Canceled

It’s hard for me to believe I used to crank out a few posts a week.

Now, they sneak up on me, after months of being pent up, until I eventually grab a keyboard and alleviate the guilt of not writing. I had a post simmering for the last two months — and it kept changing, because life kept changing — until I was finally ready to type it up two weeks ago and let it live somewhere other than in my head. It was about chairs, but you know not really about just chairs. But also not deep at all. You’ll see —  I’ll bring it back someday.

Because as I was ready to get it typed up, all of this happened.

And so that post is canceled.

Like most everything else.

It’s all canceled.

Normalcy and sanity are canceled, my friends.

I can’t even begin to imagine what we’re going to think when we someday look back on this period of our lives defined by flattening the curve, stay home hashtags, instructional graphics about social distancing, and daily counts of the infected in the era of COVID-19. Will we even remember how fast it all got so weird, and then how much faster it all sort of became the new normal? I wonder. A little over two weeks ago, we were hugging people and shaking hands, talking with neighbors from a normal distance and looking with a cautious eye at how this was all going to evolve. It literally feels like months ago that I was not Cloroxing doorknobs with regularity.

How are you processing all of this? I can’t even identify how I feel from day to day, but if you’ll allow me to show my crazy, here’s where I’m at. It’s not neat and pretty. I didn’t do multiple passes at editing this piece. But hell, I’m lucky I could even remember the log in to access my blog at this point. My WordPress account is like 48 updates delinquent, so let’s roll the dice and see how this comes out.

 

The social introvert in me does not hate the stay at home order.

I’ll be very honest. For me, there is something freeing about not only having nowhere to be, but being expressly forbidden from going anywhere. I am very happy, on the whole, to be forced to stay at home with an empty calendar free of carpools, activities and obligations that are often overlapping or attempting to defy the space/time continuum at the expense of my sanity. All of that is gone — literally gone — and I can’t help but think it’s some giant call for a reset, drawing us back to our homes and our people. Again, not trying to go deep here. The reality is that part of me will, in fact, be sad to resume the insanity of our overscheduled lives when that time comes.

 

I feel like I should be achieving something. What better time to take on those long-neglected projects, right?

You know, those projects that have forever resided on your long-term to do list — the ones that never get done because there is no time. Nope, no time at all. The basement that desperately needs to be cleared out. The pile of kids’ projects and artwork to be sorted/secretly discarded in the dead of night, hidden under produce scraps in the trash. Creating some sense of order around my tens of thousands of digital photos. Reorganizing our home office. The time is surely now.

I see you hyper-organized sorters out there. You motivated purgers. You people posting shelfies of your books sorted by color and size. I see you and my envy is palpable. Because I cannot find the energy, the wherewithal, the mental bandwidth — somehow, here, stuck at home — to do any of this. When we come out of this on the other side and none of my big projects got done, I think it’s safe to say I can wave the white flag of defeat on them in perpetuity.

 

In the absence of taking on these once in a lifetime projects, I feel like I should be — how do the online influencers describe it? — making the most of this gift of time.

I think we’re supposed to be going on long nature walks and playing family board games, or maybe taking up composting and whatnot. Shouldn’t that, at the very least, be happening? It feels like I’m supposed to glean some big meaning out of the very little being asked of me, or make this a very special time for my kids. I have a feeling from the mindfulness set that maybe I’m not doing this right. So thanks for that.

 

But, here’s the deal. We are doing everything we can to just make the bare minimum happen, all day, every day.

Like many families, we have two demanding jobs, which of course are now being performed from home. Are we lucky to have these jobs? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a complete domestic circus. Add in three kids with three distinct distance learning programs occurring around a dining room table that resembles where organization goes to die. I wear my seventh grader’s gaming headset at my work laptop in the middle of the kitchen, so that I can hear the hours and hours of COVID-19 conference calls over the ambient sound of children arguing, while hand signaling what may or may not be available for lunch and asking through lip reading if everyone has finished their virtual science project or pre-algebra Zoom conference. My husband and I each have a mother fresh out of hospitalization stints just before COVID-19 busted wide open; both of them still need medical procedures and treatment in the near future, and nobody really knows how or when that might happen. And we cannot see them anytime soon. We consume too much news, and it feels a lot like drinking out of a fire hose — but of course not one that has been within six feet of anyone else.

