children,  dreams,  family,  grief,  new york,  parenting,  work,  writing

Quarantine Life

Sometimes I look at the clock and I imagine what I was doing at that time of day back in February, before the entire world had gone mad. A 7:33 this morning, I thought, oh, look, I’d be getting on the train now. I’d be pulling out my laptop to write or sipping a coffee and chewing slowly on a bagel while I watched my neighborhood slip away from the train window.

When I look up again and see that it is 9:40 a.m., I think about settling in to the day’s work, emails read. Perhaps I’d be using my standing desk, perhaps not, depending on how the morning’s workout had treated me. Perhaps I would just be guilt-laden with all of the productive things that I chosen not to do that day. To be honest, I had plenty of those days too.

I always valued my long commute for the time and space that it gave me. It was the first thing I missed when we got the orders not to return to the office. Had I known that we were literally fleeing for our lives the last time I walked out that door, I would have brought a few more things.

My standing desk.

My special new Yeti coffee cup that keeps the coffee warm enough for me to sip it the way I like to.

The fleecy Land’s End slippers that I used to use in the winter because of the office’s drafty windows.

Now I just refill the cup over and over to keep the coffee warm. My consumption has gone up dramatically — after all, there is only me to drink the coffee and that is one giant pot. I am trying to find balance in my day, between suddenly being a full time caregiver to my daughter while working my full time job and still having some room — somewhere – for me to still work on the projects that meant so much to me back in February.

It turns out that living at the epicenter of a global pandemic is not super fun.

I was targeting having a fully revised manuscript ready to start the submission process by the end of April. I was ahead of my goals in the beginning of March, but then the world crashed down. Suddenly, surviving became the only thing I could care about. We started hanging on to the daily numbers — deaths, admissions, R factor — as though they were our new religion.

My Beloved is an essential worker, so our family is more dangerous to others than most. We’ve kept strict quarantine. We wear our masks everywhere, even the kiddo. She hasn’t seen another child for two months now and I worry, endlessly, about what that will do to her long term. Being home alone with only an adult that’s always working isn’t..well…it isn’t great.

Like everyone else, we’ve sacrificed so many plans. The kiddo was to graduate from her day care at the end of the month, which won’t be happening now. Her dance recital, cancelled, while her dress for it hangs in the closet, set aside for the special day. We were to spend a week in Florida in April. Now my family reunion over the summer is also kaput and it looks unlikely that we’re going to get to Europe to see my Beloved’s family in August. It was a big year for us for travel and it’s hard not to mourn that.

It’s looking very much like my daughter will start kindergarten via remote learning. I can’t even begin to imagine how to manage that. I spend time with her every day now giving her reading and math lessons, but I’m a far cry from a professional educator. I squeeze in the time between the hours I put in for my job and I struggle with patience, as the stress of trying to do two things well at once gets to me.

That’s a Sisyphean task, of course. No human could manage it well, but tell that to my brain in the many times I have had to face my own failures in the last two months.

Some days we seem to have found our rhythm and the day goes well. Others, not so much.

But we’re here and we’re healthy so far. Our expectations have reset so much that sometimes that even feels like enough.

One Comment

  • ccyager

    May you and your family continue to stay healthy! It’s a very good point about mourning the things you had planned to do that are now impossible until there’s a vaccine. I’m glad to hear you are doing OK — the new normal can be frustrating and overwhelming at the same time. I was fortunate that our Governor issued an order for state workers to get paid leave if they couldn’t work from home and couldn’t be moved to another department to pick up overflow work. As soon as my pulmonologist submitted the required letter, my boss told me to go home. I do not miss the commute at all — 50 min. in the morning and 60-90 min. in the evening. I’m still checking work email and in contact with the office, attending conference calls as necessary, but otherwise not working. I have been writing and work on the first draft of my third novel has sped up considerably. That pleases me, but I wonder about the quality of the writing because half my brain is stuck in the pandemic and its effects. And some days, all I feel like doing is stare out the window and listen to sad songs. Stay safe and well!

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