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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Chronic, Cleanliness and COVID

It's IWSG Day. The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader. To find links to other IWSG contributors, click here. Thank you to April co-hosts: Diane Burton, JH Moncrieff, Anna @ Emaginette, Karen @ Reprobate Typewriter, Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard. 

This month's question: The IWSG’s focus is on our writers. Each month, from all over the globe, we are a united group sharing our insecurities, our troubles, and our pain. So, in this time when our world is in crisis with the covid-19 pandemic, our optional question this month is: how are things in your world?

I’m not great at housecleaning but with bi-weekly professional assistance things stay in good shape around our home. That said, the value of cleanliness took a huge uptick lately due to my husband’s chronic illness and COVID-19. Our virus from hell stopped world-wide operations at the same time he was scheduled to enter the hospital for life-prolonging treatment.

In thirty-five years of marriage, we’ve been apart for a week at a time only twice, each of us taking work trips years ago, he to California, me to Japan. But now, he’d be spending a week in a critical care unit, a week or so at home recovering, and then another week in. Depending on results, the whole thing may be repeated a month later. Last month, when he received the blessing from his doctor to proceed, a nurse reassured me. “He’ll be in a big room. There’s a cot. You can stay the night if you wish.” 

That was when COVID-19 was happening elsewhere. But as we got closer to his treatment date, it was as if the arrival of COVID in the US and his hospitalization were on the same clock. We agonized. Would they postpone his treatment? The answer was no, they would not. But days before his admission date in what now feels like the virus's infancy here in the US, an email related to his upcoming hospitalization spelled out new rules. “No visitors to the 11th floor.” In fact, I couldn't even enter the hospital.

Oh Lord. 

Pretty quickly, we became grateful for FaceTime. After months of trying to get him healthy enough for this treatment, this was a hiccup, right? Easy-peasy. On the day he was admitted, I dropped him off at the hospital, blew him a kiss and watched helplessly as the  doors swallowed him. Then, I drove to work, planning on burying myself in it.

The next day, the governor announced non-essential employees needed to stay home. I brought a laptop home and worked from there as best I could. Life morphed to “social distancing” in my house alone, knowing my husband was undergoing grueling treatment without me, while my options for finding something, anything to distract myself became sorely limited. My job? Phone calls and emails. But then what? The library? Not only was it closed, there appeared to be a run on online books. It was too early in the season to garden. The grass didn’t need to be mowed. Facebook, Twitter and the like were filled with dire prognostications, or worse, pictures of folks who believed they’re immune to the virus walking side-by-side, crowding beaches. Predictions that every hospital bed in the city would be filled at the time my husband was scheduled for his second week of treatment left me wanting to scream, so, no social media.

To get through those long days, I planned to give my so-so cleaning habits a work out. Windows? Vinegar and hot water to get rid of winter grime. Kitchen cupboards? Murphy’s Oil soap and fine steel wool to remove ancient grease. Lemon and baking soda to eliminate stains on kitchen counters. Pantry closets emptied and swept. Bleach everywhere. But how would I distract my brain? 

Thankfully, I remembered this. Years ago, when I suddenly lost my job of 23 years, I wrote my way out of the shock. Every morning I drafted a five-hundred work essay, went for a walk, came back and finalized the results for Middle Passages. It worked so well that since then, five days a week, I get up an hour early to write. So, cleaning-schmeaning. I stuck to my normal practice, forcing myself to sit down at the computer first thing each morning to lose myself in my novel draft. When I resurfaced, I’d done something routine. Something that helped me stay whole. And during that God-awful, lonely week, I learned yet again, as bad as things get, writing will always be there for me.

Then, I scrubbed and disinfected our house, all the while praying my husband's treatment would succeed and COVID-19 would disappear, imagining a future in which we're together again, his body, our home and the entire world, cleansed of dangerous pathogens.

Wishing good health and offering prayers for you all. I know we're all touched by this.