And Again

Back when we still paid for cable, I sat, mid-morning on my carpeted floor, back against the couch, a sandwich and chips by my side, and watched hurricane coverage. As the hurricane made landfall, I couldn’t pull myself away from the Weather Channel. I waited and waited for something, anything to happen. Never mind that it was three days later, when camera crews could bypass high water and downed trees that I actually learned anything about the destruction. I’m doing this today with the coronavirus.

Johns Hopkins University blogs a map with lots of cool data. Outbreak hotspots colored in red. Statistics for total cases, total recovered, total dead. It shows a line chart displaying the growth curve of the virus. Until this morning, it showed an arc resembling an airplane taking off, or a Nike swoosh in reverse. Right now, the curve flattens out. No growth so far today.


This is an illusion. I’ve been watching this chart for days. Around seven o’clock this evening, they’ll update China’s numbers, the swoosh will return. In the meantime, I scour the internet looking for new data. My fix. Settling in on a site, I hit the refresh button, again and then again. Waiting for the numbers to change. Of course, I could simply hold out until seven and pull up the Hopkins chart, but how will I feed my addiction to information until then.

It exhausts me. For the past two days, I’ve looked for excuses to get away from my laptop.

Who wants to go grocery shopping?
I do.

I’m going shoe shopping; anyone want to come?
I will.

Can somebody clean the cat box?
Me, me!

Today I went for a run. After walking to the top of THE HILL, I sat down on a rock and pulled out my phone. Let me explain. My go-to run is a trail loop around the Gettysburg battlefield. Most of it is pretty flat; a couple of long moderate hills get me breathing hard; and two short, steep hills are brutal. One of them, sort of resembling a slanted wall, comical. On Christmas day, I led a hike for Susan’s family visiting from out of town. Two thirds of the way through the hike, we came around a bend in the trail and faced THE HILL. Susan’s cousin actually gasped. I always walk THE HILL.

Since last summer, I carry a phone when I run. My pace slowed dramatically over the past two years. Sometimes, really slow. I check in with home when my run takes longer than planned. Once, last spring, I walked in the house at the end of my run to find Susan getting her coat on to drive out and look for me. Another time, she was already in the car. Now I send a text: Still running, all good, back in thirty minutes.

So where was I? Top of THE HILL, sitting on a rock, checking my phone. I needed a coronavirus update. New cases? More deaths? Human transmission in America? Yes, I interrupted my run to gawk at statistics. Fortunately, my phone was dead.

Sitting here right now, writing, crowded in my family room with my wife and two kids—Eli playing Grand Theft Auto, jacking cars and running down pedestrians; Susan reading her book, inching closer to bed; Sophie in the recliner, sniffling, coughing, cooking a fever of 101 degrees, doing her best to imitate a coronavirus patient—I periodically click my websites to see what changed.

Susan called me on this just before dinner. “Are you checking coronavirus stats again?” Earlier today, I confessed to her I don’t like the way the news is making me behave. While doing this, I undid her assumption that I shoe shopped with her because I’m sweet. My brain insists I keep up-to-date. If I don’t know about the two new cases in California, something bad will happen.

Something bad happens anyway. Every time I check, I find a few new cases, the numbers always climbing. I calculated a projection in my head while I ran. The CDC says the fatality rate is 2%. I think that’s low, but it made my math easy. Say all seven billion people on earth get sick, that’s 140,000,000 deaths. Closer to 8%? 560,000,000—a half a billion.

“Dad, not everyone’s going to get the coronavirus.” This is Sophie, I reported my calculations to her after my run.

“Yeah, they will. That’s what always happens in the books I read.”

“No one in New Zealand has even gotten sick. Maybe they never will. You should find some different books.”

I’m starting to drive everyone nuts. “Dad, it’s the only thing you talk about.” Really, it’s the only thing I think about. The troubling part, this epidemic is just getting started. I need to settle in, temper my reaction (or at least keep it to myself). I have to go to work and be productive. Sleep through the night. Be a parent and not be annoying. Be present as a husband. If I only write about the coronavirus, no one will read my blog.

I’m fully aware that my mental health is faltering. I need to get a grip. Susan and I have been married for twenty-three years. She’s my voice of reason. I don’t even need to talk to her to hear her advice. First and foremost: It’s out of your control. Worrying won’t help. And then: If you stop checking the internet every three minutes it won’t be so present in your thoughts. Step away. Doesn’t she have great advice?

Despite the hold the coronavirus has on me right now, I won’t blog about it again until March. By then, I’ll actually know something about the seriousness and the threat. Maybe I’ll have developed a coping strategy—something more useful than repeatedly freaking myself out with Google.

Stay safe, stay healthy, stay off the internet.

