I took a break from writing yesterday because I was sick of thinking about, hearing about, and whinging about COVID-19. I needed a mental health day from this health crisis. So, I turned off the television, stepped back from the social media, and spent most of my day completing a brightly colored, 500-piece puzzle of African mammals instead. While my husband worked in his office and my sons were in their lair building in Minecraft while using FaceTime to chat with friends, I sat at our dining table trying to line up the stripes on a zebra and make sense of a lion’s mane. It was precisely what my soul needed, a balm to cover the uncertainty and overwhelm.
This week that has felt like a year has been eerily similar to the couple weeks my husband and I spent at home directly following the birth of our first son. Our oldest arrived early and weighed only 5 pounds. He was, thankfully, fully developed and healthy in all respects. Despite our trepidation, having been crowned as parents seven weeks earlier than we expected (damn the miscalculated due date), the doctors and nurses told us it was time to go home. We lived only a half-mile from the hospital, but Steve came to pick me and baby Joe up, recently unwrapped infant car seat in hand. Trying to finagle and then secure a scrawny, 5-pound newborn into the seat took at least fifteen minutes, even though we would be in the car for less than two minutes on the slow drive home around the park with our precious cargo. We were overwhelmed, overtired, and overly cautious. And despite all the reading we had done, we felt we were flying blind. Everything was scary, awkward, and new.
That is where we are again. We are questioning everything we do. Should we have made that last trip to the store? Did we get too close to that clerk? Should we have wiped down every item we brought into the house? People were wearing face masks and gloves; should I have been doing that too? How many times a day should we be disinfecting surfaces? Should we eat what we have at home or order take out to support our favorite local restaurants? Do we have an adequate toilet paper back up plan? Why didn’t I buy and stash more candy and Cheetos from my teenage sons? We suspect we are overreacting about everything, but it is the only thing that feels appropriate. We don’t really know what we’re doing. We’re nervous and inexperienced. And we desperately want to do the “right” things.
We’re bound to fumble as we navigate a period of time unlike anything any of us have experienced before. Like parents of newborns, though, we need to trust that we are doing our best and that is all we can do in a changing environment with a novel disease that scientists are learning about on the go. You take precautions. You follow the current advisements and adjust when they change. You think critically and act prudently. And then you live your damn life — inside your house as much as possible and outside when you can be safe. Time will pass and, at some point in what will feel like a million years from now, we will be healthy, free, and confident again. In the meantime, we keep calm and carry on, but with an extra packet of antibacterial wipes, just like we carried when we had a newborn. At least this time around, we should be more well rested.
“Think critically and act prudently.” You should have t-shirts made!
I would if I thought people would follow the advice. 😉
LOVE THIS Post!!! My Dad, who chafed long, long ago against seat belt laws when the seatbelts in his older truck chaffed his neck and made it harder for him to ‘check the blind spot’ in driving operations, ALSO spent 15+_ minutes fiddling with car seat install/safety measures to take me and his first, newborn grandchild, home from the hospital when so much was under restriction in our local due to massive tornado that had hit the area – this less than 36 hours after he braved local law enforcement blockade/ shut downs to fetch me from closed down ‘eye of area hit’ work place (that wouldn’t let me turn around and drive home) and then, once again, made the trip to get word to my lamaze coach and work place I had since gone into labor while convincing national guard back up who had since taken the place of worn out/working without sleep, locals – – Sigh – thank you for the steadying share, after I spent a day on connection (some in social media land and trying to be supportive/kind all while being honest about how I still rather (biases included) stick to Dad’s example, core and basic rules for ‘how to be a human bean’ directives – – it is scary – and I confess to turning off the feed during the Space Challenger news, the 9/11 news over the years when I simply couldn’t take it anymore – not if I was going to save a shred of me own sanity – I’m old enough to remember each of these ‘breaking news’ thingees, and yet, still, was totally unprepared for the new landscape of internet, social media, etc., that has occurred in the past week – sigh – thanks for the reminder to ‘bring me back to my senses!” when I go lost in trying to spread encouragement and (ahem) blunt, honest thoughts on the matter, for those who seem to be lost…too… on what to do – – I thank the universe every day that when I say to loved ones far away, “We are fine, hope you are too” – they believe me – 🙂
Sounds like both you and your dad are the kind of people I would be lucky to have in my corner. Crazy times we are living in now. I am old enough to have been influenced by the Challenger disaster too. I was 22 when we began our first attack on Iraq, and I stood in my living room with my three month old son as the Twin Towers came down on 9/11 and this is scarier still. This is going to be a rough, miserable year, but I am clinging to (at a safe, social distance) the extended community of writers, artists, and musicians out there whose willingness to share their humanity is keeping me sane. Be safe. Stay well!
Yup – I believe me and thee are not unique – I also believe that the artistic, creatives in our midst ALWAYS are the front runners for any need that presents itself, from social justice, to pandemics/panics – Often, throughout history, it is often the playwrights, writers, actors who tackle hard topics first, …right about now, I’m thinking about Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” – Green Day’s “American Idiot” and Death Cab for Cutie’s “1985” music/lyrics – Shakespeare’s Hamlet, rewrite of “Romeo and Juliet” that questioned, just where do folks land when loyalties torn between nation, leader, family and love ‘soul-mate’ urgings – – sigh so many, many historical examples throughout time, but yes, on 9/11 I was in law enforcement service at the time – and married to one who served front lines – and by day three, I said, “enough! they still don’t know much new, and I can’t bear to listen to the rehash/speculation run down any more – we need to just show up and do what we can, where we can’ – and my tolerance for self-punishment via ‘showing up to be open to various perspectives’ is, I think, rather quite high – :). but, again – sometimes the only way we navigate, as a species, various challenges is by being flexible between calling “BS” and “Nope, I’m drowning, but refuse to actually drown” and “hmm…I’m strong enough, just now to read another’s perspective on things and not go off the deep end…” — 😀