Off the Diving Board

Every weekday afternoon during the school year, my children bring me their folders.  Our older child resents this, feeling that their word about whether or not there is something for me to see is enough.  Our younger is oblivious, happily bringing me their green folder with no concern as to what is inside.  As usual, yesterday was no different, except for the blue warning letter sent to every student in the younger child’s class.  As they were both beginning their afternoon snack forage in the kitchen, I read the letter and went upstairs to talk to their dad.  Immediately, they both knew that something was important, important enough to say face to face versus yelling it the distance from our bottom floor to our loft where he currently works from home.  There wasn’t a close contact exposure, so no quarantine was recommended, but there was exposure and watching for symptoms of Covid-19 was necessary.  We changed our plans for the weekend.  If we can limit the risk to others, we will.  Now, we wait.  It’s exhausting.  Every little sneeze sends me into mental frenzies, debating whether something is wrong or whether I just need to clean out the humidifier a bit more.  If cheeks get too pink, or tummies hurt, my brain won’t rest.  It’s not abnormal for me to sleep lightly and hear my children crying, even though they’re snug in their beds, dreaming.  Sometimes I feel like I’m back in the middle of my bout with postpartum anxiety, staying awake at all hours, constantly checking for breathing and crying over uncontrollable things, like I could somehow have changed them at all.  Unlike before, my increased anxiety is directly related to the actions of other people.  I can no longer tell myself that my fears are irrational.  The big baddies of my nightmares belong in the realm of reality.  How do I maintain composure and treat people with the kindness and dignity they deserve when their behaviors are endangering the lives of thousands of people?  I’ve been trying to hold myself together for months now, and the work of existing in a world that values life less than a vote about life is like being made to jump off the diving board during swim lessons.  I know you won’t catch me when I fall.  You’ll tell me that you will and expect me to act as if you will, but you won’t.  You won’t catch my children either, and they’re falling right now.  Every morning they leave for school and the deep end waits for them.

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