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A New Normal

On Friday, March 13, 2020, my youngest daughter had a shortened day at high school. At 12:30, I picked her up and brought her home for the start of Spring Break. At the time, stay-at-home orders had just been issued for Sonoma County along with much of the state. The junior college had already made the decision to switch to distance learning only for the rest of the semester, and I think we knew, even then, that her junior year of high school was essentially, abruptly over.

Knowing that this change would land unevenly for students and parents, administrators decided that the grades at the end of the 3rd quarter of the year would stand for the semester, unless students improved their grades. This resulted in a fantastic GPA for my daughter, despite the fact that she essentially stopped participating in classwork by the end of April. Her Animal Crossing island is thriving, however. It is what it is.

Her friend group connects over Discord late at night. We risked a socially- distanced get-together at the beach in late June. Watching these rising seniors gallop around the sand and kick foamy water at each other should have been routine. A typical outing, one of dozens just like it. Memories from my own childhood, from theirs, too. They sat in a ragged circle, mostly failing to stay six feet apart from each other, friends who hadn’t seen each other since March. It left me with stinging eyes and a dull ache in my chest. My daughter was incandescent for a full 48 hours afterwards, before quietly slipping back into the funk of isolation. We’re trying to be okay with all this, but we’re not.

We’ve been so lucky – our immediate family and circle of friends are healthy. We’re able to do both work and school remote. We were even able to bring my daughter’s boyfriend to stay with us for the first couple of months, resulting in a few instances of five simultaneous zoom sessions happening in different rooms of the house, and a party atmosphere around the dinner table more often than not.

We’ve taken social distancing seriously, with no gatherings (aside from the beach trip) and no holidays. We’ve celebrated my oldest’s 21st birthday, Easter, Mother’s Day, my husband’s 52nd birthday, Father’s Day and Independence Day quietly, as a family unit. Our daily rhythms have evolved. Naps are common. We stay up late into the night. We are up with the sun. We laugh about ridiculous memes and tease one another. We are closer than ever, and at the same time, we are each a mystery to each other.

I stay in the acceptance zone as much as I can. I take Benedryl at night to knock myself out before anxiety can take hold in the dark. I reread books because I don’t want absorb anything new. I have lost the ability to follow along with guided meditations and struggle to follow the plot of movies or television. I am overwhelmed with ideas of things that I should be doing for my health, for joy, for balance, for peace.

I don’t do any of them.

In the first days of the stay-at-home order, both my oldest and my son told their employers that they were not coming into work, as both my husband and I are considered high-risk for Covid-19. We shopped for groceries once a week, wearing a mask and gloves, following local reports of which store had toilet paper. We baked bread until the yeast ran out. We killed seven sourdough starters. Okay, that was all me. I killed seven sourdough starters. At day 60 or so, I bought an air fryer.

My oldest just went back to work this week. We have a growing pile of fabric for the masks I keep meaning to make but never finish. When one of us has to run an errand, the rest of us pile in the car and stare out the windows at deserted parking lots.

124 days later, we’re still waiting on a decision from the district on what her senior year of high school will look like. I cannot imagine reopening the schools this fall, and even if they do, I can’t imagine it will stick. Between Covid-19, fire season almost guaranteed to cause school closures, the occasional winter storm flooding…I don’t know what to hope for. She said she’s glad she only has two required classes to graduate, because online school is really not something she enjoys, and she predicts that she’ll struggle. She was looking forward to being in two choirs, to working in the science lab and being in ceramics. but not at the risk of her own health, or that of teachers, staff or classmates.

Her senior portraits are tomorrow.

4 thoughts on “A New Normal”

  1. I have no words of wisdom, just solidarity. I’ve felt so much of what you’ve so painfully and beautifully expressed. Same pain and worry about my 11th grader who was a homebody to begin with and rarely leaves the house (or her room for that matter). My worries have me taking Benadryl too and I panic if I wake up in the middle of the night without a book next to me because I need to read to prevent the monkeys from taking over my brain. At some point this will be a memory, and we will marvel at ourselves and the ways we managed to navigate it. We’ll get through it, and there will be better days ahead where we can watch our kids hug their friends and laugh loudly, right in each others faces.

  2. I felt every one of your words, every single word, my friend. I have taken to evangelizing a one day at a time attitude, as well as allowing myself (and others) to move slowly, and with good intentions, through this new world of ours. You got this!

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