How is Your Pandemic Journal Going? Keeping track of a once-in-a-lifetime experience


Mine exists, but it is scattered among blog posts, long group emails with my oldest friends, notes I scribbled during phone calls, quick notes about our weekly Zoom family dinners, texts with my book group, feedback from my writers group, a postcard I received from a friend sheltering elsewhere, photos I’ve taken of empty streets. I have screen shots of Broadway casts Zooming, dance, comedy, song parodies, new songs, musical tributes to artists who died, citizens singing and banging pots out their windows to honor those on the front lines. I have articles about a place I visited before I realized it was teeming with COVID-19, along with my boarding passes to get there and back home on full planes. Then there are links to recorded Zoom calls, my AmazonSmile order list, Instacart receipts, a list of the series we streamed every single night, and my list of things that I got done that otherwise did not have a chance.


I’ve gotten this far – I know that my collection is a massive display of human resilience that highlights the courage and intelligence of the people I found I could count on. Included are stories of people figuring out how to endure heartbreak and find gratitude. On the other side, pinpointing the exceptions – the denial and resistance to reality of some that slowed our response has to be in the picture too. I could spend hours trying to create something cogent out of my fragments, but instead I’m putting them all in a box as is. It sounds like I’ll still be collecting for some time so who knows how big the box will need to be in the end?


It’s too soon to sum up this experience. The virus unfolded like wildfire, while awareness came along slowly, my own awareness, despite careful attention to the news, unfolding even more slowly. It seemed odd at first, then hard to believe, then impossible to believe, and then we were trapped.


It seems to me that it cannot – and should not – be tied up neatly as if it is comprehensible. That will take years, maybe decades, only when perspective has arrived and we know the end of the story. In ten years, when families look for that perspective, or in forty years when later generations hear about this pandemic, will they be curious enough to ask?


I think that going through my pandemic box will be the right way to understand what it was like – picking up each item as if it had arrived just that day, measuring it against what was known the previous day. Experiencing the new threats as they were revealed. Support that arrived just when needed, reclaiming of old friends that re-cemented relationships that had drifted. Welcoming the treatments, awaiting the eventual vaccine. It may not end so cleanly that there will be a celebration, but if so, that’ll be in there too.


Whatever form your pandemic journal takes, I hope you will save it. It will be quite a find for your descendants, and for yourself.

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