The quote above came across my Facebook feed two days ago. A few days after we learned that Georgia set a daily record for new cases of COVID-19. Also the day the kids learned that they won’t be going back to school in August but will continue “online learning” at home, instead.
My son turns 10 at the end of July. My daughter will be 13 the first week of August. They know that there will be only our immediate family and friends from next door over to celebrate. Not the Tennessee grandparents. No school friends.
They have taken the news really well. Better than I have. When I allow myself to compare our lives six months ago with our lives today, it definitely steals any joy.
Mostly I regret all the things I took for granted. I remember how much I hated how early my son had to catch the bus for school. I remember confidently making summer travel plans six months in advance.
Now I worry about keeping my family alive. I wonder how long my husband’s job will hold out if the pandemic continues unabated. I wonder if I will be able to find more work if it doesn’t.
And, I know, OK? We are the lucky ones. We still have jobs. We can work from home. The kids are as safe as they possibly can be. We have enough food. We can pay our bills. But it is shocking to realize how quickly it could all unravel.
It doesn’t help that I feel like everyone in the United States is essentially tied up in the trunk of a car driven a madman determined to drive it over a cliff. And, no matter who escapes and tries to grab the steering wheel, the flunkie riding shotgun yanks it back toward apocalypse.
But when I start hyperventilating while reading the morning news, I try to stop and think about all the people throughout history who have had to go through so much worse.
I remember reading about Helie Lee’s grandmother who, fleeing an advancing army, strapped her infant to her back and crawled across the remnants of a bombed out bridge during the Korean War.
I think about the Zuni people and the other Puebloan tribes who have lived in what is now the southwestern United States for at least 4,000 years, preserving their lives and the culture despite overwhelming odds.
I think about Black Americans who have suffered enslavement, discrimination and violence throughout our history. They have lived with and through almost unimaginable violence and discrimination for generations.
It seems ridiculous when I think about it that way, to be upset about quarantine, or online school. To hate that we can’t go swimming. That all the playgrounds are closed.
A Facebook friend shared a post from someone’s grandmother who had lived through war and famine. She said that in order to get through hard times to not think about what might happen, to not worry about next month or next year, but to take it day by day and focus on the small steps – cook the food, bake the bread, take care of your family. Eventually, by putting together all the small steps, they turn into big steps, and you will have gotten through it.
I don’t mean to say put your head in the sand. I don’t plan on doing that. But I am going to stop worrying too much about things I can’t control–endlessly reading the news, talking online. I will focus on the things I can control, taking care of my family and the people around me who I can help.
I will keep focused on the small steps in front of me. The lives we all had six months ago are gone. We must try to make the best of our new lives.