“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
Life as we know it has ground to a halt. This is the staycation from hell that no one planned or wanted.
I taught those words from Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities many times to students in my high school English classes in the late 60s and early 70s. Dickens was describing the French Revolution and contrasting conditions in England and France at the time. Like our era, the one he described was a time of vast social inequality between the rich and the poor, of great suffering and in the midst of great wealth. The image of Madame Defarge constantly knitting a secret registry of those whom the revolution wanted to execute feels a bit like Trump metaphorically knitting an enemies list.
Of course, we are living through an unprecedented (in our lifetimes) pandemic. Staying at home, social distancing, being unable to see our children and grandchildren, performing a risk analysis for every venture out of the house, feeling fearful about any physical ailments, encountering empty stores, both literally and on Amazon, having every aspect of our normal lives disrupted – definitely the worst of times. So many events that seemed very important have vanished. Weddings and trips-of-a-lifetime have been postponed. Funerals have been downsized. Daily life has been disrupted by school closings, as my children attempt to help their children keep up with e-learning while also working from home.
Our granddaughter turned fourteen on March 16. Her sleepover party was canceled. The performance she was to attend as her gift from her parents also canceled. Her dance studio shut down, taking away the thing that she loves to do most of all. Most likely, there will be no big year-end recital or middle school graduation. This is just the scenario for one of my grandkids. All of them are struggling to adjust to the total disruption of their lives. My granddaughter with disabilities who lives in a residential special school is now in lockdown. No more visits from the family for the immediate future. So hard.
Friends and relatives who live in senior living facilities are also in lock downs. No visitors allowed and no leaving the building. In some cases, they are confined to their apartments with meals brought to them. People I know who live alone are really alone, without actual physical contact with family, friends, and neighbors. At least I am shut in with my husband and we can make our own choices about the risk of leaving our home to buy food, medicine, and necessities. Speaking of those things, people have hoarded far more food, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, Lysol, bleach, medicine, etc. than they need. There is a survivalist mentality out there as folks buy too much, leaving others without the basics they need, and as they guard their stash religiously with metaphorical if not real guns.
So, where on earth are the best of times? They include those who are generous, who share with those in need, who offer to shop for high-risk people who are told to #stayhome, or to help people struggling with how to home school their children. The independent grocery near me that instituted senior shopping hours from 6:00 to 8:00 am. The greater contact we are having virtually with our grandkids, who now have the time to FaceTime us or call us for help with their e-learning.
Strangely, while we are physically observing social distancing, my friends are calling rather than texting. My husband and I have had long conversations with our siblings and friends. Life feels a bit like it did before iPhones and social media. A close friend reminded me of our long and rambling conversations back in the 80s when we were making dinner for our kids. Phones in those days were attached to the wall, and both of us had kitchen phones with enormous cords that became stretched out by our efforts to supervise our children while also staving off the loneliness of being home with young kids by talking to each other. My husband and I are catching up with people who are/were important to us that we simply didn’t have time to call. Now, we have plenty of time.
On a personal level, while we had to take the house we were trying to sell off the market after one week of no showings, we have the time to go though things ourselves. My original plan of hiring someone to help me sift through 45 years of stuff to prepare for our move to a condo is no longer viable. This is definitely DIY time. And while we worry about our future finances if we can’t sell our house because no one wants to walk through or buy a house these days, we are also enjoying reliving our memories and rediscovering so many interesting things we have accumulated over the 51 years of our marriage. We are also discovering what really matters. Manicures and haircuts don’t, although I don’t relish going grey because my beauty shop is closed. Shopping for more stuff doesn’t seem that important. We are reading more, talking more, sharing tasks better, taking short walks outside away from others when the weather permits.
Yes, on the whole, the coronavirus crisis is the worst of times. We are unprepared. The news is terrifying. People will get sick, and a good number of them will die. Life as we know it has ground to a halt. This is the staycation from hell that no one planned or wanted. But it has given us the gift of time to slow down our lives, discover what really matters, and reach out to others. The long phone cord that connected us 40 years ago is metaphorically back. Be careful out there and reach out in whatever way you can to those you love.,
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.