The Era of Self-Isolation

I have a job in which I work from home, thankfully. On days like today I come into contact with less than oh, two people. Me and the Starbucks gal. There’s something to be said for solitude.

My husband said this week, “You are becoming more like me.”

By that he means that he has always avoided people.

“Yes,” I replied, “But not the good parts of you.”

I’ve always sought people out.

Even before the pandemic that’s disproportionately killing people my age and older was a thing, I led a relatively simple life. I don’t socialize a great deal outside of family and a handful of friends.

I am a terrible person when it comes to joining civic groups. It doesn’t matter if it is a Bible Study or a Book Club or a Political Action Group. I seem like the person who would be great at those things. My friend Lois moves into a new community and within weeks she’s collected a network of women around her. I can live in a place two years and still not know more people than I did before I moved to town.

I blame it on Brownies. In an effort to be a good 1960s mother, Mama signed me up for Brownies. I didn’t know a single person in the club and I never did get to know them. That wasn’t their fault. That was mine. I simply could never cotton to the idea of wearing a uniform. I hated gym class for the same reason. We all wore these stupid navy shorts that buttoned on the sides and were made out of twill. I’ve always been built like a lego block from shoulders to hip – no boobs, no waist – so those dang gym shorts never stayed button. Two Jumping Jacks and they were falling to my ankles. We looked ridiculous, sixty girls of all shapes, pushing our pelvis skyward in those navy shorts.

I don’t know what possessed me but I joined ROTC in high school. I was an utter failure at it. Those uniforms again.

Conformity isn’t my gig.

If I lived in North Korea, they’d shoot me for sure.

Still, as isolated as I tend to be, there are times when I do jet off to new adventures. I was supposed to board a plane for Kentucky next week to attend the Appalachian Studies Conference. I’d called my Tennessee kin and made arrangements to come see them for a few days, and was planning on making it over to the graves for Mama and Daddy, something I try to do a couple times a year.

But then the pandemic hit Seattle.


We have three nurses in our family. Two of them live and work in Seattle. The other is my son-in-law who lives here. So even before the first White House briefing, we were talking as a family about the virus and whether I should make the trip to Kentucky or not since it would require a layover flight out of Seattle.

It was a tough decision. Nobody wants to make decisions based on fear. Still, planes are petri dishes for bacteria, and as I already mentioned, I’m in the target demographic. Then I had to worry about would I carry anything if I did go, even if I wasn’t sick. And then the baby grand came down with a bad case of bronchitis and I became the caretaker all week.

By mid-week, I decided to cancel. I made the decision a few hours before my kin in Tennessee sent me the news alert out of Seattle telling all those over 60 to avoid going out. I know we hear all the time about how horrible the airlines are, but can I just put in a word for Delta here? They were fabulous. Refunded my trip. Told me to “Stay Safe.”

Stay safe seems like the perfect advice right now.

The question we all are pondering is how do we best do that?

I never liked Science Fiction movies. I never like reading Science Fiction books. Star Trek was even too Sci-Fi for me. Plus, you know, those uniforms, ugh.

Fortunately, as my girlfriend once noted, being a writer has its advantages: “You can make up friends to keep you entertained.”

Yes, yes, I can.

And in the worlds I create nobody goes around having to wear uniforms all the time and nobody has to deal with worldwide pandemics.

However, they do have to be wary of chickens with a mean streak, and people with sharp objects.

Y’all be safe out there. And to all our healthcare workers, all you willing to don those uniforms day in and day out,  hang on. I am praying you will be protected. You are on the frontlines in this fight. I am grateful for each of you willing to treat those suffering from infectious diseases. Thank you for your love of mankind, and for your daily sacrifices. May healing and understanding and a cure come quickly.



Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.


Linda Williamson

about 1 year ago

I totally understand. My daughters and I had planned a trip in May to Spain and Italy.. We considered cutting the Italy part of the trip and extending travel in Spain. Now, however, I am leaning into canceling or rescheduling all of it. At my age, why risk it? And why risk bringing it and infecting my loved ones? It simply is not worth it.


Karen Spears Zacharias

about 1 year ago

Linda: I hate that for you. I went to Spain last year and just loved it so much. If you cancel I hope that they will let you reschedule. How is your health doing otherwise?


Ange Humphrey

about 1 year ago

Karen, what a treasure you are. I do hope you heal quickly and completely! Rest well and write on! We so need your voice in these interesting times.



about 1 year ago

Karen, I hope you're healing. Tifton is now discussing school closures. Werner and I were planning to go to Germany in April for his BILs 80th, but, we told them, not coming. Werner is 83 and healthy,but,heart valve and stents, and I, after the breast cancer and bronchitis from allergies, need to play it safe. Continue your writings, we miss you.


Ellen Ward

about 1 year ago

So glad you’re back at it and staying safe. It feels like the zombie apocalypse has started in Atlanta, so we are hunkering down on the farm. Sadly, our son’s wedding in France, scheduled for June, may be affected. Who knows, who the HELL knows? Miss you, girl.


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