Acceptance during a pandemic

My daughter spent the past couple of weeks at our house, but she headed back to her home for the rest of the shelter in place today. For the few days she was with us, which seemed like months when we lived through them, it felt like we were safe as a family. There were walks with the dog, cooking, a trip to the grocery store, shared viewing of old “House” episodes, and a shared anxiety.

We worked through the stages of grief together—denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance. I’m sure we’ll cycle through them again and again. But our first group landing on acceptance meant a huge grocery shopping trip and packing her up to go home.

We realized, without really saying so, that this is the way life is going to be for awhile and we best get on with living. She has lost her job for now, but she still has her apartment and her intense home workout schedule, her roommates, and all of the rest of life’s business.

My husband and I have become online teachers, and we are grateful to have our jobs, our students, and our communities.

I was teaching via Zoom when she left, and for that I am grateful. I’m sure I would have cried had I watched her car leave the driveway. My world is tucked in her grocery bags, among the oranges and carrots. I cannot bear thinking about this invisible beast of a virus licking and spitting her direction. Foolishly I imagine I can protect her if she’s home.

The house is so quiet now. Not as quiet as walks in the neighborhood, where I feel like a character in Stephen King’s “The Stand,” but quiet. It is a relatively peaceful quiet for now. It is punctuated by my dog barking at other dogs and my husband playing drums in the late afternoon.

I’m trying to get on with my life in ways that work for me. It’s a steep learning curve.

I’ve arranged a socially distanced walk with a friend for Wednesday, several Zoom sessions with students and colleagues, and have a to do list I’ll never ever finish. I feel like I’m walking in slow motion most of the time. I can’t get things done. My concentration is splotchy. My emotions are mostly suppressed.

During my Zoom session with students today, they asked if we’d be meeting like this weekly. I told them that most of our work would be asynchronous. I confessed that I scheduled the meeting today mostly because I needed to see that they were ok.

What I saw was people like me, struggling with anxiety and depression, fear, exhaustion, hope. They want to do school work, to write, but they want to go to their jobs and get paid and to feed their families even more. They have children to care for, life to cope with.

Sometimes it feels like moving to online courses is hardest for faculty, but I think the students struggle just as much or more. We are, at least, in control. They are at the mercy of our skill or lack of skill and of our mercy or lack of it. Suffice it to say that mercy is more scarce than I would have hoped.

My writing in this post is much like my brain’s functioning at the moment. I start down one path and then end up somewhere else.

I suppose what I’m saying is that I’m trying very hard to pivot. To learn how to find the closeness and contact with human beings that is so natural face to face, inches or a foot apart. I’m trying to learn how to be a teacher and a mother when neither students nor daughter are nearby.

Landing here on acceptance of life in a pandemic means becoming a new sort of person and contributing to a new sort of community.

Here’s hoping that you are finding the peace and connection that you need and that you are, most importantly, healthy.

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