My nighttime routine doesn’t look how it used to these days. Then again, nothing is really looking like it used to anymore.
Two weeks ago, I would put on my comfy clothes, take a quick peek at the video monitors to check on the kids, and then settle in between the sheets with a good read on my Kindle app. But ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, things feel and are so much different.
Instead of diving into the newest thriller or mystery novel before falling into a slumber, I search “coronavirus updates” in Google’s search engine every night like clockwork. Just above a lengthy list of news articles, I’m greeted with a red “SOS Alert” notification reminding me of the seriousness of this pandemic. And with each news heading, my fear for my loved ones increases a little more.
I read through article after article, for two to three hours sometimes, until I’m practically prying my eyelids open to stay awake. I’m not plugging in my iPhone at night to charge because I’m falling asleep with my phone in my hands while researching COVID-19. Hell, I’ve even started dreaming about becoming sick with the virus (I only wish I was joking).
In truth, I’m sick and tired of hearing about COVID-19. And yet, at the same time, I can’t stop myself from learning more about it. It feels like my whole world (and everybody else’s too) is centered around this pandemic. And when I really think about it, I believe that I, like so many others, have become obsessed with the coronavirus.
I don’t want to be this way. I miss my nightly Darcy Coates mysteries and not checking “breaking news” multiple times a day. I want to write articles involving the topics I’m passionate about without feeling like they are “irrelevant” in this world. I don’t want this crippling anxiety stemming from something that is so far beyond my control.
Though I don’t want to be this way or feel these feelings, it feels like this is the way it has to be right now.
If the only person I had to think of was myself, it probably wouldn’t be like this. I’d more than likely be quarantined on the couch, binge-watching movies or perhaps lying in bed with my Kindle app open. But I have four kids, a husband who is still working, as well as a susceptible mother, grandfather, and an asthmatic — me — to worry about.
While most kids are not considered at high-risk of complications, COVID-19 still poses a risk to our children. And, it certainly poses a risk to those who are medically fragile. My anxiety fixates on this, and all the possibilities (worst case scenarios) that come with it.
Because of my responsibilities to my family, and because the world around us is being eaten alive by this pandemic, it doesn’t feel like there is enough space in my life for anything other than COVID-19.
Our government has done a piss-poor job of relaying accurate information about the coronavirus to our nation. Even our own president has downplayed the seriousness of it, stating that he wants to “reopen America” before Easter even though to do so may be “an error of epic proportions,” epidemiologist Larry Brilliant of Ending Pandemics told The New York Times.
He has since retracted this baseless statement, so we are also suffering emotional whiplash from an incompetent president who is more fixated on his cable news ratings than supplying ventilators for New York City.
There are people in this country who breathe in and out the words of President Trump as if he is some sort of god we don’t deserve. But if he continues to blatantly disregard the opinions of numerous medical professionals, all the while portraying that the U.S. has the coronavirus under control when we definitely don’t, how can we expect to flatten the curve?
The answer is simple: We can’t. And that is terrifying.
People are still traveling for vacations, still leaving their homes for non-essential errands, and work places that truly are unessential are still being deemed as essential. What in the fresh hell is America doing?
For the first time ever this week, the U.S. reported its highest number of COVID-19 related deaths at just over 200. The coronavirus is here, and we have yet to witness its peak. The health of our country is dependent on all of us taking this thing seriously as individuals. Without adhering to the social distancing and isolation suggestions given to us by the CDC, we are only prolonging the spread. And make no mistake, numerous people will lose their lives because of it.
So no, I can’t “calm down” about this. My usual distractions from the chaos of this world do not work in the middle of a pandemic. And to be honest, I don’t know why we would expect them to. This is an unprecedented time, one which calls for all of us to be vigilant while trying not to lose our minds.
Our lives are in shambles. Everything that once felt “normal” now feels minuscule and irrelevant. We need to remember that it’s okay to take a break from the coronavirus while still being aware of the magnitude of it. (And yes, I’m aware I’m preaching to the choir here.)
We can still laugh with our spouses without feeling guilty about the thousands of people who are sick and the countless others who are suffering. We can still find joy in tea parties with our kids, and be aware that we don’t know when life will go back to normal. There is still a place in this world for the things that are important, even if, in this moment, it may not feel like it.
There is enough space for joy and our “new normal” to co-exist.
But, I won’t lie, I will continue to stay plugged into the news. To protect my family, and possibly even yours too, I will learn everything I can about the coronavirus, but I will keep my mental health in mind and strive to achieve a bit more balance. If you’re in my shoes, nodding along with what I’m saying, just know that you’re not alone. We are in this together.