Where We Are Now

I started this year with mixed feelings: on one hand, I saw 2020 as a new beginning; on the other, I wasn’t looking forward to the campaigning leading up to the presidential election. But I was determined to be as positive as possible; even I was sick of how negative I’d been since Trump was voted into office. I knew this would be a challenge because I’m not an optimist by nature (see my post, “Post-Election Hangover”). But the number itself—2020 (l have a thing about even and symmetrical numbers)–seemed like a sign that good things were on the way.

Then the news started trickling in from China about a new, highly contagious virus. Still, I wasn’t that concerned; I just assumed that it wouldn’t have much of an impact in the States. But here we are, on March 28th, with over 620,000 cases and almost 29,000 deaths worldwide, including over 105,000 cases and 1722 deaths in the U.S. alone. And these figures are obsolete as soon as I write them; that’s how swiftly this virus is moving.

This is more than a once-in-a-lifetime event. It may end up redefining the 21st Century. It certainly will draw a line in the sand of history. We will start referring to events as having occurred before the coronavirus pandemic or after it. (God willing, there will be an “after.”) Births, marriages, and deaths will be remembered for taking place in the year when everything changed.

That’s not to say that people haven’t always experienced things that divided their lives into a “before” and “after.” But it’s rare that something cataclysmic happens to the entire world at once. To look on the somewhat bright side, this could be worse: a nuclear world war or an asteroid hurtling toward the Earth, for example. But that’s not much comfort while we’re facing the scary unknowns of this pandemic.

We don’t know how bad this is going to get, how long it’s going to last, how many will die or be scarred for life, how many economies it will topple. Will it be as bad, or worse, than the 1918 Spanish flu? Will it decimate our populations? Or will we develop a vaccine in time to avoid near-total disaster?

I’m writing this while I’m off work because the library I work for has closed. I haven’t been out of the house for two weeks. My state’s primary election was canceled and is now going to be conducted by mail only. All my appointments—hair, dental, physical therapy—have been canceled. My grandchildren are probably out of school for the rest of the year. The one who is a junior in college is doing all his classes virtually. The last three times we got groceries, there was no yogurt, orange juice or toilet paper. I could go on and on.

But so far, no one I know personally has tested positive for the virus, let alone been hospitalized, or died. As long as we all stay home, I have the illusion that we’re somehow protected. But we have to go out sometime, and according to our President, it should be sooner, rather than later. (He thinks the economy can be “up and raring to go” by Easter, two weeks from now.)

I’m going to write about different topics in the weeks and months to come, but it will be hard to keep from coming back to the coronavirus, no matter what I write about. Because this is our new normal. And everything we do, think, and feel will be shaped by it.