The COVID-19 Chapter, “At Home”: DAY 20
I have been up since 3:30am. Not because I have trouble sleeping, but because I heard an alarm going off somewhere in my house. It was not my alarm, that’s for darn sure. I knew pretty much instantly what was going on. My 7 year old is loving the idea of April Fool’s Day lately. And here he is, in all his impish 7 year old mischievous self, pranking away. I heard him hit the snooze a few times, because, you know, 3:30am. And then, I hear his little feet tiptoe into his big brother’s room. I don’t know what he did or said … but I heard big brother saying forcefully, You suck. You suck. Turn out the light. GO AWAY.
As I lay there, frankly pissed off, and expecting to have to get up and put an end to it all, the lights went out, and the feet padded back to bed, and all was quiet. Except in my head. And instead of being mad, I smiled. At least someone is remaining playful. I would be missing something wonderful if I didn’t let myself take a page from my little guy, who was willing to sacrifice his sleep (and apparently mine) and the vengeance of his older brother for a little harmless silliness. But then I got to thinking…
It is the 20th day of the shut down since the spread of Coronavirus began in full force for my family and my community. Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Resource Center tells me 874,081 cases have been confirmed, worldwide. 43,290 are dead. The projections from the CDC and WHO are that we’ll be lucky to get out of this with fewer than 100,000 dead, just in the US. It just keeps coming, as we knew it would.
It’s been 5 days or so since I wrote last. Poof. I don’t know where those days went, time seems to be moving at a strange rate these days. Looking back to my first post on March 13th, that seems like a very long time ago, and a very different world. I admire the clarity and solid footing I had in my first post, even as I was expressing my premonitions that it would not remain so. Just these few weeks later, in many ways, that Me that started this journal is no longer the Me that writes this post today. As I predicted might happen, I have been on a wild ride through ups and downs, grasping at gaining/keeping control, swinging from day to day just dealing with an upside down world that no one knows how to live in.
It’s ok, it has to be.
In a way, I miss that me. That Me was doing her thing. That Me was in the swing of things. That Me had the illusion that even though not perfect, things were humming along. Just 20 days ago, I had a routine, and all my systems were in place. I didn’t love everything about it all, but it felt at least like something I could count on. Well, I guess all that was a bit of an illusion too. But flimsy as it was, it was working for me. Or was it? Maybe I was just living in a Fool’s Paradise.
The Me that didn’t see this pandemic coming, and trusted that people could freely walk about, touch, hug, shake hands and buy groceries without panic is surely gone, for the moment. But I’m still the Julia, basically, that was here before the world shut down. My ability to relate to basically everything, however, has shifted entirely. My daily routine, my physical access to anything and everything outside my house is severely limited, if not cut off altogether. The road before me ends abruptly, but my mind is racing full speed ahead. Where is it going? While I race and spin, and keep moving with no where to go, I’m gauging the pace of my household too. Alongside me, is my husband, my almost 8 year old, and my nearly 12 year old, and my dog. Here we are. At home, for the most part, spinning and grasping and sitting and waiting and living this version of now.
All this push and pull, and hurry up and wait is not the easiest set of circumstances for me, to put it mildly. Nor for anyone, I’m quite sure. In this enormous pause, we will swing, and we will simmer, we’ll bubble and explode. We’ll say things we don’t mean, and hopefully, more often, say things me mean like we’ve never meant before. We’ll take very good care of each other, and we’ll do some hurting too. All of these things are happening. It’s not all that different from before, it’s just kind of relentless. It’s very close.
At the beginning, I noted how no one skipped a beat, and everyone around me seemed to jump into immediate action in order to keep the kids, mostly (but surely ourselves as well), feeling safe and secure. Seems like we tried to jump into New Normal seemlessly, as if the shift was completely expected, and just fine. Ok, that’s survival instinct hard at work. Good for us, doing what we had to do, and doing it well. We didn’t fall apart, we put new mechanisms in place, and pragmatically forged ahead. Good for us.
But, HUH??? My adrenaline was through the roof at the start of this, and staying busy and running through checklists and obsessing over this or that detail has been my initial response. And while the recommendations from my professional world say <Work harder! Stay relevant! Don’t sit back lest everyone forgets about you!> I think it’s time to slow down and realize this is a long distance race. Just for a minute. I knew it from the beginning, of course I did – but the body reacts. But now – I need a day or two. And those days I took a break from writing turned into 5 – but who’s counting. Now’s not the time for silly details. At any rate, the processing is taking a pivot.
What will I do in this stage? Will I break free from the busy-ness to calm down enough to pace and preserve my resources? Will I fall prey to the perceived pressure of wanting to appear as fabulous and together as I think I should be? Or you think I should be? (shameful admission) Will I continue to fill every moment of every day with something to attend to and complete, such that I will miss these moments of time with my boys, without even seeing them for who they truly are in this weird slow motion yet frantic time? I’m being mindful of it all.
I imagine I will most likely find myself somewhere between the Me that I dream of being, and the Me I kick myself for actually being at the end of most days. Nothing like an indefinite stay at home with my family to present a meta mirror, and a spotlight on top, to force me to examine just how I’m reacting to these adverse conditions. Who will be looking back at me as I take note of the reflection? Will it be the mom / wife / person I truly want to be? Will I continue to make the mistakes of rushing around, short tempered and irritated, just to buffer myself from the discomfort of sitting still, and being in this terribly uncomfortable and anxious time? Just the thought of it makes me squirm.
I think, though, that I would be a fool to not take this opportunity to do my best to be the person I dream of being, genuinely, and honestly, in this time warp we’ve got going on here. Kindly, gently, and thoughtfully. But truthfully, it’s not that easy. Things are really weird.
Happy April the First.