Four Days in Quarantine
It’s been four days of quarantine. Of social distancing. Of wondering– how am I ,we, going to get through this?
Suddenly, I’m no longer teaching in a physical classroom. Neither is Cindy. Our kids are home with us, talking to their teachers and classmates through a computer screen.
~Day 1 was like a snow day– without snow. We were all enjoying a slow morning. Listening to music, doing schoolwork in our sweatpants around the kitchen table. It was a break from the often cantankerous Monday morning spill. At one point, I fell into a Youtube rabbit hole and played the upbeat, 1985 hit “The Whole of the Moon” by The Waterboys about 15 straight times. The day, the music, was a nice break from the routine.
~Day 2 was when things got weird. It was St. Patty’s Day and though I’m no longer drinking Guinness and singing Flogging Molly songs by noon, I do enjoy the festive “air” of St. Patty’s Day. The green. The laughter. The optimism. The corny sentiment that everyone’s Irish on St. Patty’s Day. Shamrocks and green top hats remind you spring is near and that baseball season was just 90 feet away.
But I wasn’t excited.
I felt–well, sad. The only Guinness I had in the house was from last St. Patty’s Day. Before dinner, I opened it, took a sip, wished things were different, and poured the rest down the sink. Later, alone on my couch, I watched a live stream of The Dropkick Murphys concert on Youtube. As the Murphys played, viewer comments scrolled across the screen. If I had a coin for every “Thank you. I needed this” comment, I’d have a pot of gold.
~Day 3 was when it finally hit me. This is difficult. For the foreseeable future, life would be different. Travel restrictions. Curfews. Kansas closed school for the rest of the school year. President Trump declaring himself a “wartime president.”
To reestablish some normalcy, I put on khaki pants like I was teaching in the classroom today. Dylan, after talking to his teacher over the computer, cried. I can only assume it hit him too: things are not the same and a return to the old way is, sadly, a long ways away.
In the middle of the afternoon I drove around suburbia. I passed the familiar streets and played Springsteen’s gospel-like “My City of Ruins”. Bruce, the choir, the church organ imploring you to “Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!”
~Day 4 and I miss my routine. The banality of it all: my rotation of work shirts and khakis, the travel mug of hot coffee, the traffic the on Route 1 bridge, my cold carrots for lunch, turning off the lights to my classroom, and greeting my kids as they jump out the bus door and tell me about their day.
It’s amazing how we come to dread our routine but how quickly we long for it when it’s gone.
I’m wearing my khakis again. It’s raining outside. It’s cold. The President reiterated we’re at war with an unseen enemy. Half of the food I ordered from the supermarket is out of stock. Frustration and loneliness grow in suburbia.
For 17 years, for better or worse, I’ve defined myself as an English teacher. A sense of self that springs from teaching students how to read more critically, write more clearly, and ask important questions. And though the internet allows me to still grade my student’s essays and provide some literary instruction, it’s not the same. Even if I’m wearing my khakis.
Let me be clear– this is not easy. I don’t like this. I’ve realized so much of my happiness, my spirit are sparked by community and mobility. To move freely and interact freely with people is a powerful medicine for the human diagnosis.
“But one by one we must all file on/ Through the narrow aisle of pain” writes poet Ella Wheeler Silcox in her poem “Solitude”. And that is where we all find ourselves today, one by one– filing through this moment in history #alonetogether.
No one is immune to the loneliness we feel right now. No one is immune to the changes we all must endure.
So when we meet Day 5, I implore you–I implore myself– to not quit. To not quit on your family. On your community. On yourself. On your hopefulness. On your goodwill. On your decency.
You may not be working, your office may be closed today. No matter. Because your job, right now, is simple–be decent. Decency is how we tilt the battlefield. Decency is how we keep ourselves intact.
Decency is how we will get through this.
PS– Writing that post was difficult. I didn’t know what to say about our current situation. Who am I to tell you how to get through this?
Nevertheless, I hope my words provide you with some comfort. And reading a post from me, on Friday, provided with a few moments of normalcy.
Now, I have something to ask of you- Is there a question I can try to answer for you? Is there something you want me to write about?
This blog has taught me about the power of community.
Your reading, sharing, and comments have helped me to just keep going. To write one more post, to tell one more story. So thank you.
And now, what how can I help you? Is there a subject you me to write about? Let me know. Leave a message on this post or send me an email.