Well, shit. I have been thinking about what I wanted to say in this post for over a month now. In Illinois, we’ve been sheltering in place for over a month since March 20th and learned recently we have (at least) another month to go. I have a lot of big and conflicting feelings about this pandemic and I’ve debated on whether or not anyone truly wanted to read about them. So, if you don’t, or can’t, take anymore thoughts about COVID-19 that’s okay-I promise to limit your exposure via FeedFunnyMe after this post and I wish you a good day! To those still reading, here we go.
Usually March is one of my favorite months. I love to see Spring sneak in all those beautiful flowers and I get to celebrate my birthday (and my husband’s birthday, we’re exactly one week a part). March is usually a month spent standing on the proverbial starting line, anxiously waiting for all the Fun to begin. Okay, yes, in Illinois there is often a snow blizzard mixed in there but you see where I’m going right? March is a crescendo into the big production of the year!
Well, a global pandemic is not the production I thought I’d ever star in yet -here we are. And here is what it’s been like for me.
I had been reading about COVID-19 in the news since early January and spent a few minutes here and there being weary of what this meant for the world. I watched as China worked relentlessly to slow their spread and then…it popped up in Italy and wrecked even more havoc. By mid-February I was certain that, at some level, the United States would come to know this virus, too. Then came March. Yay, March!
The second week of March (right before spring break for the university where I am an adjunct instructor) was the beginning of the rapid changes in my life. The course I teach is on Tuesday mornings and I had brought in doughnuts to celebrate National Social Worker Month with my graduate students before they left for spring break. We spent a part of class that morning writing kind letters to each other as something to reflect on when times were tough in the future and then another to ourselves reminding us of our conviction to serve others. It was a great morning! But there was an unspoken anxiety in the room-several large universities had already extended spring breaks by then, while others were talking about this whole ‘virtual learning’ idea. We talked about it a little and I remember thinking how sad I’d be if that was the last class where we were all together in person. After class I met with the associate dean who told me to prepare to move my course on-line “for the time being.”
And so started the constant motion. At that point, things were changing several times every 15 minutes (and I don’t think that’s too much of an exaggeration). We sat and watched as everything was postponed, cancelled, closed, moved on-line, and ultimately turned upside down. I don’t feel the need to remind everyone of what that was like, but the weight of knowing that we were all going through that at the same time was heavy. The worry, the uncertainty, the pace…it doesn’t feel like it happened a month ago. Sometimes it feels like life has been like this forever, other times it feels like it just happened yesterday.
I have felt every emotion to some degree, and feel multiple emotions at any given time. Mostly I’m okay-I’m grateful that both my husband and myself are able to work from home. I appreciate that we’re able to be safe and healthy together and that we can support our local community in various ways. But the second I start thinking about the world outside my door-I kind of lose it. I love watching videos of kindness but cycle through emotions quickly-starting with joy, marching into sadness, and breaking in anger. Many of the issues we are seeing addressed are issues whether there’s a pandemic or not, and I pray that now that the box has been open, many of the safety net options never go back inside.
So what has life been like for me? Well, I have spent a lot of time just simply surviving. I have granted myself a hell of a lot of grace. Like many, I have either been super productive or completely wasted (emotionally, not like, beverage-wise). I feel what many of you are feeling-I miss my life, I worry about others, and I hope for the best. Trajectory is something I often think about and obviously, everyone’s paths have been rewritten (and paused) for the foreseeable future. My plans for this year not only have been put on hold but haven’t been replaced with anything and that void is where I sometimes sit and struggle. I’m okay until my brain starts thinking of something fun to do and realizes that we can’t make that a reality just yet, and then I’m not okay for a bit.
I realize my extreme privilege throughout this writing. Truthfully it’s really hard to write just from my own perspective because I don’t want to come off spoiled or as through I’m whining about seemingly minor inconveniences when there are many who are facing very different scenarios. But, this is me honoring me for a moment. And in truth, I do appreciate the lessons I’ve learned over the last 5 or so weeks. I’m grateful to be able to ‘learn lessons’ right now and the two best ones have been in grace and humility.
Grace to myself and others that we’re all doing our best. Grace to accept help and kindness. Grace to offer what I can but recognizing my own limits. I haven’t been able to give much to others right now, which usually is an area where I shine. And that’s where part of that humility comes in. Recognizing that it’s okay that I’m not making the masks and the cookies and doing all the Zoom calls right now. Having the humility to see that we all present ourselves in a certain way usually…but in unprecedented times, that façade quickly evaporates. It’s freeing to just be humans with other humans. And I am grateful for the moments when we’re all able to do that together.
I’m slowly started to have more resiliency. Originally, any time I was faced with a reminder of how weird life is right now, I wouldn’t be okay. I would rather just act as though everyone was busy than to do a Zoom happy hour and only see my loved ones on a screen. The first time I had to go grocery shopping and wear a mask I had a panic attack in the car. I cried at a stop light when I passed my office and remembered that I was effectively banned from turning into the driveway. I have had some beautiful friends practice amazing kindness toward me and as soon as I would turn away from seeing them (from at least six feet on my porch) I would just fall apart.
But it’s getting better.
I know I’m not alone in these feelings and to those of you who are saying, “me too” please take comfort in knowing that no one is truly alone right now. Often our pain and sadness gets pushed into very lonely places but right now-everyone is impacted and feeling pieces of this (at varying degrees) and that is a freeing (yet for us empaths, also a heartbreaking) thought.
I apologize for the brain dump here folks but if I didn’t acknowledge all of that I just wouldn’t find it appropriate to move on to posting more ‘normal’ things. So here I say, I see all of you, I recognize your feelings, and I appreciate everything you’re doing to survive (and thrive) right now. Thank you for everything you’re doing!!! I hope this stands as a testament that we’re never truly alone and the human heart has the capacity to do phenomenal things.
Oh. And the last thing I’ll say before I segway here is-trust science (I’m a scientist, after all).
I soon will be done with the spring course I was instructing giving me time to focus on cooking more, writing more, and generally being present here more. I’m going to use this time (however long it may be) to focus on getting these thoughts and crazy ideas out of my head and into (somewhat) tangible words! So stay tuned, we’ll have some fun amidst the chaos!
And if you would like to receive some real mail make sure you email me your home address at firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise, it’s safe!
Take care of yourself however you need to today, friends. <3