Don’t Give Me More Than I Can Hold

Tonight I’m reminded that in the face of unprecedented world events, regular life carries on. People are going to break their legs and give birth. We’re still going to fall in love and die from all the same circumstances that assailed us before there was a COVID-19 assassin on the global prowl. I wish these things could become suspended and wait until we’re done figuring this one out, but they can’t. They won’t.

I’m holding my breath that none of these things befall me while we’re in the thick of this outbreak, because I don’t know how it will affect my mind. I’m scared I’ll fall apart. Sit down on the floor and never rise. More likely, though, I’ll handle it. I’ve never been holed up with my kids, hemmed in by a deadly virus before, but I’ve been through some shit. In those other times, instinct for self-preservation and determination to keep it together for the haul kicked in, and I made it through. I didn’t unravel until it was safe, until I’d done the things that were required.

I took this abysmal photo in Paducah during the—formerly—worst year of my life. I was playing with settings and wanted to see what worked how. We all have the opportunity to be this lantern for each other right now. Things look murky and bleak, but there are lights all around us. Turn yours on.

If it happens, if something mundanely tragic befalls my life while we’re all going through this extraordinary time, I would want someone to remind me to breathe. To tell me this isn’t fair and it isn’t right, but I’m strong so I’ll do it. And I might need to hear it more than one time.

I’ve had this phrase going through my head most of today: plague family. I feel like I’m finding mine. Of course I have my family family, but my plague family exists outside my apartment walls and genes. They’re people I’m falling into rhythm with by way of online chats, phone calls, and overall well-being checks. Some I’ve known for decades; some I’ve never met off a screen. Some talk to me in the morning, and some message me at night. They’re my reminders that something exists besides a virus and what’s within my walls. These groupings may change and grow over the course of the next however-long-we’re-in-here, but the bonds are important and real. We’re keeping each other afloat. This is how we’ll get by.

Some parts of California went on lockdown today, and my gut tells me the rest of the country is soon to follow. Memes about introverts aside, we’re all going to need coping skills and support to get through this with our psyches intact. Even the introverts. What separates today from 1918 is the internet, and it’s a double-edged sword. We’re cutting ourselves with one side of it by tracking every case and death in damn near real time, but the other edge—just as sharp—slices through the isolation being lain on our lives.

Hold tight to your family, and hold tight to yourself. Only read the essentials. Block bullshit. And keep breathing. You’re strong, and you’re going to be all right.

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