Although I’ve never considered myself a New Yorker, I must admit that this Coronavirus outbreak has made me re-think my status. In a time like no other, my physical well-being is inextricably tied to the millions of people with whom I share the island of Manhattan. Although I’ve lived through a couple of major adisruptions—the attacks of September 11 and the Great Recession—this feels like uncharted territory. Whereas in 2001, we were unequivocally encouraged to “go out, spend money, and support local businesses,” to keep the economy humming, now it is the exact opposite. We are being called upon to distance ourselves socially to the extent possible. This. Is. Hard.
I do believe that for some people, this monastic existence will help them slow down to do “internal work,” that we often avoid in a hurried society. But, I also think that extended social isolation, economic dislocation, and health-related anxiety can cause a madness, of sorts. So, I’m trying to busy myself.
I smiled the other day when I saw a Facebook post of a long-ago bride’s mother. She was expressing gratitude for her knitting and reading hobbies during this bleak time. Personally, I’ve been on something of a manic Martha Stewart binge, making hand made cards for the holidays…first Valentine’s, then St. Patrick’s Day, and Easter, which is soon to come. Even though the glorious New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade has been canceled and churches have stopped having public worship services, I will not go down in defeat as a celebrant who flies the flag at every holiday, those belonging to my own religious and cultural tradition and those that do not.
I make a daily run to my post office on Hanover street, to drop off the latest round of cards. And, in a nod to the current situation we face, I’ve taken to including Central American “worry dolls” with the mailings. These are folk art objects that, according to legend, are placed under the worrier’s pillow. As she sleeps, the dolls help alleviate the anxiety. I sure hope they work.