I remember the day the streets went dark. Well, not dark, because we still had electricity, but they went empty. Not completely empty, because some people were ignoring the dire instructions from the governor. But still, the virus had come across our borders, with only months’ warning. Nobody saw it coming. But it changed our lives overweek. Or maybe it should be overmonth.
“Shelter at home,” they all said. It was a term I had to look up, but then I realized I didn’t, because I knew what each one of those words meant separately, and then drew a conclusion.
My teenage boys were at my former husband’s house. I had no idea how to reach them to find out if they were OK. Text? Snapchat? TikTok? All the apps were still working. It was as if the virus had no power over them. That was something nobody could have expected.
As you can see, I’m going a little stir crazy, being home alone, so I’ve begun writing in the language of “Post-Apocalyptic Author Speak.”
I am trying to keep myself busy during this whole Stay Safe, Stay Home, Stay Alone. (I added that third part since I’m single and my kids are currently sporting fevers and under doctor’s orders they have to stay away from me, not because they have COVID but because my immune system has been compromised).
So I thought it would be useful to share a top 10 list of things I’ve been doing to keep myself busy, in case it could help some other bored person.
1. I started writing a book about a chubby middle-aged woman who finds herself in a post apocalyptic world due to a global pandemic no one saw coming. She is one of the few survivors, because she is single, and she can social distance the pants off of anyone else. She’s learned to hunt for toilet paper and survive, but little does she know that her blood holds the answer to the virus. She is aided by two very hot, but very different guys who are drawn to her special abilities to uncover the date when the next shipment of supplies arrives at Harmon’s.
2. I’ve binge-watched “Unorthodox,” “Babylon Berlin,” “Ozark,” “The Sinner,” all versions of “Pride and Prejudice” and two versions of “Emma.” So I know everything there is to know about Hasidic Jews, the Weimar Republic, the state of Missouri, detectives with a limp, and catching a husband in 1806 England. And, of course, I watched “Tiger King,” and know absolutely nothing new, except (SPOILER ALERT)... I’m pretty sure she killed her husband.
3. I completed my first-ever 500 piece puzzle, and I had no idea how fun it would be. It was all I did, for hours on end. It was all I could talk about. It was harrowing when I got to the sky (curse you, sky, with your stupid same color all over). When I finished I took pictures. It was as if I had done the painting myself.
4. So then I tried painting the picture. And then I went shopping for more puzzles.
5. Did you know that puzzles are almost as hard to find as toilet paper? Apparently doing puzzles when a family is stuck at home is not a novel idea.
6. I’ve tried not to worry about finances, and I’ve tried many different ways not to stress about it, but by far the best way to do that is… Oh look! A tree!
7. I’ve showered. No, you don’t get to know how often.
8. For three weeks in a row I’ve forgotten to take my garbage cans out, because I never know what day it is. And three weeks and one day ago, my former husband cleaned up my yard and put it in my garbage. And said, “Thank goodness your garbage day is soon.”
9. In fact, I’m going to take the cans out now.
10. And this one is probably most important: I’ve been reaching out to friends to check how they are.
So, that’s how I’ve been spending my days. I’ve been trying to get outside for a walk, even if it is just halfway around the block. I will never complain about being forced to stay home, because then I think of people like my brother-in-law who is a doctor for the VA, who is forced to leave his home in a pandemic, and face strangers and sick people every day, all to make us better.
I think I’ll look for a puzzle that spells out THANK YOU.
Brodi Ashton is a New York Times best-selling author who lives in the Salt Lake City area. She’s also an occasional columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune.