These are uncharted waters.
A lot of us are hanging on by our increasingly bitten nails, preparing for the worst while simultaneously praying for the best. No matter what that may feel like to us individually, there’s no one right way to do that.
If your kids are home and wearing the same pair of underpants they were wearing four days ago? Try to channel Frozen and let it go.
If their thumbs are calloused because they’re playing too much X-box? Try…really hard….not to sweat it right now.
If your school age kids are drooling in front of crappy television, watching age-inappropriate things? Don’t worry about it.
If there are no vegetables in the house? Don’t freak out.
If you’re using this time to bond as a family, play board games and cook together? Great! If you’re not? Do not beat yourself over the head with the unused Monopoly board, the one you got out in anticipation of fun, frolicking family times before you had a panic attack.
We ARE ALL doing what we need to do.
And that looks different for everyone.
But for the love of God, don’t shame someone who is getting through this differently, even unintentionally.
The last thing anyone needs, but especially women, especially mothers, is guilt–on top of trying to literally keep themselves and their families alive.
Under the best of circumstances guilt is suffocating, a weight on your chest. Now? Well now it well may kill us. As I write this out I am mentally telling myself that the tightness in my chest is far more likely to be a panic attack than symptoms of something else.
As I snipe at my older son for not taking his remote learning seriously enough, I have to remind myself that my steely resolve to keep things in control is going to come back and bite me in the ass. Of course it is. It was always going to.
The last thing I need right now, four days in (fuck, is that it? Really?), is guilt.
Some of you are going to go into Super Clean Mode. Others are going to cook enough food to freeze for forty days and forty nights. Others are going to binge watch really crappy television.
It’s all ok.
For all the wonderful posts about virtual museum tours and catching up on those classics we’ve been meaning to read for the last thirty years, all the educational resources, most of us are going to slip into survival mode, if not already, then eventually. That means non-essential functions shut down.
It means this: Do whatever the fuck you need to do to get through this.
There is no medal at the end of this. There is no prize for who maintained the best homeschool schedule or cooked the most vegetables or organized the pantry (raising hand). There is no podium placement for anyone bleached the hell out of their house or disinfected every doorknob, kept up with their modified workout schedule, or put in full hour days at the virtual office.
The medal is simple: it’s surviving. It’s protecting the people you love and by social distancing, even the people you hate.
I’m an organizer. It’s how I best manage my anxiety. So for now I am pretending that each day is as normal as I can make it. That means packing lunches for my kids. It means following a routine. It’s been setting my alarm, getting up, going through my normal motions. That’s how I manage. This has been, until today, the only thing that is stopping me from freaking the fuck out.
Not everyone is going to manage that way.
I am hanging on just like you.
Women have historically been the ones who stitch together the holes in humanity, the ones torn by man, by nature, by violence or apparently, plague. Ironically, before all of this began, I started a poem about that very thing, called The Goddess of Small Things:
small stitches, taken with care
in and out, over and through,
a rosary of hours passed and days spent
stitching a net around the world
Huh, they said,
when they saw her on Facebook
We thought you’d have done more with your life,
so much potential–
never understanding that her fingers never stopped moving, never stopped stitching,
even as she sucked the blood from a prick in her thumb.
a carrot peeled a child raised a dinner cooked
a knee kissed, a soul soothed, a grief comforted
She slathers her skin with lotion,
a gift from a loved one who doesn’t know her at all
she’s ever liked the smell of lemons–not really
and picks up her needlework,
ignoring the holes in her own heart yet again
there are nets to be mended
holes to be fixed
I should probably finish that.
But right now the words coming out of my fingertips are more about getting through than beauty.
We are the gatherers, who sustain in times of famine, in times of un-plenty.
And there a million different ways to do that. No one should ever feel their way is wrong.
Stay safe. Stay sane.
And honestly? Do whatever the fuck you need to do to get though this.