“We’re nearing the end of the pandemic”, I heard on the radio this morning. I admit, I scoffed a little when I heard it. Really? Could that true? It still feels like we have so far to go with vaccine distribution before we can make such a bold statement. Yet, there it was from a reputable scientist on a reputable news source. The end of the pandemic is near.
I didn’t believe it, but still the hope of that statement crept into my day. Somehow, I felt lighter. The warm weather (65 degrees) boosted that hopeful feeling. The sun was shining, spring was in the air, my children slept in until 6:45am, and the end of the pandemic was near.
I’ve had a sense from the people around me that we’ve recently shifted to a hopeful mode from a fearful mode. A number of people I know – family, friends, and church family – have been able to get their COVID-19 vaccine (or an appointment for one). I was privileged to receive mine last month. While we are anxiously awaiting my husband’s place in line, we have felt relief that our parents have received their shots, removing our anxiety about visiting with their grandchildren.
Little by little, hope has crept in.
Yesterday and today, I felt a slight lift to the fog that has been taking up space in my brain. My thinking capacities and ability to focus on a task have diminished as the pandemic has worn on. It’s been taking me much longer than normal to complete simple tasks. I’ve talked about it with friends and colleagues who all are experiencing this same thing. Pandemic brain – what happens when we live in survival mode for a year and counting.
2 months ago, I tried to take better control of the brain fog and force myself to focus. After my daughter was born 4 years ago, I had a difficult time juggling life as a pastor-mom-wife. What ultimately helped was formulating a new schedule, putting it on colorful notecards, and sticking to it. I thought I could apply the same approach to our current situation. So, I put on my mask and went to the store. I stood in the stationary aisle for quite a while, deciding on just the right planning calendar. Then I picked out colorful gel pens to go with it. This will help I thought – organization will fix it. I went to the register and paid. I headed for the door … when my phone rang. It was daycare, notifying me that my son had a runny nose and a cough (2 COVID symptoms). He and my daughter would need to be picked up. That incident would lead to a “series of unfortunate events” that would keep my family stuck in our home for more than two weeks. (Read more here).
I hadn’t even gotten out of the store with my organizational solution when covid-tide struck again– the calendar sat on my desk, mocking me for weeks.
In fact, last week (the 1st week in March) was the very first week in 2021 in which my family did not have an emergency – there’s been COVID exposure, quarantine, snow closures, deaths in our church family, and funerals. Technically, none of these occurred in the first week of January, but there was an insurrection at the U.S. Capital, so that’s getting counted. Which makes the 1st week of March my first “regular” week of 2021 – we went to work and went to school and nothing awful happened.
Yet the fog didn’t lift last week – it felt almost too good to be true. I spent the week simply going through the motions and waiting for the next shoe to drop (and truth be told doing some soul-soothing online shopping).
Yet this week felt different. We had had a great week … and we could have ourselves another. Yesterday, I opened that 2021 Planning Calendar and pulled out those colorful pens. I made a new schedule. I made lists. I scheduled for the future.
Then today, I heard the good news: the end of the pandemic is near. The fog lifted. I focused on my work in a way I haven’t in a long time. I felt excited for our upcoming services. I got creative with ideas for this spring. I had a life-giving conversation with colleagues this afternoon.
Then … as it always seems to … the phone rang again. Daycare again. Another positive test in my son’s room. Another 2-week quarantine. Another COVID test for my precious, sweet, happy little guy (this makes 5). Another week of worry for my family’s health. Another week of worry for our daycare families and teachers. Another week of pre-recording worship and video production. Another 2 weeks of figuring out how to work and care for small children. Just days short of the 1-year anniversary of the COVID-19 shut down in the U.S., here we are again. Quarantined, full-virtual worship, brain fog back in its place. As they say: “Just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in.” (The Godfather, Part III)
A friend suggested today that when our children grow up there will be a new mantra. None of that “be grateful, I walked to school in the snow, uphill both ways.” No, my children will say, “be grateful, I had 5 COVID tests in 1 year.” I hope they wear it like a badge of honor.
What badge of honor will we wear? I am not sure yet, but I take solace in Paul’s words from Romans 5:3-5: “And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
For it is in God that we keep hoping, we keep going, we keep enduring, and we keep our humor.
This afternoon, as my husband and I picked up our children from daycare, my husband looked at me and said, “I just remembered: this weekend is the daylight savings time change.” I laughed a loud evil cackle of a laugh: Now we’ll be quarantined with children who won’t sleep.
So, if you need me, I’ll just be screaming into the abyss that is my own home.
And maybe, just maybe, I’ll also be keeping that glimmer of hope alive: the end is near (maybe).