Sixty days into a quarantine we have learned much about ourselves and each other. Some of our revelatory moments come from intentional sharing. Others stem from organic observation. Questions have been answered whether we wanted them to be or not! People preface their comments with a phrase that I have heard ad nauseum: “In these uncertain times….” If I never hear that sociological intro again, I will be happy. These are uncertain, difficult, unprecedented, heavy times. As with any crisis, we are laid bare before each other with our authentic selves exposed.
Let’s start with our hair. Have you ever wondered about the true hair color of your perfectly-coiffed neighbor? Well, now you know! Two months without chemicals and trained stylists and the stripe of color growing freely from our scalp boasts a natural beauty to the world. Of course, we’re really not seeing anyone besides those closest to us so maybe our secret is still intact? Those wildly independent gray hairs that grow jubilantly at our temple have free rein and, each time we look in the mirror, we have the same epiphany that we haven’t tipped our hair stylist enough in the past! “What’s your natural color” is a question we need not ask again after “these uncertain times” pass!
“How are you sleeping?” Simple. Trazadone. 50mg at bed and I can let go of the weight of the world and slip into an alternative state of being. Most nights. When the virus first landed in our town and threats of quarantine loomed, there were nights I heard sirens wailing. An awareness of death was deepened by this sound of warning that we seldom hear in my neck of the woods. In the dark of my room my anxiety level rose. I wondered what carnage lay ahead. So I’m thankful for a little pill that has eased my middle-aged sleep struggles for more than a dozen years. I can easily point back to the time that I first needed it. August 14, 2007. Our house burned to the ground that night. Unknown causes. No one was hurt—physically. My eldest headed to her dorm shortly after that to start another year of college. The other five of us relocated to a 2-bedroom family cottage for a year. In the dark of night my thoughts would wander to what could have happened if the fire had started at 3AM when we would have been fast asleep. I had heart palpitations. I was exhausted with the demands of keeping up with family and career but, additionally, navigating the demands of the insurance industry. In those uncertain times my doctor suggested trazadone. Originally an anti-depressant, the first round of users discovered that it made them sleepy. I suppose putting folks to sleep is one way of temporarily suspending anxious thoughts. But it was subsequently rebranded as a sleep aid. I don’t hear sirens in the night much anymore but a little white pill at bedtime has been a true friend!
What’s for dinner? I haven’t needed to cook an evening meal for years. My husband usually works late and my kids are grown so the days of figuring out what to put on a plate by 6PM are over. But not in quarantine! With little else to do I dove into recipe exploration. I’ve always loved to cook and now there were four of us captive in our home. So our daily gathering was at supper. Not only would it be fun to try out some new foods. It might actually empty out our freezer! I am certain that there are meat products buried in the depths of our garage freezer that make a mockery of their expiration date. With two grown sons living with us in these uncertain times, we ate well. Never mind the threats that shelves were empty in grocery stores. We have had plenty to eat. The excitement of foraging through my cookbooks has waned however. My husband texted me last night at 6PM to tell me he had picked up rotisserie chicken and was bringing it home. Good, I thought, since I have nothing planned. And as for Project Empty-the-Freezer? Not so much. My husband does man-shopping at Sam’s Club. You know, where he buys large and multiple quantities of specific food items, empties them from the car and then we struggle to figure out where they can safely be stored? So our freezers are still at capacity. Stop by if you run out of your own supplies.
Do you have any pets? The good news in these uncertain times is that the animal shelters have largely been emptied! Pandemic Pets have warmed our hearts and invaded our homes. Children have learned how to potty-train new puppies. Purring cats have pulled us countless times from the brink of despair. My sisters and I send each other pictures of beloved animals on our beds who clearly have the positions of honor in our families. We have been put on this earth to serve them, not the other way around! Praise God for the sweet companionship of the animal kingdom!
What’s your new routine? Actually, you may not want to know. With board meetings scrapped and office parties cancelled, let’s just say that my regular hygiene routine has been…altered. Do I really need that shower today? Do I want to stand at the bathroom sink wasting my time with a blow dryer? Did I brush my teeth this morning? Did I wear these leggings for the last two days or has it been three? Should I wash a load or wait another week? I wonder if we will re-enter our world with a changed set of priorities? Has our anxiety over choosing the right shade of eye shadow to match our outfit been misplaced? It seems like I have slipped into a rather androgynous style of personal presentation—which is all the rage, fortunately! I may not reclaim my previous habits as the pace picks up going forward.
That leads nicely into the next question: Are you wearing pants? I’ve heard that asked of more newscasters than I’d like to think. They are sitting at makeshift desks in their basements—which, by the way, have had obvious renovations over the course of the quarantine weeks—trying to look professional while the dog walks in on their news report and a baby cries in the next room. To what base level have we sunk when we don’t bother to dress half our body that won’t be seen? Pretty low, apparently. And it may be hard to go back to full office attire when the shelter-in-place mandate is lifted! Who knew that we didn’t need half of our clothing?
What day is it? Good question! I’m still pretty good at day and night differentiation (although even that is muddied as our daylight stretches well past 9PM in Michigan now). Without the usual schedule of events that happen on the same day of the week, we have no gauge for the passage of time. In the last years of my mother-in-law’s life, her schedule of activities lessened and some minor confusion developed. She would often say to us, “It feels like Saturday.” Like, every day. My kids and I would laugh at that. But now we hail her as the true sage of our family. Everyday our schedule is open so our mind computes that as a Saturday, a day off. Today it feels like Saturday—and it is! I guess I’m not losing it completely.
How is the family? Great, thanks for asking! In spite of being separated in different households we have celebrated three birthdays in social-distanced porch parties. We ate a hot meal together on our front porch on Mother’s Day when it was 43° and rainy. That’s when I really knew my children loved me! We have talked by zoom. We have lamented that we can’t hug each other. We have processed life with each other in ways that have kept us laughing and sane when we might well have fallen into pits of despair.￼￼
How’s church? That’s a great question! Church is alive! We are open! Not the building, but our hearts! We are making plans by zoom, praying over the phone, planning drive-by delivery of Bibles to first-grade graduates and finding that the internet is God’s greatest gift and, sometimes, fierce adversary. I have never been one to grab at the spotlight but, when it became clear that we had to cancel in-place worship, I decided to own my new role as a televangelist.
I had to believe that my message, preached to my camera-man husband, would be heard by others whose faces were no longer in front of me. Our on-line services have been an essential lifeline to our congregation as we have so missed each other’s physical company. Our coffee hour zooms are filled with laughter and expressions of affection for one another. A variety of people participate in the worship, recording their part of the service and sending it to our fearless youth leader. He has saved the day by taking on an overburdened internet and uploading our service to Facebook and YouTube. In exciting new ways we are doing “liturgy” together. Liturgy translates to mean “the work of the people” so, with each face and voice that guides us into God’s presence in our Sunday worship, our congregation unites as the Body of Christ, separated in body but joined in heart.
So on this Saturday (it is Saturday, right?) in these uncertain times, with interrupted sleep patterns and increasingly informal attire, may you know the nearness of the One who holds all things together when we’ve finally realized that we don’t and can’t!