Photo credit Jon Sailer

I’m on a seesaw across from a giant named Guilt. I’m Gratitude. Every day, all day, I teeter, desperately trying to find balance. Goddamn it’s hard.

It’s Day 4562. No really, it’s day 27 of Shelter at Home, government mandated Please-Stay-the-Fuck-at-Home unless you absolutely can’t. The days are a surreal blur of time. Covid-19 is slowly consuming our country, snatching up our elderly and our vulnerable citizens. We’re fighting an enemy we can’t see. We can’t bomb it, wage war against it, there’s no us vs. them. There’s only all of us against nature and the knowing that in the end, the virus will always mutate and win.

You should be grateful you have a home they say. You should be grateful you’re not an essential worker who has to brave the frontlines. You should be grateful you don’t have to worry about food. You “should” all over yourself. It never stops.

I’m depressed. I want to be alone. I want to be out of my house. I want my darling daughter to be somewhere else, I want her to have a place to be. I want to sit in a café, surrounded by strangers and drink a mocha while I answer emails. My daughter won’t let up about how life is miserable as an only child. She has no one to play with, to fight with, to be silly creative with. A choice my husband and I made many years ago for ourselves is now hurting her. The Guilt of this flattens me.

I’m coping with ice cream and cookies and it’s just-a-square-of-dark-chocolate. I want to plant myself into some form of stillness. Walking feels like swimming upstream, but I do it for my dog. I do it for my mental health. Hell, I walk for my physical health, acknowledging that a reasonable part of me is still in control. Yet leaving the house feels like a tease. A stroll around the neighborhood does not equate to life before. It’s not enough. Sometimes my girl joins me and together we laugh, but more often than not, she clouds the walk with her ample negative energy. This isn’t the exercise she’s seeking. I know its frustration and a lack of control she’s feeling, but can’t she see that I have don’t have control either? I can’t Mom-fix the situation.

The moments of deep connection with my girl is when I feel the Gratitude notch higher, balancing out the Guilt. We rollerblade on empty school track courses in the middle of a Wednesday. We build forts in the basement and make hot chocolate and soft pretzels. On a sunny day we stroll a neighborhood rich in robust Tudors and Cape Cods, calling out which Disney Princess lives in which house. “That one is totally Snow White’s.”

All I do is process, process, process with everyone. Every Zoom meet up, every phone call, every email or text, everyone wants to talk about Covid-19, we’re collectively experiencing something new for the first time together. It’s weird, it’s bonding, it’s exhausting. I could likely benefit from a day where I turn off my phone, be truly present with my books, with movies, with my family, but the idea of disconnection feels too unsettling. The internet and phone keep me tethered to the world.

Off and on I’ve felt the start of a sore throat, swore I had a low-grade fever, today I feel a phlegm build up in my throat. The symptoms terrify me. What happens if I get this? What journey does that take me down? I pray that if it comes, it only allows me the rest and reading time I so crave and nothing more. Can I ask that of the virus? Be gentle.

People instruct me to think of three things I’m grateful for before I go to sleep. To do it again as soon as I wake up. I’d say I resist this, but the reality is I hate this. I’m not even sure why. Maybe it’s being told how to be happy, putting a band-aid to cover the pain. Maybe it feels like regurgitated cheesy self-help. I should write a gratitude list. Should. Should. Should.

Okay. This doesn’t begin to cover everything, but it’s a start. Here’s my short list of what I’m immensely grateful for:

  • I have a good internet connection.
  • We have 5 tablets/laptops between us and never have to share computer time.
  • I married a man passionate about cooking and years ago had the sense to encourage him to attend Culinary School. I’m not lacking for food.
  • I live in a house full of introverts. We’re all really good at entertaining ourselves and understanding when any of us needs alone time.
  • We have kittens and a dog to entertain us and snuggle with.
  • It’s spring and every day I walk my dog there are new plants coming to life ready to soon dazzle me in a bevy of color.
  • We are all healthy.

I’ll continue to ride this seesaw until the President and our Governor and the powers that be declare it’s safe to go outside. And when that day comes, I hope I’m truly grateful for all that I used to take for granted: my coffee shop, my yoga studio, my office, my Mexican Restaurant, my ability to see my friends….

Today Gratitude tips a touch higher. This morning I snacked on a bowl of mango and carved out time to write.