Monthly Archives: May 2020

The struggle in a pandemic

Last night I had a big meltdown cry at the overwhelmingness of it all.

“It’s so painful to reside in the middle.” —Dr. Zubin Damania (ZDoggMD)

I think that’s really my problem, along with an overly analytical mind and a hypersensitivity/aversion to conflict.

In Orthodoxy we believe in pressing into the struggle. So I am reminded that the only way this huge burden can be tackled is bit by bit.

“Only struggle a little more. Carry your cross without complaining. Don’t think you are anything special. Don’t justify your sins and weaknesses, but see yourself as you really are. And, especially, love one another.” —Fr. Seraphim Rose

“Don’t wage your Christian struggle with sermons and arguments, but with true love.” —St. Porphyrios

But what is the loving thing to do here? Even that seems to be in question. How do we love our neighbor as ourselves when everyone seems to have a differing opinion on what that looks like?

I read a news story about temporary unemployment/furlough converting to permanent as this thing drags on. I empathize deeply. I worry about my own workplace and whether we’ll be able to continue on much longer in this manner. I cry over what the loss of an organization that has provided 52 years of teaching tradition in this community, multiple generations of dancers, and 42 years of an all local Nutcracker production would mean to me that has watched their performances as a little girl; danced with them as a pre-teen/teen; covered them as a reporter; introduced their performances to my own children which instilled a love of dance in them; that currently trains in and continues to stoke a love of dance in my children; and which I also support with my talents, education/training, and hard work. I know there will be a way forward. I know some of our teachers would carry on in spite of it all and create something new, but it would definitely not be the same and would be the end of something special, an era. Does this empathy mean I care about “profits over people” as is so pithily thrown about? No. Do I worry there are people that would perceive me that way if I admitted my empathy and worry? Yes.

I make homemade cloth masks on the weekends when I have time to myself without the pressure of Stephen working from home and trying to fit in homeschooling the kids around our extensive Zoom dance schedule. And honestly sometimes this spills over into the regular week when I just don’t feel like doing anything else, even homeschooling. Having something creative, meaningful, and charitable to do helps me feel like I’m contributing in a positive way in spite of the situation and it keeps me going in some ways. But even that act feels controversial. Hospitals/organizations are asking for masks. No they are not, they have adequate PPE. No they don’t. Cloth masks are useless. New research says they aren’t. I personally hate wearing masks because of all my sensory issues. You have to wear a mask to come in X, Y, Z stores and places of business. Then you see people wear them half off their face, or only cover their mouths and not their noses, they hang them from one ear, they take them off to talk to a friend they run into in public all of which render them essentially useless. We have enough masks now. We don’t have enough, keep making them. The cancer center that treated my dad asks for them to hand out to patients, but wants to make sure the public knows they are taking care of all their HCWs with N95 masks. So I want to give back in his memory and I feel inspired to make another batch. Days later though the dismay of HCWs over the latest conspiracy theory videos and protests, some going so far as to say those people should sign a waiver agreeing to die/no treatment if they do get the virus, wonders what those same HCWs would have thought of my MAGA hat wearing dad were he still alive today. The bag of 110 masks continues to sit next to my sewing desk.

I read another news story about the virus hitting rural America hard in some places. How in one small town the attendance at a couple funerals in the closest big city led to the virus running rampant and devastating them all. Their underlying health conditions are noted as being a major factor spurred on by poverty and lack of proximity to healthcare. They had to establish an additional temporary morgue for all the bodies. Their one pastor died from it and now the deacon is performing the multiple funerals that are happening daily. There’s been a density argument here all along, that the virus hits hardest in big cities where people are living on top of each other. That rural places are fairing better. For this reason (among many), our own city/county wants to fast track reopening because we have not been as hard hit. We’re more spread out. I’m married to someone that analyzes data for a healthcare organization that serves our most impoverished population which also makes up a huge percentage of our general population. Those underlying conditions plague us too. Will we wind up in the same boat as that small town from my news article if we do rush to reopen?

