choices must be made…

last night, as part of its plan to slowly reopen metropolitan life and the national economy, the turkish government announced a handful of changes to current co-vid 19 restrictions.

next week, young people get to leave their homes for the first time in nearly two months. so do older citizens; those over the age of 65. each group gets separate days. hairdressers, barber shops and malls can all open their doors again on monday- but must follow strict social distancing and sanitization procedures.

it makes me nervous.

but i can understand that people need to get out of their houses. not just because so many residents of istanbul have been cooped up in small, crowded apartments for the past two months and need the psychological relief of getting out; but also, because people must go back to work and make money. the turkish economy did not enter the global pandemic in a particularly strong position and there are so many people who need to reestablish actual incomes to meet their basic needs.

it is scary to be thinking about all these spaces reopening.  it worries me, the thought of people being out and about again.   i don’t like this path to reopening because it leaves a lot of grey area.  there will be choices to be made now. i liked the clear mandates; the government telling me what i can and cannot do. where and how i can go.

i admit, fully, that my privilege allows me this luxury. 

i have a large, comfortable home; plenty of good fresh food; enough money saved to weather this storm; a private outdoor space that my family can use freely; the girls’ e-learning is just fine, they are busy and engaged; my parents, and erim’s, are all safe and healthy and we can see them- from a safely masked distance- at least once a week; and we have learned how to connect virtually with loved ones who are further away.

having all three girls at home all the time has been, for me, heavenly. i thrive on being a mother and my family all together fills my heart. with no formal school or afterschool activities to rush off to we have had time to eat long meals, cook, do yoga, take walks, watch movies and pop popcorn slowly- the old-fashioned way.

i have been happy to stay at home, to enjoy my people, and to slow down.

but now, with no clear understanding of how it will work, we are being allowed – kind of—to speed up. and with that comes choices…

some decisions seem easy, and probably will be, for many of us.  having gotten the hang of online shopping; i won’t be going into a mall anytime soon.  so many of our favorite restaurants are now offering takeout or delivery options, so no need to risk that. and schools will certainly be closed through may.

but what about socializing? if we can go to a mall can we go sit on a friend’s front porch? our nephew was supposed to graduate from college this weekend; can we raise a glass of champagne to his success? should i bring my own glass? decisions and choices must be made…

and the biggest, probably most difficult of these, involves my children.  on their day of “freedom” (4 hours next friday) can they see their friends? how safe will that be?

i trust my girls.  they are intelligent, worldly, understanding children.  they fully grasp the potential danger of this disease- if not to themselves directly, then to their loved ones.  but they are also human. And i get it. it is amazing that we can connect virtually, but i really want a hug too.  leaning, literally, physically, on a friend is irreplaceable.  we are naturally social creatures. we thrive in close knit communities. we need it. And oh, have we missed it!

so here comes the hard part.

i knew it was coming. i was dreading it. the choices. each of us will have to weather the storm of the coming weeks and months in our own way. in ways that feel “ok” to us.  but i know that saying “no” when other parents say “yes”- staying in while others go out- is going to be hard.  and so, starting next week, we’ll do our best to weigh our options, cross our fingers and continue to take each day as it comes.

so, i have some questions…

last night i locked myself in the bathroom. seriously. just being in my own space wasn’t enough, i needed to close and fully lock the door. i can’t remember the last time i did that. maybe just after i gave birth to alegra 10 years ago?

regardless, last night i found myself locked in my small bathroom; simultaneously listening to npr on my phone and alegra reading aloud to me from the other side of the door while dozens of questions swirled around in my mind.

i don’t presume to think that my questions are too radically different than most peoples’. and, to be fair, my questions are, mercifully, not of the day to day existential variety.

i KNOW that i will still have a roof over my head tomorrow, and i will have more than enough to eat. my children will be able to continue their studies over the internet; comfortably, warm in their own rooms- content with their 3+ meals a day.  even if our economics do eventually change due to the global pandemic, i will still be blessed with plenty. and in the case of a health emergency- covid-19 related or not- i am privileged enough to be certain of sufficient health care.

but even armed with this knowledge- i am still human.  and an over functioning, type a human at that. and so, despite all this certainty- and all these guarantees- i can’t help but worry. almost obsessively.

