I think that perhaps the best way to understand my situation in Corona, and I am sure many others as well can relate, is like this.
There is a famous story about a poor man who goes to his rabbi complaining about how packed his very small cottage is with six kids, a wife, and in-laws. He says it’s a madhouse, always yelling, screaming, a mess and he can’t take it anymore. The rabbi then tells him to put a chicken in his home. Surprised, the man goes home and diligently listens to his rabbi. The situation gets worse. He goes back to the rabbi yelling it’s even harder now. The rabbi tells the man to bring a goat into his house. The man does as he’s told. The story goes on and on like this… “ add a rooster, add a donkey” and finally, the rabbi says “bring your cow into your home.”
With the home completely upside down, he runs to the rabbi and says he can’t stand it for one more minute. As he’s crying from sorrow and pain the rabbi says, “Okay my son. Now remove the chicken, goat, rooster, donkey, and cow from your home.” The next day, the man comes to the rabbi, “Thank you, Rabbi! What a pleasure the house is so quiet, so clean, so peaceful!”
That’s Corona. It was already hard before it started – then pandemic and chaos were brought into my home and now that it’s finally leaving, and I can go back to the norm. I hope I will be the “fool” who says, “What a relief!”
Both kids are going back to school tomorrow.
There is plenty of inspiration and “look at the positive side” vibes going around social media about these last two months. So if you are looking for more of that, stop reading.
I want to be real, raw and honest. I want to share what I didn’t learn, didn’t accomplish, and didn’t succeed in the past two months. And I want to say: it was not fun.
I was in quarantine a full two weeks before the rest of the country caught up because I was at AIPAC at the beginning of March. I was told I couldn’t attend our annual Purim Seudah, I was not allowed to go into shul to hear megilla and I was pissed.
The best way to explain how Corona hit me, piece by piece, is like the water that dripped into the rock that inspired Rabbi Akiva to change his ways. Every day, the water – drip- drop- drip- drop- made a hole in my brain until one day I woke up and thought, “OMG. This is serious *&$#!”
But it took a few weeks, I admit.
I went from rolling my eyes at people to wiping tears from my eyes out of fear. I began finding out about people in my life who were sick — and people I knew who died. I started following the numbers, in NY and of course in Israel.
My list of names of people to pray for got longer and longer and of course, my work-world turned upside down with Eli Beer in the hospital in Miami. I became panic-struck and I knew that if my sister, who has pulmonary disease, or my mother, who has an autoimmune disease, or my 93-year-old grandmother, or my father with his health issues — if any of them caught it, it would be very scary.
I was so worried about them and everyone I knew. I began to realize there were two types of people: people who knew people suffering, dying or dead from COVID-19, and people who didn’t. And the second category of people was living very different COVID-19 pandemic quarantine lives than I was.
So the first thing I didn’t learn in Corona was how not to panic. I panicked.
Then, of course, there was the opportunity to learn new languages, learn classes online, learn Torah sheurim, learn new yoga moves, learn to play an instrument, and learn new recipes. You know what I learned? I learned how to pretend to have the biggest stomach ache in the world so that I can get “stuck in the bathroom” just to have a 10-minute break of quiet. I learned that you don’t shovel while it’s still snowing so there was no point in cleaning up the mess. I learned that I have no idea how to really clean and I am dependent on my cleaning help. I learned that shopping online is an art. I learned that eggs are a rare and beautiful object to possess. I learned that Netflix for kids is another way G-d shows me His love. I learned that I wasn’t going to be able to use this time to learn anything new or anything at all.
I didn’t succeed to relax, calm down, talk softly, have 1:1 quality time with my kids, look at the positive or just have a que sera sera attitude. I cried a lot. I slept a lot to escape. I let the kids watch a lot of TV. I cooked minimally and used disposable dishes whenever I could.
I didn’t succeed at winning mother of the year, teacher of the year, wife of the year, or worker of the year. I did the minimal amount of each of those jobs and some point my mantra was: “Don’t bother to swim. Just tread and don’t drown.”
Yes, I did homeschool, but at my pace with the things I wanted to teach them on their levels — not what the teachers were assigning. I couldn’t keep up with their Zooms, WhatsApp groups and Google classroom emails. We have one laptop, no printer, and it just wasn’t possible. I also had to work all the time on that same laptop — because my job didn’t slow down. In fact, it sped up with Corona and Eli Beer being sick, so no I didn’t learn how to elegantly balance mom, teacher, wife and digital media manager at United Hatzalah.
I didn’t succeed in making homemade anything, I didn’t accomplish the picture of what I wanted Corona to look like, I didn’t do a 1,000 piece puzzle with my kids, have a dance-off, go camping in the backyard, make funny movies or have a karaoke night. I woke up, prayed to get through another day without losing my sanity, and then proceeded to do so.
The kids were so difficult. The job was so taxing. The house was always a mess. I didn’t have an office or a private space of my own. I still have not written thank you cards from my wedding or organized my picture albums online to print. I gained tons of weight. And it was rough. Every. Single. Day.
Depressed yet? Feeling sorry for me? Alright…alright… I will give you some things I did learn, accomplish, and succeed during Corona, just so you don’t think I am a complete pessimist.
I learned that prayers work and miracles do happen — Eli Beer being my prime example.
I learned that G-d creates the relief to a disaster before the pandemic even hits; I got married exactly one year before this started to the most wonderful man and without him, I would have not been able to get through this period. (Refuah Lifnei Hamakah)
I succeeded in taking long walks through the hills of Bat Ayin a few times a week and breathing in beautiful air with insanely gorgeous views.
I spoke to my many family members often on video calls — or I tried very hard.
I kept up with my workload — more or less.
My kids were never hungry, dirty, or neglected.
My husband and I are still madly in love and I think we only had two arguments. And one wasn’t even real.
I played games and did crafts with my kids — when I could.
I watched Netflix with them to make it a “family moment” instead of free babysitting — sometimes.
We did a nice amount of schoolwork each day — although it wasn’t what the teachers asked for.
We got through Pesach and made our first seder and even made it fun!
We did spend a lot of time together; if quantity counts more than quality.
I also learned to ask for help and when certain aspects became too much, I received loving outside help.
In any case, the most important thing I accomplished was that I survived. The most important thing I learned is that we are all human and one can start his/her day over at any time. And the most important thing I succeeded was to create some, again, probably only some, happy memories from these two months indoors with my family.