Do you find yourself wondering what other people are doing while at home during this time? Leave it to a perfectionist to think, “Am I doing this right?” I am convinced everyone is doing this in a much better way than me. Dear lord, there are pages and pages on Pinterest stuffed to the gills with ways to slay at quarantining. Grow plants! Organize your wardrobe! Start a journal! Date nights! I am totally doing it wrong.
Then I slide over to Instagram and Facebook and everyone seems obsessed with food. They are learning to make a sourdough starter, baking croissants (that would be my daughter) and having, what appears to be lovely, leisurely dinners by a fireplace. Meanwhile, I’m having oatmeal, fancied up with a banana and Greek yogurt while I rewatch an episode of “Schitt’s Creek” trying to not think about the two times I just sneezed and how I must have COVID-19 and why didn’t I ever prepare a will?
Having never been in a pandemic before, I, like you am learning by the seat of my pants. Well, leggings. Who am I kidding, I stopped wearing real pants weeks ago. My days are a jagged course of vacillating between feeling almost-normal, calm and resolute, to sad, angry, scared and claustrophobic. Add to this the financial precariousness I and so many others are feeling, and it is a perfect recipe for well, something none of us really knows how to navigate perfectly. Which is very hard for we control freaks.
On the advice of my daughter-in-law, I decided a few weeks ago that creating some semblance of a routine was the only way I was going to survive. I created a list on my Notes app on my phone, very unimaginatively titled, “Routine.” I even use a little checkmark emoji to mark my accomplishments. I find it all goes well until about noon each day, and then it all somehow drifts off the rails. I start my day with the best of intentions, but without the normalcy of life outside my home to give me some parameters, it all feels pretty wonky. And stressful.
I am lucky enough to live on Cape Cod year-round, which is not a bad place to be stuck. Most days, when it’s not raining (Cape Cod has lousy springs) I go for walks with my boyfriend, play with my cat and work. I wrote a short play this week for a local theater, I do Yoga with Adriene every day, and make it a point to check in with someone different every day, besides my kids and brother. I keep busy.
A few times a week I drive to the beach where I have a social distance visit with a friend. We sit in our respective cars, next to each other, look out at the ocean and talk on our phones. It’s at once both sweet and sad.
My family is scattered from Montana to Medellin, and we have family Zoom dates where we enviously drool over what my daughter, who owns a restaurant, is cooking and eating. Last week, after having my aforementioned oatmeal, I watched her create parfaits made with homemade blood orange curd, yogurt, and fresh fruit. She did not learn this from me. Seeing all their faces makes me so happy, but also breaks my heart a little.
In my head, people who are doing this well don’t cry at least once a day over small things, big things… anything and everything. Today it was a seagull I saw dead on the side of the road on the way back from our walk. Hours later I am still choked up and keep thinking its friends and family are wondering where he is. Truth be told, this isn’t terribly new, I’ve been crying over animals my entire life, but it feels different and sadder now. Everything feels different and at times sadder now. But at the same time I know it’s an incredible opportunity as well. While we can’t escape and distract it’s giving all of us a chance to reflect on what’s important, and maybe what we can let go of and what we need and want more of.
It is not lost on me for one minute how completely lucky I am. I have a home, internet, food to eat, a partner who is a great person to be in this with, and I’m healthy, as is my family. We are all doing what we should be doing, we’re staying in to protect others and ourselves. But you can be grateful and still be sad and scared.
I’m thinking there really isn’t a right or wrong way to get through a pandemic. I’m just trying to do it with a certain amount of kindness, grace, a sense of humor and my sanity. Step one for me is going to be to stay the heck off Pinterest and stop comparing my coping skills to anyone else’s. My crying over a seagull is someone else’s organizing their pantry. We all deal with stress in different ways.
When I think ahead to the future when we can begin to slowly emerge from our homes, I have a feeling it’s going to be a different world. Scary at first I’m sure. When I think about what I’m looking forward to it’s not anything big. Yes, things like a haircut will be nice. Wearing something other than leggings and sweaters will also be wonderful. But mostly I want to be with people. In person. I live in a small town and I miss my daily conversations at the post office and local market. I’m really looking forward to that. And hugs, I really miss hugs.