Dear Covid, I need things to be over between us. I know the pandemic isn’t over — we have a ways to go — but I am just so done with you. I tried to make it work with you. But do you have any idea how much you’ve taken from me?
I gave up my job for you. I loved my job. Traveling every week, bringing people together for live in-person professional development training. It made me so happy. Instead, now, at your command, I sit like a whipped puppy in the corner of my cramped bedroom smiling at a tiny webcam all day trying not to fret over the dust bunnies beneath my feet and the unmade bed with mountains of unfolded laundry just off-camera. Swatting away pangs of overwhelm and guilt, I simultaneously manage and tune out my four children who are one room over. I mute myself every few minutes to shush them, to throw snacks at them and beg them to stop sneaking in video games during Zoom school. I can’t keep pretending this is OK.
When you asked me to stop seeing my friends, I canceled all my plans. When you didn’t want us going to restaurants anymore, I took up cooking. I hate cooking. I even acquiesced when you told me I couldn’t leave the house without covering my face! Who have I become? I’m afraid all the time. I don’t recognize myself anymore.
I’m still fuming at you for spoiling my European vacation last summer. All that dreaming and saving and planning! It took fourteen years for me to figure out a way to travel with my husband without the kids. I finally managed to get those tickets to attend the Grand Masked Ball in Versailles — the trip of a lifetime — and with one call you convinced the airline to cancel my flight. Who does that!
And how you manage to turn everything political is beyond me. You took our country, already so frayed and fragile, and callously tore it apart. I’ve never felt so exhausted by a relationship in my life. Just lower your standards, I kept telling myself, and that did the trick for a while. But it was never just about me. You’ve hurt everyone you’ve ever met. I have to keep reminding myself I’m one of the lucky ones.
Part of me just wants to move on from you and never look back. But I’m not going to because as hard as this has been, there has been some good that has come out of all this, too. It feels necessary that as I move forward, I remember that, too.
For example, when you first forced my family of six to shrink the entirety of our lives to fit into our cozy little home, I’d hoped our newfound togetherness would be enough to get us through this time. Ha! How easily our disappointment, isolation and stress gave way to bickering and blame. Eventually I learned that just spending time together isn’t enough. You taught me that we need to be intentional about how we show up for one another, that we have to bring a little more thought and effort into the everyday mundane experiences if we want real moments of connection. I’m grateful for this lesson.
Thanks to you, I’ve learned that heart-shaped pancakes actually do taste better than plain old round ones, and, though they don’t keep the children from fighting before school, they make breakfast more fun. Bundling up in coats for a family walk after dinner and playing Last Touch by the light of the neighborhood street lamps beats a morning exercise walk any day. And though I have no idea how I’ll do it, I really want to keep finding one-on-one time with each child (what my girl calls “Mommy Minutes”).
You’ve also reminded me that we can always find ways to give small, creative treats to our loved ones without any extra time or money. And how much it’s meant to me to have a partner who lets me sleep in on Sundays while recording The Puzzler – my favorite NPR show – so that we can listen to it later together over coffee (and with frothed milk, besides).
What a delight it was when our wonderful next-door neighbor pulled out his stereo and blasted music from his porch that one Sunday afternoon, the day our weekly neighborhood dance party was born. From there, we started up backyard movie night. Now we have four-family convos over WhatsApp to coordinate a weekly carpool for grocery pick-up. We’ve lived on the same street for seven years; it took you coming into my life for me to realize how important this community is to me. I worry we won’t be able to sustain it without you here to keep us all together.
Goodbye, Covid. I hope this is goodbye, anyway. I can’t forget you, but at least I can make sure that my recollections aren’t solely that of the trauma and pain and loss that hung over our time together. I need this time to count for something.