Part Two of “Why A Female Protagonist” will appear in two weeks. Rather, events took over everything, and being a writer, I had to “voice” my concerns.
Introverts vs Extroverts
Most every writer I know is an introvert, and I hope some psych grad student somewhere has studied that. If she hasn’t, she needs to, if not for intellectual curiosity. When the word came to “shelter in place” or exercise “social distancing,” those introverted writers were orgasmic at the prospect of not peopling.
I’m one of those annoying extroverts who needs human interaction to feel, well, human. It’s why when only my own company begins to get to me, I have to leave the house and go to a restaurant or a coffee shop. It’s why I love coffeeshop writing.
By coincidence last week, I’d already “self-quarantined” because last Wednesday morning I woke with a cough and a head that felt as if it were filled with cotton. No fever. No sore throat, so I was reasonably certain it wasn’t coronavirus. However, I checked with my doctor who said to stay inside, drink plenty of fluids, and rest but check back if I developed a fever.
Later that day came the CDC recommendation for social distancing on a national scale.
Thanks to a pre-vaccine childhood case of pertussis and my asthma, my coughing jags are epic. I’ve re-cracked ribs coughing. I knew if I went out in public and started coughing, an inevitability, people would either run away in fear or run toward me with pitchforks and torches. (Hey, I’m a writer; it’s hyperbole.)
For two days, I social-distanced myself, but it wasn’t long before the overthinking began. You see, I was also an analyst for Uncle Sam; he paid me to overthink. An odd feeling of unease crept over me. I attributed that to having read too many dystopian sci-fi novels, namely The Stand, but it went beyond that.
I’ve been lucky not to have anxiety, so I have no experience with its symptoms or effects, though I’ve supported friends and family who have it. After several hours of overthinking, it hit me. I was anxious about the prospect of spending up to two months in my house with only me for company. Here, my introverted friends were in heaven, and I was about to endure my own, personal hell.
So, take advantage of it, I told myself. Go write.
And more crickets.
And my cold got worse–but no fever. That meant, however, it would do no good to even go for a walk by myself because coughing would happen, and some of my neighbors… Well, let’s say I wouldn’t feel comfortable having a coughing episode as I passed their houses.
On Saturday my nieces picked up a prescription for me and brought it to my house. Human beings in my house! I was never so effing glad to see them in my life. We maintained that social distance, but they couldn’t stay because of a prior appointment of theirs.
Now, I have had bouts of deep depression, and when I watched them walk to their car, the dark threatened to push me down. I refused to believe they were going to be the last people I’d see for a while, maybe ever, but that thought wouldn’t go away.
Sunday was the day to pick up groceries I’d ordered online, and I felt I had enough energy to accomplish that. Keeping that social distance, I interacted with the young woman who brought my groceries to the Jeep and loaded them in the back. I didn’t cough once, and when I drove away I felt good enough that I cruised to Starbucks’ drive-through and got a coffee and a sandwich. Interaction with a second person at a safe distance–I used the hand sanitizer now in the vehicle, however.
That peak of energy dissipated pretty quickly after I got home, put the groceries away, and started overthinking again. This, I thought, is why I’ll probably go nuts before this is over. Well, nuttier.
A video conference with my marketing advisor helped alleviate the dark and energize me again. I had a short but decent night’s sleep. I got up early, did a lot of authorship work by 0715, and was ready to go back to bed by 0718.
The apocalypsy feeling in my neighborhood was palpable. No one was out and about. Even the dog-walkers, whom I normally hate to see because why does your dog need to piss in my yard when there’s all this common area, weren’t around. And the day was gray and overcast. Great.
I’ve lived through Swine Flu, SARS, H1N1 with nary a sniffle, though at the height of SARS I returned from a work trip to Spokane, Washington, with a case of bacterial pneumonia and was isolated at urgent care until my test came back negative. In none of those occasions did I ever think I was going to die. My immune system has its moments where it slacks off, but for the most part each of these past epidemics passed me over.
With coronavirus, however, I’m suddenly in the demographic that’s most likely to die from COVID-19: over 60 with secondary conditions, namely asthma (though well-controlled), that the virus “likes.” For the first time, the thought crept in that if I got this I wouldn’t survive it. The odds weren’t ever in my favor.
So Monday was a bad day, a mood-swing day, from “Everything is going to be fine” to “Jesus Wept, we’re all going to die” at warp speed. I was channeling my mother on her worse manic depressive days. Several times, too many times, throughout the day, I had to say aloud, “What the f**k is wrong with you?” That helped a lot. Really.
Then, a friend posted on Facebook about an Amazon Prime series called “Comrade Detective,” a parody of Soviet and American propaganda at the height of the Cold War and a parody as well of cop buddy shows, with a Romanian twist. I binged all six episodes, and I laughed at the absurdity, at the inside jokes only a Russia scholar would get. I was a completely different person afterward, and I’m ever thankful to my friend for that. He didn’t post about that show for me specifically, but it felt that way because it was exactly what I needed.
And the writing returned. A short story that lay dormant for almost a year demanded attention, which I readily gave it (even though I’m supposed to be reviewing the proof of the book coming out in a month). Two hours of writing later, and I was happily exhausted and ready for bed.
Seven hours of mostly uninterrupted sleep and today seems much less like the end of the world.
And I actually want to talk to my neighbors.
What the f**k is wrong with me?