I realized the other day that I am having a different quarantine experience than other people. I was invited to have a Zoom Lunch Meeting with my writer friends. They started doing this every Friday during Quarantine Life as a way to feel connected. I decided to take my lunch at that time so I could see them.
I clocked out and grabbed my lunch from our break room, in a paper bag that I could throw away after I was done so I wouldn’t need to clean my lunch bag every night. I started to walk through the hospital to find a quiet place to sit, but that became hard since they closed the cafeteria lunch room and took away all the table and chairs. I eventually found a place in the hospital lobby, a bench placed on a far wall away from any socializing. The hospital was closed to all visitors so I felt good about talking with my blue tooth headphones.
I clicked on the meeting and got a chance to see my friends. Everyone was there at their computers, horizontal and in comfortable clothes. I turned on my camera, all vertical on my phone and in my hospital scrubs.
Everyone sounded very glad to see me. I was overwhelmed by all the people. I ate my food and didn’t really say much, just listened to the day to day routine of quarantine life.
And as I listened to how they were dealing with things, I realized I was having a very different experience than my friends, and even my family. I decided to return to the lab and headed back. People wished me luck and cheered me on as I closed my phone.
Each morning I get up and clean the kitchen and do the dishes before I shower in the morning. I wake my girls for school and try to do something fun to get them jumpstarted on another fun day of homeschool, like leaving them kind post-its, or making them Deathstar Waffles for breakfast, anything to get their minds off the reality of why they are not at school. I make a lunch, something simple like peanut butter and honey and place it in a paper bag. I don’t eat much, but I need something with protein to get me through the day. I put on my scrubs and specific shoes and head to my car.
I drive, not chancing public transportation. Once I park, I take a deep breath and mentally prepare myself for entering the hospital. I don my homemade mask my sister made, so adjust my glasses so they don’t fog. I don’t touch any of the rails and walk the ten minutes up to the hospital, hitting the elevator button with my elbow.
I get out my badge and head into line, where I get my temperature checked. I then proceed to sanitize my hands and my badge. I walk to the lab, clock in, sanitize again to walk through the doors to the breakroom to stow my lunch. I then enter my lab and wash my hands before putting on a lab coat, gloves, and a face shield. Any time I leave the lab, it’s the same thing: wash hands, sanitize, wash them again.
I keep track of where I go and what I touch. When I get home, I head to the laundry room and immediately strip and throw everything in the washer. I slip off my shoes, grab a towel and shower, before I change into something comfortable.
This is my new life. It evolved to this, the strictest measures in order to keep my family safe.
I work at the University of Utah Hospital, which is one of the leaders in preparation for the C virus. I also work for ARUP, one of the leaders in testing for it. I’m not one that can work from home, I work in Transfusion and can’t easily ship blood units from my home. And though the hospitals may have slowed surgeries, that doesn’t stop cancer patients from needing transfusions or transplant patients getting a transplant when an organ is available.
Today is my day off. I spent my morning cleaning what happened over the week while I was at work, making breakfast like I always try to do on Saturday, and spending time outside fixing my yard.
While doing this, I moved our patio table that was been in storage under our deck to the outside cement pad, so the girls could have a place to get out and have lunch or do crafts or whatever. In my effort, the back legs got caught on a lip of cement and broke. This specific picnic table we inherited from my husband’s grandparents, which have both passed on. I immediately felt terrible and told my husband what happened and apologized incredibly for being so stupid and breaking this table that he loved so much. I was tremendously upset with myself and started to cry. He was beyond confused at how I was so upset about something that was completely fixable.
My last month I have been living above emotions, like I’m skating on a frozen lake. But once there is a break, or my skate gets caught and I tumble in, the pain is seizing and crippling. I am frozen and don’t know how to save myself, and don’t know how to ask for help.
For the most part, I haven’t talked to many people. I don’t enjoy Facetime or Zoom since I hate seeing how I act in real life. I post usually positive things to help uplift others. The other day, after a particularly hard day, I chatted with a friend about school. She asked how I was doing and I was like, you know, no one has asked me. I think that people don’t want to bother me or are too scared to ask. But I told her all about how hard it is to get up and get out every day. It’s hard.
I posted a picture of my sad eyes that day, because I usually have such life in them. If you know me personally, you would say my eyes sparkle, because I don’t hide my enthusiasm for life, I live it! The picture I posted was not like me, it was a ghost of me. The specter that is occupying my life right now and helping me through the days.
I’m struggling creatively too. I think my creativity is directly connected to my emotions. When I am happy and positive, I feel very productive creatively, but if I am depressed or pressing through writing, the creativity and imagination suffers.
Being away from my emotions is hard. I am so open to everything; I’m tenderhearted and try to be kind to everyone. It’s not like me to live without emotions. The day they closed the cafeteria seating area was a day when the ice broke under me. I took a break and grabbed a Pepsi. I noticed all the chairs were gone and decided to just sit on the floor. That’s a very ‘me’ thing to do, I enjoy setting lotus-style and relaxing, stretching my back and calming down. The manager of the cafeteria came and yelled at me for sitting in the closed area. I left in tears that would not stop. I couldn’t calm down.
I tweeted the other day that I feel the writing that comes from this time will be the best we’ve ever read, and I truly do believe that. What is happening now has a huge emotional consequence, feelings that are unknown to a lot of us. Generation defining emotions that will shape who we are and what we become in the future.
My oldest was struggling with everything that was happening and I told my daughter to take the emotions she was feeling and use them to write songs or poetry, so she can have a reference for this specific time.
Much like music can define eras, books carry very powerful feelings of times when they are written. Allowing yourself to feel those emotions and use them is a very brave thing to do. And I honestly couldn’t tell you that I have allowed myself to go there.
I’m editing a happy-go-lucky romance, but my mind and heart are struggling with even looking at it. I love what I’ve written, but it’s not what I want to write right now. But what do I want to write? I’ve written a few poems and I keep a pretty specific journal , but that isn’t what I want to write either.
The truth is I’m scared to feel emotions. I’m scared to even dip a toe in the icy water for fear that I will emotionally break down again. But if I did… maybe something breathtaking would happen. Maybe my words will reach ears that need comfort. Maybe they will travel to continents I’ll never walk on and places I’ll never see.
I’m writing this now to tell you all that it’s okay to feel things. Your emotions are important, and it’s important to understand what and how to feel. But unlike me, it’s important to share them with people, because we are all feeling them too. Many of us have to put on armor every day. Even running to the grocery store can be an anxiety-inducing idea. Journaling (like this post) is helping me embrace the emotions I am feeling, hopefully helping loosen the snarled tangled that I have wrapped around my joy of creativity.
Be brave and use your emotions you have to power you on and find a voice for a defining moment. Use this silent time to reconnect with the threads that made you YOU. Don’t be afraid of the icy water, trust your talents and your abilities, and let’s see how we can create imagination that can define the 20’s and beyond.