The coronavirus pandemic will certainly be a defining experience of our lifetime, much the same way the Great Depression and World War II were for an earlier generation. It will forever alter our sense of vulnerability and our sense of our country and the world. There may be difficult transformations (for ourselves and society) as we recover, but there might also be bright spots and hope.
Each of us is experiencing this crisis differently based on our geographic location, job status, personality, and a hundred different elements, yet many of our feelings and fears are the same. We are going to be regularly publishing stories from readers that let us see how others are getting through the crisis. We think sharing lightens the burden for us and can help others too; knowing you’re not alone (even when you might be physically alone) can be calming and fortifying.
Please tell us your story here; we’ll send you a BOLD tank top as our thanks.
Here, we hear how Monette Bebow-Reinhard, who is in quarantine with her husband in Benoit, Wisconsin, is managing in her new normal.
What was your life situation and routine before coronavirus hit?
I got a job in late December that I’d often thought about applying for: administrative assistant at a tax office for the tax season. It was hard work but great fun, too. The staff managed about 2,500 clients, and our job was to get them logged in for appointments, prepare the documents for their signatures, and arrange for pick-up, too.
I often logged 10,000 steps a day and that took some getting used to. I bought several new pairs of shoes! But I was having a ball, the busier, the better for me. Then came the news—the office had to close to the public. Clients had until Saturday, March 21, to pick up their documents and sign, and after that, we’d have to do it by mail. I was told I was no longer needed on March 25.
Adjusting to suddenly being home in March meant my legs were going to have to go through another adjustment. I found a walk in the neighborhood I could do, but then the weather turned cold. I talked my husband into a treadmill. But my legs are having the hardest time adjusting again, as they did when I first started work.
What is your state of mind right now?
I’m a writer, with a lot of project work, but not getting any responses to anything. It feels like everyone out there is already dead. Even though I’m keeping busy, I’m going nuts. Travel is my second favorite thing. I just want to get in our car and go. But where? You can’t even go to a state park in Wisconsin.
What is your biggest fear/concern at the moment?
My husband is disabled, so of course I’m being careful for him. But so much of me just wants to get it and get it over with. This waiting to get sick is the worst.
If you’re sheltering with others, how is everyone getting along?
My husband tends to be less careful. He’s on a special treatment once every three weeks, and seems to think (thanks to the doctor) that he has some special immunity, which is foolish because it’s a rare drug for a rare disease. So I had to train him to be safe.
We went to the grocery story for just a few things yesterday, and I had to drag him through to get just those few things, where he’s used to just browse the whole store. He talks to neighbors without a lot of distancing—and our neighbors had a big Easter party at their house, too. And recently got robbed. Joe had to hear all about it.
What is your daily routine now?
Writing, trying to get up the energy to work out, more writing, playing with the cats. TV. My husband watches a lot of TV, but he’s also working in the garden. We have a very small fenced yard. Housework gets done, when it needs to. We’ve lived in this town only a couple of years so we really don’t know anyone. I’m hoping the weather warms up so I can get on the bike again.
What is the most important thing you do for yourself everyday to maintain your mental health?
My writing. I don’t even like to talk to my kids much because they grill me about how safe we’re being. I hang out on Facebook too much. But I’m learning to control my temper and my fear. I’ve always feared living in a virtual society. Please don’t let this be it.
How often do you go outside and for what?
Just groceries. A few things between the big shopping days. I asked my husband if we should have them delivered, and he gave me a terrible look. They don’t deliver here anyway, I guess. Once every three weeks or so we’ll go to a drive-through for a burger. I take my walks, but there are few people in the area where I walk. Today I walked on the railroad track. Never did that before. But at least I was out of the wind.
What’s the first thing you want to do when life returns to some kind of “normal”?
Go to the movies. We were so excited that our local theater got bought out and the new owners made all these great changes, like heated reclining seats, just before they had to shut down. I’m afraid they won’t be able to re-open. I have a haircut appointment for a week from tomorrow. Still not sure if I should keep it. The governor just extended stay-at-home—to May 26th! I suppose I’ll have to postpone my birthday, which is on Mother’s Day this year.
How do you see yourself changing from this pandemic experience?
I can’t imagine. I can’t imagine ever getting another job again. I think I’m bad luck. I can’t imagine we’ll both survive. I think one of us will. Life’s on hold. I don’t know who we’ll be on the other side.
How do you see society changing because of this pandemic experience?
It’s very frustrating to see how little has changed so far. People are protesting! They’re out there protesting that they have to stay home. They’re putting themselves at risk by being stupid. But I don’t see why our lock down has to be extended that far. Wisconsin had in-person voting on April 7th. We should know already if we have a spike in cases. The great thing is that it was GOP failure that forced the voting, and their candidate lost. So I’m proud of our state for that, and hope…well, I fear that there will be more crime before this is all done. I don’t see people pulling together very well. Isn’t this teaching us to be selfish?
What else do you want to tell us about your experience?
It seems no matter how safe you’re trying to be, if you’re going to get sick, it will find you. Every night when I go to bed, I wonder if I’m sick. I don’t want to give it to him. I hope he gives it to me.