The Lockdown Diaries: Week 4

Photo of random paint on newspaper at my workspace! Maybe I don’t need to try so hard.

by Janice Nigro

This week, well, I believe we are into week 4 of lockdown in California and about to enter into week 5. I’m writing this at 72 hours without leaving my apartment. It starts to be a real test of the stretch of your imagination on what you can do and what there might be to write about.

I’ve reached deep into the what’s there to do chest. I’ve even listened to a podcast on the coronavirus in Norwegian. I remembered a few words, but it reminded me of how beautiful the language is to listen to. And that I failed at becoming fluent in it, even after seven years.

Part of being a writer is to pick a new angle on what’s going on around you. And not much is going on around me. I’m supposed to write about science, because it’s my background, but I really like to write about travel. Travel is right out. I’ve tried looney ideas in my head. Could I give a descriptive, exciting walking tour of my apartment? Since I gave up the old one with the view and I can no longer go for walks on the beach, about the only great feature of my apartment is that I can still hear the ocean if my windows are open. There are no ghosts, no history, only the sounds I hear around me.

It was unfortunate timing to give up my old apartment with a view of the ocean and a balcony for a little more space just a month before the lockdown started. I have no view of the outside world except for the construction workers who pass by my window many times each day. Construction remains an essential business, at least in Southern California.

Or maybe lockdown is like my travel adventures. It’s something I’ve never done before.

I spend most of my time in my office. With the blinds closed. I don’t want the workers to see what I’m really doing in here. I do get up, shower and get dressed each day by 8, but it’s what freelance workers do anyway. I’m used to being home alone.

I’m surprised though at how easy it became to not go for my 4 mile walk in the morning on the beach. I do miss them. Walking by the sea is one of the best idea generating/problem solving methods I have. My walks on the alley street or to the grocery store seem more intentional than the flow creating beach walks. And it’s whale migration season. I wonder how many are stopping by to say hello and whether they miss us or are glad humans are locked up.

So I fill my time with other things to do. Not cleaning or organizing which I am ashamed to say after so much time in lockdown hasn’t progressed much since the week I moved in. My apartment is functional, which is about as good as I can ever seem to get.

I try different ideas out to write about. Like what’s happening with friends and family living around the world.

Everyone has different problems. Only one might have been sick with the virus but nowhere near death. Everyone seems to be wondering what to do next with their lives. With this gigantic pause on our activity button, people are forced to look inside. At least I am. Making enough money to survive and see a little bit of the world doesn’t seem like much to ask for, but it’s a lot really. If the way you make money doesn’t fill your soul, at least on some level.

Topics to write about, my niche has been an ongoing experiment, a test of my will to try new ideas. And to keep at it. Because people like to disagree today just to disagree. I think it’s easy to criticize online when you yourself haven’t put out any effort. That’s how I see it. A quote by Teddy Roosevelt struck a chord with me this week.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.

Social media, marketing, and the press have never seemed more desperate or trite. Most of what I see online is criticism for the sake of criticizing. From the cheap seats. Without solutions. It’s easy to say you could have done it better after you have the data from someone else’s failure. Criticism is part of my training as a scientist, but it works best if I provide solutions. Or steer the discussion toward a solution.

I live alone, so my problem is being alone. Or where to get toilet paper or hand soap. When will the store get back to normal? It’s funny to talk about it, but I refuse to use these problems as new distractions from some of my bigger goals. They are not taking the place of editing my book (which I’ll probably never publish) or painting my little paintings I print on cards. They are not an excuse not to do something bigger with my time. Or attempt to.

It was however a major coup that I nabbed a refill size of the hand soap I like at the pharmacy over the weekend. I was out, and I refuse to buy a brand I’m not going to use. Even when the choices are slim. For a couple of weeks, all that was available were bars of soap in supersized packages that I would never use. And there are still no paper products in my grocery store, at 8 in the evening anyway.

Other people in my life have to manage relationships where one or the other is still leaving the house for work. It’s managing contact with the outside world and the possibility of infecting those who have to stay at home. I didn’t think about how stressful that could be. Or how it might change the dynamics of a romantic relationship.

We become fanatics at decontaminating. At self-distancing. Do we need help with that, I wonder.

I ask questions I couldn’t have come up with before now. Do you put lipstick on before you go out with your face mask on? Or, what is the real risk of spreading disease through my reusable grocery bag? The security guard now won’t let you in with it at the grocery store. We’ve become a military state in an instant, even in California. Is anything going to happen that will make my lockdown diaries interesting? And my favorite, where are all the paper products?

Until next week, keep on going…


©Janice Marie Nigro/

Looking for a scientific editor or writer? Contact Janice Nigro at Janice Nigro Ink. I have published in Cell, Science, and Nature, and articles I have edited have appeared in Cancer Research, Clinical Cancer ResearchPLoSONE, the Journal of Surgical Oncology, and Oncotarget.


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