So it’s day I Have Lost Count of the shelter-in-place for us. I think we are just coming up to the half way point for week 3. Surreal, bizarre and unprecedented are all words that I have used over the last few weeks to describe the scenes near where I live and what is going on in the world. But, another word is starting to enter into my lexicon; eerie. As if the word itself isn’t strange enough. It perfectly sums up exactly what I experienced today. I went out with my partner to pick up groceries and for the first time, our supermarket had the monitored queue out front. I was struck by a few things:
- The parking lot of this particular grocery store was surprisingly empty for its location and for the time of day. The previous times that we have been at this store it was much more crowded. And that was the case even after the shelter-in-place order was announced.
- The line was orderly and people seemed to be pretty good about following the directions (I noticed this inside the store as well). In fact, two people left the line because they had reusable bags and were told that they couldn’t bring those inside the store. The people in back of both of them kept their places in line. I was actually touched by that. It showed me that there is still a sense of common decency still left even if it was small.
- The line moved surprisingly fast. There were probably 10 to 15 people in front of us which doesn’t seem that many. But, when you factor in that it was a supermarket (where you never have to wait to get in) and that we were maintaining at least 6 feet between us and the next shopper, the line seemed large. I don’t think we were waiting for more than 10 minutes outside before we were allowed in.
- The interior of the store was very orderly and well maintained. There were these red placards on the floor down the outer lanes and at the bakery and deli counters that people were supposed to stand at to maintain 6 foot distances; I thought that was pretty neat.
So, this is all positive. So why did I feel uncomfortable (eerie)? This is the second time that the COVID-19 crisis hit close to home for me. The first time was when we were alerted that someone in our building complex had tested positive. Since then, we’ve had no additional information from our building management. Today, seeing the people in line and everyone wearing gloves and masks struck me. Things are not normal. And it’s not like I didn’t know that or wasn’t already experiencing that. But, today, it just felt different. Seeing the lines outside of a place where I’m used to being able to walk in and out as often as I want was jarring. This is the new normal. And it might be this way for the next few weeks or the next year. And maybe it just struck me today. The culmination of all the stress from the last few weeks hit a new tipping point for me. Stress is cumulative after all. It’s not like your counter resets to 0 at 12:00am every day.
But, I want to talk about some things that are not all doom and gloom. We’ve had some absolutely gorgeous weather the last few days. It’s been in the mid to upper 60s and we’ve had picture perfect blue sky with only some passing clouds on occasion. That has helped my mood majorly in the last few days. I spend time out on our balcony and I love it. We are on the top floor and west facing so we get a good amount of afternoon sun. In the summer it can be a little extreme. Luckily we have a very good air conditioner when that happens! But during the winter, early spring and late fall periods, it’s great. It’s usually 15 to 20 degrees warmer than the surrounding air temperature. I find the sun very therapeutic and I know that there is research that indicates that as well.
Some other good things is that my partner, Chris and I, have never been closer. We both have pretty long commutes to our jobs and my Saturdays are usually fairly busy so we only really spend about 3 hours together each day of the week (barring sleeping) and most/all of the day on Sunday. So, when this shelter-in-place began, I was a little nervous that we would go stir crazy in our 1 bedroom apartment. But, the reality of it couldn’t be further from that. We have gotten into a really good routine. We have the places that we stakeout during the day for work and spend lunch together. It’s actually been wonderful. It also makes me incredibly grateful that I have someone during this time. If I was living by myself and was isolated, I don’t think I would be doing well. His work ethic is also great and I am finding inspiration from him to work harder as I am working from home.
The other thing I wanted to mention is that we are spending a lot more time cooking and grilling at home. That’s probably unsurprising given what is going on. But, we would frequently order take out/delivery or go out especially on the weekends. Aside from one meal a week – usually Friday nights – for “date night”, we cook. I feel pretty good about this, but, I also feel a little bad. Right now, a ton of restaurants are open doing take out and delivery orders during this crisis. Given how hard it is to make ends meet where we live, I do feel some responsibility to support these places. But, at the same time, I know that by severely limiting contact to only essential activities, we are doing our part to stop the spread of this virus. And that outweighs anything else, easily. The other thing that I wanted to add about the cooking was the cleaning. I am normally responsible for cleaning the dishes and the kitchen. And I hated it. I hated it because after work and dinner (with wine of course!) the last thing I wanted to do was clean dishes. My evenings were already truncated by my commute. But now that I don’t have a commute, I don’t mind cleaning at all. Having time back is a great feeling.
So, all in all, things could be worse. The world is in a precarious spot. But, I am doing what I can to help my community by not spreading the virus. I am spending more time writing, cooking, reading and spending time with the man I love. So, this crisis has taught me that it is ok to focus on the things that really matter. And isn’t that what we are all striving to understand?