Dispatch #022

Pandemic Thoughts, Sleepless Nights 

by Sofia Reddy

It’s 1 am and I’m up.

I’m thinking how on March 16th, 2020 life as we know it took a dramatic turn. That’s the week we found out schools and other non-essential businesses were closing.

At first it was announced it would be for 3 weeks. Then we found out schools were closing the rest of this academic year.

As businesses and schools started shutting down, everything went online almost immediately. I remember sitting in our living room and watching the news in January and February. We were told Americans are at low risk and that this is a “Chinese virus.”

It’s on the other side of the world, how could it affect us? In themeantime international flights kept arriving and conferences continued as scheduled. In Massachusetts, we found out that the spread of the Coronavirus started with a Biogen conference that took place in Boston in late February. Within weeks we began hearing about the rising numbers of infections. What started as in person spread rapidly became community spread.

March 12th was the last day our children went to school.

Our son had a field trip to the Boston Symphony Orchestra on March 11th and we had been on the fence about letting him go. This was a couple of weeks after the conference took place that’s linked to the spread of the virus. At the time we were unsure what to believe. All we kept hearing were the terms “unprecedented” and “uncertain.” We didn’t want our son to miss out on this amazing opportunity and thought maybe we were being too anxious and worried about something being blown out of proportion. People were still comparing COVID-19 to the flu. Within a matter of weeks we discovered that this virus is more contagious and lethal than the flu.

I remember seeing the smile on my son’s face after the field trip and sharing with us what a great time he had. He has a history of opting out of large group activities and not trying new things. We always encourage him to do things out of his comfort zone. After we told him schools were closing because of the coronavirus, he said, “Mom, why did you let me go on the field trip?” My heart sank. I was not sure how to respond. We spent two weeks worried about every cough or symptom. Is this what our “new normal” is going to be like? Are we going to worry every time we step out of the house? Are we going to be too scared to go out after everything starts opening again?

As the weeks went on we started hearing about increasing illnesses and deaths in our communities. At first we were told we don’t need to wear masks. Now we’re required to wear a mask or face cover in most towns and cities. Within a matter of weeks we went from being considered low risk to now surpassing the rest of the world in the number of illnesses and deaths related to the coronavirus, COVID-19, to be exact.

As of April 28, 2020 the U.S. has had over one million cases , more than any other country. In our home state of Massachusetts there are 76, 743 confirmed cases and 4,840 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of May 9th, 2020, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health .

I’m hearing from nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers that they are suffering. They are hurting physically and emotionally as they continue to care for the sick. They are watching their patients saying goodbye to loved ones by phone. They are lucky if they get a chance to say goodbye at all. Our healthcare workers have been posting the need for personal protective equipment on community social media pages. They are having to quarantine themselves from their partners and children for fear of spreading the virus to them. Children are home and separated from their beloved relatives, teachers, and friends.

My 6-year-old daughter recently asked me when we could go to the local breakfast shop we visited weekly for chocolate chip muffins (our favorite) and a chat with friends in the community. On one of our visits we met a kind elderly couple whose grandchildren live out of state. They loved talking to her and she was always willing to share a story with them.

Before the pandemic my daughter and I were earning stripes in martial arts and ready to graduate to the next belt (orange for her and brown for me). I am about halfway through the black belt program. The school moved online but with all the online programs available now it’s hard to keep up.

I recently read about Zoom fatigue and how it can be mentally exhausting to do video calls all day. At first I felt guilty for not continuing with the online program, but after reading the article it validated that we need less time online and more time in nature.

I call it nature therapy and it works!

Halfway through the day my daughter runs over to remind me “we have to go outside!”

It doesn’t matter what the weather is like. Last weekend she went out in the cold (we had snow flurries here in Massachusetts) and threw water bottles around letting herself get wet.

I was feeling exhausted and worried about her catching a cold. I was about ready to tell her to come inside when I heard her unabated laughter. My mood lightened a bit. We need opportunities to laugh and play, every single day, no matter what’s going on around us.

I’m not sure what the future holds and there is still much uncertainty, fear and worry about what’s next. When will kids return to school? What will they do to keep everyone safe?

Will online schooling continue into next year? Will our kids get to experience the joy of playing with each other without worrying they’ll catch a lethal virus? Will our families and friends with small businesses be okay? What will happen to those trying to retire? What will happen to the poor and homeless or those in nursing homes? Nursing homes have been the hardest hit.

There are so many questions that run through my mind, often in the middle of the night. I have to remind myself that I can’t answer all these questions right now. I take deep breaths and use my mindful meditation practice to calm down so I can get back to sleep.

I breathe in calm and breathe out tension. Breathe in, breathe out, 2, 3, 4…noticing the rise and fall of my body. Every time an anxious thought enters I refocus my attention on my breath and its smooth and rhythmic flow. I focus on what’s happening right now, in this moment, and remind myself that right now we are safe, right now we are healthy, and right now we are together. This too shall pass. Before I know it I’m back asleep.

*

May 13 2020

Sofia Reddy is a clinical social worker in Massachusetts and mom to an 11-year-old boy and 6-year-old girl. Her stories about mindful and compassionate parenting have been featured in Elephant Journal and Baystate Parent Magazine. Connect with her at www.sofiareddy.com

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