Guest post by Jonna Huseman

What is your profession/involvement in the community?
Healthcare consultant and soprano. I sing with the Washington Metropolitan Gamer Symphony Orchestra, WMGSO. I’ve lived in the area for four years and I host and attend brunches, potlucks, game nights, and meetups in the area. I played D&D [Dungeons & Dragons] once a month with friends from the neighborhood.

How has your life changed since the community has been impacted by Coronavirus?
I gave birth to my son in early February so I was expecting to be somewhat isolated. Then coronavirus happened. My husband and I were only able to have a few visitors before we realized that we had to stop all visits in mid-March. Now, we’re taking one day at a time and trying to keep busy. I put a list on the refrigerator of all unfinished home projects, so we’ve been working through the list with supplies we already have. My husband has also been making Montessori-friendly toys for our son out of cardboard boxes and printing paper. 

Are you working more or less?
I’m currently on maternity leave so I’m not working my regular job—but I fill my days with other activities. I’ve been researching Montessori early education for infants and trying to implement as much as I can. I don’t think daycare will be an option by the time I return to work, so I’m trying to structure our home life to accommodate my son’s developmental needs. I’m also taking classes on Udemy offered by the MCPL so that I can build skills. I have a pair of old pine chairs that I’ve been reupholstering and refinishing. When my son is taking his naps, I sew masks for neighbors and friends who don’t have access to one. I resolved to give away as many as I could until I run out of supplies.               

What are you most afraid of?
I’m afraid of this virus. I’m afraid of catching it and I’m afraid of my friends and family members catching it. My mom works in a group home, my sister works in a pharmacy, and many of my friends are doctors, so I’m particularly afraid for them.

I’ve had variations of the same zombie apocalypse nightmare for the last 15 years. In this nightmare, I’m working with a group of people to try to hunker down and wait out the zombies. We’re trying to gather supplies, rescue the living, and secure our location. The scary part of this dream is never the zombies. It’s the person who leaves the door unlocked or the window open. I’m afraid of people are leaving the door open for this virus.

What are you most hopeful for?
I’m hopeful for a vaccine.

What has been the most challenging part of this experience for you?
Managing the moment-to-moment dread has been a real challenge. Sometimes I just feel this overwhelming dread that something is very, very wrong and I can’t do anything about it. Distracting myself when I feel this way has been very helpful.

Is there anything—even a tiny thing—you enjoy or like about sheltering in place?
The rest of my family lives in Missouri, so I only get to see them once or twice a year. Now that we’re all sheltering in place, we have a weekly family Google Hangout where we catch up. I love the connection that technology allows. It’s not perfect but it’s something. My son has been able to Zoom with his 92-year-old great-grandmother. I play D&D virtually twice a month with friends using Roll20. I’ve gotten in touch with some friends from college who I lost touch with over the years. I have weekly philosophical discussions with one of these friends and I really look forward to them.

What do you think society as a whole will learn from this experience?
I think we will learn that we’re all so much more interdependent and vulnerable than we previously thought. I think we’ll learn that things like a livable wage and health insurance that isn’t tied to employment are long overdue.

How are you coping with stress/taking care of yourself?
I had really severe adolescent depression and anxiety. When I was in therapy I learned about Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). I use the mindfulness and distress tolerance skills that I leaned. I exercise when I feel like it. I do yoga in my backyard when the weather is nice. I don’t consume any news when the weather is gloomy. I’ve started watercolor painting again as a way to distract myself and express my emotions. I’ve been donating to food banks and local hospitals as I am able. I’ve started reading the Bible again. I’ve been listening to the YouTube lectures on the “Psychological Significance of the Bible” by Jordan B. Peterson. His thoughts have really given me reassurance and hope that if we do the right thing, we will get through this.

When future generations ask, what will you tell them about this time in your life?
In these difficult times, one thought has really resonated with me—the necessity to live in a way that justifies suffering. With all that is happening around us, it would be easy to default to nihilism. The world is chaotic. There is suffering. There are people whose sole aim appears to be worsening the suffering of others. The courageous thing to do in these circumstances is to choose to live right and do what you can to ease the suffering. Beginning with yourself, treat living beings as sacred and deserving of care. Seek opportunities to make your life and the lives of those around you a little easier. Eat good food. Gift good food to others. Engage in joyful movement of your body and encourage others to do the same. Reach out to those you care about and brighten their day. This is leadership. This is listening to the need around you and answering the call. 

What would you like your friends and neighbors in Silver Spring/Montgomery County to know?
I’m so grateful for all of you. Even before the guidelines were put into law, people were social distancing and trying to help those in need. I have personally benefited from the generosity of my neighbors and I have sought to be generous in return. Thank you all for caring for one another. It has been a salve during these times.

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