Quaranscream—A Totally Honest Dose of Realness

How did your quarantine day go? Mine wasn’t great. I have high blood pressure. I don’t know if I’m going to survive this quarantine. Not because of COVID, but because of my family stress, and because I was on a roll just before life was brought to a screeching halt: going to the gym, taking care of my health. I could go to a cafe to write. I felt I’d barely survive a school cancellation through early May. Now I’m looking at another two months in hell. School closed March 12.

I feel like my body is falling apart. My left arm aches and I’ve gained weight and my hair looks terrible. I don’t dare take my blood pressure.

When I woke up, my daughter was already on my iPhone, my husband at work. Pre-quarantine I was up early to work out, but now sleep is elusive and patchy. I would love to have a job outside the home right now, because I am slowly losing my sanity here. As a pharmacist he gets to escape the four walls, but the downside is that, despite being encased in PPE he’s worried—we’re all worried—he’ll get COVID.

My life coach offered me a free 15 minute session this morning. She’s the first person who has thought to ask me in the pandemic: “How’s your mental health?” I’m ok, but I have few places to vent. Everyone is having a difficult time.

It has become the best way to cope with “homeschooling,” a job I didn’t ask for and didn’t want, dumped unceremoniously on to to my existing jobs: spouse, mother, lit mag editor, alumni board member for my writing program, editor for a website, and writer of a memoir in progress.

Only one of the above jobs I do pays, and so far it’s still paying, although it’s more difficult to do that job now, with my daughter at home. Her morning consists of a ludicrous amount of Zoom sessions. Usually she’s unable to find the right information, so most of my time is spent chasing down Zoom passwords. I’ve been trying to teach her basic computer skills, which I thought she was learning at private school. She was not.

My husband is the world’s worst homeschooling partner. He grills our daughter on math until 11 p.m. He has no sense of humor. Her bedtime used to be a nice 9 p.m. He is constantly cranky. I am never doing enough with homeschooling, despite the fact that I’ve been here all day, every day, since March 12, reading the school emails, explaining things to our daughter, chasing down Zoom passwords, and attending a parent Zoom. When he gets home from work, he acts as if I’ve done nothing all day. Doesn’t the school get it? It takes all our resources to stay healthy and cope right now. School is a luxury.

How am I supposed to do homeschooling, when my basic needs are barely being met? Where is my wellspring of patience supposed to come from? I quit homeschooling last week, but this week I’m back at it. I have no choice. I’ve made my suggestions on the school survey—no school until fall; we’ll catch up then. She’s in fourth grade. We’ll survive.

So my daughter FaceTimes with her friend on my phone. She plays with a drawing app she installed on my phone. She takes pictures and makes movies with my phone. She texts with my phone. There are no more playdates. There’s just me, trying to write.

I tried to work on my book while my daughter went through her series of Zoom meetings on her computer. The book is almost three hundred pages and I need to fix the order of events somehow. My neighbor started power-washing his car or doing something loud and mechanical. It was enraging. I stuffed my ears with silicone earplugs and it helped.

At lunch time I made my daughter a tofu dog and she heated up leftover shrimp dumplings on her own. We ate lunch. I went back upstairs to work on the paying gig. I ate some sour jellybeans, shared some with my daughter. I thought about going outside but I felt depressed and unmotivated. I was sick of being in charge. I texted a friend who is a lifeline but didn’t want to burden her with any of this because she is going through so much.

The time before my husband gets home was just as interminable as it always is. In the evening I went on Zoom to attend a poetry reading. I started to fall under the spell of the words, although I wanted to be anywhere but here. My husband called my phone angrily from the kitchen, where he was preparing dinner. “Lily’s degu escaped and now I’m burning the asparagus!” I’ve had my work day and somehow I’m still on duty. I had to interrupt the poetry to help find the animal. The animal was found. I’d love to protest my working conditions but I have nowhere else to go. Dinner was silent. Sleep will be difficult.