On Not Believing Cassandra: My Covid-19 Anxiety


When the Covid-19 pandemic began, people barely believed in it.  My husband barely believed in it.  I was terrified for him.  When I tried  to explain why we needed to cross the street to avoid other pedestrians, he thought I was delusional.  “If you keep talking like this, I’m taking you to a doctor.”

Talk about Cassandra!  “So wait–you want to take me to a doctor for telling you about coronavirus?”  I was petrified:  the only thing worse than a psych ward would be the infectious disease ward.

Fortunately,  his boss sent everyone home the next day, and he started to believe.  I  am thankful he is working at home: I would not have had a moment free of anxiety otherwise.  Because, well, men try to be too brave.

Much of my time now is spent trying to be “normal.”  I have been anxious. The other day as I crossed a parking lot I realized I’d left my mask in the car, and loped back to get it.  I’m always on alert:  the  anxiety has settled in my vertebrae.

Today I did a yoga/meditation workout for people with upper back pain. Ah!  During the stretches,  I could feel the chest and back “opening up,” as they say.   The instructor kept telling us to breathe deeply–I can’t hold my breath long enough, though–and focus on what we were feeling.   I had a revelation near the end:  what I felt was rage.  

A lot of people are raging now.  Look at the protesters with guns, protesting shelter-at-home orders in Michigan, Wisconsin, California, and even Europe.  They want to go out!  They want to go to bars!  They’re spreading the virus, but they can’t stand to stay home.  

Then there are the many pouting moms writing essays about how hard it is to be home with their kids.  Yes, yes, but in the scheme of things, it’s hard to care.. They are (upper?) middle-class and made the  choice to have them.  And if they can’t  NANNY-up, too bad.  People are sick and dying. 

My own problems are minuscule right now.  We’re on top of each other, but at least we’re here.  

STAY HOME AND SAVE LIVES,  a plaque in the neighborhood says.

The politicians are…well, opening up the beaches.  But what wouldn’t I give to be on a beach, or at least on vacation somewhere.  Alas, I can imagine  inadvertently taking the virus somewhere or bringing it back home.  Not a good time for a vacation.

Reasons for Rage and Anxiety:  None of us have control right now.  None of us can prevent the stupid mistakes being made during the pandemic.

I think of all those women in 18th-century and 19th century novels, going on their walks. Have you, too, taken many, many walks lately?  Every time someone takes a walk in one of my books, I mark it.  The latest walk?  In Chekhov’s short story, “The Name-Day Party.”

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