How are you holding up in this current COVID-19 situation?
It’s freaking scary, no? Our national leader is not instilling hope, there’s incredible fear and uncertainty, and there’s chaos at the Costco.
I live in New York City: Astoria, Queens, to be precise. We’re in the thick of one of the hardest-hit areas of the country, and it’s causing me not a little bit of stress.
I had a panic meltdown in the aisle of my local Key Food store the other day. I was feeling the pressure to stock up on … what? Ohmygod, what? I need soup, I thought. Yes! Soup, canned tuna, beans, pasta, milk, and eggs and bread. Oh, hell! They’re out of bread! I’ll get tortillas. But you can’t make French Toast with tortillas, can you? If I’m hunkered down, stuck in my basement apartment due to a stay-at-home police state order, I simply must have French toast! And toilet paper! Holy shit, they’ve taken all the toilet paper! What can I use instead? Paper towels? Napkins? Coffee Filters???
Then I stopped myself. Took a deep breath. Let it out.
I assured myself, I will be able to come back to the store if I need to, or order something to be delivered if I need to. I bought what I could, put my headphones on, and trudged home, trying to smile at folks while keeping the distance.
I got home, washed my hands. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is sternly recommending that we vigorously wash our hands for 20 seconds several times a day. I’m terribly worried that I’m not doing it correctly or for long enough. Some people have said that you can sing a song to make sure you are washing for the advised time, so I sing a section of “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair” from the musical South Pacific: “Don’t try to patch it up, Tear it up! Tear it up! Wash him out, dry him out, push him out, fly him out! Cancel him! And let him go! Yeah, sister! I’m gonna wash that man right outta my hair and SEND. HIM. ON. HIS. WAYYYY!” That way, I not only get my hands clean and sanitary, I also get a little cathartic therapy from my most recent romantic breakup.
Then I went to my computer to try and connect with some folks on social media. God bless all of you who are home with your entire family. I have some kumbaya friends who are seeing this time as a blessing, to reconnect with kin.
“My little Markus is home, so we’re baking together,” my friend Julie said. “We made shamrock cookies for St. Patrick’s Day, and I’m going to show them how to make bread over the weekend.”
Impressive. I have some friends who are losing their ever-loving minds with their kids and daunted by the task of having to help with schooling.
“I thought this would be a break, but I’m exhausted,” Alison said, “and I have no idea how to do this goddamn new math. My kids are about to learn how to carry the one and count on their fingers.”
Thoughts and prayers, Alison.
I have a lot of artistic friends, and many are home from their day jobs and have decided to take advantage of the free time. Mary Jo is writing the novel that she’s been putting off. Luis is starting a podcast. Karleisha is collaborating on a play. Brian is learning to knit. Mark is taking pictures of himself: Mark with his cats; Mark with his boyfriend; Mark in the garden; Mark admiring his bathroom.
This puts me into another mini-meltdown. What am I doing? I should be creating! Writing a screenplay! Filming hilarious videos! Making a disco album!
Deep breath again. Let it out.
OK, it’s great that I have so many creative friends who can see this time as opportunity. Go team, I say. Make that yoga online class happen, do that virtual musical comedy performance. But if you’re like me, and you’re struggling to make sense of this dramatic coronavirus time, it’s a win if you make it through the day watching a marathon of Law and Order and stress-eating brownies.
This COVID-19 is scary, but I’ve been through other scary things. I lived through an AIDS diagnosis. I lived through 9/11 and its aftermath. I lived through The Big Bang Theory being considered a good comedy. I can get through this too. If I stay in today, I remember that today I’m fine. I have food in my fridge, I have a roof over my head, a few shekels in my jeans. I’m not sick (that I know of), and everything is OK. Tomorrow, I’ll worry about tomorrow.
Since the gyms are closed, I’ve taken up running. Just a light 20- or 30-minute jog through my Queens neighborhood. In one of my recent jogs, I came upon a note on the sidewalk. Someone had written in colored chalk, “We may be apart, but we are in this together.” It made me choke up. Yes.
Hold fast, my friends. Stay in touch with family and friends. Make jokes. Listen to music. Eat delicious things.
For me, I’m going to cook up some French tortilla toast and settle in with Lenny Briscoe and Jack McCoy.