COVID Overwhelm

How are you all doing today?

A non-COVID related drama at home this week has forced me to reckon with the incredible amount of ongoing and underlying stress of these days of home lockdowns, social distancing, home schooling, curbside deliveries, home schooling, single parenting, worry about our families, worry about our neighbors, worry about our colleagues, worry about our friends, worry about our pets. Our aging parents. Our businesses, our jobs, our kids’ education, our retirement accounts. No meat, no toilet paper, no disinfectants, what’s next? Overbaking, overeating, underexercising, overparenting, underparenting, too much screen time, and did I mention homeschooling? And what about those less fortunate than I? Facemasks, gloves, hand sanitizer, too many people at the park, too many people on the trail, why aren’t they wearing masks. Too many people in that group, why are there so many people together? Those kids aren’t in the same family! Don’t touch the mail. Don’t touch the package. Bleach every door handle, light switch, countertop. Did you sneeze? Did you cough? Do you have a fever? Why do I still have a sore throat?

It. Is. Beyond. Overwhelming.

No experience in my lifetime, and I’m guessing yours, as well, has ever threatened to impact every single aspect of life that I can possibly imagine. And for the last 7 weeks since we hunkered down at home, I thought I have been managing well. No toilet paper? No problem – I’ll buy a bidet! (I didn’t). No yeast for bread? No problem! I’ll make a sourdough starter. No chicken on the shelves? No problem! I prefer eating vegetarian anyway! (The kids are another story.) Suck it up, plow ahead, make it work, get it done, push on through, move it forward, smile anyway. Inhale, hold your breath, we’ll get through. It will be ok. I tell myself: “There are so many other people who are worse off than you.”

We. Need. To. STOP.

This morning, I woke up, and like a reflex, I reached for my phone. Then I stopped. I set it aside. I prayed. I thought about those things for which I am grateful. My family is well. I have food in the fridge. I have a roof overhead. My kids are (in general) getting along remarkably well despite being cooped up with each other with no social outlet or sports activities for nearly 2 months. We are stumbling through this homeschooling thing without too many problems.

We WILL get through this.

Those of us who came of age in the 70s or earlier remember much more quiet time, don’t we? Laying on the grass looking up at the clouds to see what creatures evolved in their shapes? Watching an ant carry something across the sidewalk 20 times its size for what seemed like hours. Sitting in my bedroom window during a thunderstorm waiting for that next crack of lightning to light up the sky and wait for the boom that would shake the house. Sitting on the phone with my best friend for hours, sometimes just listening to her breath because we had already said everything there was to say, but just wanted to be together. We felt like we had all the time in the world. And once again, many of us do.

Take a moment. Listen to your breath.

Say a prayer. Look at family photos. Doodle. Massage your own hands. Give yourself a facial. Read a book. Hug your kid, your roommate, your spouse, your dog, your cat, your pillow. Build a fire. Light a candle. Plant a seed. Call a friend. Watch the birds outside your window. Watch the squirrels. Watch the clouds. Watch the wind in the trees. Take a shower, take a bath. Take a nap.

Breathe.

None of us knows how long it will be before life gets back to normal. None of us knows what “normal” will really look like when it does. We are truly all in this together. And what we all have in common is a moment. Give yourself permission to just be.

Photo credits: : Image created by Alex Wild (2002, Paraguay) and placed in the public domain January 2012