I went to the supermarket last night to get some groceries we simply needed to refill, but also to stock up on extra stuff—just in case. The "just in case" gray area of this whole Coronavirus, or COVID-19 pandemic is what's causing familiar worries and fears to bubble up.
Just in case of what, exactly?
Getting it ourselves? Passing it to someone else? The kid's schools closing? My grandfather—who lives in a nursing home—getting it? Being trapped inside for two weeks… or longer?
The gray area is a trigger for my anxiety, I've realized.
So yesterday, I spent my whole hour-long therapy session talking about it. There are so many gray areas of life—in raising our children to be who they are not who we expect them to be, in eliminating boxes we feel we are "supposed" to live in, in not knowing what the future holds. If we don't get comfortable with—or at least okay with—the gray area, we will live in a constant state of heightened anxiety.
We want control, and the gray area doesn't give us control. Instead, it asks us to surrender control.
Is that what I have to do now, with the Coronavirus entering our lives?
Today, I'm thinking—yes and no.
I understand we don't have to spend our life savings on groceries, toilet paper and cleaning products, but I did take the FEMA recommendation seriously and stocked up on a 2-week supply (probably a bit more) of food and our basic necessities. I refilled things like kid and adult Motrin and Tylenol as well as made sure we had plenty of Gatorade, Pedialyte, bottled water, saltines, soup, elderberry syrup and probiotics.
My thought process here is, I have kids. We can make room in our budget to do this. I need to take their recommendations seriously, even if I felt a bit silly in the packed-to-the-brim-store last night with everyone else. The best-case scenario is that we don't need to tap into this reserve, but we have it in case we do. We could share with our neighbors if they needed help. And plus, it's all stuff we will use eventually—it will not go to waste.
If nothing else, buying extra inventory for our household gave me a familiar feeling of control within the gray area of this situation, which made me feel better. Even if I can't actually control what's going on in the world, I can control (to a certain degree) the preparedness in my own home.
Which then made me realize there are many people who can't spend money on buying extra groceries and supplies. Children who will miss meals if there are school closures. I saw on author and poet Cleo Wade's Instagram account that donating money, not necessarily cans of food, to your local food bank will be tremendously helpful for these members of our communities. (You can find your local food bank here.)
We've been going over proper hand-washing constantly (and have the dry hands to prove it!) and alternate between singing the ABCs and Happy Birthday. Yesterday, I praised my middle kiddo so hardcore for washing their hands while singing loudly and beautifully, you would have thought they won an Olympic gold medal. (They were a bit confused but quite happy with the enthusiasm.)
Though again, we can't even really control their hand-washing, but we can strongly encourage them to be thorough. We can continue to go over why they need to be so thorough—because we don't want to spread our germs to each other, now or ever, and especially not to our immunocompromised friends or family members.
So instead of Facetiming my sister immediately when I hear something new about Coronavirus or continuously refreshing the news, I can remember to take a break from the media and constant discussion of the topic. I can remember to meditate and get extra rest to be sure I'm taking care of myself. Laughing while watching Veep with my husband last night helped, too.
Our kids are going to remember the feeling in their safe zone, their home, from the time "Coronavirus started spreading," and I don't want them to feel anxiety or panic. I want them to remain calm, knowing their parents are doing all they can to protect them.
My anxiety has been present in times of emergency before, like when we lived through the Merrimack Valley gas explosions a year and a half ago, and what I learned then that I carry with me today is that—sometimes I need to put on a brave face for my kiddos no matter what my anxiety is doing inside. And that, as long as I'm with my babies, we are okay.