When we look back on this time in history, what will we remember? What will have been important? Where will we chide ourselves and where will we see praise? I ask myself these questions almost daily in silent, mediative moments. That place where I yearn for inner peace, that feeling you get when you lay next to your sleeping children at night, dig your feet into the hot sand while listening to the rhythmic waves of the Pacific Ocean, deeply hug a family member, or listen to a small group of guitarists play Hallelujah in the darkness of a campsite. These quiet reflections happen between my children asking to play, obsessively wiping down package contents, and preparing meals while trying to conserve the ingredients we have left in the pantry.
Two months ago... has it really only been two? It seems like a lifetime has passed since early February. We were busy bustling around like usual. My oldest was in an amazing child-led discovery preschool; my youngest and I would shop together at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods getting the full grocery experience and laugh with the employees about how I always impulsively buy the sample items. I went to Kindergarten informational night and took a tour of a charter school to prepare for Fall 2021. We had playdates and friends over for pizza. My husband and I attended a gala to support our local library where we got dressed up, drank wine with neighbors and bid on local items. We traveled halfway across the country to be with family on an extended vacation. My kids played and had sleepovers with their cousins and grandparents. We were living our best life. Then wham…. the train stopped.
The train didn’t even stop that suddenly. I mean it seems like a full on break squeal, but looking back, it really wasn’t. The WHO first mentioned this mysterious pneumonia-like illness on New Years Eve — as most of us were popping bubbly and excitedly welcoming 2020 — the year of vision. This disease didn’t really enter the spotlight for another month, until the unfortunate doctor in Wuhan, the one who tried to warn the world about covid, got sick and died in the beginning of February. At the time, this felt very much like someone else’s problem; it still seemed like something happening on the opposite side of the world — even though someone in the US had already tested positive. We were too distracted by a Presidential impeachment trial, the upcoming Super Bowl, and were in the midst of the twenty-fourth Bachelor season to notice how this invisible monster leached into our American lives.
In the weeks that followed, cities locked down, whole states followed suit, and then most of the country. Yet, people continued not to take this beast seriously. News images emerged of partiers passing beads at Mardi Gras in NOLA or rubbing in each other’s tanning oil on the beaches of Florida — all around us, people breathing in the air of strangers. We would hear things like, this is all a bunch of hype. And this, friends, exposes one of the issues of our country coming into this crisis: A complete and utter lack of trust — in the journalists who make the reports and our national and world-wide health care organizations. All of these places have earned our skeptic wonderings. Early on, the divisiveness in the political realm in our country put us all at risk… and frankly, aren’t we all sick of that? This crisis has exposed, in a much more personal light, inequities — How is it possible asymptomatic celebrities were getting tests when normal people coughing up half a lung were getting turned away. A zoo tiger got a test, but at the same time an asthmatic in the epicenter of the disaster would have to wait two weeks. I have heard from and read about pregnant women that are being encouraged and in some cases coerced into inductions, fed fear that their husbands could be in the room today, but maybe not next week. This causes these people to question the advice and motives of their OB staff. I’ve read insensitive comments from people, hiding behind the veil of the internet, saying things like this only impacts the old and the compromised. I am one of the compromised, and at times, these people have made me feel like I am a necessary, but unfortunate casualty. They aren’t looking at me — a young mom of two boys who beat lymphoma last year. They see the inconvenience of the policies that are protecting me. These are the ugly parts of this crisis. The ones we will look back on and chastise, perhaps even more so than we do now.
And here we are, nearly mid-April, weeks into our mandatory quarantine. We have ordered more online groceries than I ever thought possible. We spent evenings foraging on websites for things like toilet paper and paper towels, upset when they are “sold out” everywhere but the local hardware store. I didn’t even know that places like Home Depot or Lowes carried toilet paper, but I do now! I didn’t know that there are online companies who sell fancy toilet paper in different cute wrappings, much like Honest diaper bundles. I am normally a meal planner, but we meal plan far in advance these days. Our social calendar has become a dinner organizer. We have vegetable subscriptions, fruit subscriptions, dry good subscriptions, and a cleaning product subscription. Our local CSA, which is due to start up in June, is trying to adjust to home delivery services — and has received more interest this year than ever before in its sixteen years. We participated in our first Instacart shopping experience. I’m making coffee creamer and milk for cereal out of cashews, water and my Vitamix; perishables feel like million dollar goods. Every day, I am finding new and exciting ways to entertain my two toddlers at home — little guys who are getting antsy being in the same place day in and out. We open packages outside with gloves on, leave the contents in our three season room until needed, and then wipe everything down. It is a long and painstaking process. We see family and friends via Zoom instead of in person. People are wearing masks or scarves in the streets. The weight of these fast changes feels heavy when I think of them piled up like this. It feels impossible that the world, while still rotating on its axis, has stopped turning in so many other ways. There is this unreal dichotomy of danger and safety — between the outside world and the world in our own homes.
