We’re Fine, But We’re Not
We’ll make it through just fine, but that’s really not the point
I am a (relatively) well adjusted millennial adult with a steady flow of income, a loving and supportive family, a sturdy and committed relationship, a wonderful set of friends, and many hobbies and interests.
I am simply not struggling in the same ways that many others currently are. I have had to adjust, of course, but not nearly as much as my peers have. I’ve done a great deal of remote work before, so working from home is no great feat. As a single mother, I know how to trim a grocery budget like a pro, and as a social introvert (we exist, I swear), I have mastered the art of staying home while maintaining contact.
My mother taught emergency preparedness courses for the Red Cross. I have a bin full of non-perishables and spare batteries at the ready. Twenty-plus years of camping, I can most certainly build my own fire and I absolutely know my way around a map and compass.
Quarantine? Please. I was made for the apocalypse.
But it really doesn’t matter how prepared you are, how many life-saving skills you have in your arsenal, how much you enjoy staying at home, or how many hacks you already have in place for never encountering another human being again.
It’s simply not a normal thing to ask people not to interact with each other.
And no matter how on top of this whole shelter in place thing you may be, it’s okay to acknowledge that this is not normal.
I saw a great post online just a few days after my daughter’s school announced it would close for the remainder of the school year.
I saw someone say that people who have anxiety aren’t panicking like everyone else is, we’re not out here buying 10+ rolls of [toilet paper] and such, do you know why? This is our normal state. To us the world is ending, every single day. And it’s interesting, watching everyone act the way our brains think on a daily basis. It sucks doesn’t it? To be in this constant state of fear and helplessness. To feel the impending doom, but feel absolutely powerless about it. Welcome to our world. This is our every day.
Everyone with severe anxiety.
I nearly laughed. @Booootzzwoody on Twitter was absolutely right.
Because I was watching whom I had previously thought to be reasonably intelligent, cool-minded, rational people acting such fools it was as though they were reading directly from a text titled “Absolutely Everything You Should Not Do in the Midst of a Crisis”.
Anxiety and panic-ridden I may be, I hide it well. Over twenty years since my first panic attack, and I know how to spot one coming a mile away. And for the record, they don’t all look like they do in the movies (not that Hollywood does a great job of portraying the intricacies of mental illness). It’s not all hyperventilating and shaking hands. Sometimes, it’s a racing pulse and staring blankly into space. To anyone who isn’t looking for it, this doesn’t seem all that unusual, which is why it’s perfectly possible to be in the throes of crippling anxiety in the middle of a staff meeting or even a date.
Yes, really. I can personally confirm this.
Can I tell you, though? I have not had one since COVID-19 landed in the United States.
I’m the cool-minded, rational one watching half of the world protest in state capitals about how annoyed they are about not having had a haircut in a month and the other half dig themselves doomsday bunkers in their backyards.
And neither of them make any damn sense to me.
I am not the least bit pressed about my split ends. I’ll live.
Nor am I ordering HAZMAT gear off the internet.
I am, in fact, (*GASP!*) following the medical advice readily available to the public that encourages me to wash my hands regularly and keep a minimum distance of six feet from others.
I may joke (and I do — often) about how we are now living in the world all of my beloved YA dystopian novels warned us of, but let’s be clear: I refuse to be the character that costs others their safety, their health, and their lives by spreading this thing.
And as level-headed as I have so far been about all of this, I do acknowledge that this is not normal.
Y’all, I get it.
I am as prepared and as calm as a person can possibly be in this scenario, and I am still not okay.
I have every faith in the world that, given sound and educated planning (please, God…) as well as deliberate and steady progress, we will see ourselves out of this mess. I really do think that we are capable of waiting out this disease.
Of course I still hate that we have to.
A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook his distress at what was going to happen if his son were unable to return to school. Alongside math and reading curriculum, there are plethora behavioral and social skills gained from an academic environment that my friend simply wasn’t equipped to provide. What about his job? If work required him back full-time, what then? Lose the family’s income or risk his child’s well-being?
My heart cracked in half reading his post. I wanted to say something. I wanted to respond that I felt his pain and that if there was anything I could do…
But what could I do? I can’t drive across the state to help. I can’t offer my friend’s son to come to our house and learn with my daughter. The whole point of this is not to expose each other. And I am no better equipped to teach two children than the one I’ve got. What resources do I have to offer them?
And I truly don’t feel his pain in the way that he does.
While I was in no way planning on tutoring my first grader from home for the remainder of the spring semester, I am blissfully lucky that I’ve only got the one! One grade level to worry about, and she is a bright, curious, neurotypical seven-year-old. And mine is the sort of work that can be done at midnight for all the powers that be may care, so long as I meet my deadlines. As far as unexpected homeschooling plans go, I’ve got it easy!
Easier, it may be. Less hectic. Less stressful. Less painful. Less bone crushingly, mind numbingly, heart wrenchingly terrifying.
Relatively speaking, I’ve got it easy.
And I am still not okay.
It is not normal to have to wipe down every last grocery item on the porch before it can come into the house.
It is not normal for my child’s only interaction with kids her own age to be through a screen.
It is not normal to walk through a neighborhood and see yellow police tape wrapped around the swing set and the jungle gym of the nearby playground.
So long as I live, that image will never be fully scrubbed clear from my mind.
We’re fine. We are prepared and we are smart and we are capable. We will survive this and help others do the same as best we can.
But we’re not fine. Because these are circumstances we never imagined. The precedent for this is a hundred years old. What are we to do with that? The best we can? Because the best I can wears thin about twice an hour when I have to count to ten so as not to snap at my confused, lonely, heartbroken little girl who doesn’t know how to act around her mom who is also her teacher now and who, I’m so sorry, baby, really can’t take you to the park or for a visit. How about another bike ride or maybe we can feed the birds?
This isn’t fun. It’s not easy for anybody. I fully acknowledge that I do not have it nearly, not even a fraction, as hard as many others do.
And I am still not okay.