Each to their island... March 2020
Each to their island... It is hard to chase off the shadowfears this morning. I am trying to prepare for potentially sick people, because one of us is isolating with a fever. And three of the four of us have disabilities that make housework hard. I make anxious-homemaker attempts at more order; laundry, dishes, cat hair in the corners, but I cannot seem to clear away the angst. I am pretty sure I am not alone. There is no person I know, in any context, who I am willing to lose. I cannot actually wrap my mind around the calculus of where we are and where we are going. I have spent more time getting comfortable with death than a lot of people have: scary births and NICU babies (and every NICU parent will understand the handwashing trigger), anticipation of surgeries, and in my study and work as an end-of-life navigator. This feels so different because there is not an underlying normal world to rely on for solace. Two months ago I was regularly visiting a client in a nursing home that today reports 8 residents with C-19. I am remembering the faces of all the nurses, aides, 'inmates' and helpers I saw there. I am holding them and their vulnerable patients and families in love and light. It is not enough, I do not have clean masks to bring them or adequate protective gear. Here is what I am doing when I feel helpless. I stop. I sit. I take a breath. I wiggle my toes so I can feel my connection with the earth. I accept not knowing what will happen and trust I will do my best. Then take another breath. I do not have to fix this, I just have to show up and contribute to the common good as I am able, and I have to forgive myself for it not ever being enough. For some of us contributing is as simple as staying home and staying well. For some it is making masks and running errands for neighbors. For some, it is going to hospital and home care jobs, driving delivery trucks, and handing off drive through grocery and take-out orders. For some it is trying to figure out how to rethink death rituals so that our families, online, can grieve together. There is risk everywhere and there is no normal to retreat to. So I stop again, sit, take a breath and let it go. I'm sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you. Wiggle the toes, accept not knowing, do my best and be here now. And feel grateful on this snowy late-March morning (with a Nor'easter bearing down) that I can trust Spring is here.