I flipped the radio to NPR as I pulled out of the driveway, enjoying a familiar voice of reason. It was Sunday morning, and this was my weekly trip to the grocery store to pick up our curbside order. I used to drive almost daily, but the pandemic changed that. Now my trips are limited to Friday mornings, when I drive to my daughter’s school to pick up her remote learning packet for the following week, and to Sundays, when I retrieve our groceries and mail bills.
Most would consider my Sunday outing a welcome escape from being cooped up in the house. The drive, the fresh air, and interaction with another human being besides family would surely be highlights for many. But for me, what I look forward to most on Sunday mornings are the five minutes I spend in the garage upon my return.
As a wife and mother, I must be “on” at all times. My husband works from home. My daughter learns from home. There is no down time anymore – no time to regroup, recharge, or refocus in solitude. No time to process the myriad issues, stressors, and challenges facing our family, our community, and our world. But I need that time, desperately. I learned long ago that if I don’t have time to focus within, I can’t be fully present for those who need me the most.
And so, after I drive to the store, and after the grocery employee loads my curbside order into the trunk, and after I drive to the post office and mail the bills, and after I make my way home, I pull into our garage and turn off the car.
But I don’t get out. I pick up my phone and set the timer for five minutes. Then I sit.
Sometimes, I close my eyes and breathe. Other times, I pray. But oftentimes, I just let myself cry.
In the silence – the silence I experience so infrequently – the questions building for days, weeks, and months are finally allowed to flood into my consciousness.
Will we contract COVID-19 before we can get vaccinated? Will my daughter suffer having spent kindergarten learning from home? Will we ever see our extended family again? How can I juggle all of this better, so the house doesn’t fall into disarray and I still have time to relax with my family? How can I find more time to write? Will I ever get more than six hours of sleep? Will anything ever feel normal again?
Will this all be okay someday?
The tears fall into my lap. The release is palpable.
The timer goes off.
I haven't told my husband or daughter about my five minutes on Sundays. But I’ve noticed that they never come out to the garage after they hear the door go up, even though that was a given before the pandemic. Now, they wait until I come inside.
Maybe they know.