I’m currently reading a post-apocalyptic novel. It isn’t because of the times, but rather because I’m obsessed with the theme. To my greater excitment, I’ve realized it’s a zombie post-apocalyptic novel. I blindly picked the book, just searching for something similar to what I’m writing so it helps me get in the flow. Granted, my WIP isn’t a zombie novel, but I’ll never say no to zombies.
I’ve actually been on a non-fiction kick before this novel. Psychology, to be exact. The other book I’m in the middle of reading is called Biased. I guess both books kind of go with the times. Zombies because of plague, world altering stuff. Biased because it explains how we all harbor unconscious bias, and it explains how our brains work. It leaves me with a better understanding of why people are hoarding toilet paper.
In case you were wondering, it’s because toilet paper is a sense of normalcy. Seeing those fluffy rolls gives people comfort. Doesn’t make it right, but understanding helps see that it’s straight fear that had led people to do it. How many post-apocalyptic movies and shows do you see where the survivors make sure they have a roll? I’ve seen zero. Toilet paper is a luxury. It’s a sign of normal life. (There’s a word for it, but my writer’s dictionary is in my office. I’m currently not so we’ll go with normal life).
About a week ago, I saw someone mention in a news article that the CDC recommended people watch The Walking Dead to prepare for COVID-19. I can’t find the article that proves this, but I thought that was an interesting notion. (Also, I need no recommendation to watch The Walking Dead, thank you.)
Day two of the shutdown was like any other day off. My son and I played Minecraft most of the day waiting for his racing game to download so we could play that. I did a little reading and took a bubble bath. Typical stuff.
Until my mom called me that afternoon.
I’d almost forgot the virus was happening. I have days off during the week so it felt just like that. Normal routine. Write. Exercise. Read. Play with my kid. Clean. Mom’s call was almost normal, too. We call each other all the time.
She started to say something, then switched it to, “How are you and Cole?”
I answered we were fine, playing Minecraft. She asked how his appointments went and I told her cancelled. I’d need to reschedule one and the other was already rescheduled.
Then she said the words that made what was happening hit home. Made what was going on too real for comfort.
“We won’t be able to see each other for a couple weeks. I’ve been exposed.”
My mind didn’t seem to work for a moment, but then, silent panic.
I can’t remember the exact words I said, something about being tested, but she followed up with, “I don’t have any symptoms so they aren’t going to test me.”
Remember that post I shared in the last journal? About the three patients confirmed in her hospital? All three patients are on her floor. She cared for each of them. She, and a ton of other nurses. They were all exposed. Yes, they wear protective gear. Yes, they take precautions. But they are the front line of defense. They are who cannot get sick because if they do, who will care for them? Who will care for the thousands of other people who are bound to get it?
My reaction to bad news, scary news, and even good news is delayed. It always has been. Of course, as a human, bad news takes a second more to process. On the phone with her, I hadn’t processed it yet. The virus still seemed like something other people get, in other places. Not my family. Not my town. Not my county.
She said she had to get ready for work and would talk to me later. Work? She was going to work? How did that even make sense? If she’d been exposed, she could have it. She could spread it. She said she may not have symptoms, but could still be a carrier. This made no sense! My reaction was: Why hadn’t they ordered the nurses there to self-quarantine and clean the floor? Why hadn’t they replaced her and the other nurses who were exposed with new nurses? Yes, I knew we had a nurse shortage.
Travel nursing companies were currently offering insane sign on bonuses as well as guaranteed thousands for a few months in contract, especially to go to hard hit places and places that were expected to be hard hit (NYC, for example).
I have no answer to why she hadn’t been ordered to self-quarantine. It’s a developing situation and it’s not as if she can just take off work. My dad’s business is halted just like thousands in the state. She basically runs a zoo (inside joke, my parent’s house is called The Reeder Zoo because of the animals and all the grand kids and kids they have). Every single animal they have is rescued. (Her mouse just passed away, and she rescued it from my dad’s snake.)
I asked her permission later on to post her being exposed, and she had no problem with it.
The first PA death was recorded that day, too. A man in a few counties over contracted the illness and passed away. His sister also contracted the illness and passed away, days before in another state. NJ, I think. And their mother a day later if I’m not mistaken.
Let’s stop and talk a moment about mental health. If you’ve followed my writing blog, you’ll see snippets about me advocating for it. Mental health is just as important as physical. Many of us are feeling the affects of this quarantine. I’m not a social butterfly. I’m a writer and a single mom and I like my alone time.
But waking up this morning (I’m writing this on Day Three), I couldn’t help but feel the pinch. I have to go weeks without seeing my mom? Without seeing my friends or going to work? I had my second writing meeting planned for next week, and I have to let my members know that it has to be online. I looked forward to it. I looked forward to seeing my mom this weekend and a baby shower in April. I’m not sure if the shutdown will be lifted when it’s supposed to be, or if it’ll be extended.
They’re talking about months of this.
I already struggle with getting out. With seeing friends. With making sure I take the time to myself. With making sure I have cushion in my bank for hard times. I’m starting to feel a little helpless. That’s why people are hoarding toilet paper. They’re doing something, anything, to make them feel in control.
Again, check on your neighbors in a safe way. Make sure you’re communicating with people. Take the time to be sure you mental health is okay. We may be under a shutdown, but you can still have fun. It’s imperative to have fun.