Well, I don’t need to ask you what you’ve been doing this week, or if you’ve had a great, fun week, or tried something new. We’re all doing the same thing, around the world, sheltering in place, social distancing, I’m hoping that you’re not sick, and that neither you nor anyone dear to you has been affected. Right now, if you’re not sick, you’re a step ahead. I hope that’s the case!!!
I’ve never run a marathon, but I imagine it must be like what we’re doing now. You start out at a steady pace, maybe saving your energy for later, and then you run and run and run, and at some point it gets really hard, and you think you can’t possibly make it, it’s going to kill you, and if you have the endurance, you somehow make it to the end, and no matter when you cross the finish line, it’s a victory, even in last place!!! I think we’re in the hard part now, the ‘Oh my God how long will this go on, I can’t do this’ part….. except you do, and you wake up another day (like Ground Hog Day), and do it again, and keep going, till the end. Childbirth is like that too, there comes a point when you think you REALLY can’t do it, you’re going to die. But you don’t and there is a HUGE reward at the end of that: A Baby!!! And the hard part doesn’t last long, some hours, a day, and you get your big prize!!! This is a lot slower, and longer, and the prize is that we will save lives by being confined. It sounds like it’s easy to stay home. It’s not. Isolated, alone, or in small quarters, with family tensions, uncertainty, living with fear day after day, with NO idea when it will end, or if you or your loved ones will be affected, this is tough, and it takes a toll on us all.
I’ve been confined for 6 weeks, I got a head start by about a week. I have not left my apartment in 6 weeks. I have not jogged, gone for walks, been in the fresh air, seen my loved ones, family or friends, I’m isolated and alone far from home. I’m working and finding it incredibly difficult. Sometimes I’m scared, sometimes I’m okay. After I watch the news, I’m anxious for days. I wake up in the night and don’t sleep much. I talk to my kids a lot. I’m worried much of the time about my kids. I pray. I walk in the house and try to keep busy, I cry easily and am not a crier usually. And it means the world to me when I hear from someone I love. This is HARD, for everyone, and for some people more than others, depending on the circumstances they are confined in. There are reports of domestic violence and child abuse. I’m comfortable, I have food, I can’t complain, but no matter where you are, this is tough, and it is stretching out with no idea for anyone when it will end.
There is a really grim side to this, I wake up every morning and check the “numbers” in the countries and cities where I have loved ones, of how many people are newly sick, the overall total, and how many died. We read it like the stock market or baseball scores. Numbers of deaths have become common place. It’s like a war. But someone’s loved ones are in those numbers. And if the numbers go down, it means we are beating the pandemic, and one day we will be free again. My heart sinks daily when the numbers go up.
In the beginning, I got floods of some of the funniest jokes and videos I’ve ever seen, and some cute ones. I notice that now I have not had a single funny joke email in a week. The initial laughter and good humor has stopped. I’m hearing very little, if anything from friends. People have stopped writing and talking, and in the past few days, everyone I’ve spoken to sounds down and discouraged, or on edge. On average, most people have been confined for a month now, and it is wearing on everyone. The hardest part of the confinement has begun as it stretches out. The part where you really have to use all your strength to keep your courage up to stay in it.
