I believe it is healthy to process this moment. I usually process in the shower. Then I finish my shower and always a fair amount of surprise, I say to myself,
“Wow, Beth, you sure have a lot on your mind.”
I am sure you are processing too.
As the drip, drip drip, of the warm water fell, or as Dave calls my shower temperature, “scalding hot,” here is what I thought: I am confused. I avoid my neighbors on the street while waving hello. I feel lonely while knowing I am not alone. I feel sad. I am happy we eat dinner as a family each night. I wonder if my runny nose is just seasonal allergies. I have really bad allergies. My body does not ache. I don’t have a fever. Every single day I insist Dave put his hand on my head and then my cheeks. He insists that I am so cold that after touching my face, he may just need to warm his hands. He teasingly calls me the Ice Queen. I am relieved. I am paranoid. I do not feel special. I feel grateful. I know I am depressed. Our therapist also noticed. Then she said,
“Beth, Dave, you seem down.”
I assured her it was the pixel-y connection. She said,
“Actually, I can tell you are down, even with the fuzzy screen.”
Dave & I met with her on a knock-off version of Zoom. It was funny watching our mouths move and then like ½ a second later, the sound came out. Soon it was apparent that we had nothing else to say (even our therapist was done speaking).
It is weird. I think I should journal. That is why I am blogging. I hope we people of Earth record our Covid-19 stories. I recognize that everyone is experiencing this moment and experiencing it differently. I hope we all find a way to remember the breaths we are taking. Honestly, I breathe deeply each hour. I take ten deep breaths, making sure not to spit my air onto anyone. Years ago when Kyle was near death my friend M.B. instructed Kyle to do the same. I hear M.B.’s words now:
“Kyle, you need to keep your lungs strong. Take ten deep breaths each hour Breather. Breathe. Breathe..”
I took my ten deep breaths. I did not hear a crackle or a wheeze. I do not feel strong. I feel relief. Selfishly, I want to make sure my lungs do not fill with fluid. In the shower, I took ten deep breaths again. As I exhaled on breath eight, my head was light. I grabbed the shower wall. Now steadied, my thoughts drifted. I thought of my mom. She is seventy-nine and has asthma. I brought her groceries the other day. She stood in the doorway of her garage as I carried the groceries in. When she got too close, alarmed, I shouted,
“Mom, step back! Please. I don’t want to risk getting you sick.”
It was so weird. Maybe because I was a little lightheaded (or not), I was consumed. I could not stop thinking about the consequences, the realities, the intersections, the sorrow, the heartbreaks, and the confusion. I thought of my best friend, Marianne. She is a single mom and a hair stylist. She needs the money. Yet, she risks getting in legal trouble if she does anyone’s hair. Instead, she has to file for unemployment. I thought of my sister Brenda. She is an essential worker. Her husband has lung cancer and end stage COPD. Everyday I take a deep breath and hope they are ok. I thought of my friend Lisa. She is a midwife and works in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is journaling and photo journaling this moment. I am horrified and heartened as I watch how her clinic engages this virus. I thought of my friend, Mardie, who had chemotherapy earlier this week. I wonder if she is scared. I wonder if she is safe. I hope she does not die. I really like her. Then I think of my other friend, Cam, and his kidneys. He is always engaging and encouraging the rest of us. I am sad both of my friends had to go to the hospital. They asked for prayers, thoughts, vibes, happy energy, chants and all good things. I hope they are safe. I hope they don’t get Covid-19. I hope they heal well. Then, because they are always on my mind, I thought of Kyle and Eli. I wondered if there is a way I could help them through the day while still respecting their autonomy. I know they are sad. I know they are frustrated and lonely. In fact, moments ago Eli wanted to go longboarding. I just asked him when he was leaving. He said,
“That burst only lasted so long. I am staying home.”
As I neared the end of my shower: the shaving my legs part (I really did shave my legs today), I realized that this moment seems to be breaking us down and bringing us together. I have seen anger. I have seen selfishness. I have seen hope. I have made unexpected connections. I wonder why the one lady, the one who always asks (demands) we be considerate of her son and his needs, was so insensitive regarding Eli missing the last part of his senior year. Maybe she has not had time to process. Maybe she needs a long, hot shower. Maybe if she did, she would know that no one is competing. But then I think of my t-shirt. What one will I put on today for my brother Bill’s daily photo challenge? I don’t usually talk to my family much. Thank you, Covid-19. You are bringing us together. (By the way, I went with my Atari t-shirt.)
Now as I stand in the warm, humid bathroom drying off, I pause. I also recognize that many are suffering more than we are. Yet, it is still ok to be sad.
In fact, the other night Dave and I went on a walk-talk. It was late. We did not see a soul. On the walk we talked about our boys and their sorrow. I suggested we talk to Kyle & Eli once we got home. Because I am traditionally a long-winded speaker, I assured Dave my conversation would be brief. I wanted to offer my boys a lesson in empathy; a lesson I definitely could use a brush up on. Once home, I asked the boys to come into the TV room. Once we were all together, I promised the conversation would be short (it was). Then I said something like,
“Kyle, do you love being home? Do you like being so far away from your girlfriend? Do you like having your Sydney, Australia study abroad canceled? Do you like that all of your stuff is still in Sydney and do you like the fact that you do not know if you will ever get it back?”
Kyle quickly said,
“No. I hate it. I hate being home. I am lonely. I miss my girlfriend! I have lost my independence. I hate it here.”
To which I said,
“Eli, do you like that you are missing the last part of your senior year of high school? Do you like that you are stuck at home with us? Do you like that you cannot see your friends?”
To which Eli quickly responded,
“No. I don’t like any of it. I wish you guys would go back to New Zealand. I would rather be here alone. This sucks!”
Then I made two fists. I held both hands side by side in the air and said,
“Kyle, Eli, you are both suffering. I think we can hold space for both of you. I think we can hold space for everyone.” I said a few more things. I asked them to have regard for each other. I finished by saying, “I am very sorry you are suffering.”
Eli wisely responded, saying something profound about instead of his efforts landing into a black hole, everyone needs to reciprocate and make an effort. The young man is wise and correct.
We ended the conversation. I am glad the boys could unload. They are amazing. They are good humans. I know they will be ok.
The next day I took my deep breaths. I took another shower and I contemplated this moment — again.