Shelter In Place

By Elaine Fawcett Gast, TIWP Women’s Program

I went for a walk today. It was eight minutes of alone time. The rain stopped and I slipped out the garage door. Damp air. My fingers went white. I walked in a circle, around one neighborhood block, wondering how the world can at once be so quiet, and also so loud.

My life is loud. Kids pinching and pulling and complaining. Mess-making in every room. The voices inside my head, barking orders at me. The Zoom after Zoom after Zoom calls of children chattering and teachers smiling, trying to make the best of it. And the interruptions. Especially when I’m trying to work or write. So many interruptions. Each one feels like a poke by a blunt butter knife that I then have to take to the sink and wash myself.

I screamed out loud today. I screamed multiple times at the kids. I screamed at my husband: “you aren’t helping me with this homeschooling!”

I’m mean Mommy, mean teacher, mean wife, and mediocre worker. I don’t know how in the  world I’m supposed to work, teach three  kids, make 15 meals a day plus snacks, grocery shop online, plan for some sort of Easter, exercise, make sure the kids exercise, do a million dishes, and shower and brush their teeth once in a while.

Oh, I never got around to making those DIY bandana face masks. Or the paper mache strawberries I saw on Pinterest.

This Is Overwhelming!

My 8-year-old daughter just came in and said: “I know how to break your arm. Can I break your arm?”

“Umm, I’d rather you not,” I mumble.

“I’m hungry.”

“Honey, I’m writing now. This is my time. Can I have a few minutes alone?”

“But I’m hunnnn-gryyy.”

I want to scream again and do.

Not many walkers are out this tonight. There were a few porch sitters. When I asked one lady how she was doing, she said: “We’re doing alright here. (Pause.) Except for these plum trees. They are drooping after the rain.”

We’re all drooping after the rain, I thought.

A man drove by with a face mask on. There was no one else in his car.

One house had a sign that said “Free Succulents.”  I took a few.

The creek was rushing along after the rain, fast water spilling over rocks and branches.

It’s quiet outside. Much quieter than in my house and mind. And it smells good. The air is clean. The rain has washed over the world.

I want to be all Zen about things, but I can’t. Not tonight. So I’ll choose screens and screams and any other distraction I can find to take back my own space.

I’ll gaze at my free succulents, now in a vase on my counter, and be grateful for the gift of something new.

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