Yesterday when I was picking glass fragments out my hair, I kept thinking that despite appearances, I’m glad the current home project my husband is working on is happening now. This unique season, “these unprecedented times” as every email header puts it these days, they force a perspective that dampers complaining.
Earlier this year, I started to feel convicted about my propensity for complaining in general, no doubt reinforced by my classwork in Exodus, where it’s called the sin of grumbling. Those particular rough edges, or the big splinters at least, have been gently sanded down over the last few months. Hopefully there’s less left to snag my loved ones on these days, as we pass each other by in close quarantine quarters. Now it’s just the daily commitment to keep it that way.
This whole thing is a daily commitment, isn’t it? But isn’t that what we’re taught to pray anyway; give us this day our daily bread.
I know I am not alone in this feeling. There’s a “bubble” I can breathe in, and it consists of what is directly in front of me each day. We all have our quarantine bubbles, as it were. We have our own, different set of tasks and responsibilities, and anything ancillary has fallen to the wayside. There’s no more breathless answer of “busy!” in response to the genuine inquiry of “how are you??,” and honestly, I hope that harried answer never makes a comeback.
When this first started, I did what I always do when I’m confronted with a reality I am not in control of: I made a list. I am so, so good at making completely insane lists. When I left my job last winter and was presented with a day so formless and void you would think I was authoring Genesis, I made a daily to-do list perfect in detail and completely detached from reality. It had things like “dust the fan blades” on it. Honestly, I may send it out as a bonus email sometime. God bless my girlfriends, they just let me roll with it till I ran out of steam, because they love me and knew that I would.
Anyway, when the shutdowns happened I made a list, and it had ordinal numbers on it, but the difference between this list and my previous attempts at wresting order from chaos was I knew it wasn’t going to work, and that made it better. It was just a placeholder until the rhythm that was going to unfold naturally, did.
I wake at dawn now. Right now, as I write, my window is open to the sunrise, and drifts of fog are rising, a gift from the water cycle. The weeping cherry outside my window is dripping with dew, new leaves unfurling to replace the spent blossoms. I have a cardinal that visits my window feeder every few days, and we always have a staring contest. I used to hear traffic from the Ben Franklin Bridge, and now there’s only the chatter of squirrels and the morning chorus from the closed park a few streets down and the occasional woodpecker mistaking a gutter for a tree. It is beautiful. Some mornings, I stand out back with my feet in the bare dirt, face to meet the rising sun full on, eyes closed and enveloped in that bright white light, and the only prayer that will come is ‘thank You’. I am profoundly grateful to exist, to breathe, to stand in the sunlight and be sustained by His hand.
I go inside and read the news like everyone else. Occasionally I read blogs I shouldn’t, because the NYT features them, accounts of nurses at the northern end of the state as opposed to my southern suburb. You know when you blow bubbles in the summer, and you catch one on your wand, and bring it real close, and you can see the pearlized slick of soap dancing in the sun, making rainbow swirls as the bubble wall wears thin, turning clear right before it pops? So I close the browser, not because I don’t care, not because I have my head in sand, but because my portion requires me to.
I pour my children cereal, or make them “Oma’s special toast,” a proprietary blend of bread and butter and sugar and cinnamon and love. My eldest does his homework independently while my youngest plays, and I have my first window to tackle my studies. When he’s done, we switch, and I turn to her schoolwork, which takes until early afternoon. I unexpectedly treasure our school hours, and I know I will miss it when she’s back in class next year. There’s a simple lunch and I start planning for dinner. I try to grocery shop only every 2+ weeks now, because you already know what that’s like. I sew masks for nurse friends or grocer friends or friends with immunocompromised family members, or I clean the ever-lengthening trails of detritus around the house.
We share a meal together, keeping our tradition of asking “what’s everyone’s high/low”, even though we all spent the day together in the same room. It is completely endearing to hear how this time is held by young children. We clean up, and if I don’t have my schoolwork to finish, we take a walk, or play Catan as a family, or watch Sarah & Duck, or the Hobbit, or play Animal Crossing together. My son rests his head on my shoulder and I breathe deep the scent of his hair, because he’s 9 today and turning 17 this fall, and already turning too cool for his mom; I know the time is short, short. The kids have not had a bedtime since early March, but there have been extended snuggles to take its place, and I am grateful. I fall asleep tired, and I sleep like I haven’t slept in years. Maybe since before having children. I wake at dawn, and seek our daily bread, and the mercies are new for each morning.
I fight and refuse the guilt I feel for being safe, for finding the silver linings that attend every storm, even while hating the destruction it has wrought. We have been lucky; our family members that contracted Covid recovered. The cardinal at my window is back.
If I try to take it all at once, I can’t. I cannot think of May, June, July, August, September. I can only ask for this day’s bread. But every morning, just like He promised, the manna is there.
Title taken from a favorite Sarah Groves song, “Enough”. Her selfsame titled playlist, here, holds the soundtrack to these days.