The world is focused on the same news, but we are all living it differently. There are as many ways to experience this event as there are people. We are all alone, together. Waiting. Uncertain. Scared. And our stories flow from us like rivers.
We’ve all watched at a distance as this nemesis has leapt from country to country and each region of the world had to decide how it would handle it.
Places I love. Places I’ve lived. Places where I have dear friends. I will share some of their stories, but first my own.
I’m a mother and a wife. My family has been home for nearly three weeks. Three weeks that feel like months. My husband is working remotely. My kids are studying remotely. It’s monotonous until one of us gets sick. Which, eventually, I presume we will. I have two kids who need tending and meals prepared. Hugs are abundant and so are snuggles. I have physical contact with a husband I admire and love deeply. I am grateful for this.
But I have friends who are single and who live alone. Sheltering in place means hugging no one until this passes. It is profoundly lonely.
I have a friend whose father is dying abroad. He is isolated in a nursing home. He will die in several weeks. They will never hold each other again.
I have a French friend in Canada whose child is stuck in South America on a high school exchange program. They are frantic.
Another friend, in New Jersey, had to cancel her son’s bar mitzvah. I assume that would-be Olympians and would-be Broadway stars are feeling the same things as her son.
I have friends in Brooklyn, Rhode Island and Philly who have toddlers. All live in tiny apartments. There is no respite from childcare or space to think.
I have a friend whose cancer just came back. She must seek treatment immediately. Another had back surgery in New York and was separated from his children abroad.
I have elderly parents in Florida and elderly in-laws in Minnesota. Their images are blurry and their voices seem ever so far away.
I have friends in Africa. There are locusts. Crops have been devoured. Friends in Ethiopia say the hospitals are unprepared. That, coupled with the expected famine, can mean only death.
My friends in Spain and Colorado have closed their businesses. A dentist friend fears he has lost his heavily-leveraged empire of practices. My doctor friends are on the front lines. My nurse friends, too. They are my heroes.
I try to be an optimist. It’s kind of my thing. But it’s hard to do that when I see so much loneliness and fear. When I see the economy falling apart. When I see businesses shuttered and dreams deferred. When I know I must stay in my house.
The Fusco family in New Jersey lost four souls to this virus. I’ve never met them, but I send prayers from afar. Afar.
I offer you the one thing I have to give, the one thing that offers hope: my distance. Being far away is my greatest gift to you.
As we stay home separately together, know that this is the most important thing you will ever do. Every person you don’t see means lives will be saved. Together we can save hundreds of thousands of lives — by being apart.
No matter where you live, or what you believe, or how hard this is, or how untethered you feel: I see you. I feel you. I hear you. We are all alone, together.We are saving those we do not know. Yes, it’s difficult. But, I promise you are not alone in this — even if your journey is a little different from mine. Stay home. As it is only from this lonely place that we can heal.