News from our governments, state, local, or federal, and pronouncements, is either delivered every 2 weeks or every 4. We wait for those announcements, hoping for good news, and release, like children wait for a reward. In France, where I am confined, we waited desperately for the President’s speech a week ago. We had been fully confined for 4 weeks, our numbers (of newly sick) had gone down significantly, and I think everyone was hoping for an easing of confinement in the next 2 weeks. We had “done our homework” and were hoping for the reward. And instead of a gold star, we got a “That’s good, now try harder”, when we had already tried so hard. We didn’t cross the finish line, the marathon got extended. We got hit with another full month of confinement, and no reward. It hit everyone hard and discouraged everyone. The borders remain closed, and we remain fully confined at home. And we got an additional stern ‘punishment’. The President announced that “All ‘Elders’ will not be included in the ‘De-Confinement’ when it happens’. Period. That’s it. Done. An entire segment of the population will not be released when it finally ends. All ‘Elders’ were just disqualified from the marathon. Technically, ‘Elders’ (‘Seniors’) are anyone over 60, who at this moment are not allowed to leave their homes, can have NO visitors, see no family, even if they’re sick, and cannot go out. So a week ago, that entire segment of the population was told that they will not be released from confinement, indefinitely. It wiped out all hope for anyone over 60. And 60 year olds are being viewed as the same as 85 and 90 year olds, with other serious illnesses in old age homes. People fully engaged in active life, running businesses, in good health were instantly condemned to become shut-ins indefinitely. There has been a huge, powerful reaction, from lawmakers that it is unconstitutional, ageist and discriminatory, from doctors that it makes no sense and is unnecessary, from psychiatrists claiming that it will cause a tidal wave of suicides. I suspect that plan will be dispensed with, but the mere announcement of it sent the country into a tailspin of additional depression, along with everyone getting an additional month of confinement.
In addition, people being notified by their employers that they have been fired, or had their salaries reduced long term not just for the confinement, by anywhere from 25 to 75% in the US, as the confinement extends, has added another layer of depression, and fear about the future.
One of the hardest things I have found are the rumor mongers. Since no one knows anything for sure, there are always a battalion of people anxious to pass on the latest terrible rumor as fact, and to forecast bad news. The truth of the pandemic is hard enough to swallow, without the bad rumors. There are several people who call me regularly to tell me the worst news they’ve heard, just in case I wasn’t worried enough already. They serve no useful purpose, and only make people more miserable. What’s the point of that?
Then there are the friends who have simply vanished, who assured one “you can count on me, I’m here for you!!” never to be heard from again, and don’t return a phone call. And in balance to that, the people you haven’t heard from in years, who call out of the blue to see how you are, which is really touching. And I appreciate the faithful friends who HAVE called and stayed in touch and reach out to me regularly mean more to me than they will ever know. They and my kids are what keep me going.
So, Friends, we’re in the hard part now. The lonely part. The endurance part. The part where you think you’ve run as hard and as far as you can, and you find out that you have to run twice as far as you thought, over rough terrain, with obstacles that look insurmountable. But there’s no turning back now. We can’t give up. We just have to keep going, like childbirth or a marathon or anything really hard. And we WILL get to the finish line!!! This will end at some point.
We can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel yet, and it looks dark as hell out there, but at some point there will be a turn in the road, and we’ll be blinded by that bright light at the end of the tunnel, and we’ll be at the finish line. I have always found the saying to be true: “The night is always darkest before the dawn”.
The night is dark, the road is long, but we’re getting there, even if it’s grueling. And we WILL get there and cross that finish line, in every country. And let’s hope the dawn comes soon. Until then, we will continue on this marathon, and keep Hope alive. I particularly loved the Easter message from Queen Elizabeth II of England who assured us that this pandemic will not break us, and we will prevail. She said that her message was “to people of all faiths and none”—–so that’s all of us. So hang in, dear friends, and join hands in Keeping Hope Alive. We CAN do it, and we WILL. Each one of us is tougher than we thought we were. And no matter what happens, or whatever the news, Have a GREAT week!!!
with all my love, Danielle
PS: Hours after I wrote this blog, and 5 days after it was declared, the French government cancelled the rule that had been proposed a week ago that No One over 60 would be allowed to go out, leave their home, or have visitors, even family, for an indeterminate amount of time, after Lockdown Confinement ended. It caused untold angst after it was announced, and Lawmakers, jurists, doctors, psychiatrists and the general public set up a general outcry that it would be illegal, unconstitutional, discriminatory (and inhuman/cruel) to uphold it. I am delighted to say that the proposal has been rescinded, and the rule cancelled. So when we finally get out of confinement in France, EVERYONE will be free, at their own discretion as to whether they go out or not, depending on their health. Freedom!!! I can hardly wait for that day!!!)