Life in the Fish Bowl

Some of you may know I live in the San Francisco Bay area. As of midnight Tuesday, we have been ordered to shelter in place. This means no leaving the house except for anything “essential.” Medical needs, groceries… putting gas in your car… And we were given leave to pick up necessary items at the schools so the kids could continue learning at home.

It seems to me that, even though the order as written delineates “essential” fairly clearly, people apparently have their own ideas. I was surprised at how many people were out and about yesterday, on foot and in cars. Well, our town has about 90,000 residents, so I guess if even 10% of them need groceries or have medical appointments, that puts a good number of people on the roads. And so many people in our neighborhood have dogs that need walking. We’ve been told we can take walks so long as we stay 6+ feet away from anyone else out for a walk.

Fortunately, we have a spacious back yard. If the weather would cooperate, we could swim, at least. Our pool guy says the chemicals in the pool kill the virus. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’d be nice to be able to swim anyway.

I’m learning to homeschool. We have a schedule, and we’re finessing it as we go so that it becomes something we can all work and live with. No screens for the first half of the day. We read, play board games, practice music, draw—anything that doesn’t require a screen is fair. Kids are allowed to do online school work after lunch and then have free time once that work is done. We also have morning and afternoon outdoor/exercise time. (With the rain the “outdoor” part has been spotty.)

Thank goodness, too, for the Internet. Could you imagine all this 20 or so years ago? (If you’re old enough, that is.) Yesterday I was at least able to order some cross stitching supplies to keep myself busy over the next few weeks. The shelter-in-place order is through at least April 7. The kids don’t go back to school until April 14 at the earliest, and now I’m hearing probably not even then. So much of this is waiting and seeing, and so much of it depends on people’s behaviors. People are unpredictable and don’t behave rationally, so when things depend on them doing so, well… Don’t bet on it turning out well.

Every morning, even before we were all home and this was our new life and routine, I go through the house and open the blinds to let in the light. Now, when I do so, I feel like I’m in a fish bowl, and like the house around us are other fish bowls, and we’re all just fish, swimming in circles in our little spaces…

You’d think I’d get more reading done, or more writing, but the opposite is true. Having to manage everyone else’s schedules and needs means less time for myself. That is the frustrating bit. As an introvert who requires a lot of alone time in order to recharge, being in a house full of people means my battery wears down very fast and I don’t get plugged in all that often. I could take the easy route and let the kids disappear to their rooms and spend all their time online, but no. I won’t be that parent. I’ll adjust. We all will. We’ll make this work, somehow, for all of us.