Column: From a distance

Published 7:54 am Saturday, March 28, 2020

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We have been asked to practice social distancing or, for those of us of a certain age or with underlying medical conditions, self-isolation. Since I work mostly from home and have for some time, you would think that it would be a small adjustment. It isn’t. This is different. The feeling of being disconnected or alone can be overwhelming at times.

I don’t have a solution. I do have suggestions that over the years seem to have made working from home a little easier for me. Establish a routine, similar to a routine you would follow if you were going to the workplace. Take your morning shower, get dressed for the workplace and go to a designated work space. I don’t always follow this advice. On many occasions, you will find me working in a bathrobe, with a sticky note on the table reminding me to make sure I get dressed before my wife, Annie, would get home.

My workspace is a coffee table, a computer, cell phone and notepad. This rather casual office space is full of distractions, but anyone who has worked in a newsroom should be used to that. Since most of my news desks were in common areas with the sounds of teletypes, audio news feeds, television newscasts, computer beeps and irreverent chatter, I can’t work without distractions. For many, perhaps most of you, a designated work room with a door might be a better option.

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I find the most worrisome aspect of self-isolation to be the inability to meet or see family and friends. With Outer Banks bridges restricted, would my son – who lives across the state – be able to get home if needed or if further restrictions are imposed, would I be able to reach him? Probably not. My texts and calls to him have increased and he has reached out more, too. I talk to my brother every day and to my best friend. We don’t dwell on the virus crisis, but it is always on our minds.

I have set up a family Facebook group, communicate with other friends through social media and have reconnected with a cousin in Ireland, a friend in England and another in Australia. What has become – or is becoming – more apparent is that we are all in the same boat. We are sharing a mutual experience and reaching out while we still can. As long as we have internet and cell phone service we will remain social animals. If we can’t reach out and touch each other, we will continue to care about each other and reach out the best we can.

I just learned that Annie’s cousin, his wife and their three grown children are sick. They live in New York City. The “City” and state of New York lead the country in COVID-19 cases. They are currently not going out to get a test, as they have limited availability. Instead, unless their symptoms worsen, they will self-medicate and self-isolate in an effort to protect the community. I’m not sure they are making the right decision, but they are doing the best they can.

I’m sure many of you have received similar news from family and friends. We can only watch from a distance and hope and pray it turns out well for our loved ones. We can’t appreciate our doctors, police, fire, emergency responders and health care workers enough. Also, those among us who are keeping a semblance of normalcy in society. Two weeks ago, I doubt any of us thought about the workers who are keeping our water and electricity on. The volunteers that are feeding our school children and seniors. I doubt we would have regarded the grocery, restaurant or fast food worker as essential. But they are.

Before I return to try and find something I haven’t seen on Netflix or Amazon Prime, let me be as clear as I can. These are only thoughts on how I am coping. My words, my thoughts shouldn’t be regarded as a guide to what you should do. I’m figuring this situation out on the fly.

As more regulations are implemented, I expect most of us will do the right thing, not all but most. We can’t tailor the regulations to fit our needs. Caring for each other, being strong for each other will require each of us to follow the rules.

Visit your federal, state and local websites for the latest advice and closures. Stay informed. Knowledge, even in uncertain times, is the best defense. Keep in touch with those you know and love. Let’s support each other if only from a distance by electronic platforms. As surreal as this situation feels, it is the new normal, at least for the foreseeable future. I am confident our elected and appointed officials will try to do the best they can to stop this viral villain.

Gregory Clark is a staff writer with The Coastland Times. Reach him at