What I Learned Through Quarantine: An Introspective Look At Our Collective Humanity
It is hard to put into words the way to feel right now, which is ironic because one of the ways I communicate best is through writing. I can’t tell you how many times I have started to write something and then erased it. It is probably because I am struggling. The world is heavy, so heavy you can feel it - kind of like when you ask someone how they are doing, and they give you that look where they want to tell you they are fine and mean it; or that they just finished crying in secret, or definitely just came out of hiding somewhere from gorging on chocolate (I definitely did that). It is hard to admit or even see struggle within yourself and it often takes a serious moment (or in this case many moments) of introspection. This blog is about uplifting women, highlighting our successes, things we have learned and want to share with others, in hopes to connect us all in a positive way. But as I mentioned in our very first piece, we also have to share our downfalls, our misfortunes, our stumbles and our realest moments if we ever really want to effectively learn from each other. Over the past few months we have shared stories about amazing women who have built wonderful things to share with the world; and while this blog is not necessarily something tangible to give to all of you, perhaps you might relate to some of the sentiments here. We all know that no one is perfect, despite what some social media posts might portray, and so to continue with our mission to create, connect and collaborate, I want to use this as an intangible means to highlight the hard feelings some of you might be experiencing, in hopes to show that struggling doesn’t have to be so solitary and can, in fact, lead to tremendous growth - the metaphorical rainbow after the storm.
To begin, I need to reiterate that my story is specific to me; I am not experiencing anything harder than anyone else nor am I trying to display that. I am beyond grateful for the privileges and blessings in my life and recognize that many, many, many more people are struggling way harder than I am. This is not a "woe is me" piece but rather lessons learned as well as teachable moments for my kids.
Living in Massachusetts, on March 13th (Friday to be exact - go figure), our world here started to turn on its head. The first day school was cancelled and it was the beginning of our state shutting down. I have 3 young children (7 ½, 4 ½, and 1 ½) and a husband who had to keep working. So here I stood: overnight I turned into a homeschool teacher for a 1st grader and a preschooler, while also having to constantly monitor my youngest (because anyone who has ever raised or worked with a young toddler knows you can’t leave them unsupervised for more than 1 minute at a time), a resident IT personnel, on-call chef and crisis management center. To call it an “adjustment” is the greatest understatement of the year. We are not a tech-savvy family so even I had to make the transition to virtual learning, while also making sure the younger two were somehow stimulated. I soon realized that this shuffle of 1st grade math and reading, preschool activities and trying to entertain a 1 yr old was an unsustainable juggle that even the best ones (and “one” can be anything: teacher, parent, doctor, lawyer, clown - you name it) would struggle with. So by the time all the hours from wake up until bedtime had been consumed by the constant needs of 3 children and the above mentioned tasks, I forgot about my own needs. I have to admit, there was a lot, A LOT, of frustration from both me and my kids and there were a lot of tears all around; I think I’ve cried more these last few months than I did in all of 2019 and 2018.
But after a few weeks we got into a groove where we were coasting along just fine - less crying, less frustration, less fighting - and it seemed as though we could see some light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe they would open school up again? Maybe there would be more options for us to do besides play in the house, the yard or go for a drive (let me remind you, that in MA, the weather in March, April and May is the absolute worst, fluctuating often between warm days to cold days, to freezing days, to torrential downpours all in a matter 72 hours - to add insult to injury, it snowed here May 9th). But no - suddenly school was cancelled for the remainder of the year and MA continued the lock down. In order not to have a complete and utter breakdown (ok, I definitely had some breakdowns) I had to completely restructure my brain not to dwell on “what was” but focus on “what is” - I needed to change my thinking and therefore my actions to what I could control: myself. No longer could I wake up and have expectations for the day, because with 4 other people involved, it is impossible to assume how they're going to feel at any particular moment. No longer could I expect everyone in the house to be on their best behavior and no longer could I expect myself to perfectly manage it all. I needed to learn that I had to put my oxygen mask on first and stop expecting things to go “according to plan”; I had to give myself permission to be upset when granted and to allow everyone to “have their moments”; to be ok with mediocre activities and school work and to forgive myself for days when I literally just couldn’t do anything. Children are so resilient, much more so than adults, and through this I had to show them that I am imperfect, that Mommy is prone to hard feelings and bad days; I had to show them that it is ok to have your struggles and your moments and accept them as they come.