As I sit here in clothes I’ve worn for the past three days, hair unwashed — unbrushed for that matter. I reflect upon all of the things I miss: I miss hugging my extended family. I miss having a bite to eat and a glass of wine inside a restaurant. I miss seeing and hearing the buzz of other people around me — energizing my spirit. I miss Trader Joe’s samples. I miss going to the grocery store (even with my kids, gasp!) — being immune compromised, I haven’t been inside a store in weeks. I miss talking to my friends up close. I miss taking a package directly from our UPS man when I’m in my driveway. I miss going inside the post office to pick out the cute stamps. I miss story time at the library. I miss my son’s preschool. I miss going to the gym and taking workout classes next to other sweaty moms. I miss not having to wipe down everything that comes into the house. I miss wearing my Kendra Scott jewelry and getting dolled up to go out somewhere — even to Target to browse through the dollar section. And if this goes into the summer… there will be so much more of this whole missing bit.
But, this quarantine has humbled me in ways I didn’t realize I needed humbling. It has humbled me in ways that even the lymphoma I fought last year couldn’t. The best life I was living before, could’ve been better… it could’ve been more thoughtful and deliberate…and it will be, when this is all over… in fact, it already is.
Luke 11:3 says “Give us this day our daily bread.” I have to wipe down my groceries, but I have groceries to put on the table tonight at dinner. No, they’re not the exact groceries I’m used to, and yes I’ve had to be creative with my recipes to avoid going into the stores, but they’ll fill my family with the nutrients we need…today. Yesterday, nearly 700 people died in New York of the coronavirus, the state where I live. In one day. One day. And that wasn’t even the record high we had mid-week. But you know what, I was not one of them. I get the gift of another day to breathe in the arctic air of the north, wave and smile to my friends and family — even from afar. I get to hug my husband and kids. I get my bread today… in so many ways.
So much goodness has emerged from this crisis. I have never been more in love with humanity then I am now… in this moment. Somehow a common enemy, even an invisible one, can bring us closer together — can remind us how important we ALL are — remind us that we love one another. I always leave little goodies out for my postal and delivery workers at Christmas, but I have never felt so indebted to these essential workers as I do now…Or the woman who ran around a local grocery store to collect my Instacart order — even taking pictures of the empty shelves to see if I needed replacement items. Neighbors have offered, on social media sites, to get things for the vulnerable in our community. I’ve always admired my cousin, an anesthesiologist, but now I see this lifesaving hero in a completely different light. People across the state have created rainbows, reminding us that this storm shall pass, and hung them in windows, on doors, or drawn on driveways. Photographers have taken pictures of families, from a distance, on their porches to spread a little happiness. Masks and health care necessities are being donated to hospital personnel. Nuclear families are getting to spend significantly more quality time together. Everyone who is practicing appropriate social distancing is doing so not only to keep their families healthy, but because they feel a human responsibility to keep each other safe. Because deep down we love our neighbors. We even love the bustling imperfections of our society… we love what makes us human.
Will we change from this? Humans have a propensity to forget trauma. If we didn’t, women would never give birth twice. But, I do believe, at least in the short term, that we won’t take for granted things that barely earned a second thought before — like how many squares of toilet paper we use at a time. We all needed to slow down, and while this was a forced pause, I think we will weed out some things that occupied too much physical and mental space. Maybe families will value their time together in a different way. My husband and I bought a 1000 piece puzzle to work on together, something we never would’ve done before — something different than just vegging out on the couch after the kids go to bed. Maybe more businesses and schools won’t rely on brick and mortar as much — think outside the box on how to get things accomplished — and perhaps this will allow families more flexibility. Essential workers have garnered more respect, and I truly believe that will live beyond these weeks or months that we depend upon them so greatly. When we get that first hug from someone we haven’t been fewer than six feet from, it will feel like heaven. I see three of the fourteen people I love most in this world every day, but for the remaining eleven… I close my eyes and imagine the moment I can be with them again; it feels like the summer sun on my skin. I can’t wait to see their arms outstretched, warm and welcoming when this has passed. Someday, we will emerge from this quarantine changed …as a butterfly emerges from its chrysalis — able to see the world from a new and beautiful perspective.