Good morning. How are you? Can you hear any birds singing from where you sit today? I find their oblivion to be comforting… birds keep singing, flowers keep blooming, weeds keep growing. They are a little like my children, who while they understand we are staying home so that we can stay healthy and keep others healthy, do not really understand that the world has shifted these last few weeks.
I’m ok and I’m not ok all at the same time. I’m healthy and have a safe dwelling with plenty of space to be outdoors. Our pantry and freezers are stocked and we have everything we need, including toilet paper. And yet in the morning, when I first start to awaken, this feeling of dread washes over me and I just wish I could go back to sleep. I wish I could wake up and realize this was all some extremely vivid bad dream, one I’d laughingly share with my colleagues over a cup of mediocre coffee in a couple of hours at work.
Instead, anxiety rises in my throat, stealing my appetite and making it hard to know what to do next. I’m losing weight. (This isn’t a good thing for me.) I’ve cried a lot the last two weeks. I’m just so sad and want to go back in time… back before the virus dominated all our thoughts and before the price of oil cratered and before the stock markets crashed. I’m shocked and dazed and find myself exhausted by early evening… having accomplished very little by my standards of 3 weeks ago.
We aren’t sick, but cases are mounting in our community and I’m concerned about my friends in healthcare and really all of us, if I’m honest. (I mean, community volunteers are making masks out of fabric for our healthcare providers. It has really come to this and my mind can’t comprehend this new world.) And locally we are facing the other menace in this fight. Given the concentration of oil-industry jobs here, our community’s local economy has taken a massive hit in the last couple of weeks. To make it more personal, it’s seeming increasingly likely that within the next few days or weeks, Jacob may have no work. His particular part of the industry has come to a screeching halt. And while that will be enormously difficult for our family, I’m also devastated by the reality that it isn’t just us – it is thousands of people around our town… around our nation… around the world. The magnitude of that overwhelms me. Even if the virus passes through relatively quickly, the long-term economic fall-out means this double-whammy will forever be a fulcrum in our lives. Before and After. And I liked “before” just fine. I was grateful and appreciated almost all the little moments. I don’t want to change to “after” when people will move and lives will be shattered and businesses will be shuttered and futures will be altered.
I told a friend yesterday that it feels a little like grief. I’m grieving the loss of my life before. And in “normal” experiences of grief, you can go to the grocery store and see other people whose lives are buzzing along normally. There’s a strange comfort in that, even if there’s also resentment that no one knows the sorrow you bear; a simmering sort of anger that the world can keep spinning. But now this… this is a stranger thing altogether. There is no comfort to be found in grocery-store normalcy and “life goes on” for the masses. If only there were a place to escape where it seems like the world was still spinning normally… The whole world is grinding to a halt and we’re all in this together. It’s strangely beautiful and terrifying all at the same time. I don’t think any of us know what to do with collective, world-wide grief. Collective, world-wide shock. Thinking about it too much makes me tired.
Another strange thing: mothering in the time of a pandemic. My kids currently think this is the greatest spring-break extension ever. They are watching a lot of TV. They are also playing computer games and riding bikes and staying up late to read chapter books with headlamps. And all the while, their father and I are quietly talking about how there are no eggs in the grocery store. There’s a sentence I couldn’t have fathomed writing a few weeks ago… no eggs in the grocery store. Their capacity to enjoy the present moment is beautiful, but the burden I feel to shield them from all the scarcity and the fear and the spiraling-what-ifs is heavy. And being with them is a bit like having a foot in two different universes. It’s disorienting and overwhelming at times to balance the realities and needs of both universes.
And on that note, can I make a simple observation about all of us sudden-pandemic-homeschoolers? Some people had their full-color daily schedule chart printed within a few hours of school cancellation and were ready to go. Well-meaning home school moms (and some sanctimonious ones) took to social media to share tips and tricks. Public and private school teachers rallied and created online lesson plans within a few days. We all most definitely want what’s best for our kids… for them to continue to grow and learn and thrive even in the time of a pandemic. But if you’re like me, maybe you find you need to just take a moment and breathe? No color-coded daily schedule chart can make this feel normal. It’s traumatic and scary and overwhelming and we grown-ups are juggling our own really big emotions and feelings and worries. Some of us are trying to figure out how to work from home while simultaneously educating our children. It’s ok if we don’t have enough margin left to jump into creating a fully-formed idealized homeschool world. (Now some of us will cope with all the big feelings by creating a fully-formed idealized homeschool world as it gives us a focus for our energy.) My point is: there’s not a right or a wrong way. And I just want to say that if you feel a little ashamed by your inability to muster the energy for such plans, it’s ok. You’re not alone and you’re not failing and your kids will turn out fine even if they happen to miss out on 2 months of 1st grade. Basically, I think its ok in these first few pandemic-days if you just constantly feel like you need to nap. I know I do.
Just maybe go outside and listen to the birds sing for a little while, too. As it turns out, the world is still spinning.