Three weeks into the quarantine and the shelter in place order, it seems we are all reverting back to our true basic selves. The need to get up and dress up each day to face the world of work or socializing or any other public activity we used to engage in is all but gone. For some, it is a victory if they brush their teeth and shower that day or every two days or even just change clothes. I say whatever it takes to get you through this is what you are doing right. But I can see myself every day morphing back into my most natural self.
The face I used to put into the world was one I hoped was fashionable or trendy or at least made me look professional and somewhat put together. I wore makeup, I did my nails, not always with color but at least filed and clean. I faithfully dyed my white hair roots to a rich dark auburn brown color every 8 weeks. I shaved my legs and underarms, I waxed the dark Italian mustache whenever it started to grow again. I liked that face I put out in the world, it made me feel good. It didn’t matter that the minute I got home I changed into my comfy sweats, washed the makeup off of my face and tied my hair back. That was just the transition between going out into the world and coming back into my cocoon.
But for the past few weeks and for the coming ones at least, we are housebound in a way we have never been before. And suddenly there is no real reason to put on that outside face when we are inside all of the time. Of course, there are Zoom team meetings with my work colleagues but let’s be honest, I could be doing those in my pajamas if my face is washed and my hair is combed. I have never liked facial hair on my husband but he has a decent beard growing and if I can’t face the shaving blade why should I ask him to? This is us, now. He never was all that impressed with makeup and hair dye anyway but now he’s getting the whole package, warts and all!
If there is anything we are learning during this pandemic, it’s what really counts in our lives, in our family’s lives. I am very careful not to squander my privilege as I know so many are suffering physically, mentally, emotionally and financially through this crisis with no seeming end in sight. I feel overwhelmed with the very depth and scope of this pandemic to the point where at best I can only focus on those I know and love or lose my own sanity. Last week at my local grocery store we had to line up outside properly distanced apart, only small groups let in to shop at a time. It reminded me of all of those photos I had seen of the Great Depression. It was very orderly and quiet as we all stayed to ourselves. The food shelves were well stocked even as signs asked us to be respectful of the bounty and only take 2 of each item. The staff was in a great mood for having to work and I thanked each of them. I feel so grateful that I can shelter in place while others must work to serve my needs.
What will we be like when we all finally emerge from our shelters, hair amok, clothes baggy and loose or too tight, depending on how you spent your days in shelter? On a much-needed drive around town today I saw written on a church marquee a line from Natalie Sleeth’s Hymn of Promise that read “In a cocoon’s hidden promise, butterflies will soon be free”. All of us who are cocooned can find comfort in that thought. There are signs all around us of selfless giving. Chefs feeding hundreds on the streets. Doctors, nurses, first responders, what would we do without these people, many already running on empty with the demand and yet they keep going. Sadly we are so wary of each other. None of us know where the danger lies and so it’s easy to see it everywhere.
Ultimately when we are in quarantine, the person we must truly face is ourselves. Who will we be when we emerge, as a person, as a community, as a species? We might be facing the biggest threat to extinction as ever and yet if we step out of our house we can see that life is moving on. It is truly springtime. Trees and plants and flowers are bursting with new life, birds gathering once again to their summer homes. We have refilled the hummingbird feeders and re-potted the new geraniums. Color everywhere. Bird song. More people walking in the neighborhood than ever before. We all wave from our respective yards, socializing more in our cocoons then we ever did out of them. Even those in government working together for the common good. Who would have imagined? These are the very things we must be thankful for along with the tireless scientists and medical staff working for a cure. The irony of social distancing is that we have all become closer than ever. I am thankful for programs like Facetime and Skype and Zoom so we can talk to our loved ones, face to face, groups of us at a time. Internet socialization in the new normal. As humans, we have a limitless capacity to adapt and that is what is evident during this time of plague. And that is hope indeed!