The stores have empty shelves. The roads are almost barren. The markets whirl like an amusement park ride.  When humans emerge from their dwellings, they do so with the furtive movement of rats, squinting in the bright sun. Welcome to CoronaWorld.

Remember, if you can, what the world was like two weeks ago. Yes, COVID-19 was here, and yes it was a real problem. But two weeks ago, the stores were still full of toilet paper, and we could still eat at our favorite restaurants. If you are reading this, and are not living in an area affected by the shut-down of most public spaces, brace yourselves, because it is coming.

I’ve cautiously followed Coronavirus since February, watching with growing concern as it spread, slowly at first, and then with accelerating speed, across the world. But it wasn’t until Friday that the whole crazy mess finally penetrated beyond my cognitive drivers to settle deep within “I”.

I work for a corporation that operates multiple school bus companies across Illinois. On Friday, when the state shut down all schools for two weeks, all of the drivers for our company were suddenly without work. I thought that surely, I, too, would be furloughed, as all of our clients are shut down, leaving me with little-to-no real work to be done. However, the corporation I work for is allowing essential office personnel (words I’d never use to describe myself) to continue working during the shutdown. For this I am deeply grateful. At the same time, I feel deep sympathy for our drivers (many of whom are friends), that are now forced to apply for unemployment to help bridge the gap until schools resume.

The other piece of this puzzle is my brother. He is a doctor who works as a hospitalist (for those who don’t know, a hospitalist is like your PC (or GP if you are a bit older), but based out of the hospital directly. The first death from COVID-19 occurred yesterday at his hospital. Yes, he wears a mask to see patients, but even so, he is on the front lines of this battle. Needless to say, Coronavirus is now a reality for me, rather than an academic abstraction.

And here’s the thing. I’d hazard a guess that close to 95% of you have stories just like mine. COIVD-19 is directly impacting your life. The reality is, Coronavirus isn’t going away any time soon, and stories like yours will become increasingly common.

Despite that, I’m experiencing a fundamental shift in the attitudes of most people that I interact with, whether in real life, or in the virtual world. The shift is this. COVID-19 isn’t a partisan issue, and the fight against it is giving the United States something that we can all work towards together. Artists are giving away free online teaching sessions, musicians are giving free online concerts, and I even heard that one famous comedian was doing standup on his lawn, allowing his daughter to heckle him.  Our town is having people decorate shamrocks and place them in front windows, so that young children can do vehicle-based scavenger hunts on St. Patrick’s Day.

In much the same way that many Americans redefined themselves in the wake of 9/11, and rediscovered the community that we share, COVID-19 is similarly breaking down walls and redefining who we are as Americans. Although we may have to use social distancing to prevent further spread of this disease, we are isolating ourselves together, which draws us together even as we draw apart. I have hope that despite the tragedy of Coronavirus, some good will come from this time of shared hardship. I hope that as with the great crises of the past, the American people will orient themselves toward a single goal, and in doing so, push aside the petty distinctions that have been elevated between us since last the nation stared down a crisis.

Perhaps, you would wish that I speak more to the universal situation, but as I don’t have family or close friends living in the rest of the world, dealing with my own little corner of Earth is all I can handle at this point.

As the world draws in upon itself, and people are forced to make great sacrifices to help fight COVID-19, let us all remember one thing: we are united in our fight against Coronavirus, and whatever petty differences we had before don’t matter one iota in the face of this pandemic. Be kind to one another, and live in love, my friends.

And don’t forget- skip the Corona and go straight for the tequila.



The Struggle to Write

The hardest thing in the world is to just sit down and write. I’d never really thought about that before. I’d always had some impetus for plunking down in front of the keyboard and making my fingers lead my brain into some semblance of language.

Then, grad school was complete, the book was published, and my kids were getting older too fast. There were always good excuses for doing this: I need to go play outside with the kids before the weather changed, or I had an early meeting so I needed to go to sleep an hour early. And on, and on.

It has been two years now, more or less, where my writing has been sparse, and largely directionless. I’m working on (or dreaming about) multiple projects at any given time. And then I’m usually good for a few pages before I get bored and start dreaming of the next tale. Even now, sitting here and writing this has been a struggle. My fingers don’t want to cooperate, and my brain is ready to jump ship and swim for the nearest island.

But that’s the thing. For years, when I had external forces driving me to write, I built up the habit of sitting at my computer and staring at the screen until I completed my assigned work. Now, it’s just my diminished willpower that nudges me slightly into feeling like I should probably go and do more of the thing I’m good at, and spend less time on things that are simply distractions. I suppose that this will serve as an auto-confession made in the public sphere, in the hope that even this simple act will help me to reestablish the habits I’ve endeavored so hard to create, and need to pick back up.

So, stay tuned, devoted readers. I am going to push myself to get back into writing shape, so that once again, I can let the stories I need to tell find their way to the page.



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