Dispatch from the self-quarantined

On my mind



What a week.

Last month, I happened to ask for three days off this week for my own self-care. I made no plans to go anywhere or do anything. A staycation essentially. Little did I know this would end up being during a national emergency, where we’d all be called to quarantine ourselves, practice social distancing, work from home, leave school, cancel events and stock up on hand sanitizer and food, because of the outbreak of the new COVID-19 coronavirus.

My anxiety has been all over the place and I’m sure many of you feel the same. I’ve tried to keep myself as informed as possible while not overly consuming news to the point that I’m overwhelmed. Since I’m working in a newsroom, that’s rather hard to avoid but these days off have given me somewhat of a break.

I’ve gone out a few times so far to get coffee, ice cream and go to the optometrist. I felt guilty and nervous each time I did it but there was also something liberating about going out to enjoy simple pleasures and to try and establish some kind of normalcy. That metro ride into D.C. was eerie as everyone sat in seats far away from each other without even saying a word. I have avoided touching any poles, doors or escalators and furiously washed my hands again after (which I do anyways after using public transit.)

I got a little scared yesterday because I had been feeling unusually tired all day and felt some aches, plus a stuffy nose later at night. The amount of helplessness I felt was unreal as I rushed to the CDC page to review symptoms and protocol on what happens if you feel sick. Was it all in my head, just allergies or something more? What would be the point of even calling a doctor just to be safe, when testing is already difficult to get for people unless they have more severe symptoms or can prove they were in contact with someone with COVID-19. It’s all very confusing.

What I’ve tried to focus on is that I’m not a high-risk individual, so what I can do to help take care of myself and care for others during this stressful time? I am staying home as much as possible. Drinking more water and taking vitamins. Washing my hands even more than usual. Sharing information that’s accurate, useful and not alarmist, as well as good news to balance things out. Donating to any nonprofits or causes that will be seeing a dip in fundraising income because of canceled events and trips and lack of volunteers. Checking in on the elderly, homeless community, students and other vulnerable people who may need extra help and comfort. Also taking time to do fun and relaxing things like draw, play piano, nap, read, bake, and re-organize my apartment.

There are a lot of people taking advantage of cheap flights right now but honestly I’d caution celebrating this, because is any trip really worth risking your health or that of others around you, setting aside all the complicated travel restrictions and self-quarantine period you’ll have to observe when you return? Maybe if you’re planning way ahead, sure, but what’s wrong with us just slowing down and not thinking about a future we are not owed or for certain?

It’s been humbling to witness all the stages of disbelief, fear, panic and resignation around me and to also experience those emotions myself. I’m thinking about the healthcare workers who are on the frontlines of stopping the virus. I’m also thinking about people who have endured the outbreak of other major infectious diseases before and have run from crises like war, famine, natural disasters and poverty. What kind of strength and resiliency they must have had to get through such terrible experiences, while not knowing if anyone cared about their struggle or if they would scroll past their lives like an inconvenient headline. Now that we all feel vulnerable as we learn of new cases in new cities every day, we are desperate for attention and protection and support.

This is the time to examine ourselves and what we truly want for society—access to healthcare, stable housing, food security, flexible work, paid sick leave—so that it doesn’t take another pandemic to remind us of how fragile we are and what we owe each other. Hopefully, we are all better off after this has been contained. #Flattenthecurve.

What I’m noting

  • 🦠Coronavirus coverage // The Atlantic has been putting out some fantastic reporting and analysis on topics like the do’s and don’ts of social distancing, what you can do to slow the outbreak, and delays in U.S. testing that they are providing outside the paywall, which means all readers have unlimited access to these stories. Please consider getting a subscription to support their hard work.

  • 🧼Wash Your Lyrics // If counting to 20 seconds or singing Happy Birthday while you wash your hands is getting boring, you can use generate a poster with your favorite songs that will fill the same time.

  • 🎧 Floodlines // Just started listening to this new narrative podcast hosted by The Atlantic’s Vann R. Newkirk II that delves into the stories and lessons from Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath in New Orleans. Katrina is one of the most tragic and misunderstood events in American history and the people who lived through have a lot to say about what happened. You can listen to all the episodes out now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

  • 📋The US Census // The 2020 Census has started! Make sure you and your community are counted. This matters for many reasons, including distribution of federal funding and state representatives in Congress. It’s super easy to do this now that all Americans can fill out the form online.

  • 📺What to binge-watch while self-quarantined // Don’t spend all your time alone reading news. This is a good opportunity to enjoy what entertainers and artists have created for us.

  • ♀️The radical roots of International Women’s Day // International Women’s Day was March 8. The holiday was created more than a century ago by socialist movement leaders impatient for equality for women, which is not the context we generally hear about today.

That’s it for me. Please stay safe and healthy, both mentally and physically. I’d love to know what you’re all doing to adjust to different working and living routines. And as always, let me know what you’re reading, listening to or thinking about, so I can feature it in an upcoming newsletter. You can always hit reply to this email if you want to share or just say hi :)

Have a good weekend!

— Nesima

Buy me a coffee!