Let me just preface this by saying two things: For starters, I am writing this on Thursday March 19th and I have no idea what the world will be like by the time it goes to print. Secondly, I know that the world I am living in right now could be a whole lot worse. It could probably be worse for every person reading this. I am of the opinion that knowing things could be worse for you and knowing they are worse for somebody else does not make your burden feel lighter.
It just means that since you know that—you should try and make something easier for someone else. But it doesn’t make what stinks in your life stink any less and sometimes we just need to say what’s hard out loud.
Good. Glad we got that out of the way. Here’s the thing—this social distancing, self-quarantining, whole-life-flipping thing is really hard. I’m grateful that everyone in my world is healthy and has the capabilities to stay safe. But it feels like over the course of a weekend some Godzilla-type creature came in and swept their massive arm across the gameboard of my life and said, ‘That was a cute life you had there, now start over.’ I still have most of the pieces, but I can only use some of them, and I can only build on a tiny section of the board now. And that monster, Coronavirus-Godzilla, took my schoolhouse game piece. Jerk.
Having somebody, or something, else control my life to this extent makes me bonkers. Living this COVID-19 life brings up all kinds of feelings for all of us, but my personality type (Enneagram Eight for anyone into that) doesn’t lend itself to acknowledging and working through all these feelings. The way I typically handle things like anxiety, fear, grief, worry, and sadness is to dress them all up like anger. Let me show you what I mean.
We’ll start simple. I am so perturbed that my children keep finding all the hiding spots for the snacks I bought as special ‘quarantine treats.’ I’m furious that they ate all the Chips Ahoy cookies because I was really enjoying them. I’m utterly offended that they keep telling me they are ‘staaaaarrrrving’ when I know good and well they found the Lays I had hidden behind the Triscuits and ate the whole bag while hiding themselves.
It brings me to the edge of sanity to see how many cups they use in one day but there must be a barrier between them and the dishwasher because none of the dozens of dishes they use make it in there. I may be able to forgive the child who poured a full bowl of soggy Cheerios down the wrong side of the sink because at least she was rinsing her dish out, but you just don’t realize how slippery soggy Cheerios are until you’re trying to scrape them out of the drain.
I am so angry that an acronym is forcing me to homeschool. Let me just be honest—I would never have had four kids if I had known I was going to have to homeschool them. Thank God for the teachers who busted their tails to write new lesson plans that not only teach my kids but teach me how to teach my kids, and they did it while managing their own quarantined families and fears. But—as previously stated in this column—teachers are super heroes. This is a fact, while my gifts from the Lord do not run to patience, gentleness, or teacher-ness.
There are few people less suited to teaching young children than me and I cannot fathom how we will get through this without major damage to their psyches. Seriously, I’m going to break them. I mean—sometimes I may feel like they deserve it but deep down I know they don’t. They deserve the amazing teachers they had, not a subpar substitute like their mother.
I am so frustrated that a freaking germ is holding me and my family hostage. It ticks me off that every trip from the house means taking a calculated risk. I hate that I have to travel with a cannister of Clorox wipes and take my shoes off in the garage and spray them down with something called ‘Mr. Clean Clean Freak Mist.’ I just want to go to the grocery store without needing a hazmat suit.
Speaking of the grocery store—I am horrified that people can’t get the basics they need. My dad had to ship toilet paper he bought from a Dollar General in Belzoni to my sister in D.C. who was about to start stealing rolls from work. She works for the federal government, though, so she kind of already paid for them, right? I know some people bought more than they need out of fear and others out of caution; but the ones who bought extra in order to make a buck or two off of other people’s desperation make me livid.
It ticks me off that my Los Angeles-based sister and her husband had to cancel the party she and my mother have been planning to celebrate Katie’s wedding. I am so mad that they won’t get to be celebrated after all the celebrating of me and mine that she has done over the years. It is beyond her turn. I am so irritated for my mom who has spent months trying to plan an evening that struck just the right ‘fancy-but-not-stuffy-classic-but-not-conventional-party’ vibe for Katie who is anything but conventional, thank goodness, and would sooner die than be the honoree of something that might be considered stuffy. I know my mom would have nailed it.
It infuriates me that this is how our kids have to live their lives now and we don’t know how long they will. They don’t deserve a childhood of social distancing and isolation. They aren’t made for that any more than I was made to homeschool. I hate having to tell them they can ride their bikes but they can’t stop and play basketball with their buddies in this beautiful weather.
