Pain, Protest, and Opportunity – Lockdown Day 82

***Due to bad storms, we have been without power since 12:30 PM Wednesday. Sorry for the delay in posting.***

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence helps the tormentor, never the tormented.” ~ Elie Wiesel

Last week, I wrote about civilization and how America needs to revisit the meaning of community and social responsibility.

This week has seen what happens when the social contract is broken with a particular group of people again and again and again for generations. When a group of people is consistently seen as less, as expendable, as not worthy of belonging to that social contract, we end up right here. With an officer of the law coldly and deliberately murdering a black man in broad daylight, in front of many witnesses, being videotaped…and not caring. He and the 3 officers that were his accomplices  were so assured they would suffer no consequences that they didn’t mind having an audience.

America is broken. For African-Americans, it has been broken for hundreds of years—and the massive protests we have seen in the wake of this latest brazen murder are the result.

I’m not talking about the looting. By most accounts, the looting is separate, instigated by people who would take advantage of the legitimate grief and rage and fear of Americans and twist it for their own agenda. Let it not distract us from the central issue.

The real protests, the peaceful protests, are filled with people who have had enough. Enough of the injustice. Enough of the inequality. Enough of the brutality. Enough of the hate. Enough of the death.

They are filled with people grieving the needless deaths of African-Americans, but also the death of the ideals we Americans profess to believe in—equality under the law, that all men are created equal, and the inalienable right to LIFE.

History shows that African-Americans have never really lived in that America. For them, it has been a litany of broken promises. The growing prevalence of cell phones and social media is shining the light on racism like never before. It is bringing its horror and ugliness into our living rooms, much as TV did the Vietnam War, and the results are similar. With the truth right in front of us, more and more people—of every skin color—are saying, “Enough!”

Enough.

The coronavius stopped the world and gave us a chance to contemplate what sort of “normal” we want to return to. I don’t want a normal where people have no health care. A normal where people live paycheck to paycheck. A normal where the lives of African-Americans are thrown away with such casual disdain.

Racism has been a cancer in America for too long. The convulsions we are experiencing are necessary to birth something better. Painful as this is, this moment is an opportunity. An opportunity to begin fixing a wrong too long unattended.

Let’s not waste this opportunity.

Let’s get it right this time.

I see you. I hear you. I stand with you.

Civilization – Lockdown Day 75

We’re quite a ways into this pandemic now, with still a long way to go, but many places are starting to reopen. Some slowly and methodically, guided by data and science, others all at once, willy-nilly. No state has achieved the suggested levels of cases, testing, and medical capacity to reopen, but lack of federal support for the unemployed and small businesses has caused economic pressure to reopen early. So now we are in a situation where we have gun-wielding pseudo-militiamen storming capitol buildings, governors being hung in effigy, and security guards murdered for asking people to wear a mask in a store.

The pandemic is clearly not bringing out the best in some people.

But the one image that has remained seared in my brain is the protestor holding the sign: “Sacrifice the Weak, Reopen TN”.

I find that notion horrifying. Who gets to decide who comprises “the weak”? Are the weak my parents, who are in their 70s but still working? Is it my 40-year-old friend who is on chemo? The child I know who is has an auto-immune disease? Is it the grocery store worker with asthma? The manicurist with the heart defect? Please, define for me just who are these “weak” people you want to sacrifice? Who are these people who, for you, hold absolutely no value in our society?

I cannot believe that America, home of “out of many, one”, has come to this.

Years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead described what she thought was the first sign of civilization. Her answer surprised people. It was not an artifact or tool—it was a 15,000 year old healed femur bone.

Stunned, the questioner asked what was so important about this bone. Mead replied that in the animal world, a broken leg meant death. Absent modern medicine, it takes about 6 weeks for a broken human femur to heal. That meant that someone tended to this person for 6 weeks—protected them, nursed them, fed them. They didn’t just leave them to die. And that, she said, was civilization.

I’m glad that poor guy with the broken femur didn’t live with the person with the sign.

We in America seem to need a remedial lesson in society, in the notion of communal responsibility. We need to unlearn the toxic selfishness that has become such a part of our culture and relearn the idea of “a greater good.”

In June 1944, American soldiers ran into almost certain death to save democracy.

In June 2020, American “patriots” won’t even wear a mask to save Grandma.

I honestly don’t know where we go from here. How we cleanse the ugliness that has shown itself. How we heal the divides that have shattered us. How we give our children a better world than this one.

