In early March I was out to dinner with friends talking about plans for the upcoming weeks and our annual girls’ night out for their April birthdays celebration. Every year I look forward to the beginnings that Spring has to offer. Like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, the unveiling of who I will be this summer starts in April. This year I wanted to kick things off in NYC with no one better than my girls turning 39 this year, the last year of our thirties.
We didn’t know how naive and oblivious we were in discussing our options or when briefly brushing off the newly raised concerns about the Corona Virus.
We had no idea that in a few weeks NYC would be comparable to a scene from a horror movie. There would be no more nights out for a long time, no celebrations and birthdays would only consist of a watching a distant parade of cars drive by and honk for you.
If I had known that this was the last time I was going to see them for months I would have stayed out longer, drank more and hugged them tighter.
The thought of all the things that I had feared in my own personal life this year, thyroid cancer, surgery and a rare heart defect were enough to keep me holding onto them as it was. I was scared but I did not know true fear yet.
I now know fear like I have never known it before. I am confined to my house as the virus has become a pandemic and worldwide crisis. I haven’t thought about myself and my own personal obstacles in weeks. I am now thinking about the state of the world around me.
I am scared but I am not scared for myself. I am scared for my loved ones who work in the medical field or in essential jobs. I am scared for everyone, especially all the elders and my 95 year old grandfather who has made it this far in life. I wonder if I am ever going to see him again as he was just placed in a nursing home where we are not allowed to see him. I am scared for my parents who are over 65, not in the best health and are still working.
For the first time in my life, I am scared for strangers. I am traumatized by the news I wake up to like a robot and drink coffee to every morning like it’s Groundhog Day. Every day is the same. I feel numb.
My heart is broken for my son who is missing the best teacher he has ever had. Being out of school is no longer fun as he now realizes that he will not return to her third grade classroom this year. He is an only child who has lost most of his outlets, a baseball season that he both watches and plays, play dates with cousins and friends, cub scout meetings and his daily routine of just being a normal kid.
For the first time we both realize that staying home doesn’t have that same luster as it did before. This isn’t summer break or a week off. This is staying home for the safety and survival of ourselves and others. It’s mandatory.
In the past few weeks I’ve become a teacher, a crappy teacher at that while I set my son up on electronics for six plus hours a day as I undo every parenting skill I’ve implemented for the past 9 years. I’m working from home talking to other children online for their counseling sessions as I ignore my own child struggling upstairs. I give him support with his distance learning when I can but so far I am failing miserably as a parent and a teacher.
But the hardest part of this crisis isn’t my own personal failure or my fear. It’s the loss. The loss of life, the loss of normalcy, the loss of simple privileges and the every day things we take advantage of. It’s learning to reconnect to the things that matter in life that we tend to lose sight of- quality time with our loved ones, the ability to touch them, see them and hold their hands, especially in dark times such as these.
I now keep in contact more than ever with the people that matter to me. I realize that I should have reached out more before any of this even happened and that texting just doesn’t cut it. I need to hear a voice. I need to see a face.
I’m thinking about those that I haven’t spoken to and still care about even if we left things on bad terms. None of that matters now. I want to know that they are okay. I struggle every day with making the decision to forget my pride and just reach out to them. I still haven’t and I don’t know if I will. But I pray for them and the rest of the world every day even if I can’t go to church anymore.
When I go outside just for the purpose of getting out of the house, I look around and the world feels eerie. Everyone is doing the same thing. We’re all trying to escape the confines our homes. We’re trying to use fresh air and sunshine as an outlet because we have nothing else. We’ve reverted to primitive times when a stroll outside was leisure, freedom and a privilege. Only now we look at it as a punishment and our only resort.
I am trying to see the positives in a horrific situation. I am lucky to have my health, a home, a job, a family, and all of the every day things we take for granted. I am lucky that I am sheltered from the trauma on the front lines. I will never have to witness death and sickness in this way or fear for my own life every time I go to work. I am thankful that there are heroes among us who are willing to do this on their own honor and grace. They are our saviors.
I know that eventually we will come out of this. We won’t be the same. But we will have been through this together, collectively, and will be given the same second chance to stop and slow down and rethink about what matters in life. I look forward to returning to normalcy one day even if it’s a new normal. I will savor life’s precious gifts that I seemed to have forgotten about. That’s what I tell myself to get through the day and the difficult ones that lie ahead.