It ticks me off that their spring sports seasons and activities are all COVID-19-cancelled. My neighbor texted to cancel her daughter’s 6th birthday party and asked if everyone would drive by on Sunday afternoon to sing her ‘Happy Birthday.’ Nobody loves a birthday party more than a six-year-old and this sweet girl will get a drive-by party and no hugs from her friends.
It’s maddening that so many people will lose their jobs because the businesses they work for won’t be able to weather this storm, and it outrages me that others will because their employers won’t give them paid leave or expects them to choose between a paycheck or the health of a loved one or themselves. I’m irate for everyone who will have to make impossible choices like paying for food or medicine with their last paycheck from before the plant shut down or the store closed or the company didn’t need security staff anymore.
I’m glad to know that the declaration of a federal emergency means that the students who depend on school for meals will still be fed; and it warms my heart to hear that groups like Operation Shoestring are working to fill the gaps left by school closures by paying for the parents of students at one school to eat there as well. But it makes my blood boil that we live in a world where the wellbeing of so many children is so precarious that school schedules can make it or break it.
I am so angry that my church has had to cancel services until April and will probably have to cancel Holy Week as well. I know that social distancing is how we can best show our love for one another right now, but it galls me that something that cannot be seen with the naked eye is keeping my pastors from visiting the sick and holding the hand of a lonely parishioner or being the friendly face for someone who doesn’t see many familiar faces during the week.
It makes me crazy that in spite of school closures, entire companies working from home, restaurants closing their doors, the CDC saying to stay home, countries further into this than us begging us to pay attention, healthcare workers posting selfies on social media that say ‘I stayed at work for you, you stay at home for us,’ people are still going places they don’t have to go and gathering socially when it isn’t necessary. I don’t understand which part of, ‘We don’t know if we have enough ventilators in the country,’ makes people think, ‘I’m going to go run a couple errands around town, maybe meet some friends for a drink.’
See, now I’m getting sarcastic and snarky which is what happens when I get really angry. Or scared.
I hope that by the time this article runs, I sound like an alarmist. I would love nothing more than for me and my Clorox wipes and my anger to be laughing all the way to the carpool line about what an overreaction all of this was. That is basically my deepest hope and most constant prayer right now, ‘Lord please let the school take them back soon, please.’ It plays on a loop in the back of my mind all day long—and that’s not as selfish a prayer as it might seem because if the schools can take the kids back then we, as a country, have flattened the curve like we hoped. But that will not happen if people keep acting like this isn’t happening to them—and it really ticks me off.
See? I’m actually stressed about being trapped with my kids which means stress eating carbs—but I am reading it as irritation. I am anxious and overwhelmed about homeschooling my kids, but instead of saying that I say I’m mad about it. I am fearful of my people becoming sick, yet I frame it as frustration at the precautions required to get what we need.
I am disappointed for my sister and my mom but call it being ticked off instead. I am grieving the childhood my children aren’t getting to live, but that is so much harder to face than just being furious that they have to be so isolated.
I am worried for the most vulnerable among us and feel helpless to do much to alleviate the suffering coming, but I’m so much better at raging about the injustices that have contributed to it.
I am so freaking sad that my church and the comfort that would be found there has been taken from me, but thinking about that makes me want to cry so I’ll just simmer on low inside about a virus restricting the ways my pastors can pastor. As for people still not taking this seriously, I’m clear on that one—gasket-blowing level rage.
I am not made for staying home and confronting all these horribly, icky feelings. I need this to be over—ASAP. We all do, if for different reasons. There’s actual proof that social distancing will flatten the curve, which I take to mean ‘lessen the blow’, to our healthcare system.
While we’re social distancing ourselves, we can also look for ways to lessen the blow of this level of isolation and hardship to our community. Buy a gift card from a local business or restaurant. Make a donation to Grace House Services which provides housing to a vulnerable population or Stewpot who feeds everyone that their funds will stretch to reach. Facetime somebody who isn’t drowning in too much togetherness with their family or offer to make a grocery run for somebody who may not be as nimble as you with a Clorox wipe.
Everybody can figure something out; I can’t think of much else right now because—let me tell you—it’s exhausting being this angry all day. Let’s help each other in the ways we can: flatten the curve, lessen the blow, lighten the load.
Elizabeth Quinn makes her home in Northeast Jackson with her husband Percy and four children.