don’t have a vaccine nor herd immunity. More people might get infected and die faster again.
But how can we not reopen? An enormous number of people have lost their jobs, can’t pay rent or buy food. More people might become mentally unwell. Our normal sense of life and living is very much interrupted.
I am beginning to feel that there is no going back to normal but continue to live life in a new normal that’s somewhere between then and now. Even if the restaurants and theaters are open today, I don’t know if I feel safe enough to eat out or watch a show with a room full of people. I don’t know when I would get on a plane again. It’s not just business owners making decisions. I would be as well on a daily basis.
I was glad we were asked to wear masks so I could go out safely. I can’t possibly stay home for the next 18 months until the vaccine comes out. I am optimistic that all the smart people in the world are trying to conquer this pandemic in as many ways as humanly possible. I really hope there is a better path, something else, between many-people-dying and shelter-in-place for the rest of 2020!