Dear Friends and Family,
I’m feeling a bit raw and ragged. My emotions seem to be on the surface. I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve, but these days it feels like my heart lives on the outside of my chest—exposed, raw and ragged.
There is something about this time of social isolation that makes me feel vulnerable. Maybe it’s because I don’t know what the future holds. Maybe it’s because I’m writing again. Maybe it’s because human beings were never meant to live in social isolation—even the introverts I know are finding it challenging. But I don’t think that’s my problem.
For one, I feel more connected to our neighbors than I ever have. Most days, we go outside at 6:00 to shout hello and check in on each other and, recently, three neighbors from down the hill have started Hula Hooping their way up to our house. That evolved into Mellow Mondays, Wacky Wednesdays and Funky Fridays for a Hula Hooping Happy Hour, all from a safe distance, of course. I’ve seen more of our neighbors over the past six weeks than I have in the past 12 years—combined.
So, no, I don't think the problem is social distancing or isolation. I think it’s that all of our social and professional norms have changed, and I don’t know the rules anymore.
Going to the grocery store used to be a no brainer requiring nothing more than my list and my bags, but that’s changed every week:
First, wash your hands for 20 seconds.
Then, stay six feet apart.
Add a mask.
Don’t bring your own bags.
Wipe everything down with Clorox water before you take it into the house.
And, that is just for a trip to the store. At work, the norms changed, too.
First, no work travel.
Then, work from home—if you are vulnerable.
Then, everyone works from home, but keeps a normal 9-5, Monday to Friday schedule
Now, work from home. Modify your schedule to fit your household. Take breaks. Take care of your family and community. Be gentle with yourself.
Take care of yourself and your family. That is the explicit message from my work, and I am lucky. Other people, like those who work in meat packing plants, are not so lucky. Their explicit message is: Show up for work. No matter what.
Young kids at home with no school or day care? Doesn’t matter. Show up.
Sick or someone in the family is sick? Doesn’t matter. Show up.
No masks, no gloves, no social distancing on the line? Show up anyway.
Can’t show up? Don’t show up?
Oh well, best of luck, that’s a voluntary quit. No unemployment benefits for you.
That is not my work situation. My work is humane and supportive, but still I’m not sure of the new rules. Is it really okay to take time for myself? Is it okay to volunteer during work hours? What happens when there is a work meeting, but you’ve already committed to volunteering at a food pantry? What if that work meeting is with your funder and, thus, the provider of your paycheck? Do you skip the meeting? And, if you do skip the meeting, do you tell the truth?
In the Before Times the answers were: no and no. But, in the Time of Corona when the explicit message is to take care of yourself, your family and your community, can you really throw away old norms and embrace new ones? I don’t know. Like most things, it’s a bit more complicated than old vs new and that is precisely why it’s so exhausting.
In my case, I did take the time off and I told the truth. I will not lose my job. I will not get “written up.” I will get paid and keep my health and vacation benefits. Nonetheless, not knowing the new rules and new norms, has left me feeling like my heart sits outside my chest—exposed, raw and ragged.
But, as I well know, the only way out of these feelings, is through them and the only way through them is to feel them, name them, and share them. And, so I have.
Until next time, stay healthy, safe and loved, most important loved.