Does nail polish count as an essential item?
I know, in my heart, that the point of a stay-at-home order is not to induce panic purchasing, not to encourage that last trip to Target where you can wander freely through the aisles buying board games and cotton balls, but that’s the urgency I feel today.
Get it done before you can’t, anymore.
Go out and get the nail polish, and the good hummus and pita, and the hand lotion, before you can’t.
I am not, incidentally, very hopeful about how we are going to handle this time.
Here’s the thing about working from home; one of many that I am discovering: it only works well for a few hours.
For as long as the coffee is hot and the morning light is strong, but when that all starts to go…Zoe laying next to me on the couch, snoring away, starts to make focus all but impossible.
This is the point at which I’d take her for a walk, make some lunch, and head to the office.
But not now.
Now, I take Zoe for a walk, make some lunch, and head right back to the couch.
Or the bed.
I know I won’t do good work there.
But just maybe…
That did not end well.
Although it depends how you measure “ending well.” I did have a glorious nap.
Ah well…no more “working” on my bed.
Sister is here now, relocated from DC to ride this storm out with me. I love it, really I do, but suddenly we are cooking every five minutes. And running the dishwasher every other day. Zoe, however, is on cloud nine. Two people to play with? And snuggle with? And beg treats from? Bliss.
We caved and finally ordered deep dish. Thank goodness.
The pizza is gone. What do we eat now?
For the first few weeks of Illinois’ stay-at-home order, I kept a diary like this. A captain’s log, my sister jokingly called it, full of little observations and images of a life turned upside-down by coronavirus.
It helped me laugh, and make light of some things. It gave me a way to track the time. To look back on where I’d been, and compare it to where I was in the present moment.
But at some point, I stopped. It got lost, one more thing in the endless span of days that all felt a little bit the same. It’s Friday, you say? But it doesn’t feel any different from Tuesday. How do you still make the weekend feel like a weekend? How do you celebrate a Sabbath when you can’t be with your community?
And now, here I am, on day 38. Getting tired and irritable (which I’m sure also makes me irritating to live and work with). Losing motivation to do the things I love to do. Struggling to hold on to hope.
Wise friends and colleagues, not to mention experts I’ve never met, have all counseled the same thing: journal about this time. Make a list of the stuff you miss, or the things you’ve learned about yourself. What you’ve enjoyed a break from, and what you can’t wait to get back to. The silliest thing you’ve made for dinner, from pantry ingredients and long-forgotten bags in the back of the freezer. The number of days you wore those sweatpants before finally retiring them to the laundry bin.
There is some good science behind why we should do this: to make meaning out of something that feels a little meaningless. To give ourselves time and space to process.
But here’s another reason, particular to people of faith and therefore to us: because remembering and telling our stories is what we do. It’s why we read the Bible over and over and then over again, why we tell our kids the same tales about Noah and Joseph and Moses. Because our stories don’t just tell about our lives, but about the way that God is active in them.
Because when I tell about Good Friday, and how sad and forlorn I felt, not being in church, not remembering Jesus’ death together, I want to also remember how my friend showed up on my doorstep with her daughters, and brought me homemade jam and a drawing for my fridge.
Because when I remember being alone and afraid, those first couple of weeks before my sister came to stay, I want to also remember the pastor friend who called me from the city, and told me she’d drive up and deliver groceries if I should ever contract the virus.
Because when I remember the vivid and terrifying dreams I had almost every night, I want to also remember how I woke up to find my dog pressed against my side, her rhythmic breathing lulling me back to sleep.
These are little things, all of them, but they reassure me that I am not alone in this, and that God is not just with me but caring deeply for me and loving me right through these difficult days.
Friends, this world feels a little out-of-control right now, perhaps more than ever, and we cannot fix that. But what we can do is tell our stories, and look for where God shows up in them. And even if we can’t tell stories about right now, we can look back across our lives and look at stories from way back when, using the benefit of hindsight to see how God cared for us even on our darkest days.
That is our promise, after all: that God is always with us, and God is still at work. And when we tell our stories, we give ourselves and others an opportunity to see that promise at work. To feel the truth of it, deep in our bones. To live in the power of it, for one more day at a time.