I am the Pandemic Police. I am the Coronavirus Cop.
I am any other alliterative phrase that describes someone completely obsessed with COVID-19.
Since the middle of March, I have listened to at least twenty-five podcasts and read fifty articles about this virus. I have checked the CDC website every single night before going to bed. I have recorded the number of cases and the number of deaths in my journal, which just proves how obsessively grim I have been. For three weeks straight, like a maniacal Alice from The Brady Bunch on steroids, I stayed up after everyone else in my house at night, scrubbing down all of the door knobs, cabinet doors, countertops, faucets, and any other potential threat that might dare to invade our home. I have found myself saying weird things like “flattening the curve,” “asymptomatic,” and “slowing the spread.” I’m telling you: Hell hath no fury like a woman with too much information, a woman armed with Clorox Cleanup and a shitload of Lysol antibacterial wipes.
I became obsessed with being prepared, refilling Albuterol (my asthma medicine that I never use) twice, just in case someone can’t breathe; I ordered masks for my whole family, especially the grandparents who did not seem to know there was a dangerous disease going around; I gave my husband instructions about how “I do NOT want to go to the hospital if I get it. I do NOT want to die alone.”
Then I became the Self-righteous Science Snob, and the thing is, I am an English teacher. I don’t even like science, and I certainly don’t understand it. But, suddenly I became an expert on epidemiology and wanted to make sure everyone in my little world was, too. I started sending links galore to family members who, early in this pandemic, were being too nonchalant about this whole thing. I sent terrifying podcasts about the deaths in Italy and China’s “brutal but effective” lockdown strategy.
I judged anyone going anywhere. “You’re going to the grocery store??” I asked, horrified. “Well, I bought two weeks worth of groceries and toilet tissue on March 12. I knew this was going to be bad,” my self-righteous self proclaimed.
“If people in Wilson would just read the freaking New York Times instead of watching Fox News, they would have known about this virus weeks ago!” I lamented to anyone who would listen.
I have been snippy with my brother, my husband, my dad, my mother-in-law, and anyone else not staying at home twenty-four hours a day. It is possible that someone might have heard me saying, “Six feet!” to my husband any time he has talked to another person, but I am not admitting anything.
I have been a little dramatic…and maybe not very nice.
What I have learned during my eight weeks of quarantine is that being the Pandemic Police is hard, and I was never meant to be in law enforcement. I am a rule-follower… but only to a certain extent. If someone tells me to stay at home to save people’s lives, I am inclined to do just that…depending on how much I trust the person giving that order. I trust Governor Roy Cooper. If he says I can go shopping again as long as I wear a mask, well, Honey, I am all in because I miss going to Gracie’s at least every other day.
Recently, Emma Jane asked, “What have you done during this quarantine that you are the most proud of?” (She actually thinks I am a nice person and not the Pandemic Police.)
“Nothing,” my grumpy quarantined self replied.
I have tried to make the most of the stay-at-home order. I have tried to make home seem “normal” to everyone. I have tried to take care of people and have felt it was my freaking JOB to keep everyone safe and well and stocked with wine and toilet paper, as God is my witness. And, from my place of privilege in my home in the country with several acres to get outside and not be around a single person and with my paycheck still coming in every month since I can work from home, I understand that following rules like this is very hard for many people. I know that people are scared and tired and lonely and just plain broke. For weeks I have said, “Well, at least they are ALIVE,” but I know we want more than to be alive; we want to live.
So now, I am tired of being the Pandemic Police. I am tired of shaking my head at people and judging how much distance is between them. I am going to let them live their own lives now because I am not very good at this job, thank you very much. After eight weeks of my self-imposed burden of handling all things Coronavirus-related, I have decided to quit my job as the Pandemic Police. I have decided to give grace to everyone, especially myself.
Emma Jane’s question looms over me, though. What am I proud of? I have not produced a family music video gone viral during quarantine. I did not orchestrate a birthday parade for my daughter, but thank God she turned twenty-four, not seven, during this pandemic. I did not initiate a Zoom graduation ceremony for my son’s college graduation. I did not “flatten the curves” of my hips or get great abs.
But, GRACE allows me to see that I have done some pretty cool stuff. I taught my three college composition classes from home, and we all (or most) survived, and I had some fun making “instructional” YouTube videos. My siblings and I had a FaceTime “meeting” with our dad when he was getting a little down from being out of work and stuck at home. Grace.
And, although we couldn’t go out to eat or be around a lot of people, my whole family had a FaceTime call for my daughter’s birthday celebration. Grace.
For our son Dawson’s college graduation, we hung homemade signs and blew up balloons, and managed to (sort of) surprise him with his dream truck. Grace.
Emma Jane and Sav surprised Kelly and me one night with “Beefmastor at Home,” buying the eight-ounce cuts of steak from the restaurant and cooking them for us while we tailgated from the truck in the backyard. (You would understand this craziness if you lived in Wilson.) Grace. My family has gotten more take-out food than in our entire lives because that was one way we could be sure our favorite local places might make it through this difficult time. Grace. I bought some cute Life Is Good quarantine-themed t-shirts to keep us a bit uplifted and maybe because we like seeing the UPS delivery people coming up the driveway. Grace.
We have checked on Aunt Sallie, the matriarch of our family, even though we cannot see her in person, sending her books and lots of love, and I have pretty much kept Amazon in business by ordering random gifts for people. Grace. I have made The Pioneer Woman’s mashed potatoes every single week, and Praise God to whom all blessings flow, that might be the one thing that has saved my life during this quarantine situation.
Yes, we have watched lots of Netflix and maybe not played games and whatnot the way I had envisioned, but desperate times call for desperate measures (and lots of grace and documentaries that make us question most human beings). It is okay that we are not really accomplishing anything right now. We just need to lift each other up and be good to each other. We need to help each other out as much as we can. And, what I have learned is that I can’t lift people up while I am being the Pandemic Police or the Coronavirus Cop. With protests and a terrible economy and people shooting a security guard just for telling them to wear a mask in a store, I am exhausted with trying to keep everyone safe. I just have to be myself and do what I do in normal times…Maybe talk about them behind their backs a little bit but also lift all of us up in prayer because even though I absolutely do not think we are in the times of Revelations and that God has sent this plague to straighten us all out, I do know (S)he offers us – every single one of us – grace and love when we are at our worst. I welcome that grace, and in place of the Pandemic police tickets, I am giving out that grace, too.