11 April 2020

The Great Pause

I suppose it’s been about a month now since we’ve been making the effort to stay home because of Covid-19, including four weeks of school closure.  It’s tough to know without referring to the calendar, because most days morph into the next with little distinction.  Really, though, for me it seems longer because I made a conscious decision – not related to Covid-19 – to hibernate over my spring break. This has been a tough school year for me, teaching four different classes, with one of them totally new to me and beyond my area of expertise (AP Psychology).  So I’ve spent the past twenty-seven weeks of school trying to stay one step ahead of my students.  It’s not been easy because even though psychology is considered by many to be a social science, it’s pretty darn science-y, requiring knowledge of brain anatomy, how each of our senses relay information to the brain, and the processes of intricate mechanisms like how neurons work, among other things.  

So by the time Spring Break came along, I was pretty damn tired. 

These weeks since, with worrisome headlines about deaths, grocery shortages, and continuous announcements of closures, have been pretty anxiety-inducing.  I have tried to carry on with my Spring Break activities, which fill me up.  My daily activities have included hiking, yoga, gardening, and reading.  And I’ve been sleeping a lot.  

Like many of you, I’ve been using this time to reflect.

I’m grateful that I am still working, even if from afar, and still receiving a paycheck.  What I like about online education:  I can set my own hours.  What I miss about the old way of teaching:  interacting with my students.  Sure, we can email and have virtual meetings, but it’s not the same as seeing their faces in person and knowing that they understand or need more assistance.  Some of them are facing really tough times at home, with parents losing jobs, or working way more hours than usual, and in the past week, a couple of them have gotten reminders that other diseases, like cancer, do not take holidays during a pandemic.

I’m grateful for these extra hours with my daughters, especially.  They’re both at ages where they would likely be spending far more hours away from home than they currently are.  Having all four of us in the house is not always easy, especially with the added stress of quarantine life, but it’s a gift of time together that we will likely never have again.  

I’m grateful for enough time in my days to prepare dinners.  I’m a pretty lazy cook, always looking for shortcuts and meals that might leave enough leftovers for a second night.  But during these days, I’ve made meals requiring more effort than normal. And while we’ve certainly done our fair share of take-out, trying to keep our favorite sandwich shop and Mexican hole-in-the-wall solvent, it’s been almost meditative, spending time in the kitchen preparing food for those I love.   

I’m grateful that, for once, I’m spending enough time in the garden in these early spring days to actually have some things planted.  Typically, the fourth quarter of school is also one of the busiest, and so all my gardening aspirations continually got pushed back, and pushed back, until suddenly, it was the end of May by the time I had time to plant.  Robust wildflower seedlings are appearing, and I’m enjoying watching the incremental bloom occurring on my redbud and crabapple. The pear tree is already leafed out after its most spectacular bloom in memory.  

I’m grateful that I’m getting around to tackling small jobs around the house that have been pushed aside for more time than I’d willingly admit.  I made a list of tasks and cut the paper into strips.  On days when I feel as if I have enough energy to draw one from the bowl, I do.  And sometimes I let that task sit a few days until I feel like doing it.  I’m being productive, but not to a fault.  I have been giving myself permission to choose not to do whatever task it is, and sometimes, I’ll draw one and put it back.

In spite of all this gratitude, though, there have been days when I’ve felt so bluesy.  There is so much grief.  I easily get teary-eyed and don’t have as much patience as I would like. I am so sad for this year’s senior class, including my niece, who will be foregoing traditional rituals that they’ve anticipated their entire school career.  Madeleine’s graduation from Yavapai College was cancelled.  Arden had applied for a summer exchange program that was cancelled.  My nephew’s wedding celebration was called off.  All of these things pale in comparison to those losing loved ones to Covid-19, certainly.  But grief is grief, and it is hard work to work through it, harder still when you can't physically be comforted by friends and extended family.

And yet, what a time to be alive.  Thanks to technology, I can FaceTime my octogenarian parents and see and hear them and know they are well.  I can find materials to share with my students that have authentic French-speakers, or ready made test-prep materials for my AP Psychology students – who are still scheduled to take a high-stakes test in a month’s time.  I can travel the world in the social media photos of friends living all over this planet.  I can reminisce about last summer in PerĂº, scrolling through my photos and words on this blog.  And I know that I am not alone in this strange time, knowing that this Great Pause, as I saw it referred to today, is happening to all of us earthlings.  When else have we suffered together across borders and it wasn't caused by ideology or greed?  I am not sure I have ever felt so connected to my fellow humans, in spite of our physical distance from one another.  

What will we learn from this?  What will we shed?  And what will we cultivate, having been thrust into this Great Pause, those of us who have been given the time to hop off of our hamster wheels?  What nuggets of wisdom and truth are you planting in your gardens?