Pandemic journal: Day 8

Saturday, March 21, 8:39 AM

Day 8 of voluntary social distancing, Day 5 of mandatory shelter-in-place, Day 2 of statewide shelter-in-place

Y’s birthday 

Theme of the week: nourishment 

I woke up feeling nothing at first, but I’d gone to bed tender and vulnerable and full of grief, and it didn’t take long for that to return. I realized I’m lonely; I’ve been making such efforts to reach out to others, I wish someone would do the same for me. And that’s unfair, because plenty of people are. But the loneliness endures. 

If I had to sum up how I was feeling: I’m doing extremely well considering what we’re collectively going through, but… is anyone really doing well? I guess I’m feeling — familiar anguish — like I don’t deserve to claim anyone’s attention… that I can’t, because I’m more financially stable than so many of my friends, I’m the one with the most time compared to my fellow parents or employed friends, I have only one kid and my kid is pretty independent… I feel like reaching out would just be so intrusive, when everyone else is going through something harder. Is this self-gaslighting or is it just good boundaries and thoughtfulness? Is this something that everyone feels in their own way? (I’ve never been able to figure this out in my regular life. I wonder if I’ll figure it out during this pandemic?!) 

Well, so I was thinking about this in bed with Erik and Owl beside me, and then Owl said, “Mama, I love you,” and showed me heart-hands, and asked if I wanted a hug, and a kiss, and I accepted and cried and explained that I really appreciated it because I’d been feeling lonely. I asked if Owl ever feels lonely and they shook their head no. And I thought: I guess you take after Erik. 

I think I just need to trust that my friends will tell me if I’m too much. And keep reaching out, even when I’m afraid they don’t want to hear from me. Keep trying. 

So, after crying a bit this morning I decided to bring that lonely, grieving energy to the same kind of Instagram Live video I’ve been doing. So I posted, and cried some more while dancing, but also felt better afterward.

It also occurs to me that yesterday was the first day where I didn’t do any exercise (aside from that tiny bit of dance) and I’m sure that impacted my mood. 

Yesterday I hosted a Zoom storytime for the preschoolers, which I was nervous about. Owl enjoyed it and I got some positive feedback. I was so wiped afterward. I was glad when Erik took Owl to have a social video chat with his coworkers; one of them also had her 6yo there (a “big kid” according to Owl!). I vegged out and decompressed during that time and also made myself a couple of eggs (I wanted more but my cranky stomach didn’t think that was smart) and started typing up the first of these blog posts. 

After E went back to work, Owl was very grumpy, and I felt some time pressure since I’d committed to go out and pick up a couple of orders from local makers. But I’d been invited to a video hangout with some Bay Area women writers of color so I logged into that and it helped distract Owl while giving me a needed window into others’ lives. People are going through a lot… from being stranded in a different state, feeling it would be irresponsible to fly home, fearing the cost of their vacation rental; to worrying about a child with respiratory vulnerabilities and a parent undergoing cancer treatment; to having recently moved cross-country and having no local support network; to elderly parents who won’t or can’t stay home, whether in this country or another. People were crying and it all felt so raw. Nearly everyone is urgently worried about something or someone. Everyone is trying so hard to hold it together. 

When the call concluded I went for my errands, sans Owl since they refused to join me and Erik was able to watch them. It was nice, but also weird, to get out — as it has been each time I’ve left the apartment. This was my first trip in the car in a week. The air felt so beautiful, I left the windows down except while on the freeway (which was not even close to empty). On my way out I saw my elderly neighbor and asked (from 8 feet away) how she was doing, whether she lives with anyone (a sister who must be equally elderly), whether they have people checking on them every day (family). As I drove, breeze wafting in, I saw a bag on a street corner labeled LEMONS, a sign on an overpass reading WE WILL BE OK, 3 elderly women taking a walk all about 6 feet from each other, and the Deaf woman, Nancy, sitting on her usual upturned milk crate on the avenue. I felt so anxious for her, my first impulse was to rush over and do or say something, but what? I feared to get too close to her, for her sake and mine, and I felt terrible about that. I was already a bit teary after my call earlier but when I got to LM’s to pick up my bread, he masked and gloved and the bread double-bagged in plastic (I always brought my own cloth bag), I felt a wave of loss at not being able to hug him, even though we aren’t usually on hugging terms. Times like these call for hugs and to not be able to give (or receive) them feels so wrong. 

I feel, also — as I have every time I’ve gone out — this conflict over whether it’s right to be leaving the house at all, for anything. 

When I came home Owl was playing games on Erik’s laptop so I turned on the Met Opera stream and developed a new appreciation for Donizetti, listening to La Fille du Régiment while drawing birthday cards. The opera was an unlooked-for treat, funny and delightful, the first one I’ve watched all the way through to final curtain. And making so many cards in quick succession is a creative practice. 

Colorful hand-drawn birthday card
Colorful hand-drawn and painted birthday card

We made mac and cheese for dinner, talked over the day, cleaned up, and then I joined a Zoom hangout with my moms’ group. I felt like I was pretty quiet in the chat but it was a good check-in. We all said we’d like to do it again. 

Afterward, though, is when the grief really hit me. I felt sad for some time, listening to music that reflected my mood, working on my blog posts, longing to hear back from particular friends. Later I rallied my sisters to gang up on Mommy because she still wanted to go to the farmers’ market over the weekend. We managed to convince her to stay home. 

Sending loving thoughts to those whose family members are highly vulnerable.