Counting in the Time of COVID-19 Quarantine

When the streets are empty, you notice things that were always there.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been counting days.

I counted the days until I could see my crush again.  With ticks in a notebook, I counted down until the end of the school year and the start of vacation. I used an app to count down the days of my pregnancy – and the second time, when I couldn’t wait any longer, I was (safely) induced.) I’m not a patient person.

And when I was recovering from Sepsis, which has about a 60% mortality rate, I could only count upwards, knowing that every day that passed would make me stronger until I didn’t need to count anymore.

Who could conceive of this new reality when counting would lose its meaning?

I’ve been in complete isolation with my family for 19 days now, as my fear of COVID-19 is compounded by my immunodeficiency. Like almost every parent in the world right now, I’ve been thrust into “homeschooling” my children and having essentially no interaction with the outside world.

My small business completely imploded within a matter of days. And when things return to some normalcy, I’m not sure how I will recoup the damage as most of my clients are small businesses themselves. I also recognize that I am far from alone in this and have the privilege of knowing I will never go hungry – even if Fresh Direct is entirely out of delivery slots for the foreseeable future.

Compounding things for me personally, as a polyamorous person, I am isolated from my other partner and his family who had become a consistent part of my life. My parents are in their own isolation in Florida, and the rest of my friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances, are trapped in this liminal space of uncertainty and anxiety – job security, financial safety, physical and mental health, and even just essential human touch. And the disease is starting to take the lives of friends of friends…inching ever closer to those I love.

As a naturally anxious person generally aggravated by the slightest schedule change, how am I getting through this?

  1. I’ve started counting down days to milestones that don’t matter and things that probably won’t happen. There’s a reason Philadelphia School District said it was closing for two weeks when we all know it’s probably done until fall. We can wrap our heads around two weeks. It’s a mind game. And I’m here for that game. Another month. Sure, OK? 

    In a less silly mind game, I plan the things I will actually do when this is all over. I know the tattoo I want to get. I know giant playdates I want to plan. I know all the people I want to hug, and also know I am going to probably ask every stranger on the street if I can hug them for at least a good few days after this is over. Because it has to end, right? Everything ends.

  2. It was a stroke of spectacular luck that I quit the gym and bought a Peloton three months ago. The bank won’t care that I can’t afford the monthly payments on Satan’s Hamster Wheel and neither do I. Keep trying to take blood from a stone while I build thighs of steel along with the instructor who grooves out in a room full of empty bikes pretending everything is normal.

    If you are able-bodied, physical activity is very helpful. And most of us don’t have a Peloton. Where I live, it’s been freakishly climate-change level warm, and walking/running is still legal. But even if it rains for a week straight, there are ways to adapt. I have spent a solid hour stepping up and down on my coffee table watching reruns of Designing Women. Some people say anything can be a dildo, I say anything can be a set of weights. Improvise. And use those dildos too because health.

    3. There’s a Yiddish folktale book called “It Could Always Be Worse.” Really, that could be the trademarked slogan for Judaism. It’s helpful. I think a lot about my ancestors in hiding during the Holocaust and I can safely say I’d rather be hiding from the plague than hiding from Nazis. At least this plague seems to spare children.

    I also think a lot about prison. Prison would be worse. I couldn’t be with my family or Facetime my friends every day (although you know I would be hiding a phone somewhere because I’d be very well connected). I would also, of course, have a very strong lesbian lover to protect me. But the food would be worse. Also, I can barely sleep in the same bed as my spouse, let alone with hundreds of women snoring and farting in their sleep.

    On the plus side, though, prison has an end date. But my end date would keep extending because I would be hiding that phone.

    So in summary, plague quarantine > prison > hiding from Nazis.

    4. Writing. Writing this has helped my sanity. Sharing this with you and reading the stories and social media posts you share with me. Please keep writing and sharing. Welcome back to social media to those folks who have succumbed in their isolation. We are all in this together. And we will all have a hell of a story to tell. 

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