It's interesting that as social as I am, I am not interested in Zooming, or FaceTime'ing, or sometimes even talking to my friends on the phone. All of these are such poor substitutes for the real thing. There are days where I think I am doing okay. Well, "quarantine ok" -- and then there are days where my mood is all over the place. This week there was news about schools unlikely opening in the fall, and I could not process that well. I have been really good at taking this whole thing day by day, but I felt suffocated by the idea that months from now we would still be in this situation. This news comes at the same time that some locations are opening up again, so I feel pulled between all of these new versions of reality. For the first time since this all began, my friends and I did a distanced birthday celebration on a grassy field. Despite the face masks and the distance, it was glorious.
We need people. We need our friends. Children need other children. I feel lucky that I have three other people living with me, but my heart hurts for people who live alone right now. My aunt in Manhattan has lived alone her whole adult life. She didn't mind it, but her daily interactions with people she worked with or met for meals sustained her. Now she is so lonely it hurts. My student Betty is 85 and lives alone too. She has children and grandkids, but only one of her sons comes to visit her from her porch. I have asked her if I could pick up her groceries but she insists on doing it herself because she says it is her only adventure out of her house. My kids and I decided we would bake for Betty and go over and drop it off. We made her muffins and jam and told her we were going to drop it off and wave from the sidewalk. We made signs to say hello and when I saw her eyes from over the top of her mask, they looked happy and sad at the same time. I felt exactly the same way. She yelled out to us that it was so good to see us and then added, it was so good to see any people. On the phone with me, she said she doesn't know if the world will ever be the same again. I wished that I could reassure her that she would see the world in a way that was familiar to her, but I can't say with any certainty in her lifetime that she will.
The afternoon after I had seen my friends, I went from feeling alive, hopeful and refreshed to feeling really blue. It was a let down to realize that the outing took so much energy out of me and that as great as it was, it will be few and far between before I spend time with people again. I love my family, having time with them, being creative and staying busy with projects at home but I am really uncomfortable sitting in this unknown for so long. I was doing pretty well, taking it all day by day, but the last few have had me jumping ahead to what our summer will look like, or what the fall will hold. None of us know, and since the Subaru commercial says we're in this together, I need to heed their words (not the ones where they tell me to buy a new car when no one is going anywhere, but the supportive ones). A few years ago when our water filter needed a replacement cartridge, I wanted to try and do it myself instead of asking my husband for help. He was at work and I was home with my then 4 year old. I managed to wiggle under the sink and remove the old cartridge but in trying to insert the new one I hit something and water spewed everywhere. In what felt like five minutes our entire kitchen floor was flooded with water up to our ankles. My son asked if we should call the police. I didn't do that, but I asked for help and was able to drain it out and save our floors. All this could have been prevented if I asked for help in the first place.
I am using that story as a reminder, that sometimes I try to prove to myself that I can do things independent of others. There has been a lot I have gained from this attitude in the past, for example I backpacked nine countries on my own after breaking up with my then boyfriend. I moved all the way to LA from NY in a 1976 VW van, and started with a new beginning with $1500 to my name. I studied and took the GMAT then applied to graduate school at Harvard without telling a soul. That last one really proved that asking for help is something we need to be able to do sometimes. Suffice to say, I did not get in. At this time in our history, we are living through a huge challenge and Subaru is right. I am not in this alone. I need to remember to pick up the phone and call (not text) a friend and ask for help when I am scared, sad, mad or alone. Chances are good that whoever I am speaking with will also have experienced some if not all of those feelings, maybe even in the last hour. So in a time when we are already disconnected because we have to be, I want to reach out just a bit more. Even if it is hard, I know all of us humans might get by with a little help from our friends.