08 Apr Day 31 of Self-Quarantine
Well, here we are on our 31st day of self-quarantine. We got to it a little early because we had flu in the house, giving us both a reason and an excuse to hunker down while it still seemed like an oddball thing to do. Our kids missed two weeks more of school before it was canceled, one of the weeks being due to actual flu and the second one being a bit of a paranoid “how long can we keep them home before truancy officers come and take our children away” wait-and-see period of time.
Turns out we were ahead of the curve and not actually insane. But we sure felt like it for a hot minute there.
Our timeline started with Odyssey of the Mind, on February 29. One of our teammates had the flu the night before. He rallied, they competed. Came in last place, but they made it. We were proud. All but one teammate caught the flu following – along with a bunch of other kids; it was just going around. Enough things went wrong in those weeks to feel suspicious. Like we were in a movie.
Foreshadowing, I guess.
My friend called me that weekend and said hand sanitizer was running out and I’d better go and get some because this thing was going to be bad. Real bad. I went to Target and filled up a cart with groceries, bought some stuff I usually don’t. It felt surreal like someone was going to stop me and ask me what did I know, detain me for prepping. It felt illegal and scary shopping in a store for the last time. I’m glad I did though, because I’ve been able to share hand sanitizer with a friend who really needed some, plus our mail carrier and Instacart shoppers. I’m worrying now because Danny eats nothing but pasta and cereal and now there are limits. Two boxes of pasta gets us through one day here, maybe two. It’s high time he learned to eat something else, though.
Seeing the news, I remember having the silver lining thought about the earth straightening itself out. Shutting down factories in China is a sure way to make us value what we have instead of throwing it out and buying something else because it’s cheaper to replace than to repair. And the air clearing was hopeful. But then Italy, Spain, and now here we are.
I’ve had this thought before, of tucking my kids into bed on the Titanic. I felt like it was climate change that was going to roll over our home while I kept watch, trying to stay that step ahead to protect my family. But here we are. Day 31 of Self-Quarantine. We’re in it, now.
It’s funny that the delusional paranoia I’ve had for years is actually happening now. Funny weird, not funny ha-ha. I’ve said forever ago that as soon as I reach enlightenment I’ll be hit by a truck. That it’s disconcerting to be happy or sorted out in any kind of a way because that’s how every disaster movie starts out, just another normal day. I’ve been waiting to get crushed by a random asteroid for the past like 20 years. Is that anxiety? Or just too many episodes of Six Feet Under? I’ve never been diagnosed, but the older I get, the more I realize there’s names for the goofy stuff my brain does to me.
And that it’s not just me. So that’s nice.
I’m trying to write something here tonight, just get some words out. It’s not organized. It’s not a masterpiece. But the more years I live the more I realize it’s really really not just me, and that’s why I write. So we can have some common ground; realize we aren’t alone in these thoughts. (Or maybe I am! Now you can all see my brain and tell me how weird looking it is.)
I wish I had written before. This obviously needs to be documented. It’s history, after all. And who knows if what’s in my head will have a chance to get out if I don’t write it down now.
(For real, though. This is a call to all writers. Don’t miss this. I know it’s all we can do some days to make sure we get ourselves fed and out of bed for a little while, but don’t miss this. Write something down, even if it’s brief. I have so much more to say than this, but I’m not sure I have the energy to say it. It’s near midnight and this is the moment I have to myself. The kids stay up late, and it seems like there’s less time than there ever was before.)
I’ve realized how important our support team is to us. Somehow the mechanism works; somehow people pay us enough to do things on the computer so that we can pay our bills plus pay other people to watch our kids. Well, and school’s free for some of these kids, and my parents donate their labor to the cause. But now it’s all on us and the mechanism does not work. We are trying to work but we can’t both put in 8 hours a day. We’re lucky if we split six hours between us.
There’s work to do, but not uninterrupted time to do it. Thank heavens for that government check that’s coming. (Is it coming?) (I hope it’s coming.) Thank heavens for not paying some of our bills. But it’ll catch up. This isn’t a long-term system. Do I wish it was? I don’t know, really. It’s extreme highs and extreme lows. I like the ups.
Today the low was that nobody could work in the morning because all of the kids needed all of us all the time. Crying, meltdowns. Trying to get this homeschool thing to move. They don’t like the schoolwork from school. They fight, they flip, they melt. They really need us one-on-one to sit with them and do it, but there are three of them and two of us, and one of us is supposed to be working.
