The other night I had a video chat with my son, Emmanuel. It wasn’t unlike our other chats. We usually discuss random things while tending to our tasks. He’s typically making something to eat. claiming that I just happen to always call when he’s hungry. Our topics have ranged from school and his work to whether or not bugs have souls. One time, he actually cleaned the bathroom while I was on the line. On this night, we contemplated what he would do during the zombie apocalypse-become a zombie, fight the zombies or hide.
When the eight o’clock hour hit, I brought the phone out to the balcony so he could hear the Parisians cheering and clapping for the workers taking care of us right now. And then we winded down with me bringing the phone to Ruby, our cat, so he could see her, marvel in her fat squishiness and say goodbye. She honored him with a gentle nose tap to the screen. It was a tender moment.
After I ended our call, the tension that I had been holding in my body for the week had evaporated. The simple joy of connecting with my son during these trying times uplifted me in a way that I desperately needed. It was a true blessing.
I don’t typically blog unless I have inspiration. I find it impossible to write from an inauthentic place so sometimes there are long stretches between my posts as I try to stay open to what life and the world are presenting to me. Recently, however, I was finding that in spite of all that was going on in the world, I could not focus or settle down enough to write. Fixated on my YouTube channels and my Facebook feed, all I could manage was to consume more and more information about this pandemic.
Then, I downloaded games to my phone, appeased by the mindlessly challenging task of connecting colorful dots into squares. Back and forth to my 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle, this pandemic has given me an amplified form of ADD and I’ve been desperately trying to get a handle on it. I’ve now heaped a ton of guilt onto my existing fear and loneliness because I don’t think I’ve done anything productive since locking down.
I decided to lean into my lack of focus, to just own it and see where it would take me emotionally and spiritually. This blog post is where I’ve landed.
First, let me say that while I have processed the larger existential implications of watching people fight over and hoard toilet paper, that behavior didn’t surprise me. Lamenting the consumerism and excess of our society, in the United States in particular, is not a new exercise for my psyche. And the nation’s lack of preparedness and blatant arrogance and denial about the ramifications of this pandemic are par for the course. Remember in Jaws when they refused to believe there was a killer shark in the water?
What has me all over the place is the way everything has just been flipped on its head. This past year of my “mom”bbatical, I had embraced the uncertainty of a professional transition, financial insecurity, an international move and a transfer of custody of my beloved son to his father. I have had moments of frustration as things were slow to develop, but I continued to trust that I would land.
And the fog was starting to clear. Our consulting company had secured our first project and we were on the precipice of locking down the next. Thanks to the consulting gig, I was able to spend some quality time with my son in California, finally getting a closer look at his home life with his father, his father’s girlfriend and her mother. With that moment came a tremendous amount of healing energy between me and his dad. My Crossfit game was on point and I had found an international theatre group/choir in Paris to add to my growing community. Life was coming together.
I saw the corornavirus looming while I was traveling in late February. As I was nestling in at my gate at Charles de Gaulle airport, I was asked if I had recently traveled to China. That was an easy “No” and I kept it moving. Baggage handlers at JFK airport were wearing masks and gloves, but I remained blissfully ignorant. Life and energy were surging back in me as I was taking care of business. Sitting in our potential project interview discussing the scope of our consulting work, I had purpose again.
Now, all that momentum has ground to a halt. Upon my arrival back to Paris, I nursed my jetlag with a little extra sleep and woke up to the clear and present danger of this virus. Like millions around the world, I am now holed up in isolation uncertain of what is to come. No Crossfit community. No choir. No apertif with friends.
It’s a miracle that I am not sick. I flew to San Francisco, back to Paris through Zurich then flew to New York City from Paris via Brussels. I hopped a train to Providence, Rhode Island, returned to Brooklyn and made my way back to Paris. All of this in a matter of two weeks. I am grateful to be healthy.
There is food in my refrigerator. My bed is warm and I have enough space to get my workouts in at home under the curious eye of my sweet kitty, Ruby. The sun is pouring into my windows and I have all the technology that I need to keep myself entertained. I’m receiving texts and having video chats with my lovely friends from all around the world. I have never felt more loved.
But, shit, I can’t concentrate and I’m not getting anything of value done.
Every question that could possibly run through my mind has surfaced. When will our consulting projects resume? Will Emmanuel get to do the summer program that we set our sights on? When will I get to fly back to the United States? Is my 73-year old Boomer mother going to be okay? Am I really going to spend springtime in Paris indoors? Every time I go to the grocery store, does the countdown to potential symptoms reset? Will this finally be the thing that rids us of Donald Trump? Is my Crossfit body going to turn to mush? Is Andrew Cuomo single?
I don’t doubt that Mother Earth sent this virus to get us all to sit the eff down and think about the damage that we have done to her. She needs to heal and if it takes an infectious virus to give her respite from our constant pollution-inducing activity, then I’m not mad at her.
This feels like so much more than that, though. All of the institutions that have exploited our labor, our differences and our resources are crumbling in this moment. The servants in our world–teachers, nurses, doctors, shelf stockers–and others are our most valuable human resources right now and had always been. While the President is continuing to foment racist sentiments to mask his own ignorance and incompetence, our artists are using social media as a way to bring us all together. DJ DNice has saved the world by spinning for everyone from little ole me to Bradley Cooper.
I know there are parents at home trying to support their kids distance learning and pulling their hair out in the process. There are some hilarious videos out there by parents who finally understand what their kid’s teachers deal with every day. Even thousands of miles away, I was interrogating my own son about his e-learning, examining the schedule, asking him about the potential homework, etc. Then, I took a breath, backed off and chatted about the zombie apocalypse instead.
Now is not the time to ride our kids about their academic achievement. This is an unprecedented opportunity for reflection, for appreciating who they are free of the daily routines we force on them. We spend so much time defining our kids by their GPAs, test scores, athletic achievements or future potential. How about we just let them “be”? What might they discover about themselves during this moment? What might they discover about you?
So, ironically, once I released the pressure from myself of having to do or accomplish something, I was able to write again. The “mom”bbatical in the context of a worldwide pandemic has brought me into completely new territory. As frightening as this all may be, I believe we have to stay hopeful that this correction from the Universe will serve us in the end.
Most importantly, let this moment bring us together in a spirit of love and compassion for those whose lives have been lost, those who are actively fighting against this illness and those whose livelihood has been deeply impacted. We will only get through this through collective action, empathy and love.
Now do yourself a favor and join DNice’s Club Quarantine on Instagram. It is fire!!!