From the Anthology 

Pandemic Writing

“Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity," wrote T.S. Eliot. To help make productive use of our self-isolation and social distancing, Lit Cleveland is offering free writing challenges each week via our newsletter. The following piece is a response to the Negative Definition prompt.

Not Your Mother's Coronavirus

by Lisa Ferranti

I make lists of things to do during this time of responsible staying at home. Practical things: overdue house cleaning; walk the dog more; catch up on laundry. Also, meaningful things: watch movies with my family; cook meals together; re-teach my daughter euchre; talk. And we’re doing these things, and sometimes it’s wonderful, and sometimes it’s forced and we try again the next day.  

Not on the list? Read the news obsessively. Google “Coronavirus and Ohio” more times than I want to admit. Pore over articles that talk about how, yes, COVID-19 is a Coronavirus, but it’s different. Vastly different.  

I’m part of the online writers’ community, which is a lifeline for me, along with my local writing group, not only at times like this, but always. Yet, these are the first words I’ve written in weeks. So many gracious writers and organizations are posting prompts and ideas about how to use this time to write more. But my two teenagers are now home from school, my husband’s working remotely, I’m still working from home, only with three more people in the house than normal. We are lucky. We still have means to make a living. We have food, shelter, Internet connection. We have toilet paper (though not excessive amounts).  

Any complaint I voice will sound like I’m not grateful. And I am. But worry is trumping gratitude right now, or at least eddying for equal time.  

My son is a high school senior, passionate about music. Will there be end-of-year performances? Graduation ceremonies? He needs to soon make his college decision, and although I’m excited for his future, I worry it’s not a good time to send him off into the world, just as I worried about bringing him into the world three months after 9/11.  

My daughter is adopted from South Korea. She’s finding her way, her identity. When I hear stories about xenophobia, my stomach clenches. So do my fists, figuratively, at least.  

I experienced a pulmonary embolism in 2016 after routine foot surgery, and I’m lucky to be alive. I am not a pessimist, but I now have a seed of fear, and I catch my breath when I hear of people with severe respiratory failure, lack of respirators. I check to make sure I still have the inhaler I was prescribed last fall for bronchitis.

My mom, grandmother and aunt all died from lung-related illnesses. My aunt, who passed last September, had severe COPD. She was under hospice care, and the other day I received a routine six-month follow-up call from a hospice worker, which I appreciated. But nothing is routine anymore, and I was shocked at what I told her: Part of me is glad that my aunt is not here now, that I don’t know if she could have survived this.  

I am not normally one who has these kinds of morbid thoughts. I am not a monster. But these are extraordinary times.