I arrive on time for my volunteer work at Project Angel Heart only to be sent home because I was in Summit County this past weekend, where the coronavirus spread seems to be ramping up. By 8:10 I’m back at home and when David leaves for work I spend most of the day pouring through articles online. I don’t deal with stress well when I don’t understand things, so I’m trying to educate myself about where we are headed: isolation.
David and I head to the grocery store when it opens in order to stock up as we are being advised – the line wraps around the building before the store has even opened up. We try not to buy more than we need, but toilet paper is still selling out daily and his sister is running out. I spend much of the day canceling upcoming events: LDEI events I’m in charge of, my daughter’s bridal shower, my friend’s engagement party for her son, a dinner party planned for Saturday night, a cooking dinner party for clients, all of my upcoming personal appointments, and the Puerto Rican dinner we had planned for both David’s and my families for the next weekend. Then I leave the toilet paper on the porch for David’s sister to retrieve.
I wake up and notice that David is reading news on his phone from his side of the bed. “Is the world coming to an end?” I ask, only half joking. “No more than yesterday or tomorrow,” he answers. We watch the president’s press conference, which is a shit show. I’ve believed for some time the rate of infection is much higher in the US than we’ve been told and now they are confirming that. While we watch, the stock market is spiraling downwards, and trading is suspended for the fourth time in as many days. I do the math: the market is down 30%, which is terrifying for someone trying to live off investments with no real income to speak of. By the end of the press conference I have no doubt that we must absolutely commit to social distancing. We agree to not be with anyone other than my grandson and his parents.
As soon as we wake up, I suggest we head to the basement to exercise. I cycle on the elliptical while David cycles on the stationary bike, and we watch the CBS Morning Show. The entire show is focused around the pandemic, and it’s depressing to watch. It doesn’t help that it’s dark and snowy out today, making us feel trapped. Afterwards we watch some funny videos on YouTube, and it reminds me of how I learned I needed to laugh after Greg’s collapse. The human spirit needs a break sometimes.
I sleep in until 9 in the morning, unsure if I’m actually tired or just feeling depressed. The number of cases are rising rapidly in the US. California and New York are now on lockdown or shelter in place. I know Colorado isn’t far behind so David and I decide to venture out for shopping for what might be the last time in a while. This mentality creates a sense of panic, and I try to control those feelings as we shop. First up, the weed store. My life changed when I started using a CBD:THC tincture for sleep, and I’m frantic that I won’t be able to get it. Next we head to the liquor store which is even busier than the weed store. I’m into full blown panic shopping at this point but can’t help myself. David just purchased two bottles of bourbon a week before, but I buy two more along with two cases of cava. Our last stop is the grocery store, but the shelves are so empty I’m not sure how to even shop. After we put everything away, I wash my hands. Then, I wash them twice more because I’m so concerned about the germs I’ve brought home from this outing.
David works for the next three days and I’m feeling panicky about being alone and trying to fill that void. All I can think is how hard this would be if I hadn’t met him and if we hadn’t decided to live together. So I make a list, and as soon as he’s out the door I start ticking through it: make oatmeal raisin cookies, sanitize the house, clean the kitchen, do the dishes, iron, practice the piano, walk the dogs, vacuum all levels of the house, and clean out the liquor cabinet. I haven’t been dragged into this kind of frenzied activity since Greg was in a coma.
We usually enjoy our Sunday morning coffee while watching the CBS Sunday Morning show, but when the TV comes on, the channel is set to CNN, and Governor Cuomo from New York is holding a press conference. This is everything that I would expect from our President – he’s informed, calm, smart, concerned, kind, honest, and respectful – in other words, opposite of the Trump briefing I saw on Friday. We end up watching the complete press conference, the magnitude of what’s happening in New York setting in. Half of the COVID-19 cases in the US are in NY State. Half of those are in NYC. I’m so very grateful that my kids living in NY understand the severity of this and are following all guidelines for social distancing and isolation.
I wake to a text from my sister in law letting me know her sister and brother in law are both hospitalized with COVID-19. They are the first people I know to get sick, but I’m sure they won’t be the last. The day is a flood of bad news. The death toll in Italy tops 6000, with a mortality rate of nearly 10%. The Senate produces a flawed stimulus bill and the Democrats reject it, without an alternative. The stock market crashes and can’t help but take at look at my dwindling investment accounts online. I try to breathe, try not to panic. While Carter naps, I start the Yale online course about The Science of Well Being and happiness. I’m hoping it helps me take control of my emotions.
