I picked a fight with an old family friend last night. It was shitty of me, and I have had this ball of tension sitting in the pit of my stomach all night and day because of it.
I have been spending an inordinate amount of time online, after the kids go to bed, trying to keep myself abreast of the ever-changing news about the virus. I read article after interview after article, I look at graphs, I read through comments on my neighborhood community page about what local businesses are still operating and if the supermarkets have any Lysol back in stock yet (they don’t). I feel like I am trying to prepare for an impending war without knowing who the enemy will be. Will the enemy be food shortages? Medical supply shortages? Doctor shortages? The sudden and un-memorialized (because of the quarantine) death of a family member? I am trying to prepare for a catastrophe while playing nurse, emotional load bearer, grocery shopper, cook, and teacher. I’m doing this while watching the timer on the dryer and planning around naptimes. I’m trying to glean everything I can from sources I don’t have time to vet, then worrying that information is outdated, or patently false to begin with. This, after 12+ hours of trying to teach my kid, keep the teacher advised of her progress, dab at the pee-soaked carpet with towels that I will then have to wash with bleach when there’s a bleach shortage, cook food in order of expiration so as to limit our trips to the store and to keep the whining of picky eaters down to a half-a-Xanex roar, keep the house tidy, wash the pee-soaked pants, get us outside for fresh air and exercise when one kid wants me to give her roller skating lessons and the other wants to be pushed on a trike at the same time, put the house back together now that the sewer repair and bedroom remodel are done, make sure the goddamned Beta fish is fed, and check in on my neighbors and friends. It’s exhausting. AND WE ARE THE LUCKY ONES.
While scrolling through on Sunday night, I found this troll-y gem on my neighborhood group, likely posted by the same crank that thinks the plastic bag ban is an infringement on our liberty and we should just throw our used drinking straws right into the ocean in protest: “If we just turned our TVs off for two weeks, 80% of the world’s problems would go away“. A few folks commented on how the media is driving us to hysterics, how this is all blown out of proportion, and we should just relax because it’s not that bad.
This was how I found myself, exhausted and anxious, scrolling through Facebook searching for, shall we say, a palate cleanser. (I now see the idiocy of using the same tool that cut me to heal myself). This family friend had posted something I found “unhelpful”- a comparison, for perspective, of how many people have died from coronavirus versus, say, people who have died of AIDS, or cancer, or suicide. I didn’t *get* the perspective. In fact, rather than expand, my perspective narrowed into a laser beam that wanted to sear everything to ribbons.
The Grief: it has arrived.
I messaged my friend and nailed my grievances to her door and then I waited. I felt righteous. I felt justified.
The weekend had been rough on us as a family. Bobo didn’t want to do her work on Friday, and I didn’t have any fight left in me to enforce it. Mr. Burdy worked his ass of to get the bedroom remodel done before Sunday, which means I was minding the kids and trying to wash every last stitch of fabric that was covered in contractor dust and, probably, coronavirus. On Sunday, against our better judgement, Mr. Burdy helped his mom move some stuff from her house, which she has recently sold, to our house and my mom’s house. I sent him away with sanitizing wipes and gloves and sweated and paced for three hours while the kids tore up the house I was trying in vain to clean.
Then I got the news that a friend with three young children had been discharged from the hospital after surviving the virus. After begging several hospitals to test him after he showed symptoms, he was told to quarantine in his apartment- without his three young kids or wife- for a week. When he finally did receive a test, it was positive, and into the hospital and onto assisted breathing he went. He survived.
All this anxiety, this grief for my friend who could have died, this worry for the father of my children being the mensch he is helping his mother in an unfortunately timed move while also trying to coordinate a run to Costco to see if they had restocked the tomato sauce, this rage at this dum-dum online who thinks a global pandemic will go away if we just stop watching the news… it was all sitting there, right on the edge of my nerves, ready to spark into an inferno of sadness and rage when I saw that post from my old family friend.
For the record: I do NOT think it’s helpful, at this moment, to think of coronavirus deaths in terms of their relationship to other kinds of deaths, including those by suicide (or abortions, which was included on this list and which I have lots of questions about.) We’re dealing with several dozen crises at once here, including, at the top of the list and which should be enough to knock the breath out of you: a global shortage of personal protective equipment for the ONLY PEOPLE WHO KNOW HOW TO TREAT THIS. Then there’s also loss of work/wages, a disrupted global supply chain, isolation in a country that suffers with massive mental health issues, lack of guaranteed basic health insurance, not enough hospital beds, contradictory messaging from the people who are supposed to be in charge, lack of social services for people who rely on our school system- which is dormant at the moment- for their basic needs… it goes on and on and on. So, no, it’s not just “only” 21,000 deaths when held up to say, cancer. It’s a disease that is laying bare the very inequitable, unjust, and immoral underpinnings of “the greatest country in the world”, which we will ALL be feeling for a long, long, long time.
