Bravery in the Time of Covid-19

I wonder how you are doing today. I wonder what the pace of your heart feels like in your chest. I wonder if you are choosing to shower and get dressed, or if you are taking today (and yesterday, and perhaps tomorrow) to stay in your pajamas. I wonder, are you asking yourself “what is the point?” Or are you charging forward as if life is normal…as normal as quarantine can be? You must feel tired. When everything is new, and muscle memory can’t carry us, then everything is a conscious thought. Every movement must be thought out. Did I sanitize my steering wheel after I got back in the car from picking up groceries? If I lay off only 30% of my staff can I keep my company afloat? Did I remember to log into my child’s online classroom to check if they have homework? If we reduce our family grocery budget by $100 this month can we find a way to pay our mortgage? Did I remind the kids to wash their hands after they touched the front door handle? Even those of you who still have jobs or may not have young kids at home are still feeling stretched. I know this. Not a single one of us will be exempt from implication during this pandemic. You are likely worried for a loved-one. Perhaps you are working frantically from home, trying to produce enough to appear necessary to your employer who is considering cut-backs. You are wondering what Easter will look like for your family. You are alone in your home…lonely. I know that past trauma will be unearthed in these days. I know that the feeling is isolation, or being trapped, will be triggering. I know that some will ease into these days with some relief just to have everyone home and together. That too is normal. This is all normal in the most abnormal kind of way. And it’s all OK.
My friend, you are being asked to be very brave right now. We are all being asked to be brave. There isn’t anyone monitoring the words you say to your spouse and I pray to God that you don’t have anyone breathing down your neck to make sure you’re homeschool your children in this fiasco. But you feel it- the world is watching. And you want to do this pandemic thing well. You want to grow from it- you want to grow within it. You want to find peace and create beauty and eek tiny shreds of joy out of your odd and unwelcome new pattern. Some days might sound like a broken record. Another click of the remote “Yes, Netflix I am still watching”, another snack, another bathroom break, another dismal report, another family member checking in, another tummy is hungry, and suddenly it’s 4:18pm and everyone is still wearing pajamas and hasn’t bathed in -how many days has it been?- and you should really start dinner, but what’s the point when everyone has just been snacking all day? Those days will hold a certain beauty when this is all over. I promise. Revel in slowness. Listen to your body as you give it permission to do less and to produce less.
Other days will require productive busyness. Let’s purge the coat closet! Perhaps today I will bake two batches of muffins (one for the freezer) and make chicken stock! I’ll adhere to the general schedule that I laid out for the kids so that they are reading, doing a few chores to help around the house, and getting in some educational content. We’ll bust out the family Christmas puzzle, but not before we all do a virtual yoga class. And three solid meals with showers and normal bedtime. Perhaps a long walk. You will know when this is necessary. When you go to bed so weary from being weary and so overwhelmed from the mundane that you body and your mind become a dull roar of need to produce and to resurrect normalcy, you’ll know that the next day needs to look more like your “old life”. And that too is ok! Showers and long walks and schedules are good. They give us control within the uncontrollable. They make the day fly by when we really just need the day to fly by. They allow us to feel secure, accomplished, productive. They keep us holding on.
And if your quarantine days include work outside the home: healthcare, childcare, food preparation, grocery, banking, first responders…I see you. I know you are afraid every time you feel another person come within your 6-foot bubble. I know that you come home and wash every surface of your body and throw your clothing into a hot cycle before you hug your loved ones. I have been there. Working out in the world right now is to risk exposure. In fact, it’s almost required that we make peace with exposure. I know. I know because I did. And I got sick.
I am five days into the first onset of symptoms, and by now I have presented or am still presenting with every classic Covid-19 symptom. I was tested this morning because I have been working in childcare and put my coworkers and a number of children at risk of exposure if I do in fact have novel Coronavirus. There is a lot working in my favor, which is why, on top of so much uncertainty I chose to continue working. Like a lot of us, our household is experiencing financial unknowns and a loss of income. Working has been both a financial contribution and an emotional contribution. It feels good to go care for little kiddos whose parents are still working outside the home at this time. It feeds my soul to love on them, and to nurture their hearts. It feels like a delicious slice of normalcy to connect with my co-teachers and to do routine things. I made the choice to continue working after the school closures because I am a healthy woman in my thirties with no health complications besides mild asthma. I made peace with the possibility of my exposure, and now I wait.
There were days, just a few weeks ago when my husband was facing heartbreaking business decisions and the reality of our financial situation hit home, that I couldn’t read a single Facebook complaint about “being stuck home with the kids” without wanting to erupt in rage. Rage rooted in envy. I was jealous that my life couldn’t also be so unimpacted that I was only being asked to stay at home. I wanted to online shop for some fun, new activities for the kids and come cute loungewear for myself, and I couldn’t. I wanted to do the things that would bring us a feeling of normalcy in quarantine, and instead I was helping my husband process through laying off 17 employees who we love and care for, and talking with my daughter’s school about not being able to make tuition payments. I wanted MY normal. I wanted MY security. I wanted this Coronavirus pandemic to feel like a nice, long Spring Break. Didn’t we all? But I realized a few things after my wallowing. First, I shook myself out of my reverie and put on my grown-up pants. I’m an enneagram 7 after all- we process painful emotions quickly because we don’t enjoy sitting in them. It was still essential that I grieve, but when I did my grief was for so much more than my isolated bubble of fear. I grieved the ignorance of our country and our desperation for the economics of our “produce, produce!” culture to be unaffected at the expense of human life and safety. I grieved for those that were losing and would lose loved ones to death and not be allowed to hold their hands as they went into that dark night. I wept for the painful, incomprehensible decisions that our physicians and nurses would be asked to make. Can you conceptualize placing value on a human being as you choose who gets a ventilator? I can’t. The next thing I did was remind myself that we all have our own version of hard. Every one of us. And I have no business comparing my hard to anyone else’s hard. Now on a scale of 1-10, my rate of practical, actual impact from the Coronavirus pandemic might be a 9 where yours is a 4- meaning I have been financially impacted, my schedule has been changed, and I’m likely infected, compared to your situation where there’s been some income loss but nothing of a significant impact, and the kids are home so the schedule has changed. I could make that comparison. That’s a fair way to practically assess tangible impact. But what if I asked you to rate your emotional well-being and you responded that you’re at a 9: high stress, some panic attacks, a high sense of fear, and overwhelming worry. That is valid! Your experience is valid. Your “hard” is not based on how it compares to another person’s situation. It’s hard because it’s hard to you. Period.
So that’s what I did. I made peace with grief. I opened my arms to the unknown (I see you, Elsa) and I stopped comparing. I said a resounding “yes” to everyone in my life owning the rights to their own versions of quarantine and pandemic, and became the friend who says, “I see you and that is valid”. And I continually turn that inward and into myself every time it feels like I should be doing more or less, or feeling more or less. This is my new normal. I have never done any of this before. It will all feel scary and exhausting and weird. But we’ll do scary and exhausting and weird together. This is the brave thing that our generation is being asked to do. We must be human. We must feel and allow others to feel. We must allow for the full spectrum of tender and raw emotion within ourselves and others and keep living life without a shred of a road map. There is a cloud of witness before us and generations who have experienced this magnitude of social shift. And yet here we are. They lived. They survived. And we too will survive. We will do hard. We will be another great generation in a long line of great generations. Let’s make ourselves proud.

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