How the Virus Has Altered My Soul


“Morning Light on the Books” by cogdogblog is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

Here I sit, on Day 50 of my personal lockdown….quarantine….social isolation. It’s raining outside. Again. It’s nearly May, but it’s still very cold outside my window. The thermometer hasn’t touched 40 degrees yet.

I’m cooking.

I’ve been cooking for 50 days. Baking bread, desserts, bagels and high energy bars for my daughter, who is nursing a 10 pound newborn. Working on my vegetarian recipes in the face of some food shortages and in anticipation of more.

I’m OK. The initial feeling of terror has receded into the dull ache of constant worry. I’m not lonely because I’m with my husband of 43 years and I am able to see my daughter and her children who are part of my isolation crew. My children are healthy. My siblings and my Mom are OK at the moment.

It’s OK. Right now, its OK.

But I feel like someone other than the me I’ve known for 64 years. The sense of the surreal is no longer only about the world around me; now I feel surreal myself.

I can’t read.

I always been an avid reader. I love to read. I was the second grader who got into trouble for sneaking a book into the girl’s bathroom and forgetting to come back to class. I was the young woman who read every day on the subway, relying on an internal sense of time to help me recognize my stops. I was the woman who read a book while I was in labor, and read while I was nursing my kids. I have been known to read while making dinner, stirring the pasta, reading a paragraph, adding some salt, reading another paragraph.

I used to read National Geographic and professional journals while making middle-of-the-night bathroom visits.

I’m a reader.

So why can’t I read now?

I have started three different novels and have abandoned them all. When this all began, I was in the middle of a non-fiction book on American politics. I’ve barely turned a page since then. I have two magazines that I haven’t even opened.

It feels as if my mind has become a dragonfly. I drift across the surface of the lake, touching down briefly here and there, then flitting back into the air.

I can’t concentrate on the characters in my book, because my thoughts are flitting around too fast. Did I feed the dogs? I should start the marinade for the chicken. I hope my sons are holding up, working from home. Do they need anything? Is the baby sleeping better? And I can’t forget to turn the compost.

I’m also a writer. I process everything, usually, through writing. My many political rants, my deep feelings about my family, my days as an elementary school teacher. I write about it all, when the world is in its usual state.

But now that inner flitting dragonfly is keeping me from completing a thought. I have short stories started and set aside. I have articles on politics, history, food, family, all sitting silently in my Google Drive folder.

I don’t feel like me.

Some day, in a future that’s getting harder to imagine, life will feel normal again. We’ll go back to shopping, meeting friends for dinner, going to the beach and the mountains. When that happens, I hope that I can morph back into myself.

The woman who reads and writes and can hold an idea in her head for longer than a minute.

Until then, I think I’ll go online and make a bulk order for black beans and look up some Mexican food recipes.

9 thoughts on “How the Virus Has Altered My Soul

  1. Karen – I feel the same way. I am finally beginning to read again but not with the same vigor. (And, that is not normal for a librarian!) This happened to me once before during a period of stress. I describe it as a chipmunk skittering around in my brain. I just hold onto the thought that it will end someday.

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    • Hi, Linda!! I remember brief periods like this (after each baby was born!) but never this feeling of flitting about. I love the image of the chipmunk; that’s it exactly. Hope you’re well and hanging in!!!

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  2. You’re not alone in this, either! I’m a reader/writer like you, and am struggling to do both these days, even though I’m not conscious of feeling particularly anxious. Your ‘dragonfly mind’ is an apt description. I long to get lost in a book or a new piece of writing again!

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    • thank you for this! It helps just to know that I’m not losing my mind, that others are going through it. My daughter just had her third baby, is dealing with her two toddlers and a baby who needs weekly doctor visits for club feet; She’s still flying through books like she’s done her whole life! Terrible example for me!

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  3. You’ll morph back into yourself, but you will appreciate it all the more. I so look forward to that day. Appreciate is much too weak a word for what I will feel. I’m already crying at the thought.

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  4. The isolation is so very hard on us, and what you’re feeling is normal. Just be gentle with yourself and don’t feel that something is wrong if you aren’t able to complete a task or find yourself anxious. Take care, and hang in there!

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