I remember reading reports out of Wuhan, back in February, when the citizens had been on lockdown for more than 72 days. When we passed the 40 day mark, I thought “Ok, breathe. More than halfway through what China went through.”
We are now on Day 91. Thirteen weeks. “Normalcy” isn’t a word I think about anymore. There is only Before and After.
With how Illinois is reopening, slow and steady, it will be July at the earliest before we move into our next phase of reopening (Phase 4). In that phase the schools can reopen – though I am certain they will look different. It is possible that my older kids could attend summer camp in Phase 4, but we will have to see. The spikes in the number of cases where the states reopened more quickly doesn’t have me eager to rush out of the house.
But we feel the strain. I have been trying to keep the kids’ minds active, the way that their teachers would in their summer camp, but I juggle that against working during the day (plus I am not a teacher). I post activities in their Google Classroom in the morning, and then they disappear into their rooms and I work, not reconvening until late afternoon. If I had to guess, I would say that they’re just listening to the “Wow in the World” podcast on repeat much of the time.
I try to tell myself that in the scheme of their lives, that this is just a small blip. A few months. That summer that they spent seeing only the people within the walls of this house won’t have a negative impact… but I don’t know. Theo’s sleep has been all off and it is hard to separate is that because of “lockdown” or is that because of “being 10 years old.” I remember being that age and spending a lot of time by myself in my room…. but I was also going to school during the day.
By the time I am finished accomplishing what I need to get done during the day, my brain is fried. All of the things I love? I have no energy for them. I had started painting earlier this year, but now the idea of “creating” something seems too hard. I have been writing little. Even daily writing habits that I have maintained for years have fallen by the wayside.
I look back at the writing that I did after Nelle and Iris died. So much writing. It was a way to process how I felt. Every day was different.
A few weeks after we went into lockdown, I thought that this was like grief. It is “new normal” and I have done this before. And yes, I have had my entire world reshaped before. I was able to quickly move past the loss of “what I knew” and kick into high gear with adapting to what we faced.
But now, 91 days into our confinement, this isn’t like grief anymore. Grief changes over time. The timetable is different for everyone, but there are perceptible differences. The first night I didn’t cry myself to sleep. The first time I decided to go to a support group. Changes in my writing. Moving from a place of devastating loss to honoring the lives of my daughters.
What is different about this is a feeling of stuck. There are no changes. Every day is the same. I can hardly believe that 91 days have passed, because it simultaneously feels like it was yesterday and a hundred years ago. While we have settled into a routine, there is no forward movement toward anything like our former lives.
I don’t have the weight of my feelings that I am carrying around, but I am carrying the load that “I am the parent. I have to keep things going.” It has made me numb. I barely read the news, because I found that it made me too anxious – hearing about death, an overwhelmed medical system, and the lack of a social safety net. Instead, I fill my alone time in the morning before everyone wakes and the evenings before I go to bed with ancestry research, pouring over documents in an attempt to link to the past. It is a substitute for scrolling the headlines that I can handle.
And what does that leave for my marriage? The days filled to the brim and no escape. As we juggle the kids, work, and preserving our own sanity, there is little left. I’ve compared it to having a newborn, when every ounce of energy devoted to the tiny human in the house – but that it won’t always be like this. This part is temporary. We have 19 years of life together and can remember the Before and more patiently wait for the After.
So, for the time beign, it continues to feel like Survival Mode.