Before the Storm

New Years Eve 2019. Masses crowded into Times Square while many people prepared to watch the crystal ball on television, a crisis was unfolding. As people welcomed in the New Year with champagne or some other libation, little known Wuhan, China, the size of New York City with more than eleven million people, reported several cases of pneumonia. The virus that caused the pneumonia was unknown to the World Health Organization. The next day, while I was watching college football bowl games, Chinese health authorities had closed the Hanna Seafood Wholesale Market wild animals sold there were speculated to be the source of the virus.

Time zero.

I write every morning. It’s a practice I’ve been doing for years since I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I recently searched my daily entries and found no mention of a pneumonia outbreak in China. I didn’t write anything when the WHO determined the virus is a novel coronavirus, related to SARS and MERS and named it 2019-nCoV. I did not mention the first coronavirus death when it on January 11, 2020. I’m sure Lester Holt reported the outbreak on the national news, which I watched most nights, so I must have been aware that something was going on across the Pacific.

There are no entries in my morning pages because I’m sure I thought the virus was a China story. We have had numerous fears of deadly viruses, such as the swine flu, bird flu, SARS, MERS, Ebola and Zika, and each received much media attention and speculation. But a global pandemic has not materialized and spread across the planet, or seriously affected the United States. The planet has not had a pandemic since the Spanish Flu killed an estimated ffifty million people in 1918, more than a century ago.

I am certain I assumed 2019-nCoV, later named CoVid-19, would not affect my family or friends or life in this country. I went about my normal routine. That assumption proved to be wrong. Very wrong. By late January I was fully aware of CoVid-19, though my head was still buried in the sand; I believed we would not be affected, especially when our national leaders said it was “no worse than the seasonal flu.”

On January 1, 2020, the start of a new year in a new decade, in my third year of post-corporate America life, I practiced tradition: I used the promise of a new year as an opportunity to make resolutions and goals. I watched four bowl games from early morning to late in the evening, drinking virgin Bloody Marys to start the day and wine at night. My resolutions contained many of the usual suspects. Lose weight to get healthier. Travel. Improve the environment I live and work in. Learn a new language. Develop an active retirement routine, one that would get me out of the house more often. Lastly, there was an unfinished novel I needed to complete, a blog I had put on hold and I wanted to make visual art with my camera and with paint.

***

It’s August and Trump is trying very hard to get schools to start again. I remember the first day of school during the elementary and middle school years. Seems like the first assignment was to write an essay about what I did during the summer break. I hated writing those essays. They always said the same thing.

I picture the students, when they finally go back to school, being asked to write an essay. “What did you do during the global pandemic?” Sooner or later employees will also return to their offices. People will be standing around the coffee pot talking about what they did with all that time.

So what have I been doing during the coronavirus crisis? I’ve done many things during this pandemic. I cleaned and organized the house, even though it was already clean and organized after being retired for three years. I spent time with two of my three children, but didn’t see my oldest daughter for months as she sheltered in place in Long Beach. I exercised daily, read more than fifty books so far, binge watched shows on Netflix, Hulu and AppleTV+. I watched the nine Star Wars movies sequentially, followed by The Madalorian, and rented a lot of movies. I have a daily routine that includes meditating, yoga, using Duolingo to learn Spanish, happy hour with wine on the back patio at 5:00. I have spent more than a little time bemoaning the breakfasts and lunches I missed with friends, the trips I cancelled, the other things I would be doing if I was locked down. I also started creating images with Affinity Designer and Adobe Fresco. Now I am writing a blog about my experience during the first global pandemic in a century.

Pivoting (Again)

It’s been a while since my last post. I rebooted the blog after months of inactivity, determined to tell a story about the transition from Act II (that long period between college and retirement) into Act III (what comes after the career). I planned to write about the rewards and difficulties of being independent, free to choose how to spend my time. Some of that will show up in future posts. But I have lost interest in the storyline I was pursuing.

It’s been three and a half years since I left my former career. I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the past, how I got to where I was when I left the oil industry, how I ever came to be employed by an oil company in the first place. I’ve written more than 100,000 words of what would have been a memoir of Act II; now I am kind of tired of living in the past. Maybe this is one of the outcomes of being retired. I much prefer to live in the present.

I still want to write, and a blog is one of the mediums I want to use. Unfortunately, the present is mired by the CoVid-19, the first global pandemic since the Spanish Flu in 1918. We probably all know the statistics. As of this writing there are more than twenty-five million cases and 850,000 deaths. In the United States, where I live, there have been six million cases and approximately 185,000 deaths. These statistics are beyond anything I could imagine in modern times, but they don’t tell the whole story. The virus has disrupted lives; work, school, entertainment, sports, travel and even mental health. And sadly we don’t know when we will return to normal and what normal might look like.

Enough of being a real bummer. You all know those numbers. You see them on the TV or hear them on the radio and the virus dominates our conversations. My middle daughter doesn’t want to hear anything about the virus. As negative as it has been, some positives have come out of this period. During lockdown I have spent time with my daughters that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I have read, listened to music, exercised, cleaned the house and yard to ridiculous levels. I’ve also explored some creative interests I only dabbled in before.

Others are doing it too. I started listening to The Corona Diaries, a podcast with Steve Hogarth, the lead singer for Marillion, and Anthony Short. I don’t think their project was on the books until they were locked down and found they had time. I also started listening to Steven Wilson and Tim Bowness’ The Album Years, a podcast that explores albums released during calendar years from the mid-60s to the early 2000s. Neither podcast is about the coronavirus; they are creative works created as a result of the pandemic.

Six months in to this crisis, with an uncertain amount of time remaining until we reach some sort of new normal (whatever that looks like), I’ve decided to write about the experience that this one person is having in such an unprecedented time. I’m probably one of many doing the same thing, but maybe my experience can I add something to the collective experience.

So that’s where this blog is headed. I said I wanted to live in the present, but I am going back to the start of this whole thing and make posts to bring the blog to the present, then write the continuing saga as this virus and lock down and the march towards a new normal continues.