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  • Writer's pictureCaitlin Rother

Life With the Rona

Each day seems to blend into the next as I isolate alone here in my house, and yet I’m experiencing markedly extreme moments of emotion.

Hopelessness. Gratefulness. Helplessness. Appreciation. Sadness. Raw vulnerability. Fear. Connection. Confusion. Joy. Loneliness. Love.

A good meal with a glass of a favorite wine tastes far better than usual. My eyes tear up when I’m out for my daily walk and have to veer into the street to go around a young unmasked couple and their two babies, who might be carrying the Rona. We don’t look at each other, and it makes me sad.

Sometimes I sing when I’m out on a walk. It’s hard while I’m wearing a mask, so I don’t sing that often. But when I do, I never know what will happen. One day it makes me happy, another day it makes me cry.

My partner smiles at me on a video call and I feel the love in the pit of my stomach, because we are isolating separately. I hear a beautiful song and it makes me remember that I am still here. I am healthy for today. I am alive. I have a house over my head, the mortgage is paid off, and for now, my partner is doing my grocery shopping for me, because I have respiratory issues. He’s a keeper.

Depending on how much time I spend reading news articles, some days feel like a roller coaster ride of medical studies with new findings, as a few government leaders make good, smart leadership decisions while others—more than I’d like to count—make horrible, ridiculously irresponsible and selfish choices. Idiocracy and Darwinism abound. It’s just a matter of time before we all feel the fallout.

At the same time that people are expressing their fears and anger online about Covidiots not wearing masks and standing too close together in the grocery store, protesters with AK47s are taking their frustrations to the street, complaining that they have lost their liberty. To me, they are acting like spoiled children. Why can’t they just stay home for a while until the danger has passed, until things can calm down? It’s only been a month. It’s not forever, but if they keep acting like that it could be. Maybe they are living on the fringes financially. That might make sense, but it seems to be more about their philosophy, that they have a sense of entitlement. They want to be free to act the way they want, even if it kills others.

How did we get here? Such divisions. Such insanity.

I’m not sure where we will end up, but at times it feels like no one is at the controls of this airplane, and all I want to do is hide in the bathroom until we land. Only I don’t know which direction the plane is flying and all the air traffic controllers are out sick.

The daily video calls with my partner, the cell phone calls with old friends and family, and the Facebook chats with all the other people in my life, have kept me from going insane day to day, as I try not to wonder how long this will be my life.

One day at a time, I tell myself. Just do what you have to do, focus at the task at hand to get through today, then go to sleep and get up to do it again. Stephen Colbert has been a saving grace. Late night comedy on my cell phone helps me go to sleep. What’s a little radiation while I’m in isolation?

Thankfully, I have a very important book project that I’m on deadline to finish. Some last-minute interviews have added a whole new level to the narrative, which has been stressful to accommodate, but it will make the final project much better. It helps keep me focused, most of the time, anyway.

What will I do once I finish? Start back on my other book, and try to keep at it. I am incredibly grateful that I have two books under contract at once, which is a first for me, and couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. At least I won’t starve.

Most days I find it hard to conjure up the energy to make myself a nice meal, but when I do, I enjoy it supremely. I need to do more of it. Self-care, they call it. Bravo.

I had my first Zoom meeting today, a panel discussion with two other writers and a moderator, which was supposed to happen in real life, but got cancelled because of the Rona. It was good, a way to stay connected, and to try to stay relevant when we’re all stuck inside. I want to do more of that. I will if someone asks. In between books.

But the Rona is all-powerful and it saps energy. It is all-knowing. It keeps its deadly secrets to itself, and every time we try to understand it, it throws us a curve ball. New information that will change again tomorrow negates what we thought we knew yesterday.

People like me are desperate for information, because that has always been my coping mechanism. Gaining more of it has always been the key to dispelling fear. Except the information is only good for today, until it has been replaced with something else. The numbers aren’t real, there are too many unknown variables—not enough tests, faulty tests, models that are too conservative or too scary, but still not accurate because we just don’t know enough.

It’s too soon, and one level of government is fighting another. Who knows who is telling the truth these days? What is credible? Honest accounts of people who have been sick and have recovered. Those I believe. The doctors and nurses who write about having to watch people die every day. They are the truthtellers.

And yet, we have a president who seems oblivious to this. Talking about his own TV ratings, he seems to think he is engaged in a pro-wresting match, where the contestants wear make-up and capes. He eggs on the protesters like he’s an MWA promoter, encouraging people to go outside and fight to open up businesses because he thinks that will improve the economy, which he needs to win re-election. Like we are all on the Jerry Springer Show. Or Survivor.

But this is reality, not reality TV. Or is it? Some days I’m not even sure. Yes, people need to earn a living, but this will simply kill all the progress we’ve made during the lockdown. It will only infect more vulnerable people and will literally kill the people who would otherwise vote for him. It doesn’t make any sense. I don’t understand any of it. We have become the new Puerto Rico, and we aren’t even getting paper towels tossed at us.

It’s like the world has gone crazy. As if something in the air or the water has seeped into people’s brains and changed their perceptions, slowly, like an invisible gas or a bad hallucinatory drug trip. Because everything is upside down, and what was true has never been and what was supposed to happen will never be.

So, here I sit at the computer and work on this blog, or my book, because it is something that I can control. It is something that helps to distract me from the madness. It helps me to forget, for at least a little while, that outside my door is an invisible virus that gives some people no symptoms, makes some people really sick, and can kill off the people I love. Or me.

It’s all I can do to keep the virus and the madness at bay. Whatever you have in your life that you can do to keep you focused, I hope you can find it and do it.

As long as my savings hold out, and I can keep talking to my friends and family on the phone or online. As along as I can still have happy hour on Facebook Messenger with the man I love, with maybe the occasional visit where I try not to worry that he is asymptomatic and will give me the sickness that might turn my lungs into glue, and permanently damage my heart, kidney or who knows what else. As long as I don’t lose my mind, I will get through this, one way or another. Or I won’t. And that’s about all I know right now.


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