April 21, 2020
When I sat down to blog this week, I tried to organize some of the clutter that had gathered on and around my desk, such as coloring books, journals, toys, glasses of wine…You know, the usual bric-a-brac adorning the desk of a stay-at-home mom. I picked up a book and for a moment was like “What even is this??” before realizing it was my 2020 planner, which has been sadly under-utilized this year. I opened it up and the last thing I’d written in it was a get-together we had with some friends on March 14. INTROVERT SIGHTING: this is one aspect of semi-quarantine that I’m absolutely okay with. If there was a way I could secure a non-chaotic calendar AND a non-chaotic world, I’d take it in a heartbeat. But the reason my calendar is empty is because the world is chaotic, and chances are once the world calms down, my calendar will make up the difference. C’est la vie.
This week’s big exciting adventure outside the house consisted of….a trip to Target. My first one in a month and a half, if you can believe it. If you know me, that’s a shockingly long time to abstain from Target. Todd and I went (not dressed alike this time, sadly) and grabbed a few things, including a two-pack of paper towels, a four-pack of Kleenex, and a single tiny canister of Clorox wipes (praise hands for all three). We walked past the sports department and saw that there are exactly zero bicycles in stock, and that board games are similarly picked-over. Todd and I both had a moment of eye-mistiness as we imagined families riding bikes and coming home to play Settlers of Catan (or maybe something less fight-inducing) together.
The thing the Watsons have been playing together is ping pong, and it’s the best. Foss (7) may be a small fella, but that kid is one devoted ping pong player, and he’s getting better day by day. Hopefully that’s cathartic for him, because in other Foss news, he’s been having night terrors nearly every night for the last couple weeks. We’ve become sort of used to this over the years (with him, not any of our other kids), but prior to the quarantine it had slowed down to once every couple of months. Nothing like a global crisis to get that subconscious all fired up! During their waking hours, none of our kids seem particularly anxious about what’s going on, but roughly two hours after he goes to bed most nights, Foss comes wandering out, crying and muttering incoherently. We take him back to bed and sit with him while he darts fretful glances all around the room and mumbles fearfully and refuses to lie down or go to the bathroom or respond to anything we say, and then suddenly he flops down and goes instantly to sleep and remembers nothing about it in the morning. There is a reason people make horror movies about children.
Probably the MOST important development this week was the transformation of my hair from natural, medium-ish blonde to…..pink. A friend called it my midlife crisis and I was like “WHAT.” Because OBVIOUSLY that’s not what this is. That’s – hahaha – that’s just silly. NEVER MIND that I’ve never done something like this before, this is NORMAL. The backstory is that Todd has always wanted me to dye my hair pink, and I’ve always countered with “yeah, sure, someday,” and he pointed out that if “someday” doesn’t include a quarantine, then it doesn’t exist. Four weeks in, that sounded like irrefutable logic, and so here we are. The dye I used is only semi-permanent, nbd, but also….I kinda like it.
People talk about how much they’re looking forward to going back to normal when this is all over, and I can’t help but hear Frodo Baggins’ soliloquy from the end of Return of the King in my head. You can watch the clip here, or just enjoy this little meme that I made (you’re welcome):
For better and for worse, I don’t know what going back to normal will look like. The “better”: We’ve hopefully all seen the benefit in slowing down, in recognizing how much we take for granted, in playing board games together, and in living more intentionally. We’ve also seen many expressions of creativity, neighborly love, and heartwarming stories. The “worse”: The world is incredibly broken, and there’s no hiding it or pretending otherwise anymore. Humans are fragile, people are often awful to each other, leaders are corrupt, foolishness and pride run rampant, most of us are going to get sick eventually (from something, if not Covid-19), and practically the entire world is in some form of economic collapse. We stayed at home to keep people safe, but it’s likely we’ll all emerge wounded in some way. As individuals, this can absolutely be a very character-building time. But as a society? Well, Frodo might have said it best.
The funny thing (pun intended) is that there’s been a whole lot of laughter over here recently. On the one hand, this might not be surprising, given my recently bubble-gummed hair. On the other hand, I just spent the last paragraph enumerating the ways our world is deeply broken. I have found that in dark times, people tend to veer towards or away from laughter. We saw this while we were fostering. We’d go to support groups and discover that some people maintained a glum countenance, while others smiled. It wasn’t that the glum people had it any harder than the smiling people, they just saw their circumstances in a gloomier light. Now, don’t get me wrong — I cried hard and often during those twenty months, because, as many of you know, things were pretty bonkers for awhile. But I remember laughing hard and often too. Laughter was a balm at the time, the antidote to my tears, or maybe the necessary companion of tears.
In C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, he explores the topic of laughter a bit, and distinguishes between Joy and Flippancy. In talking about flippancy, he says, “It is a thousand miles away from joy: it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practice it.” Back in our fostering days, I had moments of glumness, and I was sometimes flippant. But we also experienced a lot of intellect-sharpening, affection-exciting laughter in the midst of hardship, and it was a very good thing. Our girl used to tell us that she liked how much our family laughed. Laughter didn’t come easy for her, but it was a balm for her tears too.
Being a person who laughs versus being a person who’s glum is a choice, and it’s an infectious choice. And unlike other infectious things, laughter can have a healing, life-giving quality to it. Todd and I consume the news like it’s going out of style. We’re in the small business world and we see the pain so many small businesses are experiencing. We hear the fear and the anger and the sadness that’s out there, and we share much of it. We’re not blind, and yet there’s still joy in our home. We’re not ignorant, and yet there’s still laughter. We have our ugly moments, but we still choose to smile.
I don’t know what the world will look like in six months, but I can decide what kind of person I am today.
So, this was Quarantine Week 5. My hair and my heart are both feeling colorful.