Covid hit us like an electric shock, severing my ability to know what is real, what is true, what I actually know and what I don’t know. I decided then I was going to listen to my instincts more than anything. Listen and follow the developments we all heard on the news but formulate my own views as I saw fit, because after all what did anyone really know. I had no means to fight the pandemic. I had no way of explaining my personal situation to my employer, I had to continue plowing through because that was expected of me. I had no way of controlling my kids’ schools and their zoom schedules, my children, or even family members who weren’t isolating with me. The most important thing for me was to protect my kids, our family. The most important decision was to safeguard those I love. I knew I had to make sure no one in the apartment fell into a serious depression or stopped caring for things they cared about under NORMAL circumstances. I tried to supply the kids with things that might keep them busy and also might be a good “escape.” I listened to as many complaints from my kids as possible, helping them work through their personal emotions and experiences. I forgave quicker, I didn’t pay attention to small errors, I didn’t clean the apartment every five minutes. I went on daily walks with my kids, I bought an exuberant amount of arts and crafts materials. My younger daughter who is five and a half now, sat next to me at the living room table everyday for months as I worked and she made cut outs from construction paper, colored, painted, set up doll sets and avoided zoom altogether. I didn’t let the petty pet peeves drive me crazy. I learnt to let go of my anger quicker, let go of overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety. I did all this consciously, mostly during times which seemed the most hopeless. I went to the bathroom whenever I felt a wave of uncontrollable emotion and talked to myself in the mirror to calm down. I told my kids to do the same. I knew I had no space to panic and I continued to give my time to things that really mattered. It was important to continue doing the things we were doing before the pandemic like riding a bike or celebrating a holiday, having family dinners.
But nothing was really the same because we were not allowed to go to playgrounds, when people passed by we were suddenly afraid. Only one of us went outside at a time. We were together every minute of the day, filled with fear and uncertainty. Smoke from every news channel filled our lungs. Every day and in a sense everything around felt like it was at a stand still while going a thousand miles per hour and all everyone was doing was trying to catch a breath of clean air.
I knew I had to keep myself focused and aware of everyone’s emotional status, my kids, my husband, my brothers, my nephew, my niece, my cousin. I heard everyone was running away from NYC and I knew we had nowhere to go, no family house upstate, no empty apartment somewhere someone left that we could use. So instead, we leased a car and started going on weekly trips Upstate into the woods. I suddenly felt like the woods will protect us. I wanted us to feel the ground beneath us, the earth welcome us. Let us climb rocks, get scratched by branches, keeping warm in the still cold months but letting the wind and temperatures keep us awake and alert about what was really happening. It was also important not to forget to dance, to draw, to paint, to write, to laugh, and to make projects with the kids. I was seeing COVID as an experience but also a challenge. I have had quite a few unforeseeable circumstances happen to me in my life and I knew this one wouldn’t be gone so soon nor would it be the last…
Yes, the kids were very disoriented at first but felt safe being home with us. They were happy to finally have their parents home with them every minutes of the day, especially when their zoom classes ended or when it was time for lunch and we’d all sit together and eat quickly before going back to our screens.
I thought everyday about those who didn’t have a family, who didn’t feel safe, who were suffering from the isolation, who were really scared. I thought about how relieved I felt knowing my parents weren’t alive to go through this because they probably wouldn’t make it and I wouldn’t even be able to say goodbye or attend their funerals. I thought about the funerals I was attending for work via zoom, a very personal space of others where I didn’t really belong. But I had an obligation to connect my boss to these services and so I stayed on with him during each funeral and cried for strangers and their families and I remembered my parents and how painful it was to lose them. I felt sorry and sad for the mourners.
During the pandemic I was thanking God often, asking him to continue to provide a secure and safe space for my family. However, I still felt helpless about helping others who didn’t live with me, my neighbors, my relatives. I decided that daily I’d reach out to friends and family members to make sure they were ok. I ordered food for my brother who lived alone.
The streets in my neighborhood didn’t look the same. The restaurants didn’t look the same, they were all boarded up and there was a chilling silence in the air, only the ambulance and police cars riding around with their sirens…
Months later, everyone began taking baby steps towards normalcy but suddenly that too seemed to mean something totally different than what it used to mean before the pandemic.