Today marks Day 30 for me of life in the bubble.

That’s what this weird, new existence feels like to me — living in a bubble. And what’s even weirder about it? The fact that, although the situation that created it is horrific and surreal, I’m okay with it.

Honestly, having my kids back home and being secluded with my family is not only something I’m okay with, it’s something that makes me deliriously happy. Doing absolutely nothing feels wonderful, and being bored together once again a luxury. Making cookies with my girls; all of us eating dinner sitting at the table or standing around the kitchen counter; watching mindless reality shows while painting our fingernails together; playing games and watching movies; having the time to take afternoon walks and sit outside together reading — I kind of feel like I’m living my best life.

Our bubble is safe; our bubble is stocked; our bubble is relaxed; our bubble is happy. Other than missing the delicious crab cake BLT and BBQ chicken flatbread at my favorite restaurant and being able to run to the store when I’m out of bananas, I’m for want of nothing.

Except everything at Target, obviously.

Living out in a rural suburb makes our bubble a lot easier to be in. We have wide farm roads for walking, sparsely populated stores when we need to make a quick run for supplies, and store shelves regularly stocked with toilet paper. I’ve only ventured out for groceries twice in the past 30 days, and while I’ve reveled in the feeling of doing something normal (despite the mask and gloves), I’ve been frantic to get back into my bubble.

Being out in the real world and actually seeing evidence of the almost dystopian reality we are living in — the empty streets and parking lots, the acrylic dividers at the checkouts, the stickers on the store floors dictating where we are allowed to stand, the other people whose eyes are the only thing I can see but who avoid making personal contact with them, the devastating headlines on the newspapers I glance at as I scan my items — makes me desperate to return to the security of the bubble.

But I’m not ignorant. I know other bubbles aren’t so desirable. So with the security comes guilt.

Guilt that this virus hasn’t personally touched my family. Sure, we’ve been at home for a month now and have religiously followed every guideline given, being responsible and conscientious to control what we can, but I still feel guilt over our health (and now will knock wood three times in case I’ve jinxed it).

Guilt that unlike so many parents of younger kids who are losing their minds every waking moment with schooling, schedules, meltdowns, and constant demands on their time and sanity, I have whole days to myself. I feel so fortunate that my kids are older and can (and do) make themselves meals, do their own laundry, help out around the house, and entertain themselves, which leaves me time to read, nap, and work on whatever I want to work on, not to mention play games I actually enjoy and watch movies that aren’t animated (although we definitely still watch those, too).

Guilt that I’m actually enjoying the time doing nothing at home.

Guilt that we are secure. Unlike so, so many, my husband works in a field that isn’t in jeopardy once this is over. While we will definitely feel a financial hit as a result of this and there will be juggling and sacrifices made, it won’t sink us. (Knocks wood again.)

Guilty for feeling relieved that my daughter was in the Class of 2019 and not 2020.

Guilty because I stay far, far away from the statistics and the news. I feel awful to turn the other way from all the pain and suffering, but I know that for me, I have to focus on things I can control to be able to stay healthy mentally.

Guilty for having nothing to complain about: our shelves are stocked, our home is safe, our water is hot, our older parents are still virus-free (knocks wood), our family likes each other … the guilt-ridden list goes on.

I’m not even Catholic, you guys.

But I think a lot of us who haven’t been affected by this other than by having our social outings abruptly halted or by the toll the worry and the fear of it all is taking on our mental health are in the same boat: The SS Guilt. We are all passengers feeling thankful and fortunate to have gotten a seat in the lifeboat, but feel guilty about it just the same. We can — and should — throw those on deck a life jacket in the form of donations, etc. (here’s where we donated … so far), but in the end we are still struggling to make sense of both the horror of what is happening and the overwhelming feeling of gratefulness that we’ve been spared from so much loss and pain.

Grappling with the feelings of contentment and the resulting guilt right now is a weird and uncomfortable struggle. I don’t have anything worth complaining about and I’m not sure how to reconcile that. I’m not sure what I’m “supposed” to feel or do, or even if there is such a thing. Obviously I feel sickened, terrified, and gutted. But am I supposed to read the news every day? Am I supposed to make myself look at the photos and read the heartbreaking stories of those who have succumbed to this vicious virus? Am I being a horrible and selfish human if I don’t? If I can’t?

So I escape into the safety of my bubble, where it is warm and happy and full of Cheetos and wine. I enjoy my family. I focus on feeling grateful. I feel both relieved to be here but also like I should apologize to someone at the same time.
It’s weird, it’s wonderful, and it often feels wrong, but I’ll take it.

2 Comments

  1. Betsy Conway on April 23, 2020 at 4:05 pm

    This is everything, Michelle! So well written and straight from your heart. I completely relate on all levels to this and found myself saying YES, YES, me too, me too!

    The content and guilt and safety and insecurity of this all is all wrapped up together.

    I for one, love your bubble analogy and I’m sure loving this bubble moment of mine!

    Thank you.

    • Michelle on April 24, 2020 at 10:49 am

      Aw, thanks, friend! We are so alike, and the struggle is (unfortunately) real. Appreciate your comment! 🙂

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