Sunday Reflections: It’s Okay to Not be Okay During a Pandemic
She is standing in front of the sink crying.
I can see her shoulders shaking.
Tears are streaming down her cheeks.
It’s been a rough week.
On Monday, she learned that her favorite teacher had passed away.
We fought about virtual learning. Several times.
She hasn’t seen her friends for over four weeks now.
And school was just cancelled for the remainder of the school year. No goodbyes. No signing of yearbooks. No end of the year party.
It’s just more of us sitting at home and trying to pretend that life is normal when it most definitely is not.
We were in California for Spring Break when it became clear that something serious was going on in our world. It was the worst Spring Break ever, full of difficult emotions and new realities and a lot of staying inside and planning what happens next. There was a brief moment when I wasn’t sure that we would make it home before they shut everything down and I really just wanted to pandemic in the familiarity of my own home with my husband, who had stayed behind because he was still working.
We’ve done a lot to try and make everything as normal as possible for our girls. We’ve Zoomed and Facetimed with family and friends. We’ve put up shamrocks and chalked the sidewalk and went for family walks. We’ve taken every precaution while still trying to be positive, upbeat, engaged and as normal as possible.
But this week genuinely kicked our butt. The Teen, already prone to depression and anxiety, hasn’t been coping well. Then came the news of our teacher’s passing. Some other things happened that aren’t my story to tell and some of them my kids just want to keep to themselves, which is fair.
And we are one of the lucky ones. Right now, I’m still lucky enough to be working from home although all around the country my fellow librarians – my peers, my colleagues, my friends – are being furloughed and laid off. Every new announcement from my city or admin leaves me with fear as I wonder if today will be the day that I join them. I’ve talked with friends with fear in their voices as we wondered if we would be laid off but equally afraid that our libraries would open to soon and we would now be placed in close quarters with the general public. After all of this we would find ourselves taking the virus we’ve worked so hard to avoid back home to our families.
On Thursday we stood outside as a family and looked at the stars in honor of our favorite teacher’s memory. He sponsored the Space Club and it was a fitting honor. Earlier that day we listened to his memorial service online because I guess that’s what we do now. It’s all just . . . a lot. A lot of new. A lot of different. A lot of sad. A lot of fear. A lot of stress. More than I ever imagined as a parent I would have to help my kid navigate at one time. I mean, a pandemic is a once in a lifetime event – I hope.
So yesterday she stood at the sink and cried and the only thing I could do was hold her close and tell her that I love her. I don’t know when this will end and I fear it will take longer than we think. I don’t want to make any false or empty promises. We’re running out of toilet paper. We miss our friends and family. And the truth is, this isn’t any where close to being done and I have no idea how bad it will get before it’s over.
It’s already unfathomably hard for millions of families. We are among the privileged and we know it.
And still, I wanted to stand at the sink and cry with her. I get it.
I hope you are all doing well and staying healthy. This is hard. It’s okay to not be okay in all of this. If you are in a position to help others during this time, please do so in whatever you can. If you need help or support, please don’t hesitate to seek that out in your area.
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About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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