— Jeff

For the rest of my pandemic series, read:

33 thoughts on “And Again

  1. If I were Susan, I would take FULL advantage of this situation and have you running all of my errands and doing my laundry – just to keep your mind off of everything!!! I would also have u deplete the honey-do list. 😂😂. Happy to see you inserting humor into all of this!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It’s probably unrelated, but I really like how you chronicle in detail about how you feel, every step of the way – in every post. When I write, it almost always feels like I’m on the verge of diverting into the third person, about a concept, an issue, almost as if I am trying to divert away from the way I really feel.

    And no, you are not alone. I check the details plenty, too. My country is pretty small, yet global. Hence the worrying on my end. Thankfully, I don’t have to go out much, and there are work-from-home options. But still…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ah, man… I feel horrible for you! How sucky to not be able to get away from this! You’ve certainly showed all of us readers how OCD can hijack your life.
    Maybe you can curate your song lists for your spin classes for the season instead?
    I hope you’re able to keep from spinning (see what I did there?😂) out of mental health bounds🤞

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha. Last week in spin I used “End of the world as we know it” – I just can’t get away. I did a wordpress search on OCD and was really surprised that I didn’t see any other posts talking about the coronavirus. I would think this would be front and center in everyone’s mind.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Well, last night I got sucked into the ending of ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ and I thought about nothing else for two hours. Blissful. I highly recommend the book. Next on my reading list is ‘Station 11’ which is an exquisitely well written book, but it’s about a pandemic. Questioning the sense in me reading that.


  4. This was a great post. I can’t help wondering how much time you put in it. I’m also thinking about how you mention sometimes how the posts you think the least of get some of your best views and I’m wondering if maybe we all connect deeply with your unedited story. I’m also thinking about how you sometimes say your self centered because your blog is just about you and I can’t help but think of how you have a pack of followers who want to hear just that – your story. Your perseverance and self control is inspiring.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I put between 2 and 3 hours into all my posts. This one was on the high end mostly because I didn’t finish it on Sunday night so it sat a day with me poking at it. Plus I don’t count the running time where a lot of the ideas come together. I’m sure many would question my use of time but I get so much out of delving into topics like this. BTW your last post was really impressive.


  5. When I was reading this I found myself thinking of time I would be telling Bob “You can miss some of the game – the only thing that matters is the final score.” Which of course blows his mind for any big sporting match has to be watched to make sense of the final outcome. I’m sorry, Jeff. I hope that you can find a way to break your cycle and take some deep breaths. Thinking of you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re sport analogy is a good one, especially since Obsessive tendencies are always so present in sports fans. (Perhaps I’m fortunate that I never got into sports voyeurism). Like all things I blog about, I understand it better now which will help me combat it.


  6. Hi Jeff, I admire your honesty. I’m sure your family has already said this but stressing yourself out will cause you to get sick, probably not with the corona virus but with a normal cold/flu or or psychosomatic illness. The mind is powerful and stress can lower your immune system. I think stress is a root cause in many diseases actually. Checking the stats will increase your anxiety, try to avoid the news if you can, the news is notorious for repeating the same info, and they get higher ratings by highlighting disasters and causing panic. You’re a healthy runner, I bet your natural immunity is high. Don’t let the news bring you down.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sure, I recognize that they are going to find the absolute worst news to publish because it’s what keeps people like me coming back. I guess I can take small pride in never clicking the ads. Other than taking pills, I’ve never really taken any action on my OCD and before this I would have said it was mostly gone. N eed to delve into this further.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think you’re very aware of yourself, and that’s essential. I have anxiety and insomnia. I think my mind is trying to worry/future trip to be safe, I traced my anxiety to my coping skills that I learned during trauma in childhood. My mom and sister had a lot of anxiety, I think also caused by trauma, not quite PTSD but similar. We all do the best we can, within our circumstances.


        • I didn’t directly experience the physical abuse and I’m very introspective, I’ve been sensitive since I was a child, I actually think that helps. Denial doesn’t help at all. I think my sister and mom show signs of PTSD but not my brother, although he endured the worst violence. People are resilient. Christianity helped my family to cope, but I’m not Christian. I like teachings attributed to Jesus though.


  7. I check the same map three times a day.

    The Spanish Flu killed 50-100 million people 100 years ago, without our ease of mobility.

    Any rational human being should pay attention to this. It may not be as “dangerous” as the flu, but that map we’re watching suggests that it may overwhelm our ability to treat it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for that Ray. Three times a day would be an excellent goal. I haven’t counted but I assume I’m around 100. I’ve run multiple scenarios in my head and short of a treatment or vaccine, I’m sure this will be a memorable health year globally.


  8. If we die, we die. We need only ensure that *when* we die, we can look back with no regrets.
    I rather enjoy that you’ve managed to turn the pandemic OCD into a series. 😂
    Please go for another run to clear the head? You will drive yourself crazy!


  9. I am not a hill lady myself. Hate them. But I have a pretty obsessive brain. Maybe some climbing would help it! Thanks for being real. Your writing is very engaging.


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