My first reaction to the pandemic on March 12, 2020--after securing toilet paper and hand sanitizer--was to help my family and the nonprofits I was working with weather the storm. “It's only for two weeks,” everyone said. “It's going to be so much longer than that,” I said. “And, the effects will last for years.” Turns out, the pandemic itself was going to last for years. By nature, I'm a planner. I like to have a strategy. Even if crazy things happen, if you have a plan, you can pivot. The early days of the pandemic drove me to my computer. I made lists. I'm a big list-maker. I already had a solid plan in place for the nonprofits before the pandemic hit, so I wasn't worried about that. If they stayed the course and remained proactive, they would be fine. Becoming reactive would have been a disaster. At home, my parents had recently moved in with me after selling their house. They have never been worriers or list makers or planners. While my kitchen pantry upstairs was prepped with at least two weeks of food that we could survive on, theirs was bare. Up until COVID-19, my prepping was in anticipation of a blizzard or power outage, not a global pandemic. Did my parents have canned goods? No. They picked up fast food or did take out every day for nearly every meal. Did they have a supply of toilet paper and paper towels? No. Were they worried? No. I was. At my computer, I had lists of what we needed to do to get ahead of this crisis. I had never pre-ordered and picked up groceries before but in our new contactless world, it was heaven-sent. Of course, I went right to Amazon to order masks, gloves, disinfectant, and later, when I became really COVID-savvy, a digital, no contact thermometer and a pulse oximeter. And then, the world froze. No one was going in to work anymore. The stores were empty and the shelves were bare. I no longer had to think of excuses to get out of my over-committed weekends. Suddenly, there were no plans. I had everything I needed. My lovable dog, Toby, was by my side every day. I saw my masked niece and family in socially distanced gatherings from ten feet away in driveways and on decks. My friends and I Zoomed. My neighbors group texted and did porch drop-offs of freshly baked bread and goodies. I signed up for online yoga, painting classes, interesting virtual tours of fascinating places in the world, read books, cleaned my house, and watched YouTube videos on how to cut my own hair, which was not my best idea. I used to cherish days when I didn't have to drive to work, saving me sometimes two or more hours of commute time. I always wondered what I would do with extra time. Would I exercise and eat right? (The answer to that is a resounding “no”.) Writing has always been something I've enjoyed. Sometimes, if something bad happened in my life, I would imagine a story inspired by the true events. Only, I'd make it twisty. If someone was a jerk to me, well a character inspired by that person might find themselves killed off in the story, involved in a ridiculous crime, or on the receiving end of sweet karma. Or I would see something happen in real life--maybe a near-miss car accident, or someone buying a winning lottery ticket after they changed places in line, or a stray cat whose eyes told me that he had an interesting story--and I would imagine and wonder “what would happen if” and then I'd write a story about it. I never did anything with the stories and most times they went unfinished. Just the act of writing was therapeutic. I'd always said that if I had the time, I would write. Not just for work, but for fun. Write just for me. Suddenly, the pandemic gave me time--all the time in the world. I was out of excuses. So I started to write. I found a short story contest to enter. Normally, I'm a pretty competitive person. I like to win. But in this case, I was well aware that I was a novice. Knowing this was my first try, I didn't have my usual high expectations or hopes of winning. I was looking at it as a learning experience. I would see if there was any feedback--if they said, “Don't give up your day job” or “Nice effort, try again.” And then came the phone call. My story was chosen for publication in an anthology. It didn't win one of the cash prizes or earn a judges' award, but that was alright. I was going to be a published author! I know I will continue working in the nonprofit field because, after thirty years, it's part of who I am. But now, part of me is an author too. I have a plan. I can see myself, in my retirement years, sitting at my antique desk in front of a big window overlooking the ocean or a tranquil lake with a beautiful sunset in the distance writing--who knows maybe even finishing a book. But I'll be doing the thing I didn't know I could do until the world temporarily closed.
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