Well, here we are.
Before the lockdown, before the run on toilet paper and the masks and the talk of flattening curves, my husband was preparing.
He kind of turned into one of those doomsday preppers buying tons of paper goods and laundry supplies and non-perishable food. Seriously, do we really need all these four-pound jars of spaghetti sauce?
It was weird, because this was completely out of character for him. I rolled my eyes and told him to cool it and argued with every one of his sky-is-falling reports. "The state of Louisiana has stopped all guns and liquor sales!" [As if!] "Amazon is completely shut down because the virus came here attached to boxes from China!" "We'll be under Martial Law by Monday!" Most of his predictions failed to come true.
He wasn't completely wrong though. Stocking up on groceries turned out to be a pretty good idea. (Even though we'll never use all that spaghetti sauce.) I'm pretty glad to have all the Clorox wipes he hoarded since it means I can keep using them to clean my stovetop and kitchen counters. It feels a bit like I'm wiping them down with 100-dollar bills but I don't really care. I have plenty.
See, my husband has asthma. "If you get this, you'll survive," he kept telling me. "If I get it, I will not." I've been working from home for 37 days now. He's been home a few weeks prior to that. During that time, I have left the house only three times to go to the grocery for milk, eggs and produce.
I am one of the only people at my work to be at home full time. Understand, I work in a manufacturing facility, so a lot of the work simply can't be done virtually. And we are "essential workers" - we make brown kraft paper that's made into cardboard boxes. Without us, grocery shelves aren't refilled. Medical supplies don't make it to the hospitals. We are a vital part of the global supply chain.
But I do communications for my facility, so in unusual circumstances such as these, I can do that from home. I also do crisis communications, which evolved pretty quickly into full-on crisis management. I assumed a Chief of Staff role for my mill manager. I just did it at home.
Things were pretty damn crazy those first few weeks. 12-, 15-, 18-hour days, seven days a week, as guidelines changed by the hour and HR and legal teams micromanaged what we could and couldn't say. I monitored rumors on Facebook groups and took community calls of concern. We got our first confirmed case in the facility. We had an employee in ICU. [*All fully recovered now, thank the gods.]
I have 25 years of experience in crisis management but I'm gonna tell ya, it never gets any easier. You never stop feeling like you're just hanging on by your fingernails.
We're in south Louisiana - a certified hot spot [thank you, Mardi Gras]. We frantically instituted safety measures as the CDC made recommendations. I put out daily communiques with information.
After several weeks, things began to level off. I started to breathe again, even as I realized that we would be eventually see a "new normal," and nothing would be the way it used to be. At least not for a while.
I created a new work-from-home routine that involves getting up around 7, washing my face, getting dressed in leggings and a hoodie t-shirt, feeding the dogs, preparing tea and an english muffin and getting on the daily morning production meeting call at 8:30. I shower at night. I read in the evenings (12 books in the last month).
I tell the Alexa on my desk to "Play my NPR station" in between conference calls.
I give my dogs tons of belly rubs and take them outside every couple of hours.
I drink a lot of hot tea, and bake faux-healthy food like zucchini bread and oatmeal cookies.
My husband wishes I would stop opening the windows in my office while simultaneously running a space heater. I wish he'd put his damn dishes in the dishwasher.
[Oh! Side note: Can I just say how grateful I am that I have my zen home office??? I believe I would've lost my mind by now if I'd been haphazardly working from the kitchen table.]
I'm ready for my YMCA to open back up so I can start going to the gym again. I have not worked out at home at all. My work schedule has just been too erratic.
I want to get my nails done. I want my housekeeper to come back. I don't miss the 45-minute commute, I do kind of miss going to work and seeing people.
Returning to a "new normal" is coming. Because, no matter how scary this virus is, we're not going to be able to stay home until there's no longer a threat. At some point, we have to accept that the threat is lessened enough that we can trust protective measures to keep us safe. We'll wear masks. We'll call people instead of walking to their office to talk to them. We'll call in to conference calls instead of attending meetings. We'll keep six feet between us. We'll wash and sanitize our hands.
I keep saying that we're building this plane as we fly it. COVID-19 has severely disrupted my life.