Flattening the Curve of Coronavirus Emotions

A beautiful beach we stumbled on recently during one of our government-approved family exercise periods. We made sure not to linger – beaches are closed. After that day, it was back to two days of not being allowed to leave the boat.

It’s week who knows of lockdown, and I find myself struggling with expectations.

My social media feed is a constant bipolar stream of presenting this perfect picture of quarantine creativity and efficiency, and posting platitudes that it’s okay if you’re drinking wine straight from the bottle while slumped in the corner.

“It’s okay to not be okay.” I hear that one a lot. I tell myself that one a lot. I don’t believe it a lot of the time. There’s this constant pressure to look on the bright side of things, don’t complain, others have it far worse than you, take this time and make the most of it.

Fellow cruisers half-jokingly said early on, “If the never-ending to-do list of boat projects isn’t finally done by the end of this lockdown, then what are we doing?”

Surviving? Navigating a pandemic?

A friend of mine posted the other day that her children completed their homeschooling curriculum for the year months early. What else was there to do while staying on board but teach?

Another friend posted that with all of her newfound free time, she finally reupholstered the cushions in her cockpit.

I’m going to learn to play guitar! I’m finally going to write that book! I’m going to teach my child how to play chess! Somehow, the “Netflix and Chill” chapter of the pandemic ended abruptly, and we’re stuck in the “Make it Count” chapter.

I’m tired. I’m tired of not really knowing what’s going on. I’m tired of living week to week, waiting to see what new restrictions might be put in place. I’m tired of watching income sources dwindle. I’m tired of making the most of every minute. I’m tired of trying to find the silver lining.

Anyone else?

It’s okay to not be okay, as long as you’re not okay, quietly. Minimize the negativity. Trivialize it. Ignore it. Definitely don’t post it, unless it’s a silly meme – nobody wants to read about it.

I’ve gone through extreme ups and downs during this pandemic. Some days, I feel really on top of my game. Boatschooling is moving along well, we’re keeping spirits up, getting important things done and celebrating family time. And some days, I sit there, unmotivated, dishes piling up in the galley.

We briefly stopped by s/v Alchemy on one of our shopping days. It was Alex’s birthday – she took this lovely picture from the transom of their boat. We sang to her from afar, then continued on our way to shore to get provisions. They are anchored about five minutes away, and yet, it was the second time we’d seen them in six weeks.

On the days when we are allowed to go ashore, I’m completely recharged – so excited to just be OUT! The fresh air, the exercise, the brief face-mask-to-face-mask exchanges with other human beings, are salves to my soul. And then we are locked down again, unable to so much as dinghy around our anchorage. On the days when we are not restricted from movement, I see my friends here from a socially acceptable distance, enjoying shouty chats when we pass by their boats on our way to shore. We smile, we joke, we laugh, and we move on. And then we are back to relying on technology to connect, on Zoom calls plagued with the challenges of low bandwidth and my inability to not be awkward on video.

Life, right now, is a tease.

It’s true – as cruisers, we are predisposed to be self-sufficient. We make our own power, our own water. We often provision the boat for weeks, or even months, anyway, and there are definitely chapters during a normal season when we head for isolated bays and completely unplug.

“This must be easier for you – you do this anyway,” was a comment I heard recently.

But choice makes all the difference. It’s a completely different mindset, when you choose isolation, rather than when you are forced (for a completely understandable reason, of course). Another difference is time – when you make the decision to be on your own for a week, knowing you’ll then head back to civilization.

Instead, we are in lockdown with no specified end date. We are completely unable to plan even two weeks out. I’ve also realized that we are in a place with one of the strictest lockdowns in the Caribbean. We have been sheltering in place for seven weeks, combining the lockdown and our quarantine when I returned from the States, and we still aren’t even allowed on shore more than three or four days a week.

I wish for the return of the before time, knowing that it will never come. There will be a new normal of land life, just like quarantine life has become the new normal. And cruising will look very different next season. Even when borders open, it will be a long, long time until boaters can move freely between island nations, checking in and out with ease – leading the very lifestyle we all planned and saved and sacrificed to achieve. If we can even afford it anymore.

Yes, I understand, I need to look on the bright side. I need to be grateful for the small things. I need to adjust to the new normal, again. I need to tell myself that this will all be okay, whatever “this” is. I’ve never answered “I don’t know” to more questions in my life, many from Claire.

One of my more motivated days on lockdown, doing a cardboard art project with Claire.

“When will the lockdown be over? When can I play with friends again? When can I go to the beach? When will I be able to do my ballet class? When will family be able to come visit us, or can we see them? When will I be able to go anywhere without having to wear a mask?”

I am the opposite of omniscient. I know nothing. I mean, can we just sit for a minute in the reality that our lives right now are giant snow globes and the flakes just keep spinning?

I find myself more tired at the end of these days than the days when we climbed waterfalls. The mental back and forth of it all is exhausting. And yet even now, I hesitate to post this. I question sharing it. In the back of my mind, there are those voices on repeat: “At least you didn’t get the virus. At least you are able to isolate with your husband and your child. At least you have beautiful views during lockdown.” And it’s all true! I see it all. I appreciate it all. This chapter is still, hard.

So what can you do? Each day, you do the best you can. Some days, you nail it, making gourmet meals for your family and fixing boat problems and teaching your kid to read and shaking up a tasty cocktail to watch the sunset.

And some days, you make a cup of coffee and crawl back under your sheets and spend hours scrolling through photos from just a few months ago, gasping at how crazy those people were for being so close together. And you make ramen for dinner.