When I first started writing this post the world was on the fringes of falling apart. Were there signs of anxiety here on the East Coast of the US, sure, but the first cases of the coronavirus in the states were few, and although I was cautiously concerned, I was trying to live life business as usual.
That all changed suddenly when the first cases showed up in Pennsylvania, the state I live in, and quickly started popping up more and more across the country.
Then the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic, and the daily dynamics changed, and so did the behavior of the general public.
Chicken Little came to cry, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”
Now I am certainly not trying to lessen the severity of the situation, but the behavior of a large portion of the human race was certainly one of histrionics.
And to be honest it caught me off guard.
Was I concerned about the situation?
For sure. How could I not be?
With the media pounding fearful data at you daily, it’s hard to act like everything is normal. It seems hourly there are new stats being thrown at us, or some high-ranking official is declaring a new rule to live by.
I did however try to function on a business as usual mentality with a realistic sense of cautionary behavior.
When I was told about the run on the grocery stores I was actually stunned. I miss one night of the news and this is what happens.
This started to trigger more of a panic in me, especially because my Son was away at college. The last thing I wanted was to see him stuck at school.
For me I was counting down the days till I could pick him up for Spring Break. Hoping nothing major happened before I could get him home.
Once he was home I could focus on figuring out how to attempt to behave “normally” when the world around me was going mad, if that was even possible.
Although I appeared calm on the outside, my insides were slowly tying themselves into knots.
After every trip out of the house I would Lysol wipe everything down that came into the house, including my shoes, coat, purse, wallet, even credit card if I had to use it, and wipe down my steering wheel, shift, dashboard and door handles in my car.
My Son thought I was nuts, but it was my way to help ease my anxiety. I felt if I did my due diligence as far as sterilizing I could help to prevent bringing the virus into the house.
After a grocery store run I even wiped down my re-useable grocery bags and packaging. Especially after I saw the virus can stay on cardboard for 24 hours.
With each passing day I limited my runs to anywhere other than work unless I had to, like for a prescription. I was fortunate to be able to work up until Governor Wolf put a stop to all non-life sustaining business, which went into effect 8AM Monday March 23rd.
The print shop I work for prints for medical practices, but the week leading up to this we saw orders dwindling because most practices were converting to tele-health. Except for serious cases where the patient needed to be seen everything was being done over the phone or via video chat.
A part of me was relieved because this meant I had to stay home. Up until then I was starting a new 14-day countdown every time I had been out in public, to include work.
My co-workers and I were diligent in our wiping down computers, keyboards, file cabinets, etc… and washing hands, but each of us in our own travels could have interacted with a carrier of the virus and never known it.
Every time I felt a little off I began to worry. Was it the virus, or just allergies?
Add to it, my anxiety was starting to cause me to have shortness of breath at times, and that freaked me out. I had no other symptoms, so I knew it was anxiety, but it was most certainly a catch 22 situation.
As my official “stay at home” started I knew I needed to take advantage of this “lockdown” time and use it for positive things, like my writing and house projects that never get finished because I don’t have the time.
The first thing I did was work on a schedule, allotting certain hours during the day for these things. If I kept structure in my day it would help keep me from letting my mind meander into dark areas of worry.
Beyond the virus, the worry of income lingered in the peripherals of my mind. Yes unemployment is there, but I work for a small business, and the owner is hoping the stimulus package will allow him to keep us on payroll instead of collecting unemployment.
So, while the senate argued amongst themselves, we all played the waiting game. Our saving grace was the shutdown came at the end of a pay period so we had a check coming the first week of our shutdown. If we didn’t have an answer that first week, anxiety would once again take a stronghold.
(By posting date the Senate has approved the bill, next up the House, then the President.)
I knew my focus needed to be on making a schedule that worked, so my time was filled constructively.
The more energy I put into the things that brought me joy the less likely I would be to worry.
At least I hoped so.
I found the longer I was in lockdown, the more relaxed I began to feel. Especially because I had stocked up on essentials, and knew once I was told my office was closed I had no intention of going anywhere except for a walk.
Knowing I didn’t have to be in public was the key to easing the anxiety.
I told my Son we’re making due with whatever we have in the house. I didn’t want to start another 14-day countdown.
With each day I was tweaking my proposed scheduled. I knew it was a fluid thing and as long as I gave a certain amount of time to creative pursuits, and the business side of my writing, I would feel like I had a successful day.
Allowing time to play was also a key thing. I’m not always that good about that. Sure I take walks and bike rides and after dinner watch a movie or TV show, but actually playing doesn’t always fit into my days.
My Son and I always talk about playing board games or even putting a puzzle together, but that doesn’t happen much anymore now that he’s older. Some of that is because he’s an online gamer and spends a lot of his free time with his buddies online. This lockdown is nothing for them. They’re use to social distancing, to an extent.
Now the problem is getting my Son to leave his online buddies to do something with me. That could be more challenging than the lockdown.
Another thing in the play category is reading. I have books everywhere, but never seem to have the time to read. I have no excuse now.
As I settle into this new norm, I’m learning to accept and enjoy the freedom to create the day I want. This is a luxury not many have until they’re retired.
So although this situation was caused by something horrific, I’m trying my best to look at the positive side of this lockdown.
Being a full-time writer is my dream, and I am working at that as my retirement plan, so I’m looking at this time as my training ground for the future I want to create.
Considering I will be 59 the end of this month, retirement years are not that far off, so getting a head start on the training is a gift, even if it came wrapped in the worst possible way, a pandemic.
How are you handling the freedom to create your day? I’d love to know. Please share your story. That’s how we’ll all make it through this together.
ONE FINAL NOTE
I want to give a shout out to all those working in the medical community on the front line of this battle. I am eternally grateful for their sacrifices. I have family and friends who are part of this community and pray for their safety and health daily.
As a “non-essential” worker, staying at home, I think about all those other “non-essential” workers who are using their stay-at-home time to sew masks or make PPE’s with their 3D printers and feel bad that I don’t have the skill set to do something like that. To a point I feel guilty that I can’t contribute, but then I realized, just staying home is enough to help the cause.
Also, a great big thank you goes out to all the other “essential” workers who are also risking getting sick just to make sure those of us on lockdown have the supplies we need to stay at home.
Stay healthy, and stay safe everyone.
AND stay home, if you’re considered “non-essential.” Remember this category includes professional athletes and actors too! Who would have ever thought we’d see that day?
© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2020. All rights reserved.
Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2020. All rights reserved.
Breaking News – ©123rf – Iryna Shatilova
Cleaning – ©123rf – Soratoki
Panic Attack – ©123rf – Druzhinina
Freedom to Choose – ©123rf
Photo from personal collection