And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
I think I’m probably going to struggle with this one, because I’m not quite sure how to express what I want to say. It’s hard because, among other reasons, it starts with heartbreak. My heart broke when I read a Facebook post by my daughter-in-law.
This is a difficult time. It’s not just COVID-19, though of course that’s at the core of it. It’s the political chaos that has resulted, plus the conflicting and unending reports and articles and theories. While the entire world is experiencing the same thing, our own personal worlds have shrunk as we not only stay at home, but we see less and less reasons to go out, because everything is closed. And we have to worry if those closures will result in calamities for our favorite businesses. And when you own your own business and that business provides your family with shelter and necessities…well, let’s just say the worries have been more than overwhelming for me and for many others.
I’ve seen, though, that many of us are working our way through this with humor. We post memes and videos and satire about the pandemic, about its treatment politically and medically. I spent days watching a lip-synching video done by a father and daughter, with a brief glimpse of Mom, that always left me laughing and jiving in my seat. I think we’re working hard to keep our spirits up, to try to ease discomfort and fear, to keep on smilin’. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Except when it starts to bleed over into hiding normal feelings and reactions, and that then makes those feeling normal things feel abnormal.
My heartbreak? My daughter-in-law posted on Facebook, “I’ve been having fits of crying every other day out of nowhere for 4 days now. Is anyone else experiencing things like that or is it just me?”
Are we laughing so hard now that we aren’t letting each other know that we’re scared? That we’re sad that our lives have been turned upside down? That we’re worried for our families, for ourselves, for friends, for all the people in our lives?
Amber is far from the only person who is breaking down every other day. She’s one of those we’re calling frontline workers, working in a grocery store. Of course she’s sad and scared. So are we all. And I think it’s time we admitted to it.
So many in my family are in customer service. My husband Michael and daughter Olivia work at Farm & Fleet. My son Christopher is at QuadGraphics and his wife Amber is at MetroMarket. My son Andy is the bakery manager at a Pick’N’Save. They are all out and about. I’m able to hunker down, and my daughter Katie, a math instructor at the University of Louisiana – Lafayette, is hunkering down too, with her husband, who is self-employed. But they’re in the middle of a hot spot.
My world has become about worry. Everyone’s world is about worry. And yet we’re laughing.
Which, overall, is a good thing. But not to the point of having to ask, “Is it okay to be sad? Is it okay to be scared?”
One of my biggest meltdown moments (so far) came a couple weeks ago, when I realized I misunderstood the Flatten The Curve! approach. I thought we were flattening the curve so that less people would get COVID-19. No, I was told, we’re flattening it so that the illness is stretched out over time, and our healthcare system doesn’t get overwhelmed and we have time to come up with how to treat it and develop a vaccine. I was told, “This won’t be over until everyone gets it.”
I flipped out. I became completely fatalistic. I wanted to run to the nearest ICU and grab the hand of a COVID-19 patient and rub it all over my face. I wanted to scream, “Get it over with! Let’s go! I’m on the high-risk list three different times, so let’s just give it to me and get the horrible death over with!”
Yeah. Meltdown Supreme. Not pretty. I began sleep-walking. Sobbing at random times.
It would have helped to know that I wasn’t the only one dissolving. Everyone seemed to be dealing with it just fine, laughing away on social media. I laughed away too, in between the tears. And in between laughing and crying, I had to wonder if I wasn’t going totally around the bend, because everyone else seemed okay.
And then came my daughter-in-law’s quiet question. “Is anyone else experiencing things like that or is it just me?”
Thank God for that quiet question.
“It’s not just you, Amber,” I told her. And then I began to talk to others. I found that, behind all the laughter and the fun posts and the weird questionnaires and polls and jokes and gifs and whatever else we’ve come up with, there was a large group of people, if not the entire world, who felt this way. And we needed to acknowledge that and lean on each other.
Laughter is great. I came across a meme that made me blow a mouthful of water all over myself. It showed one of Vincent Van Gogh’s self-portraits, his self-sliced-off ear carefully turned away from the viewer. From his remaining ear, a mask dangled. And over his head was one word: “Fuck.”
I shared it and more and more people laughed. But we’ve also come together to share fears and tears, confusion and concern, anger and shock.
Thank you for being brave enough to share your tears, Amber. Thank you for reaching for reassurance.
And…we will get through this.
Yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.