I used to think that a bad virus was something that could happen to my computer. Those were the good old days.
Our commitment to social distancing is not terribly big inconvenience, as we don’t have many neighbors here until May. But because of Kim’s compromised immune system, a consequence of her cancer meds, we are taking it very seriously. I will make “emergency” trips to buy groceries, most likely to our small local Eastport Market where it is easy to keep 6 feet from shoppers. We went to Traverse City for Kim’s monthly cancer treatment, but we’ve cancelled all appointments for the next six weeks – haircuts, doctors, a CT-Scan. We can stay home.
People need their routines. Especially me. So – what do we do at home? More importantly (for me, not for Kim), what routines can I use to structure my life? I can begin my day with a structure similar to my pre-virus structure: Leftover coffee while I check email, news headlines and weather. Make the bed, feed the birds. Second cup of coffee on the porch to watch the grateful chickadees and blue jays. Dry the breakfast dishes that Kim washed. Shower. Teeth maintenance.
And I can end my day with a familiar routine: dry the dinner dishes (sometimes wash them if Kim is tired), watch local weather on television and then the national news, and after a bit more computer time (as when I am writing this, now), watch a movie, often punctuated with the cherry juice / cocktail decision. Bed.
Missing from my new daily routine is the daily trip to the post office, now reduced to once or twice per week. I still have some chores scattered through the day and week – vacuuming, dealing with garbage and recycling, yard work (Is that all? Really?) but that’s not structured time. We used to venture out to eat about once a week, and about once a week we drove to Traverse City for numerous errands, including, as often as we could, lunch with Fleda and Jerry, but that’s out.
I find myself floating from one thing to another. I read. I provide some tech support for our ongoing phone and computer “updates.” (I recently updated the firmware on my router, not really sure what firmware is or what a router does.) I spend an embarrassing amount of time trying to come up with Netflix and Amazon stuff to watch. I check on the pandemic. I count my money. Kim is great about checking in on family and friends on the phone, but I don’t do good phone, preferring the safe sterility of email and this blog. For a while shoveling snow was part of my daily routine, but that only lasts about 6 months up here, and I am looking forward to yard work. Last week I raked our beach – it was about 40 degrees but sunny, and it seemed like a constructive thing to do. I climbed a ladder to dust the blades of our ceiling fan. I reorganized my library. Kim is looking for a hobby I might start.
Kim has been more constructive, printing and preparing photographs for two galleries that want to show her work – provided galleries will be open this summer. She is currently making hummingbird nests. She does not experience the sense of drift. No, she has too many things going, including taking good care of her husband by structuring his life, their life, around three creative meals a day. She is more driven than drifting. She can live a full life at home.
Things have changed, globally. It’s an opportunity to engineer the change, at least on an individual level, so it’s not simply something that happens to you. Phone somebody. Write a letter. Send money, if you have it, where it will do some good. Overtip. Greet strangers when you see them. When you speak with someone providing phone support (like my son), or answering the phone at the doctor’s office, insurance office or hairdresser, remember that they are human beings experiencing as much stress as you are, maybe more since they have to deal with people like you, so acknowledge them. Be creative in your good-heartedness. Acts of kindness can be contagious.
We live in a thinly populated part of the state, so our experience with the pandemic is largely filtered through television and the internet. We have yet to have a confirmed case of the virus in our county, and we don’t know anyone who has tested positive. Yet despite this insulation, we are living in the shadow of death. Of course, as readers of this blog know, Kim and I have been living – and living well, thank you! – in that shadow since Kim’s diagnosis and multiple cancer surgeries and ongoing treatments. Living in the shadow is called “living.”
I’ll stop writing now to wash my hands – one of my new routines.