The COVID Coaster

Today’s not sad lunch, featuring taco salad, my new gardenia, and Cappie who definitely isn’t suffering but I worry she is nonetheless.

It’s only been 18 days since I landed at Reagan National after a business trip to North Carolina. Only 18 days since I last chatted with the bartender at Chalice Cafe and looked at photos from my seat neighbor’s fishing trip out west. Only 18 days since I took a taxi to check out our construction, then went for martinis and potato skins at Martin’s.

I know I’m not the only one to feel like they’ve lived a life in those 18 days. Oh the ups and downs. I’d have had more fun at Kings Island with fewer hills and probably less risk of deadly illness. Alas, the roller coaster we’re all riding together is the one we’ve got, for now, so we can forget about the twists and turns of The Beast and focus on real life. It’s got more ups and downs than the best amusement park ride in the world. 

I find myself feeling the following things, all in one day. Sometimes all before breakfast: Panic about our financial system and a deep, illogical urge to go withdraw every dollar we have in savings; Despair that this is never going to end; Despair that our home construction is going to be paused and by the time the world re-opens, we’ll have no money to finish the project and thus we’ll have to decide to either squat in our own home or continue living as vagabonds in suburban Maryland in a home with two generations of Matt’s family; Crippling fear that someone I love is going to get COVID-19 and die; Alarm that my sister-in-law is going to give birth alone, in a hospital filled with a deadly illness and overtired, under-protected health care workers; Bursts of anxiety that we need to write our will; Guilt that we have been married for nearly six years and don’t have a will; This sensation that the little things I’m doing to help people (buying gift cards to small businesses, sending grocery gift cards to friends who have lost their incomes, staying home) can never make a difference so why even bother; Panic over the vaguest hint of the feeling I just had, that little things don’t make a difference, am I becoming apathetic? Am I unfeeling? Am I a bad person?; Dissatisfaction with my job, why am I not “totally swamped” the way friends seem to be in this new work-from-home-normal, is it because I’m not good at my job? I’m in the wrong job?; Guilt that I have the audacity to question my satisfaction when I am lucky to be employed at a time like this. 

Hold onto your hats, because now we’re entering the calendar crazies, which is what happens when I think past what I’m eating for my next meal. What if Opening Day is rescheduled for the same day I’m supposed to be boarding a plane to London, will American refund my miles? Will American still exist? What do we do for Easter? Our family’s Zoom call was not exactly successful, will we get better at it? Do we always talk over each other that much in real life? How are my nieces and nephews going to virtual school with such atrocious bandwidth? Are they getting too much screen time? Will they have any birthday celebrations this year? Will I get to see them this year? If we get back to normal sometime this summer but then we have another wave, will Christmas get canceled?

This lunch isn’t pretty but it tasted great and I thought I deserved this glass of midday Rose for some reason or another.

I top that line of thinking off with a dollop of really obscure worrying. I take a few minutes to ponder if it’s possible that Cappie is going to get sick because she doesn’t sleep at all anymore during the day because she just likes to follow me from room to room, pacing alongside me as I get in steps during conference calls. Don’t dogs need their sleep? Is she going to be traumatized by this whole thing, too? Is that a sigh of contentment or one of pain?

You’ve just ridden downhill, fast, with me on my roller coaster. 

The good news? We’re not done yet. Because we get to go uphill, too. It’s not all a spiraling, corkscrewing whirlwind. Just as quickly as I spiral down, too fast, feeling whiplash, I rebound. I realize there are some really great things happening right now, things that I hope continue well past May 17th or June 1 or July or whenever we get back to “normal.”

For starters, I’m texting a lot less, but talking a lot more. Friends who have checked in over text have started to call. Why not? We’ve got nowhere to be. Friends who I don’t speak to regularly are calling and we’re having really good conversations, talking a lot about the current crisis, but also a lot about the past and the future and what we’re reading and eating and not wearing. 

I’m also learning a lot about my colleagues and the challenges they face. While kids crying in the back of conference calls is amusing (and admittedly sometimes annoying), I’m glad to have some insight into people’s lives. I didn’t know that someone I work with weekly cares for an autistic brother. I didn’t need to know that in the past, but I’m glad I know it now because that care doesn’t just impact him during conference calls. He brings those worries to work, too, but I’ve never known the burden he carried. Now I do. I think we’re all learning about each other’s lives and families and the unique challenges we all handle, day in and day out. I hope when this is all in the past, we don’t forget each other’s humanity. 

Then there are the little uphill jitters, the good stuff that doesn’t make you feel warm and fuzzy, but does make you feel good. The fact that I have eaten lunch off a glass plate every day for 17 days, no sad desk lunches or soggy salads for me. I’ve also eaten a screen-free dinner each night with Matt, just the two of us. While I miss the people we usually fill our table with, I can’t deny that it’s a treat to really focus on each other. My mother’s learned how to use Zoom. I probably won’t encourage her to do it often because she doesn’t exactly excel at it, but I’m laughing just thinking about that. If not for this pandemic, I am 100 percent sure I’d never have stared at the underside of my mom’s (clothed) breast for an entire hour-long conversation. My grandmother-in-law’s cabinets are cleaner than they’ve been in decades. Gwendom is spotless and because I haven’t been able to avoid it, I’ve leaned into it and it’s starting to feel like home. 

Uh oh. I feel a downhill coming on. Gwendom feels like home? 


Alicia Amling View All →

Recovering journalist who discovered a life outside of news leaves you time for things like getting angry, cooking and traveling. Plus, hopefully, writing. I’m a wife, dog mom and Washingtonian.

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