I suggest we start by emulating the empathy and compassion for others that those people showed 15,000 years ago. You know—back when we were civilized.

Lost a Day – Lockdown Day 68

Well, it finally happened—I totally lost track of what day it is! I have been a day off all week, so spent all day today (Thursday) thinking it was Wednesday. And that’s why this post is late!

Not that there is much to report. I have spent the last week helping my daughter do schoolwork and helping my mother learn how to Zoom with her students. I’ve had my own technical difficulties with a work email that refuses to accept the password tech support has given me, even though they say it works fine when they try it. Thankfully I can still access it on my phone, so I am not completely cut off.

I did get a little bit of writing done last night. As I lay cuddled in bed with my daughter, I suddenly had an idea for revising a scene in my story. So as soon as I got downstairs, I jotted it down so I wouldn’t forget. Only a few paragraphs, but it’s something.

I attended a Writers Coffeehouse on Sunday, which is always fun and enlightening. How can hanging out and chatting with other writers not be fun, right? I also attended a virtual Board of Ed meeting, where I kept dropping off the call. I wonder if they’re trying to tell me something, LOL?

I am trying to teach my daughter how to cook some simple meals for herself. She has burned herself twice and is scared of the oven, but we soldier on. Apparently 7 weeks is all I can take of spending hours in the kitchen cooking every meal for her. She’s going to get some independence whether she likes it or not, because Mommy is tired!

Other than that, we are plugging along, going out for our walks. My daughter got a new scooter, so she scoots with me while I walk. We are healthy, as is our extended family, and we hope to remain that way.

I hope all of you are staying safe, taking care, and doing well.

A Surprise for Mother’s Day – Lockdown Day 61

With the COVID-19 lockdown continuing, we knew this Mother’s Day was going to be different. No going to my mom’s house, nor any chance of seeing my mother-in-law. We’d be at home, like every other day for the past 2 months.

My daughter woke me up too early to inform me that I would need to wash her blanket because she had gotten blood on it (nosebleed). Apparently that news could not wait until I woke up on my own. But it turned out to be a good thing.

My husband couldn’t fall back to sleep after she came in, so he got up. As he looked out the back window, he told me that there was a doe and fawn in our backyard! So we ran downstairs to tell my daughter and we peered out the blinds at the Mama Deer. The fawn had obviously been born not long before, as it was just trying out its legs, unsteady and straddled. And then my daughter said, “I think there’s a second one!” Sure enough, Mama gave birth to a second fawn!

A second baby!

We watched the second one progress from still in its sac to wiggling over to Mama for milk, and eventually standing up (and falling down) to join its sibling. The family stayed in the yard all day. How incredible to watch the fawns go from not able to stand to just about running by the end of the day! The first fawn was more adventurous than the other, wandering much farther from Mama. My daughter declared that the first fawn was a girl and the second a boy, although of course we have no way of knowing.

As dusk fell, Mama wandered around the yard. She stopped at our sliding glass door and peered in at us. We stared back for a very long moment, not moving, not wanting to frighten her. Then she started chewing the grass in her mouth again and wandered off. When I looked out later, the babies were still there, but Mama had gone, perhaps in search of water. When we woke up in the morning, all three had gone.

Certainly not a Mother’s Day gift I expected, but it was an amazing experience—and a welcome break in the quarantine routine.

A Bad Week – Lockdown Day 54

This week has been hard. Not sleeping well, for one thing, which always makes my anxiety worse. A dearth of good news in the news, for another. I see no light at the end of this tunnel—on the contrary, I see the tunnel being extended as states open too soon and people ignore social distancing because they are tired of it. Now instead of just fighting the virus, we are fighting each other, and it makes me sick inside.          

I get that people are impatient for this to end. I am, too. I’ve had enough of never being alone, never being off the clock. Enough of the anxiety that sits on my chest all day every day. Of the tears I can’t even shed because I am never alone to do so. Of not writing. Of eating too much. Of this dystopian Groundhog Day.

I’m ready to be done with this, but I can’t be done with this because it’s not over yet. And the uncertainty of when it will be over is part of the problem. I talked about anticipatory anxiety early on, and it’s still there. I know this will all end one day, but the when and how is unknown, and that weighs heavily on me. I’m good in an immediate emergency, but this extended emergency is grinding me down.

I don’t really know how to shake out of this, because there is no end in sight. So I will just have to endure. Stay as isolated as possible, make up with my daughter from the fight we had last night, and try to get more sleep. All I can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other, because there is no way out but through.

            Stay strong, stay home, stay healthy.

