There aren’t many words that can accurately describe what we are living through today, with a global pandemic well underway, and the ones that come to mind are not so pretty.
Surreal. Terrifying. Hoarding. Unprecedented. Doomsday.
I live in Seattle, WA, where the first COVID-19 cases in the US were discovered just over two weeks ago. Since then our lives have changed dramatically. I started working from home, then my husband, and now our two daughters are out of daycare. We are doing our part and enforcing social distancing. No playdates, no social visits, no eating out. The days are so, so long. We’re exhausted.
Meanwhile, I’ve been living in a near-permanent state of anxiety. Screens are my only connection to the outside world - but they’re also treacherous frenemies, bombarding me with news, commentary and speculation that builds up, builds up, builds up, until I burst in tears. I’m meditating and exercising and doing my best. But it’s hard to sleep at night. I’m worried about us. I’m worried about my parents. I’m worried about the world.
It hit me full force a few days ago, when my husband absentmindedly said: “I wonder how this ends.” Neither of us knew. I had my first panic attack in years.
Last night at bedtime, my 4-year old picked a book that she wanted me to read, one I’ve never read to her before. It was an illustrated version of “Sunrise, Sunset”, that nostalgic song from the movie musical “Fiddler on the Roof”. With my two daughters balanced on my lap, nestled in the rocking chair where I’ve fed and held both of them since the day they were born, I opened the first page and started singing.
Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don't remember growing older,
When did they?
When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn't it yesterday when they were small?
For the first time since this crisis took hold, just for a moment as I held my babes, my fear subsided and I felt something else. I felt gratitude.
For the next four weeks, maybe longer, I will spend every sunrise and every sunset with my husband and our girls. Every meal. Every bedtime. Nearly every moment. And sure, they’ll drive me crazy - but what an opportunity to live in the now, just for a little while. To enjoy my babies and keep them as safe and close as I can.
Quarantine is a forced break from my normally busy life, from all the meetings, traffic, events, travel. There’s no expectations. There’s no fear of missing out. Most everybody is home, and if they’re not, they’re either essential workers or selfish assholes. It is oddly freeing to be neither.
And then there’s all my privilege. I have a safe and comfortable home filled with people I love. I run my own company and can work remotely. We have enough food and toilet paper, diapers and formula, cleaning products and hand soap. Our savings are taking a big hit - but at least we have savings. With so many people suffering, I recognized my privilege and quietly recommitted to sharing it.
That moment of gratitude passed quickly, and all too soon the anxiety set back in. It’s been with me since as the headlines grow scarier. But whatever happens, that moment of gratitude reminded me that underneath all this uncertainty, I am still capable of finding the good. A flicker of hope from my daughters’ bedtime ritual gave me new words to describe what we’re living through today:
Strength. Resilience. Solidarity. Empathy. Love. Priorities.
I will be ok.