We Can Do Hard Things
In the beginning, I joked. I called it CORONA-cation.
Years ago, we had SWINE-cation with the Swine Flu. The day Superintendent Timothy put Park City School District under quarantine, my principal and I drove to the Governor’s Mansion to watch our eighth-grade student, Skye, receive an award for her essay on bullying.
SWINE-cation came and went.
It did not interrupt learning. It did not cancel prom. It did postpone graduation.
Even though I knew better, I assumed CORONA-cation would be a quick re-set and we would all be back in the classroom, skiing, and in the grocery store in a few weeks.
My first wave of panic, yes – panic– that’s the right word, came in Smith’s on Sixth Avenue in Salt Lake City. Gloved and masked, I heard silence. I paused in the produce to find what was missing – there were no children. No kids asking for this or that. No babies crying. No laughter.
Going to the grocery store every two weeks became daunting. The quiet overwhelmed me. It felt surreal. It was dystopian.
Now, I order groceries online and have them put in the trunk of my white Volkswagen and hope that my eyes twinkle enough to express gratitude while wishing the personal shopper could see my smile under my mask.
Sure, it was 2020: The Year I Actually Was a Stay-at-Home Dog Mom and I made lists, long lists: clean the baseboards; write; practice yoga; organize the pantry; put the Christmas decorations in the garage (well, now Christmas is just a few months away, so they will have to stay put in the closet downstairs); clean my closet – if it hasn’t come out in a year, OUT with it; read; exercise; plant a garden . . .
So many things to do with so little energy.
Teaching took twice the time and provided none of the fun.
As an English teacher, I get to see the rawest and the most real sides of my students in their writing. COVID changed their plans for college as parents were furloughed. COVID changed their schedules. Some became nocturnal gaming until 4 am, sleeping, waking, and doing it all over again. COVID challenged their roles in their families. Some became providers. Some became the parent – parenting their parents and their younger siblings.
Now, however many days, however many weeks later – I lose track – all I know is that I have been in COVID-casual clothes (“pants” without a waist) since Thursday, March 12th. I know this because the last day of school with my students was Friday the 13th – a school spirit day so I “twinned” with my colleague wearing sweatpants and a basketball hoodie.
I’m angry. I try to control things that I can’t.
I’m frustrated. I don’t understand why others won’t control things that they can – wearing a mask in public, washing their hands, writing complete sentences, and using spellcheck.
Instead of my “to-do” list, I shopped at Hell’s Backbone Grill online, of course. I made biscuits and smothered them with apricot preserves. I didn’t gain the COVID-19; I added 10 pounds.
I drank too much. In fact, it was that afternoon cocktail that I looked forward to, that gave me hope—that, I told myself was my reward for figuring out how to deliver curriculum to my students who were separate from me, from each other. That was my reward for answering questions and having writing conferences online. I looked forward to a glass of wine as a break, a stop.
But it didn’t stop. Instead, the lid on my laptop stayed open – just in case – just in case someone needed an answer, clarification, or, just me.
As for reading, I read a little. I consumed Hot Zone, started The Magicians, perused Erosion and listened to Glennon Doyle read Untamed as I drove between Salt Lake City, Park City, and Francis.
Now, from her book, I know, “We can do hard things.”
Last night, I was filled with sadness.
“Please I can’t breathe,” said George Floyd before succumbing to his injuries in Minneapolis. I grieve for Mr. Floyd. I grieve for the families and friends of the more than 100,000 killed by COVID-19. I grieve for students missing out on tradition and moving into a new world. I grieve for what we called normal.
We can do hard things.