It’s been seventeen weeks since our town first shut down, and eleven since my last post about what the experience looks like for me and my family.
A Bad State of Affairs
To be honest, things got pretty dark for a while there. A few days after day 42, when I last shared a post, depression really sunk in for me. The constant news cycle that I had become addicted to was consistently filling me with disgust and fury toward leaders lacking empathy, the obvious corruption within the White House, and the supporters who are too brainwashed by propaganda to listen to facts or think critically. My toddler and tween, frustrated with the pandemic coupled with a cold and rainy spring season that was leaving us surrounded by the same four walls, were having tantrums and complaining constantly. My husband, a leader within his company, was too overloaded with pandemic response tasks and decision making to contribute with the kids. I was feeling hopeless about the pandemic and what our government response meant about the security of our future. I was feeling overloaded in my responsibilities to the people around me, and also guilty for being overwhelmed and sad instead of grateful that we were still healthy and employed. I just wanted to call my mom and cry.
But that wasn’t an option for me. Even if it was, it wouldn’t be the response I’d be hoping for. You see, I went no contact with my mom a year ago. During her last visit, I asked her to watch the baby for a while so I could prepare for his first birthday party. It would have been the first time she watched him since he was seven months old. Instead of helping me, she ended up yelling at me in my own house about how I “made her feel like a slave” on her visit, though I had planned activities for her in addition to my asking her to help here and there. When I confronted her about not accepting the way she was treating me, she blamed me, saying that I was resentful because of the trauma I experienced as a child as a result of her neglect. She couldn’t see that her current actions were hurting my kids and I and she couldn’t take responsibility for the harm she caused me as a child. She ended up storming out of my house, staying at a hotel, then begging to attend the now-awkward, unprepared birthday party. She did, and I was cordial, but things are never going to be the same.
Back to the pandemic, 70-ish days ago. I wanted to call my mom, but couldn’t. Thinking about why I couldn’t made me think about how every time I needed her in the past, she wouldn’t be there unless someone else was paying attention. It made me think of the abuse of all kinds I endured without parents who gave a damn. I felt like my local relationships were too young for me to call in desperation, and like my older friendships had grown too distant. I wasn’t doing anything to take care of myself, and my mental health reached as low as it can possibly go. It was a scary place to be.
The State of Our Family Evolved
Ultimately my husband decided to watch our toddler weekday mornings so I could work out for forty-five minutes on zoom with my local gym. I started seeing a therapist via telehealth sessions. I synched up with a family therapist to work with my eldest son and I. Things started to fall into a new place. My husband began helping out more around the house and with the kids, we got into new schedules, and we’ve grown closer as a family. My marriage is the best it’s been since my youngest was born, and we’ve grown and connected in ways that far surpass life before.
We’ve gone on a lot of family walks, played more catch in the backyard than my art-minded oldest son was ever willing to, my husband started baking bread, I did a lot of house projects, and even started a vegetable garden.
In sum, the pandemic has been good to our family. We’ve been lucky and cautious enough to not catch the virus and our relationships in the home have benefited from slowing down during this time.
Our State Re-opened
They reopened the local open spaces that are designated for wildlife and hiking on May 1. The beaches reopened, first without opening the parking lots and for passive use by town residents (meaning you could walk on the beach but not sit, congregate, or bring items) on that same date as the open spaces. Later that month, Memorial Day weekend, they expanded to regular beach use, but still only for town residents with a beach sticker.
Retail stores opened, too. Restaurants with outdoor seating. In June, restaurants opened indoors at 25% capacity. I don’t know anything about either of those, though. We still have only been doing carryout from restaurants once a week and curbside pick up.
Our Current State
Since the beaches opened, things have gotten so much better. Living without family nearby outside of the nuclear one I’ve built is challenging, but I’ve made a lot of local friends that filled that void. Once the beaches reopened, I was able to meet up or run into friends of mine that I hadn’t seen when the state guidelines were more strict.
Being able to see friends has meant the world to me. I don’t even need to make plans–some of the time I just stumble upon them at the beach.
My toddler is great with keeping his mask on, so to reward his good behavior we recently went to an outdoor petting zoo, blueberry picking, and booked a reservation during a members-only slot at the aquarium.
Still in a State of Caution
Cases are continuing to trend downward in Connecticut, week after week. Unlike many other states in the U.S., ours has taken the virus really seriously. I haven’t seen anyone not wear a mask inside a building in a long time, and my only experience with people mad or arguing about masks is from what I’ve seen on the internet.
But as people are feeling comfortable with the new case numbers, they’re beginning to have small get-togethers again. The last two weekends we were invited to backyard parties of what would have been 4-5 families including our own. Unfortunately we had to decline both. I thought we’d be ready on the dates when invitations were extended, but now I don’t foresee feeling comfortable for months, maybe through the rest of the year. Mark has asthma, and doctors are seeing adverse effects with young children now. I’m not willing to risk what matters most.
Traveling to a New State
A month or so ago, my husband suggested we take some summer road trips. We generally travel internationally once a year and travel relatively frequently. We went back and forth about it for a bit, but between the decision fatigue, uncertainty regarding safety, and fear, I decided it wasn’t a good idea.
However, last week he eliminated the decision fatigue by doing the research for me, and eliminated the fear by finding things we could do socially distant, as a family, but elsewhere. We’re headed to New Hampshire for a long weekend not this upcoming weekend, but the following.
Going on a trip feels like a reset, like a real adjustment closer to who we are while being aware that things may not ever be the same in our world.
It’s hard to be hopeful when you’re American and informed, but I’m certainly curious about what the future holds.