Before and After: An Ode to Quarantine

Before and After: An Ode to Quarantine

Dear Quarantine- our nation has many different thoughts about you, as do I. You presented different types of challenges to different people and we will grapple with those facts for years. In the midst of your historical debut, you somehow managed to weave goodness into neighborhoods like mine. We had it better than most, but there were still lessons to learn. Here is our story and here’s to you…

*

BEFORE you came, my neighborhood was loud, Type-A and fast.

We waved hello and waved goodbye as people shuttled past.

Kids stayed quiet, off to school, then sports, Chinese and dance;

Something happened every night, do not neglect the chance

To fill the schedule to the brim with busy plans and games;

Weekdays, weekends, doesn’t matter, every day’s the same.

“Nanny she will pick you up, your mom and I are working.

Not sure when we’ll have the time for dinner, we are searching…

Life is busy, that’s the truth, but someday we’ll slow down!”

The hamster wheel spins faster still, around, around around.

*

BUT THEN…

Life went silent, all of us were slammed flat on our backs.

Staring wide-eyed at the world, we start to see our cracks.

Tunnels underground are where we lived within your rules,

There we worked and there we played and there we did the school.

Forced together, burrowed in, we held each other tight,

Mom and dad, they worked from home and teens were here each night.

*

Months they passed and days they flew then slowly we emerged,

Blinding light punctured our eyes and thoughts began to surge.

All the things that held us fast and tight within their grips

Let us go and pushed us back and took away our ships.

No more passing in the night, but stuck home altogether,

We found joy in simple things, like puzzles and the weather.

*

Families they went on their walks and played games in the street,

All at once six blocks of homes had found the time to breathe.

My neighborhood of fast and loud became a time of slow;

Kids found jump ropes, bicycles and other things to tow.

It’s like somehow we all returned to childhood in the 80s,

When kids played outside, families talked and girls made chains of daisies.

*

We also found that we had time to care for all our neighbors,

Checking-in and buying food and reaching-out with favors.

And we realized other friends were also very near!

A simple Zoom-call conversation gave us time to hear

And wonder why we didn’t contact all these friends before?

(Because our schedule always called for more and more and more.)

*

So thank you, Quarantine, for stopping time for just a spell.

Thanks for showing me what matters- love and time spent well.

But now we’re called to move on through, this year has more to say;

Important issues face us, maybe the biggest of our day.

But don’t forget what we just did, what we had time to feel!

Don’t forget what happened when we all jumped off the wheel!

*

I know that…

Sometimes life is full of choices, but sometimes it is not.

Sometimes fate hands us a card and that’s our given lot.

(But) if you have a choice to make ’bout where to go from here

Think about this Spring and what you’ve learned so far this year.

Do you long for busy? Or do you long for slow?

Two roads diverge in the woods- down which one will you go?

If we do not ponder it, the wheel will just spin faster.

And though some might prefer BEFORE.

I’ve decided… I choose the AFTER.

Grace for Everyone in Quarantine Homeschool Stay At Home Land

Grace for Everyone in Quarantine Homeschool Stay At Home Land

So here we are, three weeks after my last blog post about COVID-19 and most of the country is staying at home and homeschooling in quarantine. Well this isn’t what I thought I would be doing when we rang in the New Year! Damn. Have we ever quarantined? When was the last time our entire country educated at home- when George Washington was President? This is crazy.

I don’t know about you, but in a matter of days I went from a quiet house to my husband working from home indefinitely and all my kids here 24/7. A week later, Virginia closed its schools for the remainder of the school year (hello five months of togetherness) and then the Governor declared stay-at-home measures though June 10th. So like a tornado in Tulsa, this virus just blew the roof off my house.

With all my own commitments blown away, I am now parked at my kitchen table every morning coaxing my children through hours of online school- helping one kid with Virginia Studies and the migration of Scottish-Irish immigrants while another continues acrostic poems and parallel segments (“Is it snack time yet?). I am searching our house for quadrilateral shapes (what’s a quadrilateral?) and listening to my teen talk about acids and bases. Again, not how I predicted 2020!

For my friends and family in the healthcare industry, who figuratively had their entire houses blown away, I know 2020 wasn’t what you predicted either. Please know how much we appreciate you. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for your work and dedication and sacrifice. ❤

For the emergency responders and essential workers who are bearing the stress of providing our basic needs, I hope you know how much we appreciate you, too. By managing our cities and stocking our groceries you are stemming chaos and providing the heartbeat for our modern lives. My contribution of staying home feels petty in comparison but I will do my best to follow the rules and protect the health of our community.

