I read George Orwell’s 1984 in school, but I had no idea back then I would one day be living it. I’m sure none of us did.
I went to the grocery today. I went at 7:15 in the morning, and by myself, because I’d already heard they weren’t going to let Bruce tag along with me. The parking lot was full when I arrived. There was one door letting people into the store and another ushering people out. I was counted both on entry and exit because only a fixed number were allowed to shop at a given time.
For once, the store was partially stocked with food, instead of being mostly empty as it had been on my previous trips during the last month, but there were signs over most items stipulating the limits of what I could buy. I pushed my sanitized cart through the aisles and waited for my turn when multiple people hovered near something I needed.
People were watching me shop the entire time to make sure I stayed 6 feet away from other shoppers. Some shoppers wore masks. Some wore gloves. Some wore both. Others like me–Baby Boomer rebel that I am–wore neither. I’m blaming my youthful years for my resistant attitude, but I’m sure my mental state is a lot more complicated.
I’m not going to apologize for my stubbornness or my need to be a little in denial. Please–no lectures. I get enough of those from my always prepared Marine husband. Next time I go, I probably will wear a mask, but today I was winging it. I hadn’t gone anywhere alone in weeks.
Okay… well… I’m not a complete rebel. I did have a tiny hand-sanitizer in my pocket, one of those “mini” ones from Bed, Bath, and Beyond that I’m sure someone got me for Christmas. I used it before I went into the store and after everything was loaded into the car. I don’t like it. I think in the big picture sanitizer and all anti-bacterial products compromise our immune systems. But the virus alternative is worse. I guess. Unable to mentally wade through all the daily bombardment of information and misinformation, I’m choosing not to listen to the news. I prefer to rely on common sense and caution and trying to keep my husband from being insane with worry.
However… despite the danger… I refuse to live in complete abject fear of every human interaction I have. I was raised to be nice, and friendly, and polite. I’m not saying all my choices this morning were smart. I’m just sharing how I felt about what happened today.
At the checkout line on the very clean floors of the store I shopped, there were do-not-cross lines which were precisely measured for maximum safety. Not a single rebellious person was in sight as I waited my turn. I think the other rebellious people were all like me–hyperventilating with panic on the inside while lecturing themselves about acting like a grownup instead of being freaked out.
Intellectually, I know all these precautions are necessary and for the good of everyone. Unfortunately, that wisdom didn’t help me emotionally this morning while I waded through the escalation of virus precautions all by myself. I guess everything hit me harder because Bruce wasn’t there distracting me from my thoughts.
As I made my way through the store, I realized how much of my normal life I’d been taking for granted. I’m one of those very adaptable people who as scripture says has been “both abase and abound” many times in life and has learned to live “content with whatever state I find myself in.” But as I drove by Starbucks going home I was incredibly sad to know I won’t be going there to write any time soon. Or to Panera which my critique partners and I jokingly call the “Office.”
This is all just so… surreal. That’s the only word I can think of to describe how my mind is reacting.
My normal routine is not just gone. Whatever comes next will be the “after” of what dealing with this is doing to this small part of the world I live in.
Creativity? That’s not happening for me right now. I can’t seem to tune this stuff out enough to focus on creating fiction. I have many books to write but none pulling me in enough to ignore what’s happening all around me.
I also have a new grandchild who is barely a week old. This pandemic quarantine is officially part of her birth story. I find myself wondering what she will say about that when she’s my age. What will it be like for Aya to say to her grandchildren “I was born during the pandemic of 2020.”
I’m sure George Orwell would be rubbing his head in dismay if he were alive. I’m sure he would say 1984 “was just a story” when he wrote all the stuff we’re now calling a reality. As a Science Fiction writer myself, I know how freaky it is to write something that eventually becomes real. Between the aftermath of 9/11 and now the pandemic, Orwell’s fiction reads like a prophetic warning that didn’t get heeded.
I drove home after my grocery expedition with the largest bottle of Olive Oil I could find (I was completely out) and a multi-pack of Kleenex tissues (allergy season is here). It was the most successful shopping trip I’ve had since the Coronavirus quarantine began. I got everything on my list for the first time in over a month. I also got enough to make sure I didn’t have to go out again for several weeks. I made that decision after encountering the additional precautions the store was taking. I honor their dedication to keeping everyone as safe as possible. Kentucky, in general, has been handling social distancing in amazing ways. Kentucky’s Governor has been a good leader through this mess. All in all–I feel very lucky. I may be a bit rebellious on the inside, but I’m a believer in social responsibility.
I guess I’m writing this long post for you because after I got home I spent the rest of the day calling people I love, and when that was done, I started thinking about all of you. My anxiety is encompassing the entire world at the moment. And I admit I feel depression hovering on the edges of my life. Writers can’t help but feel this stuff deeply. We’re as plugged into the creative conscience of mankind as much as it’s possible to be.
I know this surreal time will pass and we’ll see the other side of it eventually. One day there will be a new normal for all of us. I’m a bit concerned about what that be like to live, but that’s the nature of all life change. Right?
It seems trite that everyone keeps repeating that we’re all in this together, but it’s also true. We are. This situation is a world thing… and you, dear readers, mean the world to me. I can’t call each of you, so writing this post is the best way I can think of getting in touch.
So stay safe, okay? I need you to do that. Stay safe. Stay at home. Be uber careful when you go out. If you’re older, do me a favor and tell your inner Baby Boomer to go have a drink or smoke, and calm down until people stop getting sick and dying. I promise to do that as well. I know all these “limits” feel bad–like real bad to some of us–but in the end, if we beat back the virus by these efforts, then it will all be worthwhile. Right? Right.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll get my sh** together enough to work on a story. One thing is for sure. If I manage to do so, I promise you that story will have a happy ending. The world needs all of those it can get.