Yesterday, Trump declared a nationwide public health emergency in America. Finally. Now, I’m not prone to higher than normal anxiety (whatever that means) and remain grounded most of the time, but this pandemic is frightening and the fact that a vaccine could be 18 months to two years away raises my anxiety. Italy and Spain have announced nationwide lockdowns, and I’m sure other European countries will follow suit. I’m praying and keeping a candle lit until this pandemic ends.
My eternal thanks and gratitude to the doctors, nurses, scientists, health care workers, first responders, and mental health professionals (like my daughter in Northern Virginia), who are working tirelessly to keep us all safe and healthy today and in the future. I also extend my thanks and gratitude to the IT community and anyone who is creating, designing, and managing pandemic maps, websites, and apps (like my son does in Bangkok) for folks to find important information and resources. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
My kids will tell you I’ve been on high alert since the first reports of the Coronavirus came out of China (leaked reports, as well). That’s true. I didn’t waste any time making preparations for a few months of quarantine. Maybe that’s who I am (prepared, not a prepper) or maybe it’s because twenty years ago, I read Hot Zone by Richard Preston. That’ll do it. I don’t know what to tell you. If you are at all anxious, don’t read the book. At the moment, I’m reading Spillover by David Quammen. I know, I may be a glutton for punishment, but I’ve always been fascinated by the plagues, epidemics, and pandemics in our world history and the government responses and mistakes…much like we’ve seen this month by the Trump administration.
Anyway, this post isn’t about him. We have enough to worry about. We are living in extraordinary times. In light of Trump’s announcement on Thursday, I decided it would be irresponsible to continue with our April family vacation plans to Puerto Rico. JetBlue allowed us to cancel our flights and the tickets are available to use for one year, which is great. I canceled my non-urgent medical appointments in March and will reschedule a few weeks from now. None of us know what to expect in the next few months or longer, and as difficult or frightening as this feels, it’s our new reality.
Sadly, the lives of millions of men, women, and children around the world and across America have been dramatically affected and for many, their lives have been completely upended. As in European countries, our schools, universities, and small businesses are closing, the homeless are more vulnerable than ever, and those in the workforce are opting to work from home to protect themselves and the wellbeing of others. I believe major, necessary changes must happen in America and I pray the first changes are to our health care system and health insurance companies. I support Bernie’s Medicare for all.
As for me, I’m a 62-year-old, full-time writer with several preconditions, which means while I’m healthy at the moment, I am paying good attention to the news. The CDC said that at age 62, I am considered elderly, which irritated me to no end as I’d heard 60 was the new 50, but whatever, I’ll continue to follow information coming out of the CDC, WHO, and John Hopkins University.
As I’ve worked from home since 2010 and I live alone, staying home alone for weeks on end is nothing new; not much has changed for me. I’m never bored and often feel there are not enough hours in the day to get all my projects done. What has changed is how many more times a day I wash my hands, and I don’t leave my home unless absolutely necessary like when I run out coffee. God forbid. I haven’t left the house once this week and don’t intend to venture out, mask or no mask. Two personal challenges are not to worry myself sick over my children’s wellbeing and their safety during this pandemic and remembering not to touch my face.
I realize how privileged I sound. I work from home and do what I love best–writing and making art. I raised my awesome children and I live alone with a wonderful Chihuahua. Thousands of Americans don’t have the luxury to earn money from home and don’t have health insurance. Our detained immigrant community is in grave danger, and the homeless and incarcerated population are vulnerable and at high risk, as well. There are many ways we can help. I believe it’s through helping others that we can begin to feel more hopeful about the future and about what is happening around the world, in our country, and in our towns. And it could help keep our fears in check.
During my self-imposed quarantine, I will continue to work on my second novel, The Laments, and during writing breaks, I’ll continue to edit my collection of poetry. I’ve also decided to master a few French and Spanish recipes I’ve always wanted to try. I read cookbooks like people read novels and have a nice collection of culinary books, so I bought an 11-piece, chef-quality cookware set and stocked up on food items that will go a long way and remain in my pantry and freezer for a few months. I’m starting out with the basics: Jacques Pepin’s omelet recipe. Sounds easy, right? It’s not, smile. Next, I’ll tackle the perfect baked chicken ala Julia Child, and after that, I’ll search for the perfect seafood paella recipe. I wish you could join me for that dish. Now see, that made me a bit sad as I love entertaining friends and family. Damn, I hope we’re all clear by summer. But I’m not going there, nope.
Other activities I’m considering to pass the time during writing breaks:
Keep in touch with family and friends, especially my older friends and family members, who live alone; keep up this pandemic diary (this is a writing blog, after all); donate food and clothing to local shelters and missions; make a few collage pieces; finish my last knitted scarf; watch the Netflix series Black Sail (I love anything to do with the sea, sailing, and pirates); plant seeds for my spring and summer garden (my kale is already out); pack away winter clothing; arrange the clothing items in my chest of drawers, so I can actually find matching socks; and if I’m really energetic and truly desperate for something to do, I’ll think about cleaning out the shed, which is a disaster. I said think, mind you. I highly doubt it will come to that.
Friends, I wish you the best and pray this virus disappears soon. Now, go wash your hands. Stay home if you can.
Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in 1900 Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.