So here we are, all of us working together to stay apart.
My life hasn't changed that much, to be honest. It's true that I no longer run into the grocery store every day because I need broccoli or oranges or bananas and come out $116 poorer, with every kind of foodstuff except broccoli or oranges or bananas.
Now I aim to grocery shop no more than every 10 days or so, but thus far, my aim is terrible. By the time I master planning ahead, the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis might be in the rearview mirror.
Probably not, though. As I understand it, this virus is a life-changer, the kind of long-term issue that might require accommodations more permanent than temporary. We can either make adjustments gracefully or be dragged into the future by the armpits. I've never been particularly worried about personal dignity, but the last time I was hauled squalling into an uncertain future, I was in the birth canal.
Actually, that's not entirely true. As a 5-year-old, I attended a private kindergarten for six months. I was so terrified of the school's rigid teacher that I 1) hastily reingested soup that I had eaten and then vomited right back into the cup and 2) threw a tantrum every single kindergarten morning for 24 weeks.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Her poor mother." So am I, now. At the time, I was unable to think beyond not wanting to put on my socks, not wanting to put on my shirt and not wanting to go out the door to the station wagon driven by the affable kindergarten chauffeur, Al. Every day, I was literally carried kicking and screaming to a place I didn't want to go.
Looking back, I wonder if kindergarten gave me the pragmatism necessary to face today's pandemic. To go forth and ... not go forth.
To be honest, though, following the experts' guidelines is almost too easy. I'm an introvert; an order to stay home, stay home and then stay home some more is not what I would consider hard time.
Early on, I also hauled from a cupboard a 1,000-piece puzzle, spread the pieces over two tables and started trying to fit a blue piece with black lines into another blue piece with black lines where I should know by now it doesn't belong.
"Some of these pieces really have to be shoved where you want them to go," my husband remarked the other day.
That we chose the shoving method the first time we assembled this puzzle is clear: Several tabs are wobbly; some pieces are bent.
The puzzle, a New Yorker cover of Barack Obama interviewing a line of dogs for the position of First Pet, isn't easy. I may never finish it.
No, I won't take that attitude. I will finish this puzzle, and furthermore, I'll march into the coronaviral future with determination and even pizzazz.
And I'll be patient. No jamming in pieces that should fit but don't.
No trying the same piece in the same place dozens of times, hoping for a better result each time.
I'll proceed methodically, follow the guidelines and end up with something I can admire.
I admit to twinges. I feel one every time I think about the postponed elections, the postponed Olympics and the truncated school year. All those high school seniors, denied proms, parties, awards ceremonies and commencements. Nursing-home residents can't receive visitors. Zoos are closed. The impact is like a slow-motion splinter poking under the skin a little at a time.
But a splinter is just a splinter. It works its way out eventually.
As long as doctors, nurses and other medical staff are given the funds and the resources to handle this virus, as long as the rest of us stay out of their way, the prognosis is at least hopeful.
So that's our assignment: Stay home, pet the dog, read novels, do the crossword puzzle and try for the millionth time to find the gray piece with a bit of brown along the edge.
Let's rise to the occasion of not rising to occasions.
We can do this.
Write to columnist Margo Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org.