Meanwhile, we’ve been theming the days to try and make them fun and so they don’t all blend together. Space day, wayfinding day, jungle day, dance day, weather day, etc. Today was faeries day. They loved making fairy cakes and having a tea party and making fairy houses. We had a lovely garden party and made little pizzas for dinner and ate outside. But they still had class work to do. And at one point I had to leave the desk because the boys bonked heads outside with Cory and both were crying and Ellie was alone in the swing yelling. It’s always something.
Remember waiting tables? How you sometimes are jamming, everybody’s got everything they need right at the perfect time, and sometimes it all falls apart because they all need you at once and it all falls to shit? It’s a lot like that. Spinning plates. Sometimes it clicks. Sometimes they crash. Often all in the course of a day.
I’ve named this feeling I’ve been having. I call it the Covid Cloud. Immunocompromised friends tell me that’s the feeling they have all the time. Listless, easily irritated, low-level panic, tons of effort to accomplish anything, dazed, snippy, sleep issues, stomach issues, looking for silver linings, in a fog, having a hard time concentrating, losing what day it is and what time it is and who I even am. It’s the Covid Cloud.
We’re all in it together, at least. That’s something. It’s comforting.
I tried to snap out of it by grabbing at the branches sticking out from the cliff on my way down. My branches are things like singing loudly in the kitchen while I’m cooking way too many things, a bath with candles and music, laying on the couch like I’m sick and indulging in a movie in the middle of the day and then napping. I have to do something like that before I break through and can actually do some self-care thing like going to bed at a reasonable hour and eating a salad. Today and yesterday I didn’t lay in bed until 10:30. I got up. I wore real pants. So that’s something.
We’ve had some big emotions in this house, too. It’s a blog post for another day, but Cory and I, it wasn’t a good time to be quarantined. Or maybe it was a good thing that neither of us could go anywhere. It’s been a time, I tell you. This is going to give our kids’ therapists years of business. (That’s not funny, Kate.) (I know.)
I’m not alone in my devotion to Andrew Cuomo. Listen, I know he’s not made of gold. I know he’s got a dark side. But listening to his daily press conferences is what gets me through. He tells it straight. He doesn’t sugar coat. He takes responsibility. He’s looking out for mental health. Making it okay to talk about mental health and setting up those resources. That’s huge. I feel comforted and safe hearing his updates. I feel like he’s protecting us and that’s a feeling I need to have to get through this.
He said at today’s press conference that it’s only been a month. Doesn’t it seem like forever?
In many ways I’m hoping that some deus ex machina comes and scoops us out of it right before it hits my family. Or any time now, really. I know that’s self-centered, to think I’m the main character in this story. But that’s the human brain for you, right? You’re the star of your show.
In other ways, I think I’d be extremely disoriented if this thing vanished into thin air and we were supposed to send the kids back to school tomorrow. Blinking into the sun like the end of Lord of the Flies.
On that note — These children have gone completely feral. They’ll never reintegrate into society. They’ve got chocolatey faces and messy hair and wear the same thing for three days straight. Marker hands, nail polish, mood swings, potty mouths, terrible humor. Ain’t no manners in quarantine. There’s nobody to be polite to or to dress up for. Feral. They’ve gone feral.
We all have, in our ways.
I’m not who I was before. I freely share how terrible my day is going or the silver lining that’s getting me through.
I think we’re all just letting our guard down with each other. I think that’s a pretty big silver lining. We’re all home in our jammies. We video chat with folks we never video chatted with before and they see our messy spare rooms and three-day-hair and just, whatever, we are happy to see each other and know that we are surviving this thing so far. Expectations are tossed out the window. We’re just ourselves, messy-haired and sweatpants. Real.
Part of my feral-ness is that I am realizing what I miss when I work.
They scratch at the locked door of my makeshift office in the guest room, like cats trying to come home from outside. They tantrum outside as I hear them dragged away. Fire alarms go off. Curse words.
They pick the lock and barge in and I’m trying to concentrate on something for once, finally just hitting a stride, just in time to be interrupted. I grit my teeth and turn around to bellow at them for bothering me and they swoop in and touch my arm and say “I needed you, Mom.” I growl, “Get out of here, what do you want, can’t Dad help you?”
They rush to me and throw their arms around me, “I just needed you.”