Then there’s the remote learning. It’s the best we can do, but it is also not completely working well. Spotty internet issues. Videos freezing. Delays. Trouble shooting tech issues and missed e-mails and regular school meeting time conflicts and frustrated parents and students. Problems with sharing recordings with those that have to miss from cloud storage shortages to files randomly disappearing to music copyrights. Classes at weird times. On a personal level, what used to occupy a couple afternoon/evening hours a few days a week now takes up most of Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday for us because everything has to be spread out. Fitting in regular homeschooling has been hard. The love of dance in my kids is now facing burnout and staleness especially at the prospect of working on the same choreography over and over while our recital plans stay up in the air. Teachers that make corrections on timing and musicality and technique that feel hard to process with the video delays and freezing and not having someone right there to show you how or make that physical adjustment. And being the extroverts they are, the loss of the social aspect is especially hard on them.

But then how amazingly and quickly the arts community has responded. My kids can take classes from professional dancers and broadway stars any day of the week if they so choose. We can watch performances of things we will likely never be able to afford to or be able to travel to streamed digitally in our living room. So many artists are giving back and having talks and encouraging kids to keep doing their art.

The confusion over the phased reopening and the logic behind the decisions of what categories of places fall in each phase. The inability to plan anything and figure out how we will move forward. Where does the business I serve fall and why do we not have a clear answer on that? Schools, daycares, and preschools can reopen in phase 2. We serve the same population. Some people use our services as a form of daycare for the hours they continue to work after the school day ends. I try to keep abreast of things. I see that some of our peers in the “industry” are given permission on reopening. One of our both direct and indirect competitors that also has a preschool/daycare is allowed to partially reopen now because essential workers need childcare. Another while not a direct competitor, but still in the same general kids sports and activities industry is allowed to because their sport/activity involves a chlorinated pool and sunlight which is expected to “kill everything” and therefore be low risk. Local people and politicians sent a letter to our governor asking for churches to be included in phase 2 as well for a whole host of both reasonable and unreasonable arguments. But for some churches what really makes that much different from what performing artists do? Yes, we can overspiritualize the concept here, but at the bare bones of it all the same arguments in that letter can apply here as well: the larger gathering of people being OK in school versus not in this situation (again with the idea that it is much the same population as those schools), the uplifting of our mental health through performance and beauty, allowing for freedom of expression, and maintaining our connection with our community.

Speaking of performing arts and shows/concerts, then there was the shocking revelation (at least for me) this week that Woodstock happened in the midst of another pandemic. Then in that same week a panel discussion that says performing artists and singing artists in particular will have to refrain until there is a vaccine because their projection and athletic breathing means they are “super spreaders.”

The signposts being moved further and further out (remember when it was just if you stay home for 14 days?) and the feeling of hopelessness and no end in sight. When the governor says our election in November will be by mail is that the signal for at least how long we should expect this to last? How well will the people and places I know fare if this does last that long? What will our summer look like? Should I even hope for our summer intensive and is the hope for a late summer recital even realistic?

The lack of civility. How every post and news article turns into an argument, name calling, self-righteousness, being quick to correct one another with the “facts” and “science”, intellectual superiority, appeals to authority, appeals to emotion, ad hominem attacks, anecdotal evidence, and public shaming. I find myself deleting things I want to say minutes later for this reason. I don’t want to see my friends and family attack my other friends and family behind the anonymity of a screen. But then they say if you stay silent you are part of the problem too, a la Martin Niemöller’s “First they came…”

It’s the worst possible time to have a death in the family and someone requiring additional elder care and we have had both. I don’t even know how to talk about either when usually I am so verbose. In one case where Alzheimer’s is stealing away what precious little time we have left of recognition, we can’t even have that time right now because of social distancing.

It’s just all so exhausting and depressing. And I know, I know this wreaks of privilege and first world problems… boo hoo my poor kids and our technology supported life with access to dance classes while my husband works from home and I make decisions like whether I sew this week with minimal consequences to our middle class white life. I know.

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