Carter is here soon after I wake up, and the morning flies by with a walk around the neighborhood, some songs on the piano, and lunch. After his nap, we go outside to throw the ball around until his parents pick him up. As we are talking, the emergency system on all of our cell phones goes off telling us Denver is now under stay at home rules. Although I fully understand the need for this, I miss being with my friends. I’ve worked out on Friday mornings for 25 years with three other women, and I miss the group therapy that provides. I miss my close friends that I socialize with. I miss my kids. I’m sad that most of my trips this year, if not all, will likely be cancelled. But every day I am grateful David is in my life, grateful for the time I spend with Carter, and grateful I’m healthy.
I’m sleeping longer and longer, and I continue to worry this is a sign of depression. Carter arrives late, but is so joyful that I forget about the crisis for a bit. We eat toast, then he helps me unload the dishwasher. The three of us go for a walk. We stop at the waterfall in the neighborhood and David and I sit on a boulder while he throws rocks into the water. Simple daily activities. While Carter naps we both snooze on the front porch soaking up the sun. The kids come to pick up Carter but stay for happy hour which last much longer than an hour and we finally order pizza. It’s a great evening with family, but once they leave I have a complete meltdown about the pandemic. David tries his best to console me.
I wake to the blare of the emergency broadcast message on my phone at 6:00 am. The governor has finally issued a statewide stay at home order, and the text says it’s in effect immediately. I can’t get back to sleep so I get up and leave David snoring gently. I’m getting ready for Carter to arrive, when I learn one of my good friends has COVID-19. She’s recovering, but it’s been hard, including three trips to the ER. By evening, I’m calmer than I’ve been this past week – is it because I refuse to watch any more of the daily press conferences? Or is it the cocktail I’ve mixed? Or is it David? Is it how just simply sitting with him to watch a movie has a way of settling me?
With a day off from babysitting, we sleep in, then lounge in bed until nearly 10 am. Why get up? We can’t go anywhere and we don’t really have anything we have to do. But I do know what makes me happy – cooking – so I make a nice large salad for each of us for lunch, then pull out ingredients to make bison black bean chili for dinner. I pop a mini Reeses peanut butter cup into my mouth, then five more in rapid-fire succession, before deciding to do something other than eat to manage my stress level. The piano has been a wonderful diversion for me each day and I play for 30 or 40 minutes. David tells me I sound great – I know he’s just being nice.
I have a new habit – the very first thing I look at every morning online is the Coronavirus map on the NY Times site. Yesterday morning, when the cases in the US topped 90,000, I told David I was certain we’d break 100,000 by the end of the day, and sadly I was right. By mid-morning, not even a day later, that number is over 113,000. I’m craving social interaction so I call my best friend, then FaceTime with the kids in NY. This evening Chris & Katie & Carter come over so we can all do the family video conference call that my nephew organized. Just seeing everyone does so much for my spirit.
Before I know it David is off to work and I’m left alone for the afternoon. I’m moving in slow motion, and feel like I’m in a fog today. I bake muffins – and then inhale one right out of the oven. Comfort food. I play the piano for a while for a distraction. I’m lethargic and edgy, so I throw on sneakers and walk the dogs around my neighborhood. The highlight of the day is a Zoom happy hour call with my sorority sisters from Bucknell. I haven’t smiled this much in two weeks.
I’m awake before the alarm and jump up and get ready to go to work at Project Angel Heart, anxious to be out of the house doing something after two weeks of quarantine. They have reduced the staff significantly, so just six of us crank out the meals for the week. There is very little conversation, I think because everyone is just taking in the situation.
I started this journal when the government said we would stay home for fifteen days, but now everyone is told to stay home longer, until the end of April. I personally think it will extend until the end of May. When I first started isolating, I was compelled to make a to do list every day of what I was going to do, intent on being productive. Now, with so much time on my hands, what’s the rush to do anything quickly? Instead of tackling a long list, I congratulate myself when I accomplish just one task: today that meant getting health insurance for when COBRA runs out at the end of this month, which will mark three years since Greg’s death.
The birds are starting to arrive with spring, and I hear the one that Greg loved. When I heard that two-tone chirp the day after he died, it sounded like Greg was saying “thank you” for letting him go. Today, when I hear it, it sounds like he is saying “stay safe.”
3 thoughts on “Fifteen Days: A Quarantine Journal”
Wow Michelle! Your journal parallels my feelings/panic/anxiety. You put it into words so well! Glad you’ve got someone by your side. Take care!
Michele, how beautiful! The end made me teary eyed. Stay safe and healthy. I’m glad you have David.
Michele, this really touched me – and validated much of what I’m feeling, especially on the weeks I don’t have my kids. I started off with to-do lists that have fallen by the wayside. Routine? What routine?! I am so happy you have David by your side and so much time with Carter. Stay safe, take care. This, too, will pass and then we wake up in a completely different world. 😘