What will live on.

Coronavirus, the experience, went as smoothly as it possibly could for me. I went through the fear and planning about three weeks before COVID-19 was on the public radar, and had fully implemented shelter-in-place for myself when the official announcement rolled around. I’m very grateful for this lead time, which has allowed me to feel calmer and more settled than most people around me in the current day. My life and disposition have also made quarantine life so much easier than for most people:  I have a stable job which is mostly work-from-home, I live with two of my romantic partners (I’m polyamorous), I have an exercise bike in my living room, and I’m an introverted workaholic anyway.

Not to say there weren’t hiccups, of course.

I was very worried about COVID-19 in the beginning of March. I don’t have any particular risk factors for COVID-19, but I’d been looking forward to having my breast removal surgery (for gender surgery) for more than a year in mid-March. To me, a major surgery like this meant:  try not to get sick beforehand, and really try not to get sick after, when I’d be immunocompromised given my immune system would be rapidly trying to repair the damage. I started planning how to get to the surgery: not public transport, maybe Uber, maybe someone’s car who had even less risk. It wasn’t at a hospital, that was good, but should I wear a mask when I went? How would follow-up appointments go? The list went on and on, but I was making arrangements and ready to go through with it.

And then a relative died, and my parents told me I needed to be on a plane to go to the funeral in three days.

This prompted my worst anxiety in years—not extreme compared to some others, but a very stressful time for me. I’d warned my family about coronavirus a week ago, saying I wouldn’t want to fly in the coming months, and they’d told me I was being irrational. I told them I really would prefer not to go, but they told me that this was important to them. They didn’t understand why I was as afraid since I didn’t have risk factors and everything was perfectly safe… but things did not feel safe to me, and I was also taking a big risk already by going through with this surgery. I hadn’t told them about the surgery at all in the previous year, and I didn’t intend on telling them about it now. They’d accept it, I’m sure, but they would feel sad about it and not understand it, and definitely would not appreciate me springing it on them now during such a stressful emotional time.

That was one of my worst coronavirus experiences—being one of the very few wearing a full-blown two-year-old P-100 mask in the airport in early March. Very worried about coronavirus, my family tolerating my irrationality indulgently, thinking about how I should probably reduce my risk factors and cancel my surgery. It was a fine visit:  everything went fine. I cancelled the surgery after, and rescheduled it for next January (there’s an 8-month wait). I’m grateful that I didn’t feel particularly close to this relative, when there would have been that emotional impact on top of everything else. I’m grateful that the major meeting I had scheduled during that Wednesday flight was able to be rescheduled. I’m grateful my family didn’t need a lot of emotional support from me during this period, since I wasn’t in a great place to give it.

None of us got sick from that trip, and my family was very accepting of me wearing a mask and is very accepting of me in general, so it could have been much worse than it was! It’s the small experiences, though, I think, with coronavirus. The one I see in a lot of people, the “oh no, this one-event-I-was-anticipating-for-years got cancelled, why is coronavirus taking away this.” Or this experience, for me, where I was being pulled in two directions—physical safety, and familial obligation—and I felt trapped, helpless, like people weren’t taking me seriously and there would be large emotional costs in both directions.

The other thing that was difficult about coronavirus (happily, this is now all in the past), was trying to figure out housing. I live in a large group house with several units and more than ten housemates. Not everyone wanted to jump on the quarantine bandwagon as fast as I did, even when they knew what was coming. Mostly this was because they didn’t have lives that very easily slotted into quarantine; my emotional, social, physical, and work needs were already mostly met by staying at home, which is highly unusual. My housemates also had different preferences about quarantine in terms of how absolutist they were. One approach we could have implemented in that early period was to gradually ease into quarantine, and another was to completely wall off one’s home from the beginning. I fell into that latter camp, because I am a big proponent of finding certainty and wrapping around it forever, and wanted it all settled.

My housemates started discussing, and differences rapidly emerged. What followed was a very stressful two to three weeks of negotiation, mostly via group text, wherein two people moved out of one unit, one person moved in, and three people were slotted to move in but didn’t. People argued about what they had to sanitize, what they had to report to each other, who they were allowed to visit, who would use which kitchen, who would use which bathroom, who would pay who’s rent, which rooms would be exchanged, who trusted who, what words meant. It was way more civil than it could have been, because my roommates are all generally generous and committed to good negotiation practices, but… damn, that was one of the most stressful communication periods in my life, and I wasn’t alone in that.

Things have settled down since then. Two of the units are in shared quarantine, and two of the units are in another shared quarantine. People are figuring out how to live in their respective units, and thank goodness no one is in dire financial, physical, emotional straits at the moment. I had fights with partners about how we were both behaving, and we managed to settle those and compromise with each other. I hear domestic violence is very elevated at the moment, and that feels pretty awful to me—the feeling of being trapped, and not being able to escape—and I’m grateful that in the end, everyone in our house ended up happy with who they were living with.

I think one of the most unique pieces of my situation is that I live in a group house of friends, not family, so everyone gets equal say over what actions should be taken and there’s no default loyalty. It’s pretty cool to me that we managed to make something work, and that we reached out to get a moderator who was willing to help make a contract for us. We have a lot of resources, goodwill, kindness and effort, and it amazed me both that this ended up working, and that was SO HARD.

It’s also interesting to me that what I’m experiencing right now—what people do when their backs are to the wall, when we’re under threat—is sinking into my subconscious, is shaping the way I am. My family on the plane, negotiations with my housemates, negotiations with my closest partner, what the side world is doing… they’re teaching me about people, you know? About kindness and generosity and options, and also about just how difficult it is when people have different preferences, ways of living in the world, and coping mechanisms.

Nowadays, I’m back to my normal life and mood, approximately, a month or so out since I first started reacting. I’m happily living with two partners, moved into a new room, have a fancy work-from-home setup, have income, have sunny days, have an exercise bike, space to introspect, a lot of Zoom calls, a few 6ft-away gatherings outside with friends, and am generally living a pretty damn good version of my life. I hear about coronavirus constantly from social media, so am somewhat up to date on the day-to-day happenings, but don’t feel overwhelmed. Some of my friends have been infected, but they have been mild infections. I’ve adopted a mentality that if there’s nothing that feels right for me to help with with coronavirus (I’ve been looking, but nothing seems like an especially good fit so far, though I continue to want to do altruistic work), then it makes sense to me to keep reasonably up to date so I can take actions as needed, but worrying otherwise doesn’t do anyone any good.

The sun’s bright outside. It’s strange, that we’re living in a period that’s going to live on for decades:  even when the virus passes, what we feel during this time will live on in people’s minds, emotions, and ways of living. And for me, life is pretty normal. I feel that when the bad times come close, there will be time to mourn then, and there is much to enjoy now.

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Photo by William Krause on Unsplash

This is part of a series attempting to share the many different stories of individuals as they experience the coronavirus pandemic.This blog post was contributed anonymously. Please be respectful of the views and beliefs of others if they are different than your own. If you or someone you know have a story you would like to share (anonymously or not), please feel free to send me a message or comment here.

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