And if you feel fine, you either heavily delusional, or you are a much better adjusted person than 99% of the population – myself included. Seriously, what in the actual hell is happening? Two weeks ago, I was on Spring Break at a ski resort in Colorado with my family, hearing about this new virus that was running amok in other countries and starting to show up in the US as snippets on the news. Was I concerned? Not really. How naive of me. Sitting in my ignorant privilege thinking that surely “they” would get a handle on this before it hit my tiny corner of the universe. By the time we left Colorado to head back to Texas, there were 4 presumed positive cases in my county. A little closer to home for sure, but still nothing I was really overly concerned about.
We got home on Friday, March 13, and with very few and and very strategic exceptions, I have not left my house since. This seems absolutely wild for me to wrap my head around. I am a textbook introvert. An avid homebody. But I am also a person who enjoys a quick jaunt to Target to pick up whatever my heart fancies whenever I darn well please. Give me the choice and I’ll stay home all day every day. Tell me I can’t leave and I kind of start to turn a little feral.
By that Saturday, the decision had been made that we would not be going back to school on Monday after spring break. The district made the decision to extend the break, giving everyone involved time to figure out what on earth we were doing and for how long. On Tuesday we met as a school to put some guidelines in place and we were off to the online learning races. The rest of last week disappeared in a blur of putting together online classrooms and virtual lessons, communicating with parents, and just trying to stop and catch our breaths. Everything still seemed surreal. Everything still seems surreal.
The next weekend (the one that just passed), we were ready to roll out this new online learning. We had tested the video services we planned to use, and posted our first online lessons to be done. The teachers and staff of my school took a 3 hour drive through our attendance zone honking and waving at the kids that we hadn’t seen in 2 weeks by this point, and when we’ll see them again is anybody’s guess. It was one of strangest experiences I’ve ever had – seeing these kids and their amazing families from a distance cheering and waving and smiling. Simultaneous feelings of excitement and heartbreak.
Monday morning we started what has since become our new normal, and it’s strange how both new and normal it really has seemed. I’m down to only one kid at home that’s still in grade school, and he’s old enough that he has picked up and managed this whole thing with very little direction from me. I provided the structure, and he ran with it. He has gotten up, eaten breakfast, and gotten dressed (why?) at almost the same time he did before. He logs on to his classes and gets his work for the day done. I sit in my “office” (it’s a corner of my bedroom, because my husband is also working from home and has already laid claim to the actual home office having already been working from home periodically for years), and I plan lessons and check log ins and website activity and hold virtual “office hours” where I conference with kids that have questions, or can’t figure out how to log in, or just want to say hello (those are my favorites). Sometime about the time of day I would be getting home, I come out of my “office” and go about my evening. And some time over the course of the past 3 days, it has become so normal that I have to remind myself that it’s weird.
And I hate it. I hate it for so many reasons. The obvious reasons like I want to see my students in person, and I want to buy groceries, and I want to go see friends in person, and bless it – I want to go to the gym (because the first thing I need to buy when I’m allowed to go out shopping might be jeans); but I hate it for so many other reasons, and for so many other people. I hate that my oldest son is still out working in this crazy world, because he just started a job that he absolutely loves and is terrified to give up at a hospital of all places. It’s scary to think that even though he is not medical staff, that he could potentially come into contact with this thing that we know so little about, but that has changed our lives so radically. I hate this for my middle son, who is having to finish his 2nd semester of college online (which I actually don’t think he hates all that much), and has had to make the hard choice to tell his boss that he will not be coming in to work during this season, and distance himself from his girlfriend, who has been his best friend since ages before they actually came out and started dating. I hate this for people that came into this situation already so fragile – whether medically, emotionally, or financially, that this thing has the potential to completely break them. I hate this for high school seniors that are having the crappiest of senior years. For residents of nursing homes and the families that can’t visit them. For the medical staff that are putting their lives at risk on the front lines of a war against an invisible enemy. There doesn’t seem to be one single person unaffected by this thing in some way.
But in the bad, there is always some good to be found, and I would be lying if I said I haven’t found some good in this mess. While there have been days in the last 2 weeks that I have barely kept it together, I have held fast to whatever constants I can. Routine has saved my life. Small things in my routine like my mornings. Getting up early to have my coffee and meditate on what I want for my day to be. Starting work at the same time each morning, taking breaks at the same, and putting work down at 4:00. These routines were intact before this mess, and even though the fine details are a little bit altered, they are intact still. There have been other bright spots in this storm. In the 12 days since we’ve been home, we have played more games, taken more walks, and had more meaningful conversation as a family than we have in collective months. Maybe years. And while I am sure that in the very near future, all this connection and positive engagement has the potential to go very south, I plan to enjoy it while it lasts. And maybe, when we’re past this nightmare (because at some point we have to get past it, right?), I can only hope that the bright spots of my new normal will stick around and make what was a pretty enjoyable old normal even better.