During the last month, I’ve slowed down and settled into a regular daily routine. Having a routine helps me to cope with the crazy pandemic news, the tragic pandemic news, as well as the hopeful pandemic news. I am still at home, going out only for needed medication refills or food shopping. The restlessness has begun, as well as some days feeling down. The sadness hasn’t hit me as much as the surreal qualities of our current world and what we can look forward to in the months ahead. I just read an email about what will be required of employees at my job in order for us to return to work. I feel like I’m in a disaster movie without a script.
So, I’ve tried to maintain my daily routine, like putting one foot in front of the other in order to move forward. I rise from bed to eat breakfast with national news on TV. I get dressed. Then I sit down at my desk to write. And I’ve gotten a lot of writing done on Perceval in Love‘s first draft. When I first got home on paid leave, I had been working on Chapter 12. I finished Chapter 20 this morning. I’ve made the decision to cut one chapter I thought I’d need so there will now be a total of 24 chapters. Close, very close to the climax.
The time I’ve had at home has also given me time for research and daydreaming. Most people don’t know how important it is to have time to daydream when working on a novel or any fiction, for that matter. The research is easy to understand. In the last week, I’ve spent hours on Google Maps, traipsing through the streets of St. Petersburg, Russia, in preparation for the final chapters. I’ve also researched the concert hall where Evan will conduct in St. Petersburg, running into notices about the pandemic at its website. Eerie to see foreign websites announcing concert postponements and alternate online concert viewing. It’s not only here in the U.S. As I’ve spent more time in St. Petersburg, my imagination has been returning to my personal memories of that enigmatic city, so steeped in sorrow and the past, struggling to be the “Window on the West” that Peter the Great envisioned. I find myself dreaming of Evan in that city, Evan trying to make sense of it, Evan shocked by how much Russia resembles his America.
About 12:30 p.m., I stop work on the novel to make lunch. I eat reading either one of the magazines I subscribe to, or a novel. Only recently I read a couple of nonfiction books about totalitarianism that would make your skin crawl. How human beings can want that oppression or do that to other human beings is a mystery to me. There is a fascinating psychological component that has turned out to be important for the Perceval series.
After my lunch break, I’ve been doing house chores, cleaning, sorting, de-cluttering, and organizing for 1-2 hours. While I’ve gotten a satisfactory amount of that kind of work done, it seems the more I do, the more I notice needs to be done. I’m almost finished with the cleaning, with my usual vow that I will do a better job of keeping up with it. I am hoping to make a big dent on sorting through files and throwing out what I no longer need before I must return to my fulltime job.
The last couple of hours of the work day I return to my computer to go online. I’ve been diligent in cleaning out my email boxes everyday. Once that chore has been done, I turn to either more research, blog post writing, shopping, or at the very end, social media. I’ve been grateful to social media the last two months for keeping me in contact with friends and relatives, as well as Skype. There have been some days when I’ve needed to connect with my boss and my job in order to stay in touch. And there are the public health updates from my state that I now check every other day rather than every day.
Evenings have been for exercise then a light meal, followed by some kind of entertainment, either TV, DVD, or streaming video. I’m glad I decided last summer to subscribe to Amazon Prime — I’ve been using it quite a lot, along with Acorn TV and BritBox for my beloved British shows. Then I hit the sack between 9 and 10 p.m. to read for a few minutes before turning out the light. I realized earlier this week that I’ll soon need to start getting up earlier, a few minutes each day, and going to bed earlier, in order to re-condition my body to my fulltime job schedule.
I am well and safe, and grateful for it. As we adjust to living with the SARS-CoV-2 virus — it’s not going to be eradicated anytime soon, unfortunately — and we return to jobs, social lives, and travel, I think we will discover that this virus has changed us irrevocably. We are not necessarily the top predator in the food chain anymore. We have natural enemies that cannot be seen with the naked eye. It will be up to each of us to protect ourselves as well as those in our communities by following the public health guidelines that will come out of this for us in the future.