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Updated: Aug 24, 2020

April 23, 2020

Well, by now I’m sure you know that Boris Johnson survived.

He got out of the hospital on Easter, which as far as I’m concerned was excellent timing. Whatever you think of his politics, we all love the recoveries.

To this day I haven’t personally known anyone who has died of the virus, so I’m glad to be happy for the people I don’t know.

In 2012, our area of the country was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy. All the northern New Jersey towns near us, as well as our own, experienced electricity outages for days. For some reason our house was spared — just ours and one other. I remember standing on my porch at night feeling like we were in the middle of the ocean on a raft. The blackness was impenetrable, as far as the eye could see … except a single pool of glowing light around our house, and one around the house down the street. It was wild.

While waiting for the electricity to be restored, we opened our house to people who weren't so lucky. It was late October and cold. I remember how glad they were just to get indoors with heat, a stove, a hot shower. Things we'd all taken for granted just 24 hours before.

Something similar is happening now. When our area went into lockdown mode, quite a few people we knew were already struggling. In a strange conflagration, three people close to us (one relative, one friend, and the mother of a friend) all needed serious surgeries for different conditions. All three were able to get them before the hospitals filled to capacity, thank goodness. But their followup care has been challenging.

One of them (our friend’s mother) did catch the virus while she was hospitalized. Her husband caught it, too. Fortunately both recovered, but the wife’s chemotherapy has been suspended, and no one knows what effect the interruption of her treatment will have.

Stephanie also has a relative who had just achieved sobriety and was starting AA meetings in mid-March. His sobriety continues but it’s hard to imagine conditions less conducive to maintaining it.

Then again there are people who don’t need our support at all, because they’re having the time of their lives.

We figured out that we know people at all ends of any spectrum you can name: people who are rediscovering the joy in their marriage; people who have been calling 911 because of domestic violence; people who are realizing how short life is and making decisions they wish they’d made years ago. We’re in contact with those having it hard: people who live alone and wish they didn’t; people who can’t stand their own kids after weeks of minding them round the clock; quite a few people who are having anxiety attacks or who have hardly slept since it all began, and honestly, who can blame them?

We know or hear about people who are reveling in bread-baking, crocheting, gardening or restoring antique cars. And yes, even dating!

We’re good friends with a couple whose first baby is due May 12. (I’ll be sure to report when little JOM - his initials - makes his eagerly-awaited appearance.)

Steph and I personally know three therapists who are working from home and they're busier than ever before. No surprise.

We also know two married hospital workers who go home to their 9-year-old son every night, shower and throw all their clothes in hot soapy water, and pray for the best.

One of my relatives is having such a great time she says she hopes the world won’t open up again for a long time. She and her husband and son have started hosting weekly quiz shows on Zoom for friends and family.

My social media feed gives me, “I hope we never go back to the way it was before” as well as, “I thought I hated my job. Now I can’t wait to go back to it.”

And, “This is divine. There are no crowds, the air is clean, I don’t have to get up and join the rat race every day, and I finally feel rested.”

As well as, “I haven’t had sex for weeks. I’ve gained eight pounds. There’s nowhere to go even if I could find someone to go with. It's hideous.”

There's “I’m sick to death of the news!” and there's also “I’m finally ticking off every movie on my Watch List!”

And so on.

I think in the coming months and years we’ll hear from people we thought were weathering lockdown nicely -- people who are models of stability under normal circumstances. More is probably happening under the surface than we realize. The elements of ordinary life — the workplace, holidays, friends stopping over, even those 9-to-5 schedules — smoothed the edges of daily existence. Without them we're raw, restless, jangled. Or mopey, withdrawn, aimless.

These times are teaching us that the Internet can give us almost everything we need: shopping, food, socializing, sex, contact with the outside world. We exercise via computer screen now, and Yoga apps. Zoom is everywhere, at business meetings and every kind of social gathering, including memorial services. Our once-vibrant social lives have turned into quiet evenings with GrubHub and Netflix. It's surprising how much life can be lived through screens.

At the same time, conversely, the coronavirus era has also shown is that there are things we really CAN'T go without, at least not comfortably. Work may be one, for workaholics. Drinking is another. It's not that you can't drink in front of the spouse and kids, more that you're happier doing it in a bar, with the work crowd, or on a girls' night out. Quarantine has forced us to be creative. The enforced family time, night after night of it, has driven our vices underground. I've heard about people sneaking to the garage to call the people they secretly call (bookies? Mistresses?). Many of us are finding it tricky, living every moment in full view of the people we're related to. Whether or not we're inclined to stealth , we're all used to our privacy, our escapes.

Another thing I've noticed: people are posting even more weird things on the Internet than usual. Judging by the bizarre offerings out there, it seems like there may be something to that old adage “idle hands are the devil's playground" . . .

As in 2012, when our house was spared Sandy's wrath, Stephanie and I really can’t complain. We get along (in some ways even better than before!), we have a house that’s big enough to get some solitude in, and although our income has been reduced, so far we haven’t fallen behind in our bills. Knock wood. We aren’t cold or hungry. I still make food by hand for our animals, the way I did before we were in a global crisis, and none of them have any idea anything is wrong at all.

So we can help the people in our lives who need it, and rejoice with the ones who don’t. When the weather gets warm, we even plan to host a few small, socially-distant gatherings in our yard.

In the meantime, like most everyone else, we hunker down in our little section of the spectrum. These days are really only about trying not to be miserable, or cause others misery, or get sick.

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