One of my acquaintances did a “social distancing by the numbers” post: lessons planned, assignments graded, books read. Her tallies were impressive, and I have no idea how she’s done it.
A lot of other friends on social media are doing lists. Favorite movies, 10 things you hate that everyone else loves, favorite place to travel, seven books you love…
All of which got me thinking about lists and numbers. And I’ll be honest: At the end of my first week of hardcore social distancing, I have no noteworthy accomplishments to log. Instead, my tallies mark out the rhythm of this life: the dollars I spend on takeout food. Fresh versus canned or frozen meals. Cashiers who tell me they think they have COVID-19 but can’t get tested (and the number of days since I encountered them, and the symptoms that might be allergies or the virus). Places I love that are closed to visitors. Hours sitting on grass, slapping at mosquitoes and gnats, while my dog wallows in mud and I wallow in angst. Items I don’t get to check off my to-do lists (okay, fine, they’re sticker charts; whatever motivates us, right?). Pages of the same anxieties written over and over in my journal. The number of times I catch myself staring blankly at the wall, trying to remember where I was going or what I was doing. The nights I never fall asleep. How many times I find myself weeping. How many times I yell. How many times I lose my words.
But my numbers also include the people I check in with every day. The precious minutes of FaceTiming so I can see beloved smiles. The excuses I find to leave the house. The brief exchanges with strangers that I used to take for granted and that now feel like lifelines. Every funny, kind, thoughtful, vulnerable, authentic e-mail and discussion board post from students. The resolutions I am making for my life to look and feel different when this is over than it did before. The steps to make those transformations real.
And most of all, I am trying to remind myself that although we don’t know how long this will last, every day we survive is one day closer to the end. Every day without human contact now adds to the duration of the hugs I’m going to give the people I love, when I finally get to see them without the medium of a screen, when we finally get to be together again.