This morning I laid in bed, tossing and turning as the sun slowly seeped in, fighting my hour-long battle with the snooze button because why the hell get up so early? Groggily as I sat up and wandered into the kitchen to start the coffee, my mind picked up where the previous nights’ thoughts left off: What’s next?
In the brief stillness of the morning, before anyone else was awake, I began checking in with friends, sending tearful texts as I recounted all the times I’ve avoided interacting because I was too tired, too busy, too disinterested. Selfish, really. And now, we all sit in our separate houses, mourning the loss of routine. I messaged my dad to see how he was doing. “Shitty,” he said.
As I’m writing this, it’s been about a week since rumors began swirling about schools closing and offices going remote. A few weeks prior I’d bought plane tickets to a handful of places, cashing in on what I took to be a disproportionate COVID-19 scare. A few months before that I half-heartedly listened as the coronavirus emerged in China, largely ignoring this continents-away problem. If I switch off NPR, it’s not real. We’ll be fine. Italy was on lockdown. China was wearing masks. European countries couldn’t travel. But we were fine. And my life kept turning.
It was perhaps my perpetual optimism (or more likely my covert belief that if I avoid it, it’s not real) that kept me believing this could never happen to us. Then the rumors became reality. Schools would close for half of the week and an entire week following. Then they would close through March. Restaurants were limited to serving takeout, with rumors of more drastic measures to come.
Yesterday, after a long day of working from home with a tired 3-year-old, we packed up the stroller drove to Freedom Park, passing hordes of bikers and runners filling their time outdoors to avoid the stir-crazy feelings of inside. We pulled in behind a long line of street-parked family cars and unloaded only to reload a few moments into our walk because being out and about with so many people left us feeling uneasy and irresponsible.
“Maybe we’ll try again tomorrow,” we told our daughter.
So this morning, after my few solitary moments, she woke up, eager to revisit our plans for the park and asked, “Is everyone better now? Are all the friends not sick anymore?” With tears in my eyes, I hugged her as I shook my head, “I don’t know, baby.”
Admittedly I’m not good in the unknown, which is likely why in times of question I keep my head down and keep moving forward, paying attention only to what lies directly ahead. I’m afraid us being alone in our house indefinitely. I’m uneasy about the unknown timing of it all. My previous avoidance of the news has now turned into an almost morbid curiosity as I read about restaurant closings, halted businesses, and the unstable economy. Yet somehow, amidst my own internal line of questioning, I have to show up for my kids who are also seeing their routines disrupted.
In the beginning, when this felt far more benign, I was optimistic, even excited about what this could mean: Rest! Sweatpants! Remote days! A break! Now I’m in a steady cycle of panic and gratitude. I’m both encouraged and saddened by yoga instructors streaming classes online from an empty room, trying desperately to keep their remote participants in good spirits. I’m amazed at the strength of small business screaming from every platform, “Order takeout!” “Buy online!” “Grab gift cards!” and people are doing it — we are really showing up for one another, y’all, and that is a beautiful thing.
What’s kept me going and out of a spiral is the beautiful opportunity we have to be still and be supportive. How often is everyone forced inside with their families or roommates or in solitude? Though I cannot write this without acknowledging those in unsafe spaces, those of us privileged enough to self-quarantine have an amazing opportunity on our hands to reconnect. School, work, sports, sleepovers, internet, T.V. … distraction after distraction clouds our interactions. The assumption that tomorrow will be the same as yesterday leads us into complacency as we take for granted what we have right before our eyes. And now, we have nothing else to look at but each other.
So if you’re sad, fearful, alone — meditate, pet your dog, call your therapist (or sign up for one online), journal, talk, play games, do a puzzle, binge watch British crime dramas. Do things that bring you joy. Connect to you. Connect to your kids. Those arguments over dirty dishes? They don’t matter. Annoyances at your partner? Let that shit go.
We are all isolated together and y’all, we can come out better. This is a time for cleansing, of staying safe, of leaning into one another and connecting deeply. Drink tea, load up on Vitamin C, hop on the elderberry train. Care for you and care for each other.
There are the jokes and the memes and the cries for help about working from home to the tune of screaming toddlers and disgruntled teens, but damn, we’re all doing it. And I’m finding some kind of solace in the communal aspect of our collective struggle; though we are all in our houses (y’all better be in your damn houses), we are not alone.