So, the baseline feels, shall we say, strained.

 

How do we save ourselves in the absence of an endpoint to this madness? 

Oh, hi, Zoom and FaceTime. Like most people, I find we are now catching up more with friends and family. It’s nice, if not pandemic-surreal to interact with people only in small video cubes. But that is where the comfort lies for me — with the people I know, the ones who get me, and frankly are willing to go a little dark with me when we think about this entire situation and scream into the abyss about the jackasses who continue to gather and dismiss all social distancing guidelines. I am glad to be home, glad to be tucked away from having to show up in all manners of things.

You know who else is going to save us, besides doctors and nurses and first responders? The funny people. I see you and your memes out there, and you are giving us life right now, I swear to God. The crafters of witty tweets and videos keep us patently unqualified homeschoolers alive while working, inventing recipes from unlikely pantry bedfellows, and wondering when we can see our parents. The hint of a laugh feels so foreign and misplaced sometimes, but so richly deserved.

 

I need that Venn diagram.

It seems insane to complain about anyfuckingthing at all right now. We have it easy, relatively speaking. Hats off to everyone who is still an essential worker, showing up every day amidst this insanity. Huge applause for the teachers out there. The single parents. The people waiting for medical treatment. The Coronavirus-infected people and their loved ones. I cannot imagine. But I saw a homemade Venn diagram somewhere on Instagram today and it made me feel like I wasn’t alone. It essentially drew one circle about being fortunate on one side, and one circle about this situation being hard on the other, with the science-y overlap in the middle. That. That’s what I feel. I, like many, am lucky — but we’re still allowed to say that this is hard without taking anything for granted.

I try to help in the ways that I’m able — but let’s be clear: I have the luxury of not putting my life or that of my husband on the line as a first responder or medical professional. I am just being asked to sit here while members of our family run nursing units and oversee police departments. None of that is lost on me for a second.

 

OMG, the kids. Are we messing up our kids?

It fills me with anxiety to read about how our kids could be affected by all of this. Of course they are. And how much are we failing them by not making the most of this gift of time, or modeling better reactions to the situation at hand? The makeshift schedules to keep the normalcy going — that’s what we’re supposed to do, right? I let my kids sleep in. They do distance learning in pajamas if they want. And then there’s the embarrassment of free online riches available for them to experience — live streamed koala sanctuaries, banjo lessons, cartooning sessions, junior meditative journeys, Slovakian tutorials. We need a virtual cruise director to sort all of it out because, oh my God. I cannot. It’s overwhelming, so I have instead shut down and added Disney Plus as our new family member, with a daily side of the panda exhibit at the Atlanta Zoo. Nobody here is picking up a new language or hobby right now.

What will my kids think when it’s all said and done? When the COVID-19 history chapters are written and they think back on their personal narratives, what will stick with them? Will they look back on their high strung mother wearing the fucking gaming headset in the kitchen with her laptop, while trying to whisper-yell that they need to wash their hands again and bring me the damn learning log to sign? Will they be pissed I didn’t take this once in a lifetime opportunity to expose them to virtual aerial yoga or live streamed origami sessions? Will they wish we had gone on more walks or reorganized their book cases? Will they resent that we did not build fairy habitats in the woods or read an entire book series aloud together around the fire?

I don’t think they will. At least I’d like to tell myself that.

Because, really, who the hell knows? And that’s sort of the entire hashtag/mentality/big issue here. The uncertainty and the unknown of what normal will look like when this is over, whenever that may be.

Who the hell knows.

So let’s give ourselves a break, shall we? We don’t have to make the most of this gift of time.

We don’t have to accomplish anything huge — I kind of think we already are.

 

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