It’s been four months. But it seems like four years.
I remember exactly where my family was when COVID-19 changed our lives — not forever (I hope), but definitely, for now.
On Friday the 13th (fitting!) in March, when I picked up my daughter from a birthday party, parents were chatting. They had heard our school might shut down because of this virus. Still in a bit of denial at that point, I dismissed these seemingly insane rumors and headed down to Orange Beach with my family. My son was supposed to play in a tennis tournament there on Saturday, so we had decided to rent a place for the weekend. I also had to deliver some materials to a couple of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores restaurants for Lagniappe’s Mobile Bay Restaurant Week slated to begin on March 18.
By the time we checked into our condo, the tennis tournament had been cancelled. On Sunday, our kids’ school announced it would be transitioning to remote learning (no need to iron the uniforms I had packed). And on Monday, we cancelled Restaurant Week — the posters I had planned to deliver sat in the back of my car until last week.
So much change in just a few days.
We headed back home early that Monday morning, and nothing has been “normal” since.
Our kids walked out of their classrooms on a Friday not knowing they would not return again that school year or see their teachers and friends.
Our living and dining rooms would soon become their classrooms and our offices.
A couple of weeks later, all businesses except those deemed “essential” would be closed and our economy and our lives would come to a screeching halt.
Those of us who own small businesses went into full on freak-out mode and our new full-time jobs became filling out forms for government loans and figuring out how we would survive this. Would everything we had worked our entire lives for just vanish into thin air? Poof! Gone!
Plans were replaced with precariousness.
Some questions have been answered, but many still have not.
When you are down in the trenches during a trauma trying to shovel your way out, you don’t have time to think about the psychological toll it has taken on you.
We all experience traumas in our lives — it’s just part of living. One person loses a parent or spouse or gets diagnosed with a disease, and their tribe comes rushing in to support and get them through. Then that person returns the favor to another tribe member when the same happens to them.
But what happens when we all experience a trauma at the same time?
The phrase “we are all in this together” has become cliché at this point. But there is a reason it is overused. It’s true. We are, in fact, all in this together. Now, don’t get me wrong — there are certainly different levels of “in this.” Obviously, those who have lost someone to this disease are “in it” the most.
The restaurant owner who has been closed for months has a lot more to deal with than the guy whose business is somehow booming because of this. Some are contemplating bankruptcies while others are contemplating how to spend their bonuses.
The virus has definitely picked winners and losers, economically speaking. Is that fair? Nope, but such is life.
But we are indeed “all in this together” in the way our everyday lives have fundamentally changed. Just the act of putting a mask on before entering a grocery store and grabbing a shopping cart from someone who just disinfected it is strange.
Or seeing Xs on the floor everywhere, or paying for gas by sliding a card under a newly installed piece of plexiglass. Or not being able to hug someone as you say hello or goodbye — or feeling guilty if you forget and accidentally do it.
If anyone told us a year ago we would be doing any of this, we would have thought they were completely nuts.
Not seeing parents and grandparents for months on end is very hard on those who are in the “it will just really suck (we hope) if we get it” population. But if you are in the “vulnerable” group, the isolation has been almost unbearable. One friend’s elderly mother recently asked him, “If this is how life is going to be from now on, is it even worth living? The only reason I had been sticking around is to see y’all.”
I imagine even if that sentiment hasn’t been verbalized the very same thought has gone through the minds of many.
And now we are in this weird limbo. Places are opening back up and then closing back down. We have no idea if schools will really be able to operate in the fall, or if there will be football (Pleeeeeaaaasssseee!). More people we know are getting sick now than before, but we are still trying to maintain some sense of normalcy.
And sometimes things do feel like the “good old days.” But the threat of the virus (and subsequent shutdowns) is still there, lurking and lingering.
Even though we are getting through this, there is still so much uncertainty every single day, and it is wearing on all of us. How could it not be?
My family and I are on vacation this week. We have operated as we have at home — going about our lives, wearing masks in public places and keeping our distance from strangers as much as we can. And having fun.
As we were riding on a bus to go on a tubing trip, my husband took a picture of our kids who were both masked and sitting on a seat together. As he snapped the photo, he said “smile” as he has every other time he has taken a family vacation photo over the years. As he examined the photo he had just taken, he chuckled, “Well, I guess it doesn’t really matter if they smile. Luckily, both of them know how to smile with their eyes.”
He’s right — they do. Me, not so much.
I have no idea what the future holds. Uncertainty is scary and tiresome. I am beyond sick of thinking about this virus and all the parts of our lives it has already and still might infect.
But I try to remind myself all we can do is wake up every morning, get through each day the best we can and do our best to smile … even if it is just with our eyes.
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