Guest post by Jonna Huseman

How has your life changed since the community has been impacted by Coronavirus?
Since the community has been impacted by COVID-19, I have been fortunate to maintain employment and be able to work from home in Silver Spring, rather than take Metro all the way to Rosslyn, Va. Once a week, my partner or I grocery shops with a facemask on, and we try to order take-out from a local restaurant once a week, too. To stay active and sleep well at night, I have been exercising in some way, shape, or form and getting outside—at least for a little bit—daily. We are also finding new ways to connect with our family and friends, including a weekly Zoom session with family across the globe, dropping off baked goods at the doorstep of friends’ and family’s homes, swapping puzzles with neighbors, playing games online with friends, and FaceTiming with the friends and little people in our lives that we love so much.

Are you working more or less?
Interestingly enough, I am changing jobs in the middle of this pandemic, which means that I wrapped up a job and said farewell to my coworkers virtually. It was a new and strange experience to participate in a virtual farewell party, to take off without giving any hugs, and to leave my laptop on my manager’s desk in an empty office. For the new job, the whole interview process took place virtually—and very quickly—before my new employer went into a (understandable) hiring freeze. Paperwork was mailed to the HR person’s home and a new laptop was mailed to mine. There will be a welcome lunch via Zoom on my first day and an all-day virtual new employee orientation taking place in a few weeks.

What are you most afraid of?
I’m anxious to see when and how we’ll gather with others going forward and how many of the small and local businesses that give our area character will be able to survive and thrive after this pandemic. But I’m also worried about something much more personal—the ability to travel and spend time with my dad. My dad lives in Thailand and just recently started treatment for his stage-4 lung cancer in Bangkok. Prior to the pandemic and prior to his diagnosis, my partner and I, and my brother and his family in the U.K., had plans to visit him in Thailand and celebrate his 80th birthday together in June. With necessary restrictions around travel in place, I’m now concerned that he won’t have the family support he needs to get through his cancer treatment (we’re unable to fly there), and that we won’t be able to celebrate his birthday together in Thailand as planned. Fortunately, he is tech savvy, so we are in touch daily via LINE, a messaging app.

What are you most hopeful for?
I am hopeful that this experience will help everyone refocus on what’s truly important in life— your health, feeling connected with the people you love, and the great outdoors. May we learn to find joy in the little things and never take for granted our health (and those individuals that work to keep us healthy and cared for), the gatherings, celebrations, travels, and shared experiences we will get to enjoy again, one day soon. 

What has been the most challenging part of this experience for you?
The most challenging part of this experience was managing the anxiety I initially felt. During the first couple weeks of being at home, I found myself waking up extra early, between 4-5:30 a.m., unable to sleep anymore. I was snacking throughout the day and also found myself celebrating the end of each workday with a cocktail or other alcoholic beverage. I am not a morning person, nor am I much of a snacker or drinker, so I figure this is how my mind and body were expressing anxiety around the situation. I’ve reduced the amount of news I allow myself to consume each day, which has helped tremendously.

Is there anything—even a tiny thing—you enjoy or like about sheltering in place?
Now that we are multiple weeks into sheltering in place, I’ve found myself leaning into the quiet, at-home activities that I’ve always loved—cooking and baking, puzzling, caring for our plants, reading, making art, organizing and decluttering, home improvement projects, and practicing yoga in my living room and backyard patio. I’ve jogged on Sligo Creek Parkway, taken long walks in my neighborhood, and admired the flowers in my neighbors’ yards more than I ever have. I’m grateful to live here in Silver Spring in our cozy home.

What do you think society as a whole will learn from this experience?
I think this whole experience has been a lesson in how interconnected we all are. Our actions and words have the power to impact one another, for better or worse, locally and globally.

How are you coping with stress/taking care of yourself?
Through working on projects at home, regularly practicing yoga and running, connecting virtually with friends and family, and getting outside daily, I have been able to create a safe space for myself at home. That bubble is broken, however, when I hear the news of middle school, high school, and college friends’ parents passing due to COVID-19 related symptoms. It’s heartbreaking. It really hits home. I get chills all over my body and I can’t help but be empathetic and worried for everyone. I’m trying my best to stay positive through this, but this virus has the ability to make one feel so helpless. 

When future generations ask, what will you tell them about this time in your life?
When future generations ask, I will tell them that there was a period of time when disease spread across our globe rapidly and there was no clear treatment or cure. People were required to stay home to minimize further spread of the disease. Businesses were forced to shut down or adapt, schools closed and moved to distance learning, and large gatherings were cancelled. Healthcare workers, delivery drivers, grocery store employees, and other essential workers kept working, risking their health to provide the bare minimum needed for our community to survive. People leveraged technology to stay connected with the people they love and tried to maintain hope and positivity that the virus would be contained, a vaccine would be developed, and we could go back to living life in a way that was familiar.

What would you like your friends and neighbors in Silver Spring/Montgomery County to know?
I’d like to thank my friends and neighbors in Silver Spring for taking staying at home and exercising social distancing seriously. This is all very scary, but let’s try to stay positive. As things become more challenging, let’s remember to reach out to one another for help and offer support to one another when we can.

Mike Diegel