Two weeks ago, I was on a set, doing background acting in a party scene with about seventy-five other actors and crew members. We were eating lunch from a buffet table, everyone touching the same salad tongs. Just a few days later, the coronavirus pandemic exploded. Now everyone in Los Angeles is “sheltering in place.” Or “safer at home.” Call it what you want — it’s a lockdown. We’ve been stockpiling groceries, searching in vain for toilet paper, and becoming increasingly afraid of being in public places. Going out is now extremely anxiety-provoking. I’m looking at everything like it’s potentially contaminated. It’s like walking through a minefield.
I didn’t realize how stressful all of this was until I came home from a 90-minute excursion to the pharmacy and supermarket and collapsed on the couch, drained. I didn’t have the energy to disinfect each item I’d brought into the house, so for all I know, the virus is on my soy milk carton and will be lurking there for two to three days. The virus’s life span is a shocking and frightening detail that, when I first heard it, was one of those “shit just got real” moments for me. It makes me want to strip down, take a Silkwood style shower, and burn my clothes as soon as I get home.
This morning my husband Mike and I woke up to a power outage — not just our house but the whole neighborhood. We’ve been having high winds, which can knock down power lines. Usually, it takes the DWP a couple of hours at most to restore power. But it’s been six hours and we’re still dark. We’re afraid to open the fridge, lest we let out the cold air and all our food spoils. We have no WiFi (I’m writing this in Word and will put it online after we get our electricity back). Right now Mike is in the garage, trying to find our generator and gas can. I won’t go into detail about what it’s like to take a shit without our bidet working because (a) that’s gross, and (b) I know how lucky we are to have indoor plumbing. But suffice to say, I haven’t felt the impact of the pandemic this acutely until now.
It feels like end times.
As much as I try to maintain a sense of normalcy, it’s impossible to not be affected by what’s happening. Meditation, mindfulness, scented candles, and chamomile tea are all wonderful, but they’re not going to stop us from being scared because what’s going on in the world is scary. Let’s all acknowledge that and give ourselves a break. In other words, it’s OK to feel anxious, upset, sad, or angry. It’s OK if I’m not being productive every second of the day. It’s OK if I need to listen to the same yacht rock playlist over and over to comfort myself. It’s even OK if I’m stress-eating carbs. I mean, if this isn’t the time to eat instant ramen, I don’t know what is.
Yesterday I was lying on the couch, nursing a headache and listening to Still Processing, a podcast by Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham, two New York Times writers who usually talk about pop culture. But this time they talked about what their lives are like now that they’re trapped in their apartments. Wesley said he hadn’t hugged anyone in a week. It made me sad, and at the same time, I felt comforted just hearing about what they were eating for breakfast or how they were sick of the smell of Lysol and bleach. At times like this, we need not just the big headline news, but the details of people’s everyday lives.
That’s why I’m writing this blog. I want to share what it’s like for me to go through this crazy time, and hopefully hear what it’s like for you. And maybe it’ll make us all feel a little less alone and afraid.