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Quarantine Ghost

If you follow my blog, you may have noticed that some time has passed since the last post, when I began drifting threadless ( Not that time doesn’t always pass from one post to the next. I just generally try not to let this much time pass.

I try not to let a lot of things happen, but, surprise surprise, they still do… This has kind of been a theme around here the past couple years, which has resulted in my acceptance of the motto It Is What It Is.

I have started, then deleted a few different posts for the blog since the word pandemic jumped from the world of literature (be it history, fiction, or warning memo) to our every day conversations. The will to write has been there … and then it hasn’t (like most wills or whims nowadays). And, lately when I have put pen to paper, it rather feels like I am trying to write at the bottom of the sea: each pause of the pen, or lift of the hand from the keyboard, is met with a sudden and desperate need for air … a trip to the surface to regroup. But where is the surface..? Is it even still there?

Or … maybe you haven’t noticed the lag. No worries. I definitely won’t be offended. How could I be? There’s a lot going on, and for those of us spending all or most of our time at home and social distancing from the contact we crave, our bodies may be wanting for activity (causing people to come up with some of the most creative stuff I have seen in a long time, as I cruise the net), but our minds are longing for just the opposite. They are overwhelmed and yearn for peace.

When we check up on family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances, on social media, we are faced with a churning ocean of whim, anger, information, and misinformation … Waves pushed up from every kind of emotion break over us one after the other, bringing us from hysterical laughter, through tunnels of frustration, to heart-wrenching tears, as we roll (or scroll) along through hope, joy, fear, and despair all in one sitting.

I suppose that the type of connection the internet offers has always tended towards emotional overload, but in the present situation it feels a bit like the plug has been pulled from a simple wall outlet and, instead, thrust directly into a transmission tower transformer.


And then there has been the challenge of trying to set up a new normal for the family as seamlessly as possible, while assuring the kids that it will not forever be the normal … but not knowing how long it actually will be or what will come after.

“Luckily,” as a family we have had lots of recent practice in the “new normal” department leading up to this. About a year ago, we became aware (rather brutally, but that is a post-litigation post for another time) of some issues with our new home. Then, about 6 months ago, construction (deconstruction) began and it has been a game of musical (and disappearing) rooms ever since. Before the virus ever reached our shores, the kids had gotten used to being shuffled around and living in really close quarters. Credit where credit is due: they have been amazingly flexible throughout the ordeal (of course, they did not end up without a bedroom … and sleeping on a sofa bed in the living room, ehem).

Anyhow, since my husband is an essential worker and otherwise occupied, having virtual school thrown into the mix and the college child, My Moon, added back into the already challenging equation, forced me to hone my skills and up my game as official Family Choreographer. This new family “dance” lacked the pauses for breath that come with drop-offs at outside activities, and had all the grace of break-dancers attempting ballet … on ice, but we made it ours and forged on.

Little Man, who had finally found his footing in his new school after a bumpy year and a half, suddenly found himself in virtual school. The boy who had begged to be home-schooled, was now begging to go back to school. Just another ball to juggle. Not to worry. We eased him (kicking and screaming) into his new schedule until it took.

Construction on the house came to a screeching halt while we waited for materials and the world flipped upside down, but we established a routine and were rolling with it. Wheels were starting to turn and gears to grind in our new normal … and then I got the first headache … the one that woke me from a dead sleep … then, what felt like a hedgehog in my throat … the fever … the aches … the cough … that weird pressure like someone was sitting on top of me, while air whistled its way in and back out.

Quarantine Ghost

Somewhere between the headache and the hedgehog, I moved into what used to be our office and shut myself off from the rest of the family to keep them from catching whatever I had (and there were/are a lot of whatevers out there, I am aware).

There I stayed in limbo for about two weeks, not quite sick enough to get a test or treatment, but enough so to allow fear and doubt to creep into my thoughts in the dead of the night, through the shivers. And, between sleeping, hacking, binging on all sorts of shows, and trying to stay away from the news, I attempted to write.

I didn’t work on the blog, or on the books. All of that suddenly felt worthless … empty. Instead, I wrote to people … the ones who “get” me … my tribe. I wrote to stay connected to the world at a moment in time when I felt disconnected … almost ghost-like in my own home. I wrote to participate.

At times I simply joked around. Other times I wrote about feeling like a ghost … about hearing all the things going on in my home and being able to see them in my head, but not being a part of them. And, I wrote about things I was suddenly remembering … things I had not thought about in years…

I wrote about being quarantined in my dorm room by myself for about two weeks as a freshman in college when I caught the measles. The hospital was full, so they wanted us quarantined in our rooms unless it was an emergency. People left food outside my door and I was supposed to call out if I needed to walk down to the restroom so that they could clear the way. Did I mention that I was painfully shy? There was one other girl on our floor with the measles and we would occasionally cross paths in the middle of the night (my preferred time for walking down to the restroom so as to avoid the need to make any kind of announcement). We weren’t really friends, and she was maybe even shier than I was, so we would just awkwardly smile as we passed. Then there was the popular girl a few doors down who, as it turns out, was quite homesick. Every so often I would hear her tap on my door. She wanted me to breathe on her so she could catch the measles and go home. She touched my door knob a lot. It kind of creeped me out. She never did catch the measles. Despite (or maybe thanks to) the hallucinations that came with the 105 fever back then, it seemed easier. Or maybe the passing of time makes things seem like they were easier.

Yes, I think it was actually easier being quarantined back in college. There were no kids depending on me. The sounds I could hear outside my dorm room did not pull at my heart the way the whimpering, giggling, and even the arguing outside my office “bedroom” did. I suddenly had no voice in the life that I had created (seriously … no voice … just scratchy whispers), and I felt small. I felt small when I could hear them asking for help with problems … and I felt even smaller when I heard them figuring things out on their own, without me … proud, but microscopic.

I guess, in a way, the experience forced me to take a close and uncomfortable look at my own relevance. There is something humbling about watching your world go on without you, even as a temporary ghost in the office. We all know that the world goes on with or without us, but hearing it happen…

I am not sure that I will ever actually hit “publish” on this post (obviously, if you are reading this … I did). And, I don’t know why it has been so hard to write. I am better now … back into the mix. Our family dance has been further refined and the construction on our home has recommenced. My heroes are back on the job.

Still, things are somehow wrong even when they start to feel ok. Aside from the obvious, I can’t quite put it into words, which terrifies me. Words have always been my life raft … never the enemy. Wrong.

A part of me is still closed up tight in the quarantine room and the rest is outside tapping on the door, fighting against the currents of a stream of consciousness I desperately wish to escape. Please, open the door and breathe some truth at me so that I can go home again. I am homesick.

It is what it is, I know. And, now we have to try to make of it what we can…

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