Anyway, I read this infographic and I immediately I distilled it into “your suffering doesn’t much matter in light of these other numbers“. I wrote out my rage to her. I waited for her response. I thought I’d done a good job of raising awareness, pointing to her short sightedness, of the insensitivity of reducing deaths- deaths of people on the front lines, deaths of fathers and grandmothers that weren’t able to say goodbye to their loved ones because of the quarantine- to a comparison game.
When she wrote back, it was to say her brother in law was potentially sick with the virus. She’d lost her job. She was just as scared as anyone. She’d been a nurse in her younger years, so all she was trying to do was offer some real talk, some perspective.
I just sat there, finally, finally with my grief, which felt like a fist in my stomach. I didn’t cry. I just sat there. Which is what I should have done in the first place. Just been with the grief. I’m not good at confrontation. I’ll silently carry a placard in your march, I’ll sign petitions and sport the buttons on my lapel. But I’m not good with calling people out on what I perceive as “their stuff”. That’s someone else’s job. Given all that had happened in the last three days, I was just feeling like I needed to call out SOMEONE.
Raise your hand if you’ve been yelling at the wrong people all week.
How shortsighted of ME to not think that maybe my old friend was grieving, too. Damn.
As if the Universe was priming the pump for me, I found out this morning a dear, dear friend of mine in Seattle *might* have the virus. All signs are pointing to yes, but they could also be pointing to another lung disorder. It’s an odd universe indeed when we cross our fingers and hope for bronchitis.
I’m not the only one worrying, of course, and saying shitty things to people. The whole world is. My kids are worrying, too, but they’re not processing it like the adults are. Beaversons has taken to rubbing every square inch of her body over every square inch of my body in a twenty minute ritual in the dark before bed. She asks me to “snuggle her”, which, at any other moment of the day, I do to excess. (I’m a little afraid that kid is going to go away to college with a plaster cast of my cupped palm to hold to her oversized head in times of worry). I can’t, however, crawl into her toddler bed and spoon her the way she would prefer. And she absolutely won’t fall asleep in my lap, preferring instead to hang half her body down off the bed, head imperceptibly sliding towards the floor while grazing my body, until she falls out, asks me to snuggle her, and repeats the whole process.
The quarantine has also COMPLETELY undone all Beaverson’s potty training.
Bobo, meanwhile, has begun sleepwalking and urinating in odd places. On the first night, we thought it was a fluke. She woke up while I was still sitting on the floor of her bedroom (checking my phone for news updates) while Beaversons entered the final movements of her dance cycle. Bobo bent down and tried to flick my foot off the floor like she was lifting a toilet seat. I guided her to the bathroom, then went to grab some water for myself from the kitchen. From the kitchen I could hear what sounded like her pressure washing the shower stall. I waved over Mr. Burdy, who had come out of the bedroom when he heard Bobo’s door open. Bobo was standing in the shower, still sleeping, we think, her pajamas around her ankles.
The next night, she came barrelling out of her room, walked clear across the house to find me, then, after she was walked back to the bathroom (where I presumed she needed to be), she let ‘er rip two inches in front of the toilet, pants on.
Last night, it was another pee in front of the toilet rather than in the toilet. For her part, Bobo doesn’t remember any of it and thinks this is all some game we’re playing where she wakes up in different pajamas in the morning.
The poor kid.
Everyone’s feeling it. We’re all entering a weary phase. We’re all running out of bleach and sanitizing wipes. We’re all trying to do at LEAST three jobs at once, and everyone, the kids, the adults, we’re all tired and not in control of our faculties. We’re all sad about the announcement that shelter in place needs to go till at least April 30th, which, really, is a more diplomatic way of saying May 1st, which really is a way of saying we don’t know, which is a way of saying probably through summer. We’re all sweating and pacing and wondering if our friends have the virus and if they’ll be okay. We’re dashing through the supermarkets holding our breaths and searching for the words for how not normal this is. The word we’re looking for is sad. We’re sad. We’re just sad. This is sad. All of it. It’s about time the sadness came.
I’m so sorry for the things I said while I was sad.