It’s COVID-19 USA 10-April-2020.
I wake up feeling less fragile. I walk and listen to a podcast on Captain Crozier. A few hyacinths have emerged in the back yard, and tulip and daffodil leaves are up as well. It’s bitterly cold, with a gusting wind. I miss the gorgeous flowers in Lima. But soon, we’ll have some of our own.
Toward the water, I notice a strange brown birdlike shape hanging from a twig. For a minute, I’m afraid to look close; is this some weird bird suicide thing? But it’s a seed pod. I think maybe….milkweed? It’s beautiful and strange.
Of course, it’s wonderful to be home. Our bathtub. My own office. My books. My bathrobe; you can’t take a bathrobe on a trip when you’re trying to keep your packing minimal.
Most of all, my kitchen.
I do the same things I normally do: the crossword, the NYT briefing, go through email.
I have zero urgency to write. There is no story. After a couple of hours, I’m very, very tired. So I take a nap.
I wake up hungry, and make a dish with rice, sweet potato, cucumber, top with a fried egg. I made something like it in Lima. But I have to admit, it’s a lot easier and less frustrating to be using my knives, my pans, my oven, my stove with four burners that all work.
Still, when I finish, I feel like I can hardly move. The exhaustion, I’m sure, is normal. 2 nights with very little sleep, but more than that, the constant stress of checking to see what had changed. Was there a flight for us? New restrictions from either government? Everyone at home ok? Did Boris Johnson die yet?
(I admit to becoming minorly obsessed with this last; I didn’t want him to die, of course, any more than I want anyone to die, but the irony of someone who’d downplayed the virus getting a severe dose of it got into my head. As an English friend pointed out, certainly Boris would be at the top of the list for one of England’s few ventilators. As I write, he’s been moved out of intensive care.)
Let’s Marie Kondo the Shit Out of That Closet (a saying courtesy of my son)
I am as bone deep tired as I can remember ever being. But after reading a half dozen cookbooks, always a particular solace to me, I decide I will tackle 1/4 of my closet for 45 minutes or so. I don’t have a ton of things that Spark Joy, but most of the stuff sparks something smaller, a wry smile, maybe. I manage to purge a fair amount, including a few bras and pairs of undies that spark fury. I hate uncomfortable underwear.
I’m also shocked at how much stuff I have. After living in two skirts, a couple of sports bras, my baggy-butt boxers, and a tank top for 3 weeks—it was too hot in Lima to wear much of anything else—I realize I just have too much. It feels exceptionally good to free up some space, and also to know the contents of various drawers. It generally takes me a while to make decisions on what, exactly, I’m willing to throw out. But I’ve planted the seed. Over the next few months, I’m sure I’ll manage to pare back to less and less. At least, I hope I will.
When I return downstairs, Steve is sitting with his feet on the marble plate that backs our free-standing fireplace; it’s a perfect footwarmer. Other than to pick up mail and a few groceries, he’s barely moved today, just read. I’ve never seen him so still.
The gender restriction has been lifted, we find out, as we’re still on the Embassy email list. It shows the governments’ responsiveness. On the surface, the Man Day 3 times a week and Lady Day the other 3 times—with Sunday being Nobody Day—seemed logical, an easy way to cut exposure in half. But the lines were dramatically longer with each passing day; when we left on Wednesday, they stretched back past vanishing point.
It wasn’t working, so they ditched it. Wow. What would it be like if the people in charge just paid attention?
Our friend Claudia in Lima says people are ok, staying positive. But of course the continual quarantine extensions are tough. I tell her the low death rate in Peru from COVID is impressive, and she says, “Yes, we have to keep remembering that it’s working.”
We promise to stay in touch, to see each other again. Steve and I are going back. No question.
I text with my family. Absolutely no one but me is surprised at my exhaustion. My sister Julie tells me to to give myself plenty of time, rest, and comfort.
I tell her how much I love my stove. She writes, “How could an inanimate object be so important to the way you nurture yourself? But it really is.”
Wow. My family. They are awesome.
The Marcus Aurelius Moment* of the Day
From my sister Julie, more than from anyone else, I’ve learned that being kind to myself is the first step in being kind to the world. That to give myself time, rest, and comfort is to learn how to give it to others.
From her husband Frank, that generosity has no strings. And that living large is the way we want to live.
Oh, Frank, how I miss you. We would have had an awesome discussion about this whole trip. Shine on, you crazy fucking diamond.
*In the first part of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman ruler details what various people in his life have taught him. To read the full intro to why I care about Marcus Aurelius, click here.