Guest post by Jonna Huseman

What is your profession/involvement in the community?
I’m a freelance writer and editor. I write a lot about public health, and I’m a big public health advocate. I’m also host of the Deliberate Freelancer podcast.

How has your life changed since the community has been impacted by Coronavirus?
My day to day is actually pretty similar.

I’ve worked from home for six years, so that hasn’t changed. My husband also works from home, so we’re used to being around each other.

I think the biggest change is that I worry about everything now. Some days, I want to sleep all day, or I want to take a big nap because I can’t get my brain to stop spiraling. It’s not every day, but I definitely have anxiety. I just don’t know when it’s going to pop up, which days are going to be good, and which days are going to be bad. Anxiety is new to me. I’m a worrier, but I haven’t experienced anything like this before.

Are you working more or less?
I’m definitely working less. I’ve lost about half of my income because my largest client is now closed, so that contract is on hold. I lost a few other writing gigs. I’m working way less, but I really need to get the energy and motivation to find more work and not just to panic. I’m hopeful I can find more work—I have plans and referrals, but it’s definitely nerve-wracking.

What are you most afraid of?
I’m most afraid of my husband getting sick. He’s not high risk or anything, but I just can’t imagine—you hear so many horror stories of people who are relatively healthy getting sick. I worry about my parents and my brother getting sick, especially because they’re in Indiana, so if something happens I wouldn’t be able to get to them.  

What are you most hopeful for?
Science and public health.

I believe in science—which sounds crazy to even have to say. I also believe in public health professionals. Despite the fact that we have essentially no president, I believe the science and public health professionals will come through. I believe that we will have a vaccine at some point. When that is will remain to be seen, but I believe it is coming.

What has been the most challenging part of this experience for you?
I think it’s just the unknown. No one knows how long this is going to last, from a health perspective and from an economic perspective. I have some money in the bank, which is reassuring, but I don’t know when or if my clients will come back. How do I plan for something that is so unknown on so many levels?

I feel like I was scared of the virus the first couple of weeks—but then that wore off and I realized this is going to be long-term. We live in a very capitalistic society where our government doesn’t take care of our economics, so you’re really left to wonder what is going to happen.

Is there anything—even a tiny thing—you enjoy or like about sheltering in place?
One thing I’ve found kind of fun is how creative everyone is getting online. SNL was done at home and that was probably one of the better SNL’s in a few years. The actor John Krasinski created a show called Some Good News. It’s a pretend TV news show where he talks about good news from the week.

I like to reach out to people on social media. There are a lot of free courses right now that you can take advantage of. This week I had four webinars scheduled. I’m also doing an online yoga class with a person I used to know. She moved away so I couldn’t see her anymore, but now I’m able to do her online class each week and that’s been very soothing to me because I know her.

What do you think society as a whole will learn from this experience?
This might seem like a little thing to some people, but I’ve been very happy to see how more people are learning just how important it is to wash your hands. I’ve been writing about public health for years now, so I’ve been aware for some time about how viruses and germs spread. Because of that, I hated shaking hands and pushing elevator buttons because I found it disgusting. People are realizing that washing hands can prevent a lot of illness. The fact that more people are starting to understand public health I think is a good thing.

And to clarify, public health is the greater health of the community. It covers so many areas that people don’t think about, like clean water, sidewalks in our neighborhood that we can exercise on, or grocery stores where we can get fresh food. All these phrases that you’re hearing about: contact tracing, herd immunity with vaccines, social distancing, sheltering in place—these are all public health terms.  

How are you coping with stress/taking care of yourself?
I allow myself to sleep in. Overall, I’m just being good to myself. I’m not beating myself up. There are days that are completely shot. I don’t have to be productive every day. I’m just trying to give myself some grace. I’ve always really liked long, fast walks around my neighborhood, so I’ve been trying to do that. I’m doing this weekly online yoga class that’s been great. I’ve been binge watching a lot of shows with my husband.

When future generations ask, what will you tell them about this time in your life?
Not to be completely cynical, but I will tell future generations about how most Americans were unprepared and clueless about what a pandemic is. I think Americans, as a whole, tend to be very generous. I think we rise to the occasion in some ways, but I think we’re woefully naïve in some ways, too. Lives have been upended in so many ways, but I hope this will allow people to take a hard look at what’s important in life. I’ll be interested to see if people move to smaller towns and get out of the cities.

I would also say voting matters tremendously. I think the history books are going to be fascinating with the 2016 election, and then three and a half years later we have this pandemic with the worst person possible in charge. It shows that voting matters, that you need to do your research and really think about who the best leader would be in times of crisis.
What would you like your friends and neighbors in Silver Spring/Montgomery County to know?
I love Silver Spring so much. I think we have such a diverse and generous and creative community. I can’t wait to get back together with friends and neighbors again. I may not be hand shaking but I’ll be hugging everyone. I think it’s important to remind ourselves that not everyone in our country is well off. If any of us have the means to help out, especially by giving cash to local charities, I encourage that. I always think of Manna Food Center and Casa De Maryland. These organizations could really use the help right now.

Jonna Huseman is a family photographer who serves Silver Spring and beyond. During the COVID-19 crisis, she is using her free time to document the lives of friends and neighbors living through the pandemic.

Author’s note: Over the coming days and weeks I am documenting the lives of dozens of members of the Silver Spring and Takoma Park community. My goal is to talk to teachers and students, religious leaders, small business owners, frontline workers, parents, elected leaders, and private citizens. I want to learn about our collective hopes and dreams, our biggest challenges, and our greatest triumphs. Mostly, I want to build connection and create community at a time when we need it the most. If you live or work in Silver Spring or Takoma Park and are interested in having your life documented at this time—or know someone who has a unique experience and is willing to share—please contact me. To all those who have made this project possible, including Source of the Spring, I thank you for your time and generosity. To the neighbors who will respond in the future, I look forward to getting to know you. And to everyone reading—stay healthy and safe. We will make it through.

Mike Diegel