40 Days and 40 Nights

Today marks 40 days of living in my personal Ark in Harlem. I’ve been keeping a quarantine journal to document this weird time and this morning, I thought about Noah. I wrote about him in “Sunday School for Sinners & Saints” but today, I feel like Noah is me. And you.

Perhaps this is what might’ve Noah felt like, trapped on a boat with nowhere to go. Talk about being self-isolated. Just him and his family, rocking back and forth with no real end (or dry land) in sight. It sounds an awful like the bulk of our existences at the moment, does it not? Just us. Inside. Waiting. Tired of playing the same card games. Tired of looking at the same people. Tired of animal stink. Tired of the monkeys screeching into the night out of boredom. Tired of those monkeys waking up the lions who were sound asleep, causing them to roar out of aggravation. Tired of those roars scaring the zebras who have PTSD from the last time they heard that angry sound in the wild. It’s a cacophony of tired, irritable, bored creatures. In the words of Barbara Walters, “This…is 2020.”

You know who wouldn’t be fazed by being isolated? The bears. The bears would look at this as an opportunity to simply burrow under a blanket, go to bed, and wake up once it was all over. They’d been training their whole lives for this. They’re the introverts of the animal community. If I did that, if I took my bear self and hid under a blanket until this was all over, I’d be diagnosed with clinical depression. But oh to be that bear, hibernating, patiently and peacefully resting until the storm passes, dreaming of rainbows in the sky.

I’m confident there will be rainbows again.

I’ve loved seeing people all over the world coloring, painting, and printing out rainbows to hang in their windows as a sign they will stay inside to keep their friends, family and neighbors safe. It’s also the same sign of hope written about in the story of Noah. It’s a loud, beautiful, prismatic declaration written across the sky that this hardship will pass and we will be safe. It feels unending at the moment, especially if you’re in a city like New York, but it will end. Eventually.

In the story of Noah, he and the fam were on that boat for the better part of six months waiting for the flood to recede enough for them to leave their isolation and start anew. Sure we focus on the 40 days and nights of rain but after that, there were months of waiting. So many families are feeling the tightness of being bunkered together with no escape or reprieve. School at home, creating something to do during hours they’d never had to create for before, fielding the inevitable tantrums of internally confused and frustrated kids (and adults) whose routines have been not just disrupted, but obliterated. So we bake. We draw. We record songs and videos. We chat. We read. We reach out. We go for a walk, masked like superheroes or vigilantes. But we still have to return to our global common denominator: our Arks of isolation.

There’s no cute way to downplay how difficult this is.

Many are approaching or have reached critical mass when it comes to the amount they’re dealing with and this extends much further and much deeper than juggling kids or partners or dogs or work or wondering where your next paycheck will come from or all of the above. If you struggle with depression, anxiety, food issues, addiction, body image issues, or loneliness, this moment of isolation can be a lava pit with nowhere to land. There’s also the lie of busyness; the notion we have to create and do and accomplish because “this is the perfect opportunity to _______.”

Let’s also not discount the amount of grieving taking place. Some people haven’t been able to articulate it as such yet, but the other epidemic plaguing our world at the moment is grief. Grieving moments and plans and vacations and jobs and experiences and coffee talks that can’t take place as we envisioned they would. As we knew they would. We are grieving our routines; the everyday activities we never imagined would be stripped from us. We’re grieving the idea of normalcy we’ve always known. The definition of “normal” was changed on us and we’re thrown by it. We’re grieving being sure. Some of us are also grieving the loss of people we knew who died from this virus. It all adds up to a loud, stormy mess.

I’m hopeful we won’t be trapped for as long as Noah & Co. because quite frankly, I began my fight against descending into a stir-crazy existence around day 20, but today, I’m choosing hope. I’m making the choice to be hopeful for the new day to come. I don’t know when and every time I see the news, I become a bit more discouraged, but the flood will recede.

So from me and the other animal in my Ark, my dog Joey, stay safe, stay home, over-tip your delivery people, listen to “Rainbow” by Kacey Musgraves, reach out when the gremlins of loneliness or depression start to claw their way over your shoulder, and do what you can to remain hopeful. This storm will pass.

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