Feeling Helpless, Not Hopeless

My family is working, studying, and contributing during the Covid-19 pandemic. They are, for the most part, carrying on “business as usual”. My current job is worrying.

It’s okay that I was laid off due to Covid-19’s restrictions and shutdowns. I, of all people, should be self-isolating and practicing social distancing. Having contracted H1N1 in 2014, I know things like this are to be taken very seriously. Having asthma and diabetes simply adds insult to injury. I must stay home. Wash my hands. Don’t touch my face.

I have found other things to do with my time… it’s become my job to worry.

And, right now, I deserve a raise.

When your health is at risk, you worry. Any time your funds are limited, you worry. Any time your future is up in the air, you worry. Any time you are thrown so completely off the rails and you’re moving in slow motion, and at the same time at the speed of light, you worry. Any time the ones you love are carrying on with life and you’re curled up in a chair watching Food Network trying to figure out your next move, you worry. Waiting on your unemployment claim confirmation, you worry. Questioning every professional move and decision you’ve made in the last fifteen years, worry. Getting the mail, worry. Hear the local news station’s “Breaking News” break-through, worry. Cough, worry. Sneeze, worry. Text your kids and don’t get a response within 3.28 seconds, worry. Wave goodbye to your husband when he leaves for work, from six-ish feet away, worry.

My husband works in public transportation and is doing his part to keep those pieces of transportation sanitized and clean. He leaves his uniform at work, showers as soon as he gets home, then puts on new clothes. We’ve moved him into our son’s old bedroom just in case. How can you eliminate every germ? Every miniscule molecule? There is no guarantee he’s not in contact with something or someone covered in Coronavirus or that he won’t be in contact with something or someone in the days and weeks to come. Worry.

My son is in manufacturing. His company makes products for pharmaceutical and healthcare companies. They just received orders for making molds that will form pills or capsules used to fight (or cure?) Covid-19. They are a life sustaining business. He is an anxious 6'1" rail thin guy who is handling this much better than I thought, or that he has made me think. I’ve offered for him to stay with us more than once. He hasn’t taken us up on it, nor has he refused the offer. When he accepts and shows up at our door, it’ll be because it’s really time to worry.

My daughter is a PhD student, studying Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. She may not be sitting in an actual classroom, but she’s studying. She’s not in the lab or working on science regarding Coronavirus at this moment — but her path will lead her there. She knows enough to be sensible and enough to know when to be scared. I believe she’s somewhere in the middle of the two. And although she’s safe at home using video chat and email to correspond with the university, her boyfriend (also in manufacturing) is still working. Have I mentioned that I worry?

My mom is 70, semi-retired, and works from home. She goes from frantic text messages about social distancing and self-quarantining to taking walks and posing for selfies with her best friend. One minute we are texting “What more can we do? How else can we protect ourselves? We are out of options.” and the next we are saying “Should we wipe down groceries? Throw away plastic bags? Can you get it from a can of green beans?”. Combine her with my sister who is a teacher’s aide and home with her high school daughters and my phone blows up all day, every day. My brother in law is on an ideal work schedule — he reports every other week. My niece has taken time off from her food service job although she did stick it out until last week. Her employer went to drive-thru only, but it still isn’t worth taking a chance. You’re still less than 6 feet from others, and with the warnings going to “no gatherings of more than 2 people” I think she made the right decision. One less person I have to worry about.

I have friends and family who are in banking and just shut their lobbies down on or around March 23. They’re still working behind a drive-thru window, but thankfully and finally, away from the public. I also have loved ones who are nurses, who manage family practice offices, who are paramedics, dialysis technicians, pharmacy managers, surgical techs, hospital housekeeping, and retail workers. Friends who are in the nonprofit world who are struggling and shuffling to figure out how they’ll make up for cancelled events. Friends who are business owners — responsible for not only themselves and their own families, but also for their employees and their families.

I have a niece who is due with their first baby in May. She’s working from home, or “WFH” as she texts, her wife is thankfully WFH now too. Another niece has been laid off from her job in the service industry, another is working in banking as noted above, and yet another has been lucky to be set up to WFH. Friends are balancing WFH and being homeschooling parents. My kids are grown and out of the house. I feel for those balancing quarantining and WFH with elementary aged children. However, the parents-turned-teachers memes and quotes are hilarious, I must admit.

Three hours into homeschooling and one is suspended for skipping class and the other has already been expelled.

If you see my kids locked outside today, mind your business. We are having a fire drill.

And just like that — prayers and spanking are back in school.

I witnessed my neighbor scraping the “star student” sticker off her minivan window this morning. Guess the first week of home schooling didn’t go so well.

I received a call from a friend and past business partner on Saturday. He simply called because he was reaching out to folks who made a difference in his life over the last few years. He wanted to do nothing more than talk about things and attempt to make people feel good. Thank you again J., you made this person feel good.

I want people to feel good too. I want people to feel safe. Loved. Cared about. Remembered. I have a friend who is single and doesn’t have any immediate family. We have texted and talked more in the past ten days than I can count. This friend needs to know their value in my life and how much I care about them … and that they are my family.

As I am writing this, another contact text me to invite me to a Zoom meeting her civil networking group is putting together. It’s nice to be thought of, especially by those who you aren’t in touch with on a regular basis. A simple text can make such a difference.

Are you there for others? Are you checking on family, friends, neighbors? Are you being kind to strangers? I’ve read stories of people giving the last loaf of bread or gallon of milk to an elderly shopper. Stores are opening an hour early for the elderly and those with health conditions. People are volunteering at food banks and schools to hand out meals. People are donating blood. There are people sewing face masks with fabric donated by Jo-Ann Fabrics.

Crisis and tragedy bring out the best … and unfortunately the worst … in people. Some jump on board without being asked, some avoid helping others like, well, the plague.

People find value in volunteerism.

Leaders are born.

Families and friendships become stronger.

While a lot of this has made me feel helpless, I do not feel hopeless. I see the good in people in general, and especially in my family and friends. I am proud of my family for continuing to work and contribute solutions to what is a global problem. I will continue to worry, but I will also continue to support people, albeit from afar.

Stay home. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face.

And I know I will come out on the other side (as we all will) stronger and smarter, with a just a dash of left over worry… until the next thing comes along.

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