What are we on, day 70 billion of quarantine?
It’s late, I’ve had a Shiner and it’s time for quarantine Kathryn to share a few thoughts.
I think, by now, many of us have felt all the feelings: disbelief, exhaustion, frustration, some semblance of peace, disillusionment, joy, and everything in between.
When all this first started hitting the states, my initial reaction was a big ‘ol eye roll and a “I think everyone is overreacting.” Fast forward four weeks and, um, yeah. My viewpoint has changed. More information, more level heads, more recognition of reality.
This isn’t the post where I tell you all the facts I know about coronavirus (not a doctor) or what churches should be doing (not a church leader) or how and when businesses should reopen (not a civil authority). Rather, I’m choosing to share how it’s affecting me, as a Jesus-loving mom of six who’s now a professional shut-in, as Jim Gaffigan would say.
Let’s first address the elephants in the room. Distance learning is brutal, whether you have a pulse on what your kids are learning or not, it ain’t no picnic. That could be a whole blog post but we aren’t going there today (that’s what Instagram is for). Grocery shopping, or any kind of essential shopping, is stressful. And the social distancing is isolating even if you are living with seven other humans, but certainly if the numbers in your home are smaller than ours. We can all admit we simply miss hugging our friends or skipping out to grab a lunch or a Dr Pepper with someone we love.
But there’s one phrase I keep hearing (and I know it will echo as soon as the stay-in-place orders begin to lift): “So, what are you doing during quarantine?” As if this is some ultra-intense reality show where the person who accomplishes the most wins a lifetime supply of toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
My social feeds, as life-giving as they have been, sometimes depict the notion that we can “quarantine well.” Can I call bullshit on that? I mean, yes, we have painted things, organized things, cleaned things, Kon Maried things and spiritually blessed things. And yes, we are getting the kind of time as a family I never dreamed of having. We are making memories and racking up inside jokes and binge watching Netflix like it’s our job. But nobody is walking through this pandemic living their best life. Nobody. Are there silver linings and bright spots? Dang straight. (And we’ll get to those in a second).
Maybe the more appropriate question we should be asking is: “Who are you becoming during this pandemic?” If I may, I’d like to reflect on how this parallels to our time in the neonatal intensive care unit with our fifth child.
We had extreme isolation. Luke was severely immune-compromised, lacked immunizations because of multiple organ issues and we were crazy germaphobes. As in, this pandemic is a cake walk compared to those days. We limited visitors (or banned them altogether) and restricted those who came in contact with our kids.
We washed our hands every 15 minutes all day long. My hands were raw and bleeding from all that hand washing.
The anxiety and the fear and the worry I carried aged me ten years (it’s why I color my hair!) because boy howdy did that whole experience cause some serious stress.
My mental health suffered. PTSD triggers were so strong it landed me in therapy. Our kids suffered. My marriage suffered. Every day was a fight to survive to get to the next day to get up and do it all again, never knowing when the next shoe would drop.
Does that sound familiar?
As we start to unpack who we are becoming, I don’t want you to think that in order to quarantine well you must always see the sunny side, drink the appropriate amount of water, exercise regularly or relish in this new found family time. In fact, you may be wearing your leggings on the regular or maybe you’re yelling at your kids more than you’d like. When we were in the NICU, there were so many days that I failed as a mom. Yet, here I sit, 10 years removed, transformed. And it wasn’t because I did it perfectly, either.
That experience refined me. Some of the moments you’re experiencing now, in this dumpster fire of a pandemic, are breaking you. And you know what? That’s okay. You’re learning who you are. What you can handle. Where you need to turn to find your joy. How much suffering costs you. And it doesn’t have a damn thing to do with how many coloring sheets your kids are doing or how healthy dinner time is.
Should we get up in the morning, take a shower, breathe in and ask Jesus for an assist? YES. But even in the mistakes, Jesus finds you. Even in the “mom, I can’t get this Zoom call to work”, Jesus sees you. Even with the tears you finally let loose in the shower, Jesus knows you. Even when you mourn the loss of normal and feel the pain of so many life cancellations, Jesus understands you. When you finally put yourself at the foot of the cross, that’s when you meet him. That’s when you’re transformed.
You won’t be transformed because you quarantined well, you’ll be transformed because you quarantined and failed. And then you learned, you reached out, you admitted your humanness and your dependency on a savior and you called out to God.
And for my fellow Catholics who are missing the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist during Mass, I miss it, too. Deeply. I hope we can remember, though, that they are a means to an end. It’s Jesus we seek. They aren’t at our disposal for us to demand, like a petulant child. Rather, they are a grace God gives us. Our belief lies with him. Perhaps this absence gives us perspective in our very privileged life that there are people around the world who might receive those sacraments once a year, a decade or even a lifetime?
As the wife of a man who works for our bishop, please know that those decisions came from a place of deep prayer and concern for the greater good. It did not give them joy to restrict the sacraments. In fact, if you could be in my house every day at 6 p.m. when my husband walks in the door, you would know the great weight he carries from being an advisor to our bishop on matters of stewardship, finance and sacrament. If there’s something we can all agree on, it’s that none of this is easy, for anyone.
And isn’t that the whole point? The realization and the acknowledgement that this is a struggle. For all y’all? If the answers and the feelings and the choices were black and white, we would’ve been clear of all this angst weeks ago.
Instead of shame or fear or anger or frustration, may we all choose grace. Grace to allow ourselves to feel the feelings when they come, sit with them, acknowledge them and then find a way to overcome them. And then to extend that grace to other people who are walking a path we know nothing about. Conquering those feelings may take days or weeks or months, but we don’t conquer them alone.
Maybe your lifeline is logging onto social media (or off), setting up Zoom calls, committing to regular prayer time, walking around the block, watching Trey Kennedy videos or binge watching Some Good News, listening to George Strait, taking a quick trip to Sonic or hugging your kids.
Rest in knowing that it’s okay to fail miserably during this pandemic. Our sights aren’t set on how well we quarantine, but how we get up everyday and choose to trust in Christ a little more than the day before.
And, God willing, when a new normal emerges, we will have quarantined well, because we failed miserably, first.