Coronavirus Sheltering In Place – Jumbled Emotions

It’s been almost 7 weeks since we and the rest of the Bay Area were told to “shelter in place” on March 17th.  Sharing some reflections about our jumbled emotions.

Like everyone, we are deeply concerned.  That emotion hangs there all the time, though we focus on it more and less from day to day – really from minute to minute.  It’s heartbreaking to see so many people getting sick – and dying.  And thinking about how many more will.  In the U.S. and around the world.  We talk about the fact that we are living through something that future generations will read about in basic history books – we just don’t yet know how bad a world tragedy they will be reading about.

But we are both naturally wired to “look forward not back” – a main message of Identity Theft – and don’t usually dwell too much on what we can’t control or change.  We’re certainly being very careful, but we’re not afraid or worried for ourselves. We do worry about our moms – 91 and 87.  Probably unnecessarily since both are in good health and are being very careful, but they are, of course, in a high risk group, and both live in retirement communities where COVID could spread rapidly.

Especially since Steve is consumed in his “other job” at Self-Help, directly involved in getting support to nonprofits and small businesses in and serving low income communities, we think a lot about the pain and suffering the economic crisis is and will cause for those with the fewest resources.  You can’t open a news feed without reading about how this pandemic is accentuating the economic divide that has never been greater.

Swirling with all that concern is a sense of profound gratitude, and appreciation for how truly lucky we are.  None in our family – or even close to us — has gotten sick.  We can work from home, and our income has not been affected.  We are in a safe – even beautiful — place to comfortably “ride out the storm”.  We were spending the weekend in the mountains when shelter in place was ordered, so we stayed. Our daughter Sarah, and her boyfriend Parker, escaped SF to join us here, so we have a great “quarantine of four” – much less isolated than so many.

And then there is daily life, and the fact that a high degree of frustration is “our new normal” – a part of our post-stroke life.  And here, our experiences diverge some, so we’ll separate our voices.

Deb: I know I’m lucky. And I really do try to “look forward” and focus on what I CAN do.  But there is still so much I can’t do on my own because of my disabilities – and that is SO frustrating.  I know how important Steve’s work at Self-Help is right now, but watching him makes it that much more painful that I can’t dive in like that to Stroke Forward work, let alone my pre-stroke work as a professor.  I’m trying so hard to appreciate all I have, and doing the work I can – writing (so slowly!), reading, creating ideas for Stroke Forward.  And exercising, stretching and doing the PT/OT work I can do myself.  I try to remember to think about all that I can do – focusing on the difference I can make. But I’m so frustrated.  And lucky. So a little guilty, and embarrassed.  But determined to make the best of it….

Steve: Not a lot to add.  I do try to embrace the title of chapter 9 – Stroke is a Family Illness – and the notion that OUR lives – and identities — changed with Deb’s stroke 10 years ago, not just hers.  But it’s hard.  Deb’s frustration often becomes my frustration, when it feels like I simply can’t do enough to make it all work.  And then I remember how truly lucky we are, and try to put, and help Deb put, the frustration in perspective.  But that’s so rational – so left brain – and often just doesn’t work.  I think my emotional jumble is similar to Deb’s, but probably with about half the intensity.

So we juggle our emotions as best we can.  We talk.  We try not to yell at each other too much.  We maintain connection with other family and friends through phone and video.  And we try to look forward as much as we can.

We wish you safety and health during this difficult time,

Debra and Steve