Dear Highland Community,
On March 13, 2020 when Governor Northam closed schools across the Commonwealth for a minimum of two weeks starting March 16, I was not overly concerned. Highland had already introduced distance learning in our classrooms; we would have three days of virtual learning before Spring Break and then we would assess from there. Then on March 23, while we were on Spring Break, I received an emotional call from my daughter that Governor Northam had closed all K-12 schools for the rest of the year and her senior classes, soccer team’s run for the their third state championship, Prom, time with her classmates, Senior Celebration Day and Graduation were gone. I responded like all parents, despite my counseling training, in utter non-comprehension, “Calm down. You will be fine; it will be fine. Are you sure the Governor meant private schools as well? Don’t worry, Highland will work this out.”
Looking back at this now I realize, since the vast majority of us have never experienced a global pandemic, it is impossible to understand the enormity of the impact of the shelter in place order and facing a hidden enemy. In my life and in history classes, I learned about enemies which included foreign powers, religious jihads, domestic terrorists, and even mean girls. For the first time, the enemy was invisible and was a shared enemy across the globe. If I could not see it, how was I supposed to protect those around me? I looked suspiciously through my window at my mailperson, at the passersby as I walked my dogs, and at my fellow shoppers at Safeway. Of course, it frustrated me.
The first phase for me was over-functioning. If I had kept a schedule, had my house clean, dishes washed, long-awaited projects completed, participated in ZOOM conferences on every topic possible, and had my lesson perfected, then somehow with that perfection, the COVID crisis would disappear and life would return to normal - that I had some sort of power over the global situation. With that magical thinking, I pretended that virtual life was just as good as real life. Eventually, I realized that even though we are experiencing a lot of our lives virtually, this is still real life. Then came the frustration phase; I think the rest of my family was feeling that way too. I found myself grumbling at the news conferences, being snippy, no longer tackling new things in every free moment, and not caring if dinner had all the food groups represented. Next came the sadness or resignation phase, I was sad for all the connections that have been weakened or lost, that I have not physically interacted with my friends, sister, and older parents due to fears of the virus, that my daughter, Hallie, and her classmates will not have the fourth quarter senior year that they thought they would, that families and businesses are struggling, and that the future is still uncertain. Hallie and I watched tearjerker movies and I just sat and thought.
I have left that stage now, and have entered in the acceptance phase where I am okay with the unknown and am finding my new normal. I do not blame anyone or any group for causing the crisis. It is here and blame does not foster acceptance. For the most part, everyone, from our political leaders to our neighbors, is doing the best that they can at this moment. We are all in new territory. Every day I go outside, pet my dogs, talk with my family, do school work, reach out to at least one person about non-work things, eat, sleep and try to exercise consistently and that is enough.
I also know that it will be normal and understandable when I cycle back through the frustration and sadness phases. What we are experiencing is a version of Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s stages of grief. We may not be grieving the loss of a loved one but all the same we are grieving the loss of our known experience and that is okay.
Yesterday, Hallie and I spent some time watching the water flow in Cedar Run. That act of doing nothing - just being - was a great part of my day. So today, I wanted to share some resources, websites, articles, and apps that might make this time better in some way for you and your family.
As I write this letter, Hallie is waiting for me to alter her Prom dress so it fits her better in case they decide to do some form of Prom at some point and my oldest daughter will hear in the next two week whether the University of Mary Washington will be virtual next year for all of the first semester or just the first half. My husband is deciding what color to paint his workshop because he has extra time, as he does not have a lot of architecture clients, and I am wondering what I am going to make for dinner and what wise words of wisdom I will share with the seniors during our last Senior Seminar this week. This is our new normal.
Please contact me if I can help in any way.