Tuesday, March 31, 2020

March ??: Groundhog Day

Working at home continues, punctuated every 30 seconds by a baby screeching, a kid yelling, "Mom," or Coco crying because she has been physically or emotionally injured.

Today, G decided to mix things up by getting into the kitchen trash can while I was logging Coco into her morning Zoom meeting. When I walked back around the kitchen counter, I found her sucking on a granola bar wrapper.

Yesterday, the weather was beautiful and I did yoga out on the deck on my lunch hour. This makes working at home feel blissful.

Yesterday, my five year old interrupted a Zoom advising meeting I was having with a student to ask me if she could have a fruit roll-up. This makes working at home feel less desirable.

The truth is I have nothing to complain about here, but I feel very worried on behalf of other people. I am limiting my risk and exposure, but I'm still afraid of getting sick. I had to go pick up a prescription at Walgreens yesterday and while I was out, I went to Home Depot to get a few things we needed to finish painting all the trim in our house. I realized I was actually very, very paranoid about getting sick. I kept my shirt sleeves pulled down over my hands and left my sunglasses on to help me remember to not touch my face. I carried two handiwipes in my pockets so I could wipe my hands after using the self-checkout. Everything I touched felt like a potential threat--a surface on which a virus could be lingering. When I got home, I immediately used the neti-pot, thinking I might flush out any airborne germs from my nose, and then took a shower, tossing my clothes in the laundry basket for them to sit untouched for three days.

Was it an overreaction? Probably. But that's the thing I keep reading about... if we don't get sick, if we don't have the kind of crisis here that they are having in New York, then it feels like an overreaction. But if that does happen here, then it's because we failed to react. So what feels like an overreaction is actually an appropriately proactive, preventative strategy.

All I know is that I don't really want to leave my house again.

Meanwhile, we keep eating our way through our groceries. I read that Instacart and Amazon are on strike, and I don't know that we need to further impose upon those folks who aren't getting paid enough for what they're doing since we are actually capable of going to the store ourselves, but the thought of going to the store gives me the heebie jeebies. If David goes instead of me, I'm going to insist that he wear gloves.

Every time I think about not touching my face, my nose itches.

Also on the home front, we are very busy with this painting project and I am loving the results. It feels really shallow and superficial to be so excited about the way painting wood trim white is lightening and brightening up the whole house. But shallow and superficial pleasures also feel necessary in the midst of a pandemic in which I have zero control over anything except my own choices.

Zuzu saw a friend of hers out in the neighborhood next to ours and begged to run over and say hello. I told her she had to stay far away but she could shout hello. It's a kid she knows from school who has some chronic health issues. I think about how terrified her mom must be. The girls yelled hello from our driveway and waved.

I'm missing my twice-daily chats with G's babysitter. She's posted on FB how sad she feels about her son missing the big high school milestones of senior year--his track season, prom, graduation.

I'm also feeling sad about Coco missing the big milestones of her Montessori kindergarten year--the field trips and activities that she's literally looked forward to since she was three years old and all she wanted to be when she grew up was "a kindergartener." They won't get to go to the arch and eat at the Old Spaghetti Factory for lunch. They won't get to have their graduation ceremony where they serve their parents lemonade and the teachers talk about the strengths and characteristics of each child. They won't get to play on the new playground equipment they were so excited about that got installed during spring break.

And these are tiny problems compared to the risks healthcare workers are taking every day. The decisions they are making about whether to come home to their families or stay away for their protection. The fear--or the very present reality--of not having enough equipment to keep doctors and nurses safe and to treat patients adequately.

Of course the economic fallout is on my mind... I've read some promising things about how this should be an economic blip rather than a fullout recession, but I don't even want to look at how my retirement account has plunged. And yet this is nothing compared to small businesses that are shutting down and service workers who are suddenly unemployed.

It makes me feel incredibly lucky and that is an uncomfortable feeling too, because I'm all too aware of how precarious and fickle luck is, how quickly it could turn and flip and I could find myself on the wrong side of it. It's not about merit or planning or reward for work well done. It's about luck and proximity and those tiny choices that add up to whether or not your job is still paying you or you sat near someone who coughed before they even knew they were sick.

But it's not entirely luck, is it? A lot of it is also the result of privilege. And when privilege is consistently denied to specific populations, they will always be at greater risk and pay a greater price. I have tried to become involved in social justice work in my community, and this pandemic is laying bare the link between social justice and basic human rights--including healthcare. It also makes me feel helpless because now the issue is life or death in many cases and the only thing I can do at present is... stay home. Zoom into work meetings. Paint my trim. Rock my baby. Do yoga on the deck.

It has my head spinning, and I know I'm not saying anything new or original or different from what other folks in my position are likely to be thinking and feeling. It's still just mind boggling, though, and I can't even articulate it exactly.

When the sun shines and the kids are playing outside and the baby is napping in her crib and, in theory, I should be able to take a deep breath and relax and enjoy myself... I am always thinking about the fact that the only reason I'm experiencing this very pleasant Tuesday morning at home is because there is a global pandemic killing off thousands of people.

Maybe it's better when the kids are screaming and I don't feel like I can concentrate on work and I'm desperate to have even a few minutes to myself--because then at least I feel like I'm struggling, too?

We are mapping out daily activities, clinging to some kind of structure. Daily yoga. School work. Outside play. A mindless distraction on TV. (The girls have been watching a lot of Fuller House but Coco also says it's "embarrassing" because of all the kissing, which I find hilarious.) A good book (I'm currently reading this and you should 100% order it from your favorite independent bookstore--it's so good. And you know who else thinks so? Sarah Jessica Parker.)

I'm off to my next Zoom meeting... xoxo

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