Schools cancelled on account of coronavirus last week, making this past Monday the first day of total remote work plus zero childcare. My wife, Liz, has been incredible in the situation, running ‘homeschool’ for our three-year old Elliott Claire every morning from 9AM until noon with conference calls mixed in to the curriculum. The structure keeps her preschool mind and body on track in a way that we would all likely benefit from at this moment. I, on the other hand, have mostly been quarterbacking our eighteen-month son, Hawk. He has about a 50/50 hit-rate on conference calls. On some, he is delighted to read books independently or just make an adorable cameo; on others, he insists upon being held or throws an impressive tantrum while I’m on mute.
As every stay-at-home parent knows, the challenge of parenting while doing anything else is immense. And the challenge of parenting while doing *everything* else is even more intense. I am proud that I have managed my emotions, made reasonable parenting decisions, and leaned into love this week; but, damn, it took a lot of self-management, a bunch of late nights working, and not-a-few junk food binges from our special quarantine stash.
One of the hardest challenges for me is the ambiguity of how long it will be like this. For two weeks? You got it. For twelve weeks? I’m getting stretched. For two years? No.
One of the upsides of a virtual life is that I am connecting with people and organizations more broadly around the world. So last night, after the kids went to bed, I joined a virtual healing session with my old San Francisco reiki master, Christopher Tellez. For those of you who aren’t familiar with reiki, it’s a Japanese energy healing methodology similar to the Christian idea of “laying on of hands”. Reiki means something like “life force energy from the higher power.” (If that jives with you, great. If you think that’s crazy and hippie, read on; that’s not the punchline.)
Anyway, at the start of every reiki session, the practitioner invokes five precepts. These are the code by which the reiki practitioner lives in order to be of service to others. And so, as everyone on the Zoom gallery closed their eyes, we recited:
“Just for today, I will not worry.”
“Just for today, I will not be angry.”
“Just for today, I will be grateful.”
“Just for today, I will do my work honestly.”
“Just for today, I will be kind to every living thing.”
Just for today. In the face of quarantine, I can handle “just for today”. I can agree not to worry about health, wealth, or safety. I can agree not to be angry with the limitations on my life and my obligations at this moment. I can be grateful for fresh food, shelter, relationships, and Wi-Fi. I can do my work with love and focus, even if that’s early morning or late night. And I can be kind to my kids, my wife, our dog, and the rabbit who has moved into our yard. And the Amazon package delivery people; I always yell “thank you so much” out the window as they hurry back to their vans.
Look, I am a parent facing a potentially interminable stretch of childcare-less life. No breaks. No stops. No room. No space for working. No space for recreation. No space for self. I can’t do that forever, but I can recommit each morning to doing it for the day.
So, whether you find yourself caring for children, for elders, for friends, for yourself, or some combination, I know the burden is tough. I would send you toilet paper, but I can’t. So I am sending you so much love. And, I wish you the chance to be what you aspire to be in these tough times if only “just for today”.
With empathy and love,