A Present Normal – Lockdown Day 47

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is May 1st. The month of March seemed to be about 3 years long, but April sped by. Perhaps this is a sign that I am adjusting to the new normal. Or perhaps I should call it the present normal, because the situation is ever-evolving, and there can be no true new normal until we have a treatment or vaccine for this virus.

In my present normal, I am able to indulge my night owl tendencies to an extent, by getting up a couple of hours later than I did when we had to be out the door for school, and therefore be able to stay up a few hours later at night. In spite of this, I really don’t feel well-rested. I am too on edge to sleep deeply and well. My anxiety is strange, in that when I am at a certain level of anxiety, I feel the urge to not sleep. As if my being awake can stave off whatever impending doom I am fretting about. I did this the night Superstorm Sandy blew through, as if my prowling the windows all night long could keep us safe. Apparently, that’s the level of stress I am currently experiencing. If I move into deeper stress, I move into the I-want-to-sleep-all-the-time escape mode. I am not there yet—and hope to avoid getting there.

Also in my present normal, I spend more time than I thought I would helping my daughter with her schoolwork. A large part of that is organizing and time management. My daughter’s organizational and time management skills are non-existent, so I spend a lot of my day putting her back on track and helping her with things she doesn’t understand. I also spend a lot of time feeding her. She eats constantly, but you’d never know it to look at her. Of course, she has grown an inch and a half in the last 4 months, so perhaps that explains the voracious appetite!

The one thing my present normal does not have is writing time. Part of it is because I am doing a lot more work with everyone home. Part of it is “pandemic brain” where a lot of the time my brain is fuzzy and it’s all I can do just to put out fires, forget about creativity. But even when my creative brain is working, I can’t seem to get to putting words on paper. I need some quiet alone time to do that, and that simply does not exist right now.

So hopefully my future present normal will have some time for that. I might have to wait until summer, when my daughter’s school will be out and I won’t have that time issue. But finding that time is my next challenge, the next step toward an inner normalcy, if not an external one.

How are all of you doing out there? How are you finding a new balance in this new world?

Back to the Routine – Lockdown Day 40

Last week was my daughter’s Spring Break, this week we are back to “school” as usual. Her school made a change over break, with 4 structured days (alternating Math and Language Arts focus) and then using Friday as a catch-up or free-choice study day, as needed. I think this will work really well.

I know some people are complaining about the amount of work their kids are getting with remote learning. Speaking only for my own experience, my daughter’s teachers have gotten it perfect. We have been remote learning since March 16th, and they have been refining as they go. Daily work takes a couple of hours, which is what experts say is right for my daughter’s age and grade. Her teacher has a GoogleMeet chat with the kids every school day so she can check in with them, answer questions, and go over new material. I am very pleased with the experience, so far.

This weekend, I successfully picked up groceries at my local store, and it went smoothly. Didn’t get all I wanted, but got all we needed, and that is good enough for me. Will try and snag another pickup time for two weeks from now.

Emotionally, I am up and down. The past few days have been good, but today has been hard. I am sad, and angry, and frightened. Sad for the people who are truly being hurt in the lockdown that our federal government refuses to help. Angry at the protestors so willing to put other people in danger for their own convenience. (“I need a haircut”? Really? Buy some scissors. “Sacrifice the Weak”? How very Christian of you. How very pro-life of you.) And frightened because the news of the virus is not good, and the premature reopening of states is going to cause a terrible second wave when we have not yet emerged from the first.

I am not in a creative place today, so doubt I will write, even though I know exactly what scene I want to work on next. Instead I will keep my family close, snuggle with my daughter when I put her to bed, be thankful we have survived another day healthy and together, and wait for the sun to rise on a new day.

Celebrating Easter on Lockdown – Day 33

So we’ve been at this unwanted adventure for a month. Can it be an adventure if you aren’t doing anything or going anywhere? Regardless, we are on a quest to keep ourselves and our neighbors safe. A quest to stay home? Very odd.

This week contained Easter, which my family celebrates. There is something innately surreal about celebrating a resurrection during a pandemic. Much like my Jewish friends celebrating being spared from a plague…during a plague. But the juxtaposition of new life and stalking death wasn’t lost on me.

I won’t lie, this was a tough week. We normally visit family over Easter, and not seeing them was hard on all of us. My daughter would say, “I really miss Grandma.” or “I wish I could see Grandma.” I am hoping that this virus gives us a break in the summer and we can get a visit in then.

