Social distancing feels more like close encounters of the kid kind + glutting yourself on news media does not a functional human make
March 16, 2020
2 blogs in 3 days, told you it was going to be a renaissance of sorts.
I have progressed, over the past 5 or so days, from something resembling benign curiosity in world events to full blow panic to sugar-and-booze-numbed apathy to anxiety to now, hopefully a stable sort of new “normal”.
It’s fine, this is fine.
Since this will all make sense when we are older, there’s no need to be terrified or tense. (I’m truly sorry, we watched Frozen II last night in a fit of delight upon finding newly, freely streaming.) But just in case you are feeling a little…off, I’ve found these few resources helpful:
This reflection on “social distancing as the monastic life” written by a cloistered sister.
This video from Chris Stefanik, who, incidentally, I owe an apology for perhaps thinking he was a little nuts for saying he was planning on pulling his kids out of school way back as far in ancient history as during last Thursday’s 2nd grade Medieval feast. Mea culpa.
I’m not having great success with prayer recently, but I realized today that I’d made a pretty stupid mistake and inadvertently (and almost unconsciously) discarded my Lenten sacrifice of fasting from social media in favor of hours-long and even middle of the night binges on Twitter. I was stress vacuuming earlier this afternoon following our first official day of homeschool (hashtag fun) and I thought to myself, well shit, Jenny, you’ve basically abandoned your Lenten practices when you could most use the grace.
I had an immediate flood of consolation almost simultaneously as I realized this, vowing to redouble my abstinence from the Twitter. 24/7 news coverage makes me anxious under the best of circumstances, but the craziness of the past week or so has had me basically in a low grade state of panic during all my waking hours.
I had another thought, this one while changing a very aggressively stinky diaper, as one does, and it was this: you’ve been running from your vocation for a long time, Jenny.
It was one of those thoughts that makes you sort of jerk back in almost physical shock. I don’t mean I’d been wanting to leave my marriage or abandon my children, but that I’d been mentally and emotionally checking out a lot, lately. And I mean, yes, I do have a 3 month old lying around (lying on the floor beside my chair as I type right now for maximum irony) and so standards have plummeted and all that, but gosh, does it get easy to sort of put life on autopilot and cruise toward the weekend, the next holiday, the next Big Event, all while telling yourself “I’ll do better tomorrow” each night, falling into bed exhausted and somewhat remorseful about how the day had been spent.
I’ve said a lot of “in a minutes” and “tomorrow I promises” to the kids lately, and it’s not only because I’m recovering from a new baby, it’s also because my will has become, along with the rest of me, just a little soft. Accustomed to being indulged and immediately gratified, the past 72 hours of togetherness have been a sort of brutal wake up call.
No escaping to Target. No running out to the store in the evenings for one quick thing and taking my sweet time. No drives to school and back, podcast or radio station of my choice blasting from the speakers. Who knew I’d miss the commute?!
I honestly think I’ve gone through most of the stages of grief in the past couple days, from shock over school closing to anger over losing access to the Sacraments and the Mass to despair over, well, homeschooling to a sort of bargaining “God if you’ll make them just magically good and kind and docile while this is happening” to, now, I guess, a place of acceptance. The closest thing I can compare this with is actually Benny’s c-section. I have never felt more out of control or afraid in my life as when they wheeled me into that OR. I wanted so badly to run, to be unconscious, to somehow leap off the table and out of my body and leave until the experience was over.
And now that it feels like the entire actual world is out of control, my fragile sense of normalcy all but shattered, I have to seriously re-evaluate the sort of Christianity I’ve professed to be practicing.
It’s easy to let phrases like “this world is not our home” and “Have no anxiety about anything” sort of roll off the tongue when times are good. It’s a little trickier when you’re watching horrifying updates on your foreign friend’s newsfeeds and wondering if a slow rolling tide of doom is heading for your neighborhood next.
I mean okay, yes, we’re all going to die one day. But this all feels so destabilizing that it has made death less of an abstract. And how’s that for a first world problem?
At the end of the day none of us can know how this is going to end up. All we can do is double down in our prayer lives, keep our kids alive and fed and relatively clean, stress clean the bleep out of our basements and beer me some strength for the lesson plans our school sent over this afternoon. My kids are all going to be heading back to their eventual classrooms like brother bear in the Berenstein Bears classic “The Trouble at School” flunking every subject but PE, mark my words.
And all kidding aside? If this is a wakeup call from Jesus to get back to first principles and reinvest in our own little domestic churches, I can’t think of a better set of training wheels than having the gym/library/school/coffee shop/parish/restaurant/play group/girl’s night/sports broadcast/fitness class ripped off like an enormous, life-encompassing band-aid.
Look, no distractions. All eyes on Me.
God, grant me the grace to respond in faith and hope and not in despair and anger.