We’re two weeks into this thing and it feels like a lifetime. 14 days of confinement in Paris, life in one of the busiest, most vibrant cities in the world reduced to going around in circles in 88 square meters. 336 hours of tossing and turning, of kids on laps, kids in arms, kids putting everything they find in their mouths, kids going stir crazy. 20,160 minutes of waiting. Constantly waiting.
My symptoms have gone. I no longer have a sore throat or headache. I will finish my antiobiotics treatment with the confidence that I did not have covid-19 but rather a throat infection or regular flu. Day 14 saw a return to work and what a welcome return it was. Juggling kids and bottles and meals and Skype calls is not easy but it is occupying. It takes up time during the day and mental energy. The stress itself actually felt good, like lifting weights with my mind. I commiserate with coworkers and my boss who also has two young children. No matter what happens with work, at least I play a part in deciding what gets done.
There was also a big discovery. The Amazon Prime Video app finally has Chromecast integration. I had never used that service except to watch an Indiana Jones movie on the Eurostar once, mostly because I don’t know any of the Amazon shows and because Netflix usually does the job. But we’ve done the rounds of the kid’s section of Netflix. The launch of Disney+ was delayed until April 7th in France in order to (literally) not break the Internet (I’ve got my credit card out and ready as soon as you get that sign up page live Mickey). Amazon Prime Video has a bunch of different kids shows including Dora the Explorer, and my son was instantly hooked.
For the first 13 days of the confinement I’ve had a strict rule that there are no cartoons before his nap in order to make sure that he takes a nap (except Sunday mornings when we all watch a film). If we’re going to successfully wait this thing out – and get work done at the same time – we will have to make some adjustments to this policy. Because Dora the Explorer is kind of interactive, it didn’t feel as bad leaving him in front of those episodes for the better part of the morning. This won’t be an isolated incident.
I am saving the Montessori games that I downloaded on the iPad for later. Knowing that I have options in the pipeline is crucial for my sanity. I need to have some sort of control on some aspect of my life in order to get through this thing. When I was lying in my bed with the sounds of kids aggravating my infection and no way to get up and help I felt powerless. I was in control of absolutely nothing. Getting back on my feet, contributing to my job, and knowing that there are more ways to occupy my kids than just playing with that stupid Spiderman toy in his room marks a huge turnaround. I have taken back part of the control over my free agency.
Unless you are an autocrat using the pandemic to seize power, coronavirus is robbing us of so much control. The deaths keep rising. Healthcare systems are reaching breaking points. Nurses and doctors are falling ill. Beds are occupied. Ventilators in use. Soon there will be a million cases worldwide, will it stop before there are 10 million? Can it stop?
Death has always been the ultimate loss of control. And with tragic death comes emotional devastation. Coronavirus is destroying families by poaching loved ones. It’s removing thousands of lives every single day. The mourning happens separately, oftentimes alone, without the ceremony of berievement and togetherness that a funeral can offer. Last words carry over telephone lines to be heard by solitary ears. No speeches ring out to honor them before teary-eyed witnesses. Coronavirus deaths are traumatic for the victim and even more for those the victim leaves behind.
Those who haven’t experienced loss are bracing for it. It is hard to think that anyone will be spared from losing someone who is close to them. The tidal wave of carnage to come may change the way that we think about end of life. The preparations that we make. The time and attention we spend to properly show our admiration and love once someone has passed. While we must delay the ceremony we cannot delay the grieving. We will live through the tragedy in slow motion, unsure of the end, unable to comfort ourselves in the usual way. When we all get out of isolation, will we just be numb?
I sincerely hope that I am taking this way too far. This crisis is playing out extremely quickly but it is also excruciatingly slow. Flattening the curve means saving lives, buying time to produce more medical equipment and potential treatments. It also gives time for people to recover to get back to work – hopefully with some sort of immunity. If we as a global population can supply the medical community with what they need, we can start to control this virus instead of letting it control us.