Like a lighting strike.

“So, what are you gonna do tonight?” Jacob asks as he prepares to retreat into his man cave to play Classic WoW. We have come to the point in our nightly routine where we part ways: him to play online video games, and me to– well… a few months ago it would have been “go to bed by 10 o’clock”, but these days it’s usually “watch videos until I fall asleep on the couch”.

Tonight, however, “I’m going to write another blog post”.

“Who are you writing it for?”

“Just myself, in the future. You know, my war diary.”

Jacob rolls his eyes dramatically.

“And that’s going in it,” I say, indicating his gesture.

Admittedly, I’ve been on the “watch videos until I fall asleep on the couch” train for much longer than Corona has been sapping away nearly all of our reasons for being cheerful and purposeful. Following a period of illness in December-January, I have been unemployed. I was having a lovely time going to interviews for some lovely job opportunities, and I really had a good feeling about how things were going to go for the rest of the year. But then this shit happened and now EVERYONE is unemployed. The US economy has shrunk to the size of a pea. Day by day as the social and public health situations worsen, I find myself feeling relieved that I am not currently going through the experience of losing a job and income. What a terrible stress that would be, to be sent home from a new job. My heart aches for everyone who is going through that right now.

The internet and the media are completely 100% saturated right now with content about the Coronavirus pandemic. It’s absolutely surreal because there is no other news. No events. No gatherings. No functioning. No working. No traveling. When I first conceptualized this post I was planning to liken the spread of information online to the spread of the virus and comment on how ~meta~ and ~poingnant~ that was. But now I think that likening it to a virus is not right the right comparison at all. It is more like a lightning strike. Every person is looking at the online chatter practically constantly, so when a new piece of news is announced, the whole world knows it at once. It gives a shock; the markets react, the internet reacts, and our worlds become even smaller.

A man crosses an empty highway on February 3, 2020 in Wuhan. – Getty Images
Source (https://www.businessinsider.com/countries-on-lockdown-coronavirus-italy-2020-3)

It’s amazing how quickly my sense of time is deteriorating. I have nothing to tell the days and hours apart. Time passes so slowly when there are no landmarks. Since the Gregorian calendar is now meaningless, I will now refer to my days based on how long I have been in “isolation”. Yesterday, the day after my birthday, was the first day I committed to staying in the house except to go to the store for necessities. Currently in Atlanta we are not on “lock-down”, but I’m sure it is coming. “Lock-down” is what the media is calling it when there becomes some sort of government mandate for citizens to stay in their homes. Right now in Atlanta it is still just a strong suggestion rather than something that is being enforced, but the mandate will come soon. The lock-down goes where the virus goes. It is part of the process. Just a few hours ago we found out that the state of California and the state of Argentina have chosen to lock-down.

Today I am lamenting the terrible scar this will leave on our culture in relation to music. My heart bleeds for all musicians right now. Performing music with and for other people is one of the most primal and beautiful activities we can do as humans. Music has gotten humanity through so many awful things. Music heals us, it connects us. It has never been taken away from us before. I performed music on 7 March not knowing it would be my last time performing. I attended a concert on 8 March not knowing it would be my last time experiencing live music. Now, something that I never even took for granted feels like it was taken for granted.

This is going to be a dreadful time. But some day, it will all come back. The music, the food, the games, the collaboration, the movement, the momentum, the joy.

And oh, that will be a glorious day indeed.

My last birthday before the war

Yesterday was 17 March 2020, my 28th birthday. I spent it with my husband and my sister. In the evening when we sat down to dinner together, I saw everything about that moment through the lens of history. In 10 or 20 years, how would we remember this night? Would it be the last time we saw each other in months? Would it be “the good ol’ days before the world changed forever”? I felt compelled to take a photo of Jacob and Julia at that little dining table in her Atlanta studio apartment. “I want to take a picture of this, just as it is,” I explained. “It’s for my war scrapbook”. They rolled their eyes but complied.

I have lived such a safe, privileged life. For years I had a countdown on my phone marking my 10,000th day alive (3 August 2019). When that day arrived, I thought, this is amazing. I have lived a 10,000-day streak of life with no tragedies. Never has someone very close to me died or been in a major accident. Never have I been in danger of living in poverty or having any of my physical needs not be met. There have been several ‘crises’ in my lifetime (September 11th, the 2008 financial crisis, so many hurricanes, etc.) but none of them affected my everyday activities. I was always able to go to school and enjoy life and walk around without fear that my safety was at stake. In stark contrast to my idyllic existence, history is filled with stories of tragedy and danger. War, famine, societal collapse. These are not uncommon in our world. I have always wondered when it would happen to me.

As of this writing, there are just over 7000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the USA (but we haven’t been testing a lot of people so who the heck knows how many cases there actually are) and 100 confirmed deaths. Admittedly, relatively low numbers. But we have all seen the statistics. I understand the shape of an exponential curve. I’m not here to write about all of the factors that are making this a worldwide concern, I’m just here to write about what it feels like to me. Virologists and epidemiologists knew this was coming. Governments around the world are instituting mandatory lockdowns/shelter-in-place guidelines, and considering enacting some form of martial law. It hasn’t happened here in Atlanta yet, but it has in New York and California.

There are so many questions right now. How will society continue to function with everyone staying in their homes and not going out? The economy has all but evaporated in the last week; all events of every sort are canceled. The DOW is losing thousands of points a day. I was looking for a job before all this went down, and now I know I won’t be employed any time soon. Huge swaths of the world population are facing unemployment while everything is paused. How will we get the resources we need? What will happen to the supply chains of food, medicine, and other essentials?

Some people are not nearly as nervous or concerned as I am about what is about to unfold. My sister Julia is studying macroeconomics and public health. She believes this will blow over with (relatively) little impact. My husband Jacob is still going to work at this time, he is a chef at a restaurant down in the city, and although they are not serving customers in the dining room, they are still doing pickup orders. Jacob already likes to live a rather socially isolated life on a normal basis, he just goes to work and comes home and chats with friends online. So besides the fact that traffic is lighter and the restaurant isn’t filled with customers, his life hasn’t been changed much yet. He is not bothered. Meanwhile, I have the TV on and am watching commercials that feature people enjoying sporting events and concerts; it seems like a cruel taunt. The fact that everyone is reacting differently to this pandemic makes me feel confused and guilty. Yesterday did we do the wrong thing by taking a walk in the park and visiting my sister? Of course I wanted to see my mother on my birthday, but I simply can’t visit with my parents right now.

Joking about the ‘impending war’ has been a common jest among young people for years. I know I really started thinking about it in 2014. This, however, is the first time I’ve felt it might be genuinely imminent. I have visions of people resorting to violence because they can’t afford/find food. I see soldiers guarding the streets making sure people don’t move around. I see food, water, and energy rations. I see field hospitals overwhelmed with sick and injured patients, I see so many deaths. These fears are NOT unfounded; as I stated earlier, these things happen all over the world. We have been extremely lucky in the United States, but we are not immune‚Ķ pun intended.

Will my fears play out, or will this indeed all blow over? Time will tell. I will keep writing while this pandemic is part of the zeitgeist.