Some theories of psychology reference an ‘inner child’ we all harbor, who just wants to be nurtured and loved. I have a cranky, under-slept seventeen year old who, in times of stress, just wants to be alone on a riverbank with a dog and a book. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.
However, of course, the most beautiful parts of my life circle back to friends and family. First photography gigs and a business built on friendly willingness to be in front of my novice camera, hand-me-down clothes for my kids, shared toys and recommended books, ideas and advice, and people who say, “I hear you.”
In early March, right before COVID-19 closed us down, I visited Kristi. Her kids were at school and mine spent two hours playing outside with their toys while Kristi and I talked shop and debated how big COVID would turn out to be. (Turns out we were both wrong.) Before we left, she gave us a huge box of children’s books that gave us many miles of reading as the library and thrift stores closed.
In that stack of books was Loving Ways: A Book About Love for Children by Susan Ross and Barbara Alexander. It’s very short, with only a handful of pages and a few journaling prompts at the end. I thought it would be nice to read with my five-year-old, but I never thought it would help shape my reentry into the COVID-19 world.
As counties all over California begin to open and hustle through the phases, unread PDFs in their inboxes I’m sure, I ask myself, what should I rush back to? What should I choose for my family? It feels like a big responsibility.
Even though I have gig cancellations, and opportunity loss in the tens of thousands, my life feels very full. I have two young children who adore each other one moment and threaten life and limb the next, a new dog (more on that later), parents to visit, and returned-to, near-forgotten goals. Also, frankly, I don’t want to get sick.
(As an aside, perhaps even a soapbox, I’ve been seeing a lot of social media posts that say ‘I wear a mask for you, not me’ and ‘I’m not afraid of the virus, I’m a good citizen.’ I ask, is it really so bad to be afraid of a virus that has killed 90,000 Americans at time of writing? Is our society so politicized by this pandemic, that we can’t be afraid of ill health, hospitalization and death? I’m afraid and I don’t feel lame about it, no matter how minimal my risk.)
I am aware that my choice of what to go back to from my pre-shutdown life drips with privilege. Certainly, most Americans do not have a choice of taking work when it’s offered, of sending their kids to childcare, of isolating before seeing their senior parents. In fact, many Americans choose to go back to life because they found it’s unhealthy to stay home.
Thankfully, I have the space to think, plan, and choose. For me, the question of what to reabsorb into my life hasn’t been easy to answer. A few of the answers are downright painful, such as choosing not to allow Bear to return to preschool, a place where he was about to wear his first cap and gown.
In some ways, I know I’m overthinking this return to normal. That’s the teenager in me. Obsessing over possibilities, waiting for epiphanies, bored with anything that doesn’t provide immediate interest or reward. The adult in me, needing to approach life’s big debates a little more methodically, dug through the deepest tote in my children’s room, searching for Loving Ways, intuiting that a book about love could guide my way.
According to Ross and Alexander, the types of love are: Romantic, Friendship, Family, Pets, Earth, Brotherly (Humanity), and Self. And so, flipping through the pages of paper-collage art, I craft my answer.
As opening of life and business happens, I will put my husband first and seek his perspective on my choices.
I will care for my body, mind, and spirit.
I will be with those who help my being.
I will play with and teach my children.
I will see my closest family.
I will make a warm home for the animals that bring us joy and keep the rodent population down.
I will go outside and study and be thankful.
I will work to bring joy in a trying time my fellow humans through my photography business.
And that is all.