Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Wuhan Flu Journals

While we are all stuck sheltered in place, time can be heavy on our hands. Those who usually work in an office may be realizing at first how peaceful it is to work from home—and then, a few days later, notice how easy it is to get a lot of work done in so little time. It's a short leap from that discovery to witnessing how slowly the clock drags after all that work is done with still more workday to get through.

For those with young children staying home, the realization hit sooner—perhaps because it is not as peaceful as it would otherwise have been in that haven we call home. Maybe that is why, not far into last Monday's routine, #homeschooling ended up trending on Twitter.

The fact that the fears swirling around us about this year's flu echo those of almost exactly one hundred years ago inspired some family history researchers to suggest we journal our day-to-day experiences as this crisis unfolds. "Imagine what we'd have learned about our ancestors if they kept a diary of their flu experiences," these folks say.

I imagine our ancestors had a little bit much on their hands at that moment.

Still, it's a valid point, and those of us willing to write about such things should consider the opportunity. After all, we may have a long slog of it with continuing "shelter-in-place" orders. Just think: if we do write our daily thoughts about these experiences and manage to keep them organized in one place, and if we keep it up for as many days as this thing takes to unfold, and if we don't chicken out and toss the whole mess after this episode passes, and if—and this is the big one—our children (and then their children and then their children after them) don't neglect to preserve our precious, aging little journal, then our story will make it to touch a generation beyond our own lifespan.

How quaint.

I wonder if more of the attraction of such an idea comes from the therapeutic effect writing itself has upon us. Writing gives us a moment to pause and replay the highlights—or low-lights—of our day, to rehearse the pleasing parts or nurse the hard parts through our memory. If all that therapeutic benefit transforms into a log of our life—if even a small sliver of it—and someone else benefits from it, all the better. But it is likely the chance is as good as if a total stranger from a future age found a message in a bottle washed up on the seashore. A curiosity, at the least.

Certainly, I'm grateful for the letters our family his preserved, and the diaries that have made their way into book form from upheavals such as the many wars our country has faced. They do provide us a glimpse not only into the times of our ancestors, but the character of the people in our families from those past generations. But they wrote not to preserve a historical document of what would someday become important; they wrote because they felt a pressing need to express themselves—in some cases, a desire to connect with others who were important to them.

If there is any need to write in the midst of this crisis, it is in that that we should take pen to paper and preserve our thoughts. There is something therapeutic in that act. And we all know how much we need that balm right now.


  1. Good idea! I guess I write about it on the blog for the most part. I may not say how scary it all is...:)

    1. I'm so glad some of us genies have kept up on blogging. Sometimes, that's the only way to keep in touch, now...


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