We are Not Experiencing the Same Virus
One of the hard things about this time of coronavirus (there are so many) is that people are not in the same place. Not physically, not geographically, not psychologically. Some folks are blissfully learning to make their own pasta while reluctantly training themselves to spend 24 hrs a day in close-company with their spouse. Others, like me, are responding to sudden emergency medical conditions directly caused by the virus. Still others are feeding their dogs snack cakes because they’re running out of food.
My experience of the coronavirus is not yours. Our differing experiences is determined first and foremost by our geographic locations. My husband and I were in New Orleans—at one point, the worst hot spot of infection in the world—then decamped for medical reasons only to have the medical goblins find us anyway. We have experienced trauma with this virus. Trauma for our city and our families and our false sense of being in control of our lives. When I remember the virus, I will remember the masked nurse walking towards me in the early-morning parking lot of the hospital, the flickering streetlight, my sweaty palms as I tried to look brave enough to receive whatever news she was carrying.
But our experience of the virus is primarily and long-term determined by our economic situation. After the medical crisis passed—and, knock on wood, hasn’t returned—we have been sheltering-in-place in our house on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Forty-five minutes from New Orleans and a world away. The county has had only 60 cases of infection and 5 deaths (Orleans parish has had 6342 cases and 406 deaths). We can open our doors and let the Gulf Coast air in. We can order our needed food from Amazon. I am a writer and my husband is retired, so we have no new experience of trying to work from home or fear that we will lose our job through furlough or termination. We can wait this virus out, or at least we have an illusion we can.
I am not bored, but that’s only because of my particular psychology. I have an almost endless capacity for sameness and quiet. You might crave action and the chatter of friends, so you will experience quarantine differently than I do. You might need to keep your head down, plodding forward, while I might need to take fifteen minutes and put on a dress and hat as a treat to myself who so likes clothes. I have no health condition that makes me susceptible to the virus (other than age) so I do not wake up at night in full-blown panic that I will surely die before this is over. My experience of this down-time is further entrenched by a lifestyle that has had us on the move from city to city in one endless circle for what feels like years on end. I am finally staying put, grounded by a virus.
I’m grateful I’ve experienced the turmoil and quiet of the virus (and I wake each morning thankful no one in even my extended family has gotten the horrible illness of this virus). I can relate to those who fly off the handle at any attempt to make light of the situation, as well as those who feel they have been graced with a time of rest and renewal. Which doesn’t keep me from chafing at tales of bliss or being stung when “friends” on Facebook chastise me for my own lightheartedness.
If only we could, regardless of our circumstances, think of others. Try to see life from all sides, seeking empathy and understanding rather than condemnation and judgement. Acknowledging what we’re sharing—the slippage in knowing what day it is, the heartbreak of missing loved ones, the pitiful, shaggy hair, the dread of not knowing what is coming next—while honoring what we’re not. Letting our insights remind us of how we can help where we can help. We might not be in the same place with the virus, but, God willing, we can get through this together.