In Other Words: Coronavirus stops the world
So, we have a new problem on our hands, which now makes our usual complaints seem vapid and less critical. It’s called the coronavirus, or as my friend Alina’s son, Ben Pitchon, a classical music buff, calls it, “Cremona” — the Italian town where Antonius Stradivarius lived and made his instruments.
Add to that “corona,” the exalted violin bow. If we could only attach such melodic associations to the virus, wouldn’t that just soften things a bit?
But here are the facts: Life is moving in strange ways now. The coronavirus has imposed restrictions and suddenly we are viewing the “new norm” from a different perch. The latest trendy term is “social distancing,” which means we are told to move indoors and apply a new set of rules.
The urgency to be out and about is being replaced by a more prudent and serene way of living without all the noise and clamor that accompanies our usual lifestyles. Instead, we are presented with another kind of chaos, far more uncontrolled and, at worst, potentially lethal. We wonder what to expect. The unknown is the most daunting part of this scenario.
And yet, despite it all, I find myself becoming oddly calm and introspective. I am amazed by how much I have already accomplished when I no longer feel rushed or put upon by external forces that usually grip me. I no longer need to complete certain obligatory tasks, but find myself moving more slowly, while a sudden surge of creative energy takes hold.
This morning, I sipped my cup of tea, not swallowed it down so I could hurry to an urgent appointment. I talked with a friend for as long as we both wanted, and even more decadent, I didn’t feel the need to scurry out of my bathrobe. My shower was leisurely and long. My breakfast, eloquently savored.
I am one of the fortunate few. I can as easily work from home as from outside, and I don’t take that opportunity lightly. While my usual modus operandi is to write at my favorite cafe, Aux Delices on Church Lane, instead, I sit at my computer, watching from the window as birds fly around the feeder as though it’s business as usual. Oh, to be a bird now with the ability to fly away from all this madness.
Our lovely little town is closed down, and only a few kids on their bikes, or bored neighbors punctuate the scene. The mailman arrives on cue — the one human who provides continuity. I can’t tutor students because they are staying home. Decisions need not be quickly made, save for those that involve practicing safe living.
I am not at the mercy of time-limited obligations that must be tended to with a self-inflicted frenzy. “Waiting” has become a ritual, and I am learning to be more patient and tolerant. Life’s unforeseen intrusions, like the coronavirus, place limitations on each of us, and we are forced to look at life through a different lens, and adjust to change, whether or not we like it.
At the advice of my wonderful physician, Dr. Jill Denowitz, I am being attentively responsible. I don’t wander off. I stay put. I wash my hands until they are raw (do they hand out gold stars for good behavior?).
Life seems quieter suddenly, as if we have entered an alternate universe. I am more in touch with what matters most; my own capabilities are my survival tools, proving we really can live simply. And while I can’t take my safety for granted these days, I feel grounded and hopeful, if just a bit off-kilter.
My kids in Europe report similar stories. Amsterdam, where my grandson lives, is picking up the momentum, and my granddaughter’s college has closed its doors. Her graduation has been suspended. I worry from afar, though in a certain inexplicable way we are living under and share the same emotional territory.
My friend Ann, much bolder than I, dined out the other evening before tighter rules were implemented. She was anxious and leery about being in a restaurant. She brought along her water bottle, disinfected her fork with wipes. She used paper plates, and jokingly reported she and her friend couldn’t kiss. Kiss? Elbow-bumps have become de rigueur, and even they are performed with trepidation.
Today the sun shines. The sky is cloudless and blue. I have no place to be. No appointments to keep — a traveler in a confined world among a familiar landscape that suddenly feels different. But I can write and read, listen to music, and tonight there’s a great film on TCM. Small diversions have become welcomed gifts.
Though physically distant, we pull together now, and if I tell you I have the best neighbors, I am not exaggerating. Camaraderie knows no boundaries. These leisurely uncertain days of heightened anxiety are also sobering and cathartic, as we discover how differently and surprisingly resilient we have become.
Is the world a dangerous place? Who can argue with that? But here we are, and we’ll most likely be OK if we stay steady and not get unhinged.
While all is not quite right, like the cockroach that survives the end of the world, we’ll make it through to where we need to be.
Westporter Judith Marks-White shares her humorous views monthly in the Westport News. She can be reached via email at email@example.com or at judithmarks-white.com.