It’s been 3 months since the pandemic changed our world and I have reflected greatly on this: what I’ve missed, what I wish I’d known and what I learned. I think when we are in these moments of hardship, sometimes we internalize so much and we forget that other people might be experiencing something similar. Reaching out to friends and family has certainly shown me that this struggle through the pandemic is certainly a collective struggle; no one person is immune from it. Whether you are a frontline worker, essential worker, sick, furloughed, laid off, working from home, homeschooling, working from home while homeschooling - no one person is free from the strife that this global situation heaped upon us. This is the first time, in my lifetime and perhaps even the generation before us, where we - a group of humans - both emotionally and physically experienced such a global collective struggle over the same thing. I am not saying that the pandemic is the worst thing to ever happen in our lifetime, but what I am saying is that there is not one part of our world that is not affected by this in someway or another. It can’t be ignored because it is not happening somewhere else or to someone else.
Before the pandemic, our lives seemed to be so consumed with things, with work, with perfection, with perception, with - just, stuff; like a filthy window, it clogged our ability to really be human - to reflect about our place on this planet and what we collectively bring to the world, and I feel this is the precipice to the sudden awakening and recognition of our global humanity. But something happened over the last handful of weeks, more continued unspeakable tragedies: Ahmaud Abery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks. It sends pains through every inch of my soul, and yet - we have to speak of it despite the pain because if we don’t, nothing will change and it has to - it must because it’s our collective humanity that is at stake if we don’t take a stand. Deep within the cloud of the pandemic, a storm has been brewing for a long time: one that is undoubtedly and unbelievably overdue; one that is filled with countless public tragedies and stories that were buried; one full of anger, distress, disgust, anguish and torment (also one that I will never be able to fully grasp and understand that this is part of my privilege); but one that is also lined with the hope and recourse that we can finally drive out racism in all forms.
It is important to point out that I am a white woman, mother, daughter, sister. On June 2, my small (mostly white) town in Massachusetts held a peaceful solidarity walk, organized by the town’s Racial Justice Team. We walked, we gathered, and we listened to Rev. Dr. Andrew Bennett, a reverend from a neighboring town, make a statement about Black Lives Matter. We kneeled for 8.46 seconds, we listened, we said their names. I brought my 7 year old (white) daughter with me, and let her experience this walk with me, and standing up for what is right and for the change that so needs to happen by showing her that actions like these are louder than social media posts and it’s in our actions towards allyship that real change will be made.
I came across the headline quote above from a composition called “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” by Gil Scott-Heron, a Black American poet and jazz musician, who was most notably known for his spoken-word performances in the 1970’s and 1980’s. This sentiment rang so true to me. I am not qualified or educated enough to speak on how to do this effectively, but I know that the world cannot go back to “life as we knew it” because no matter what we try and replicate from our lives 3 months ago, it wasn’t a place where humanity reigned supreme, where my fellow humans were treated equally. "You have to change your mind before you change the way you live". I cannot control others, I can only control myself; but I can control what I put out into the world. I have been and will continue to constantly learn and educate myself how to be an ally for the Black community and how to teach my children as well - to be human means to see each other and respect one another under the collective umbrella of humankind.
In the clouded fog of the pandemic I don’t think anyone could foresee our current state, but it is clear that a desperate change was needed. Initially, I didn’t think I would come out of this being thankful, because it was such an emotional battleground, but I am. I am thankful that I learned that struggling is ok, that perfection is only a perception, that I am allowed to not be my best and the day will go on - that my children will see me as who am I and still love me endlessly; but I am most thankful that this collective awakening finally happened. I want all of us, especially our children, to live in a world where humanity sits above policy and where humanity takes priority over precedence. When looking back on this time in history, I want to know that they saw our actions lead to change in the world for the betterment of our collective humanity, because children see and children follow; so let's be the change; let's all change the way we think so we can change the way we live.