Like most people, my life has turned upside down this month.
Last week I was in New York, for what would turn out to be a five-day visit instead of a three-week trip to four cities. I’d been there less than 48 hours when the emails started popping up: cancellations and rescheduling. The one event that wasn’t cancelled was drastically downsized. My hotel was emptying quickly, crowds were disappearing. Everyone was scared. What would have been a busy and lucrative month was now a financial disaster. Fear of the unknown – and so much is unknown about COVID-19 – overwhelmed every other consideration.
Still, I remained oddly calm. All of this – every bit – is out of my control. There’s nothing I can do to change or fix things. My daughter moved to Daegu the day the announcement went out that it was the epicenter of the epidemic in South Korea (she’s fine – more than fine). A number of my friends live in retirement communities and are on lockdown. I have to remind myself that I’m in a high-risk group by virtue of my age. That’s a sobering thought.
So, what to do? I lowered the price of the Fag Hags, Divas and Moms ebook on Amazon. I took an unusually empty Amtrak back to Chicago, unpacked and did some paperwork. Started spring cleaning. Booked an event for late April (fingers crossed). Almost everything cancelled in March can be rescheduled; that helps. Signed up for webinars and online events that I would not have been able to do if my trip had continued as planned. Then something sweet and unexpected happened.
Long ago, I set up Google Alerts for topics related to my books and for my name. A couple days ago I got an alert attached to my name: an article in the University of Sydney (Australia) student newspaper about my book. You can read it here. You never know how far your book reaches, so this was a delightful surprise. I emailed the editors, asking them to thank the writer. They responded and put us in touch. This is part of what he wrote to me:
Your book is an important contribution to the history of the pandemic. I always suspected that women played a forgotten role in the pandemic – it was your book that gave me the specific stories that confirmed this for me and I just knew I needed to get out my feelings on the matter.
As a gay man today, it is my women friends who are my biggest allies and I hope that I can be just as much of an ally to them.
So many of us are physically isolated right now, and that isolation has driven home just how necessary our connections are to our well-being. I suspect – and hope – that those are connections we are unlikely to take for granted ever again.
We can still make phone calls and even – GASP! – send cards or letters. And we have this little thing called ‘the internet’. That means we can FaceTime and Skype and Zoom. We can email and text and tweet. We can connect with others, even those half a world away, in seconds. Though Aiden’s email did not solve any of my problems, it made me forget about them.
So, instead of obsessing about the news, reach out to those who are isolated. Reach out if you’re isolated. Do it every day. Maintain those relationships and build a new community. They will be stronger and happier for it.
And so will you.