The photo above was taken in either 2001 or 2002 during my first trips to Romania. The sweetheart that is on shoulders is Gabi, a little girl that lived in the children’s home where I would serve for 2 ½ years. I’ve been thinking about Romania in the last week, all that I learned there and how it is helping me manage now.
Week three of life in a Covid-19 world commences. In our household we began social distancing in earnest two weeks ago and then last week our Governor ordered a stay at home order. We felt like we’d been training for two weeks already so it is not a big adjustment for us.
On the plus side we can go outside to our hearts content to walk every day and exercise. This is such a huge bonus because a bike ride is a mental reset, allowing me to breathe hard and cough and all those things that feel good when exercising, but I get to do it away from other people. When I return from a ride the world seems normal again. At least for a few hours.
In the past few days I feel like Pam and I have turned the corner on finding routine. In our culture as Americans I feel like we don’t do the “stay at home” thing very well. We like to be “productive”. I can remember when my mother talked about pulling a wagon through my hometown collecting scrap metal for the war effort during WWII. There was a purposeful call to Americans to get out and help their country.
Now the call to help means staying put and staying away from other people. Unfortunately we don’t have a very good manual for figuring that out. This is something that very few people on earth have experienced before; a major pandemic.
Pam has been learning how to teach remotely for her high school students. She teaches Physical Education. The struggle is real! But she has been learning more about technology, taking on-line classes and watching webinars along with her colleagues to do the best that they can.
I’ve taken on projects around the house cleaning up and discarding items we just don’t really need. A friend of mine reached out through Facebook looking for people that had empty six or eight ounce plastic bottles. It seems making hand sanitizer is good business and good for public servants right now. I had 400+ bottles that I was able to sell to a distillery in Pennsylvania. Plastic bottles are at a premium and hard to come by. Hewn Spirits will fill them with hand sanitizer, selling some to supplement his income and donating others to first responders and other “front liners” that desperately need it.
For those that have tele-commuted I think this is an easier transition. Unless they now have a house full of kiddos and another spouse that is trying to find a new routine as well. Over the past two weeks Pam and I have gone from being together every minute of the day to establishing zones in the house where we can work undisturbed. The closed door to Pam’s new office means she is working and wishes not to be disturbed. I go to my office space for my business to do yoga in a video on demand format. I grieve my yoga buddies, instructors and the community during this time.
I’ve taken immense pleasure in cooking and creating meals based upon what I can find in the grocery store. But for me, it is merely an inconvenience, not having every item that is on my grocery list.
In Romania I had many conversations with friends there about what it was like to live under communism; what oppression is like. One spouse would leave the house in the dark to wait in line for butter, bread or whatever might be available. Often times they would wait in lines for hours only to finally get to the front and be told that there was no more of this or that available. “Come back tomorrow” they would be told.
What I experience in Colorado is inconvenient. It is not oppression. I can worship weekly and legally at my church through amazing technology that allows me to watch online. It is an adjustment but I can manage and still thrive.
My friends in Romania taught me how to grow vegetables. I think of them as I toil in the dirt, watching greens and beets sprout and nurturing them along. Roni, my best friend in Romania, sent me photos this week of the whole gang of kids turning soil, planting seeds and getting to work in the garden. We are able to share a common experience, they are locked down as well, just like I am and we pray for each other and share our love.
If I get one little project done each day it’s a great day. If I can read part of my novel set in Florida I’m happy that I could concentrate long enough to follow the goofy plot and rejoice in laughing out loud at Carl Hiaasen’s talent for creating crazy stories.
I try not to dwell on the fact that I am half a country away from my mother, in a memory care unit in Pennsylvania and Pam’s parents, still living independently in Florida. My mother’s facility had their first Covid-19 case this week. I pray my mom remains safe and I call her knowing that things could always change quickly. But I don’t call her enough.
Last week I had the first close friend tell me about her experience being infected and spending time in a hospital, away from her husband. She shared about her fear of not having the most special person in the world with her and the amazing way that nurses and doctors cared for her.
Last week I heard from two friends about family members that were lost to Covid-19. I now know there will be more of this. It causes me to be short of breath and to perceive that perhaps I’m not feeling well either. By the end of the day the energy subsides and crawling beneath the covers is comforting. Some nights I wake up at 3:00 am and think and worry. Other nights I sleep like a baby.
Each morning I awaken and think whether I want to get up or sleep a little longer. There is no place to be. I find a photo in my phone each morning while I drink my coffee and I post it online. It has become a photo essay project entitled Positive Hope. I find something that offers me hope either in my yard or in my neighborhood and I hope it causes others to smile or give them a little hope as well.
During my walks and bike rides I’m amazed at the number of people taking advantage of getting outside. Family units riding bikes that have been under dust for years. Sidewalk chalk provides hope and smiles. The three and five year old that live next door amuse me with endless smiles and I thank God for children. They showed my their Rhode Island Red chicks that they got last week. They are going to learn how to raise chickens this spring.
Today on my ride I thought, “This is it. All the experiences in my life up to this point have helped me prepare for what is going on right now.” It’s not the most stressful period of my life, yet. But it certainly might be one of the weirdest. It ranks up there with the scariest, scared for family members and good friends that are susceptible to the virus. It’s a lonely time because I’ve realized how much I need all of you. To touch you, to have coffee with you, to share a meal with you. Telephones and the internet help keep the isolation at bay.
The reality is that it will likely get much tougher in the weeks ahead. Being grounded is a good thing. Letting go of little shit is a good thing. Telling people that I love them, that they mean a lot to me and laughing with them is a great thing.
Hang in there friends. The storm is going to get blustery.