I don’t know. That’s basically the answer to every question I ask myself, when it comes to how I safely reenter this world we now live in.
I’m a full-time single parent to my 21-year-old son who is disabled. Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus, I had a team of caregivers in and out of my home, allowing me to work, cleaning private homes and businesses. I had a balance of allotted respite hours and providers that allowed me the necessary self-care many in my position don’t receive.
I was just starting to find my groove in this new phase of raising my son, his public education having run its course. My decades long history of putting myself last was ending; I was finally finding balance. I was figuring out how to juggle mom life, work life, and a love life. I was taking small trips out of town, trusting that others actually can do a damn good job of taking care of my son when I’m away. I was dreaming of my future.
And then, the pandemic hit.
As many businesses in my city are beginning to open up, people are heading back to work. My clients are asking when I will return. Every time I think I’ve come up with enough safety measures I can put in place, to consider bringing a worker back into my home, I find a flaw in my system.
I’m anxious. Scared. Overwhelmed. How do I even begin?
My son and I are both considered high-risk. Piggyback onto that that my son is non-verbal; if he needed to be hospitalized, current protocol states that he’d be there alone.
I don’t think we need to dig too far into how unacceptable that is; someone who is intellectually disabled, non-verbal, and has a psychiatric disorder, being asked to navigate a serious and potentially fatal virus, alone.
If I had to be hospitalized, who’s going to manage his care? That’s a question I juggled enough in pre-COVID times. Now it paralyzes me. Makes me hyperventilate.
I know eventually we’ll need to find our new normal and balance life with new parameters. On the really hard days I feel ready, the idea of me back to work and him receiving care from someone who hasn’t been with him every single day for three months. Ah yes, please, sign me up — some fresh energy would be a lovely addition to our days.
I’ve networked with other parents and caregivers, Googled like my life depends on it (it does), spoke with healthcare specialists, and stared at the ceiling in the middle of the night, thinking about how we get there. How we start.
I break it down into more manageable bites, but then quickly have to fight the urge to vomit because I feel so overwhelmed. If I miss a step, what happens? If one of us got sick — ugh, my stomach is in knots just writing this.
Unless you can relate to being someone with a compromised immune system, solely parenting an intellectually challenged, explosive man-child, who is also housed in a compromised body, out of work, and having to care for that child thirteen hands-on hours a day, you just can’t know the weight of it all.
I’ve navigated more than my fair share of difficult roads throughout my life, not including all that goes with raising my son. I know I can do this. Anaphylactic food allergies for both myself and my daughter, a twenty-year unhealthy and abusive marriage, living the life as a USAF aviator’s spouse, deployments, Ops Group tempo, life-threatening health issues, major heart surgery for my son, a high-conflict divorce, the family court system, nine years of an estranged child … the list goes on. I know I have the tools in place to navigate life with COVID-19 lurking on every surface.
But I’m terrified.
Maybe I’m just tired. Worn out. Exhausted.
Maybe this is just my new life, maybe we live here now, rethinking what we need and don’t need and having everything brought to me by delivery.
But I miss people.
I miss hugging them. I miss sitting near them, laughing and talking. I miss conversations.
I miss my daughter.
In my experience with the really tough stuff, starting is what’s always hardest. I know I just need to begin.
But when it’s with the risk of death, beginning makes me feel like I’m wearing a backpack full of bricks and trying to walk through a pool of molasses.
It has to begin with conversations.
Getting comfortable with asking the hard questions.
Then I think about what I need to bring a caregiver back inside of my home. COVID-19 testing. Maybe even weekly testing. Lots of hand washing. An endless glove supply and constant mask wearing. Repetitive cleaning of high-contact areas. Short shifts to start. Being outside as much as possible.
That’s not even factoring in me working, stepping into other people’s homes, cleaning up after them, and then returning home to my own house at the end of the day.
How the hell does it even begin to work? Can anyone really pay anyone enough money to do these things?
I throw down my pen, step away from my notebook.
I don’t know how we’ll get there.
Maybe another walk around the block with my son will help.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll start again.