While history unfolds in our laps we cannot know how this will ultimately affect us all- culturally, financially or psychologically. Unknowns loom before us. But I do know that we can choose our thoughts right now, or at least harness them in a mindful direction. And my own thoughts keep circling back to the concept of grace. How can we offer it to ourselves and others in this dark time?

While the word “grace” can be defined in different ways, I view it today as a temporary exemption, a reprieve, a kind of mercy or pardon. (Thank you Merriam-Webster.)

So to whoever needs to hear this:

You are temporarily exempted from your normal life and your normal self. This never-seen-in-our-lifetime event has crushed our normalcy. It’s okay to be winded. It’s okay to feel like the rug suddenly pulled out from underneath you. It’s okay if you don’t feel like your normal self. We are all struggling because THIS IS NOT NORMAL.

Give yourself an exemption, some grace, when your emotions get the best of you. Every day is a new day and another chance to adjust our attitudes and appropriately manage our stress. I was a manic-depressive monster during our first week of quarantine until my husband finally told me to get myself together. Roger. I knew I could do better than that.

Give yourself grace to process what could have been in 2020. Maybe missing sports seasons, graduation ceremonies, weddings and other life events are first-world problems, but their cancellations still bring real and legitimate feelings of grief. We had anticipated so much joy but instead sit crestfallen and utterly shocked. Or maybe you saw your career shifting into high gear but now find unemployment and mortgage payments looming before you. Even if we are fortunate to have our health, 2020 will be heavy with personal loss. It’s okay to release your waterfall of tears.

Give yourself grace when your quarantined friends on social media start to peck at your core. When everyone starts bragging about their self-improvement plans, their exercise regimens, their sudden interest in learning three languages or another instrument, or their homemade organic spelt tortillas that their four year old loves to make, know that you don’t need to compete. That is their life, not yours. Don’t let them steal your confidence.

Additionally, give yourself grace as you see the Online Joneses homeschooling (oh my, have mercy upon us.) As they infiltrate the internet with their glorious plans to produce Harvard graduates, let me say loud and clear that YOU DO NOT NEED TO DO ALL OF THAT. Your kid doesn’t need to be able to speak Mandarin Chinese when we emerge from our caves. Log out of Facebook and Instagram if you start feeling inadequate. Right now, life is stressful enough without the burden of comparison.

Take a deep breath.

We also need to extend grace to people around us, many of whom might be processing/experiencing this pandemic differently than you or me. Telling the mother of a graduating senior that she shouldn’t be sad because you grew up during a Lebanese civil war is not helpful (thanks but no thanks, Facebook lady.) We don’t need to play the “who has it worse” game. Likewise, telling someone to “praise God in all circumstances” when that person has a loved one in the ICU, minimizes people’s feelings and negates their emotions of the day. Join your friends where they are. (Emotionally, not physically, stay home!)

Give your kids grace, too, as they process all of this, especially teens. Remember, their friends are their tribe, even moreso than their families. Friendships are one of the MOST important aspects of their life so when that slice of the pie is suddenly stolen from them emotional chaos ensues. They need time to adjust and mourn in their own way. (And by the way, screens will happen now, more than ever. It’s just the way of the world in quarantine. Boundaries are still good but this isn’t normal life.)

It goes without saying, but give grace to your littles, too. They didn’t choose to cancel school and uproot our social systems. While we gaze upon our shredded calendar, they are simultaneously trying to make sense of this scary, ever-changing world. We can do our part by being a shield of peace and protection over them. (Meaning, turn off the damn news when they are awake!) With God’s mercy upon us we can get them snack #1,373,938, cuddle on the couch and help them find a new, temporary normal.

As we go about our days, let’s give mercy and grace to our whole society- to our government officials, teachers, co-workers, neighbors, spouses, and everyone else in this shocked world. Change has touched EVERYONE.

As the famous saying goes- “This, too, shall pass”… eventually. 🙂 Our Earth has seen hard times before and has managed to continue spinning. So to all the people in Quarantine Homeschool Stay At Home Land, keep calm and press onward. It’s all we can do. Grace will see us through.

Original photo by Leon Biss on Unsplash

**If life has become difficult to manage, please know that resources are available to help you. There’s no shame in seeking to be your best self.

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) 24/7, free and confidential

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255

Substance Abuse and Mental Health National Helpline 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

MilitaryOneSource Free counseling 1-800-342-9647