And so, i have some questions…

on a grand scale… when will this all end? what would it be like to get the coronavirus? is my (are our) immune systems strong enough? what will happen to the girls if erim and i both end up in the hospital at the same time? what is going to be the economic impact of all this- not just in my household, but nationally; globally?

on a knowledge and medical scale…what the hell is an antibody and how important/effective will they be in the case of covid-19? even if the virus seems to disappear over the summer will it just reappear in the fall; or in the winter? is it better to just get infected and move forward from there? or is that worse? what are the long terms repercussions of getting sick going to be? if (and hopefully when) a vaccine is developed will i feel comfortable being vaccinated; having my children vaccinated?

on a smaller, more personal scale… what is going to happen to schools? seriously, what is the deal with the SAT? will colleges open in the fall? how will admissions work going forward? how much impact is this time in self-isolation going to have on my children?

and once life gets going again… (it is going to, right? eventually?) where will we feel comfortable going? will i be ok with the girls going back to school, to activities, to riding? when will we feel comfortable travelling again? what about going to the US again? what will the short- and long-term global reverberations really be? how much future planning makes sense and how many of my plans will end up being little more than daydreams?

what is frustrating and also, from a social science perspective, fascinating; is that really no one, no scientist, no politician, no researcher, no educator, no one has the answers to these questions.

a virologist may have some preliminary notion of how immunity to covid 19 will likely work in the future. i also feel certain many virologists and researchers are working hard to discover, perfect and produce a viable vaccine. 

politicians and civil servants are working; each in their own way, to serve their publics. i would argue many are still working to serve themselves; we’ll see how long that is sustainable.

meanwhile, educators around the world probably have many valid and reasonable ideas concerning how education will and should shift in the coming years.

parents, children, families and friends also all have valid and reasonable ways in which they envision organizing their lives- at least for the foreseeable future.  and business owners, big and small, around the globe, are more than likely holding zoom meeting after zoom meeting as they attempt to reorganize, reorder, and eventually, reopen their businesses.

but for now, regrettably there is no real end in sight; and no magic answers to my never-ending questions.

so, i am going to do what i can. i will start each day as it is; a new day…i will get up earlier than everyone else in my household to have a quiet cup of tea, write in my journal and do some yoga; i will oversee e-learning and help with brainstorming and editing; i will make sure we all have lots of healthy- fulfilling meals; i will get fresh air as much as possible; i will give back when and where i can; and most importantly-  i will try to remember to take deep breaths.

anxiety is just as contagious as covid-19

one of the most important pieces of advice I received before we went into “stay at home mode” last month was to make a schedule (or “program”, as alegra calls it) and stick to it. each day we have specific times for all our routine activities, breakfast, lunch and dinner; e-learning; exercise; socializing with friends; creating through art, cooking or music; and even blocks of time that we all know can be used for free-time or “alone time”.

during these uncertain times, watching the nightly news has also become a key part of our routine; as unalterable as e-learning or walking the dog.  as we watch the news, inevitably our phones start to bing and ping and light up- signaling messages from friends and family all over turkey who, like us, are trying to figure out exactly what is happening here and abroad, and glean any possible information about the future; either from official messages or from shared information.

last night was interesting, the president addressed the nation in a live press conference, detailing government efforts to combat the spread of the virus and keep deaths to a minimum.  messages from friends meanwhile cautioned that full lockdown; in turkey this is called “a ban on being on the street”; was certainly coming this week. friends also indicated that the government may soon decide to seize private assets in order to have more cash at their disposal.  rumor had it that private individuals would still be able to access their money; but only a certain percentage during a given time period- probably a month. 

the girls heard this, rumors coming from an anxious place, and oh boy, did that anxiety spread like wildfire throughout our house!

you could call it serendipity, or maybe just plain coincidence, but over the weekend two close friends sent me brene brown’s podcast on anxiety and calm.  i finally found time to listen to it yesterday morning while the girls had “e-school”. it could not have been better timing…

in the podcast, brown explains, and demonstrates, just how contagious anxiety is. and then she offers some advice on how to handle it. be it with a child, a co-worker, a friend or a spouse, the tools she provides are simple, and last night they WORKED.

despite the fear i felt rising in my chest as the questions flew around the dinner table; i took a deep breath as calmly as possible and said, “we don’t have any official information indicating that any of these rumors are true. until then there is no need to worry about this. once we have more information, we can-if necessary-make a plan that will work for us.”

honestly, i am still a little surprised that i managed to say it all so calmly, and i am equally and pleasantly surprised at how well it worked to calm not just the girls’, but my nerves as well.

there will be more rumors to come, decisions made by the government, the schools and other institutions that will surely make us anxious. just remember that anxiety is contagious- so take deep breaths, be sure you have all the information and don’t forget to wash your hands.

you can access the podcast here:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/bren%C3%A9-on-anxiety-calm-over-under-functioning/id1494350511?i=1000470370881

let me know how your family is handling all these big questions; sharing resources and tools is crucial in these odd, odd times.