Honestly, I would have just as soon let Easter pass with no celebration, no reminders, but I have a child who loves Easter, so thankfully, the Easter Bunny came and delivered candy and Legos, so our young one squealed with delight on Easter morning! (And woke us up quite early in the process.) My daughter left the Easter Bunny a note asking if he had been impacted by the virus, too. He left a note back saying animals don’t get sick from it like humans do, so the bunnies were fine. He also said that magical creatures seemed to be immune, as the leprechauns and elves were not sick, either.

The week was hard, with a lot of heavy feelings and held-back tears on my part. But it has passed and for the moment we are on a somewhat even keel. Tomorrow will be 14 days since I was last out in public, so I seem to have come through another incubation period okay. I got a slot for grocery pickup this time around, so I will not have to physically go into the store.

So Easter has passed, and it is hard not to try and find meaning in the conjunction of the theme of resurrection during a pandemic. The coronavirus has laid our country low, has bared all sorts of underlying inequities that have been ignored for a long time—racial, economic, health inequities that must be addressed when this is over. When we put this virus behind us, America must rise into something better than we were before—something closer to the ideals America has always proclaimed. Just as Jesus rose as something more than human, America must rise as something more than we were.

Concentration Fail – Lockdown Day 26

It’s been almost a month since we have been on coronavirus lockdown. The first few weeks were the hardest, as disruption and anxiety invaded everything. This week has felt a bit better. Not normal, by any means, but…almost.

I went food shopping again last Friday. So it’s been 5 days. Most people who get the virus start to show symptoms days 5-7. So I’m in the target zone, although I have until next Friday to get to the end of the 14 day incubation and be sure.

I never loved food shopping, and now it’s become a dreadful, anxiety-producing task. I also worry about my mother shopping for herself, as she is in multiple high-risk groups, but I am not close enough to help. She finally got a spot for delivery at her local store, and we are both so happy! One less thing to worry about for the time being.

I’ve got to tell you, though. My. Concentration. Is. Shot. I lose hours a day and I have no idea where the time went. I spend way too much time on Facebook, scrolling almost mindlessly through the feed. This is at least partly a function of my anxiety disorder. My anxiety craves information—it’s part of the illusion of control my anxiety demands. But then the information is so unbelievably bad, it boosts my anxiety. So it’s a vicious cycle, and one I need to take more control over, if I can.

So I’m not focusing on stuff the way I should. Taking me forever to do basic work, and forgetting what day of the week it is. But, weirdly enough, I AM getting some writing done. Not much, not nearly what I could have done pre-pandemic, but every so often I get a spurt of creativity and get another scene revised. 4,200 words edited since lockdown started. Not too bad.

Next week my daughter’s school is on Spring Break, so any semblance of routine will likely dissolve with no schoolwork to do. I have no idea what that will mean for my sanity or creativity.

But today I am thankful for progress. Progress in my writing and progress through this lockdown. As endless as it seems, the lockdown will eventually end, and every day is one day closer to that moment.

And on that day, the world will be reborn. So let’s make it a good one.

Anticipatory Anxiety: The Other Shoe – Lockdown Day 19

As we finally enter into April, my initial shock over the coronavirus pandemic is lifting. The first week and a half or so, I had a weight on my chest, and my brain felt fogged over. This week I have felt more myself, clearer-headed, lighter-chested. But I have moved from initial overwhelm to the next phase: anticipatory anxiety.

And what’s anticipatory anxiety? It’s waiting for the other shoe to drop. We’ve got the pandemic (shoe one), and now we’re waiting to see who we know gets sick (shoe two). They are estimating several million people will be infected by this before we are done—what are the chances at least one of them isn’t in your circle of friends or family?

So now I am haunted with the waiting. As someone with anxiety disorder, this type of anxiety has always been my undoing. I am good in an actual crisis. Once I can see the enemy, know the parameters of the crisis, I’m good to go. It’s the waiting that unravels me. Because I see every possible path, and can follow each to the worst possible outcome. Over and over.

And so I lay in bed at night with the silent tears falling, and see so many futures I don’t want to see. What if I get sick? What if my husband and I both do, what happens to my daughter? What if my daughter gets sick and needs to be hospitalized? Will they let me go with her? What if one or both of my parents gets sick—especially if both of them do? Do I go to them, knowing it’s for the duration and I can’t come home?

Anticipatory anxiety. The other shoe.

Each day to come will be a lesson in patience, a lesson in seeking peace, a lesson in staying sane.

Stay safe, stay well, stay home.

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