The convoy of decorated cars passes us slowly, horns blaring. I glance at my son. The Star Wars mask my friend made for him covers the smile I see spread through his eyes. My own mask covering my nose fogs my glasses, hiding my tears. There is a tightening in my chest as I am overwhelmed by this small silver lining in a quarantine cloud.
This year, this long, lonely, terrifying year, cast a shadow I can’t shake over every single aspect of my life. Each day I fight with myself.
Get up. Be strong. You can do this.
Each night I toss and turn as my daily failures pile up on top of my growing anxieties.
You should have gone out today. You should have had more patience with the kids. You should have organized your schedule better. You should have been happy. You are so stupid you can’t see how lucky you are.
Because I am lucky. I have a job. I am healthy. I have amazing healthy children. I have great friends. I have a partner I can share everything with.
Yet… I’m drowning, and I don’t know why.
I am resilient. I am powerful. I have beaten monsters in the dark. I have survived.
Maybe if it was just me swimming against this current, I’d find the stroke to get me there, but I am pulling my kids up with me, and I don’t have the strength to do it alone. So every night, I torment myself, wondering if any light will shine through this shadow or if this is forever the color of the sky.
Then I get a text in one of the many WhatsApp groups I am forced to scroll through daily to keep me feeling like I have some idea of what my children are learning.
We miss you, so we came!
Dear Asif Community,
This coming Wednesday, starting at 14:00, the Asif staff convoy will pass through several streets in the neighborhood to make the children happy from the balconies,
Please leave it as a surprise for the kids. Just make sure to participate!
We’ll be happy to see you waving back at us.
I take a break from work, pack lunch and coerce my unwilling children to go outside for a picnic in the park. This feels like another task for me to do, something to add to my overflowing plate and push me over the edge. I bite back my resentment and chide my inner cynic. We are only halfway through the day, and I am already beating myself up.
We’ve finished our sandwiches when the beeping starts. I grab my son’s hand and pull him to the sidewalk as we hear the call for all the children of Asif to come out and say hello.
Now here I stand, crying as the staff at my son’s school drives past us with signs that say “we miss you,” “we’re thinking of you,” and “we love you.” I look at my son and see his face brighten, and suddenly the weight of carrying him all alone has been lifted, and I can heave us up through another day.
I am not alone, I add to my nightly mantra.
I wake up with a smile on my face.
Get up. Be strong. You can do this. You are not alone. We can do this.
And the silver lining in this quarantine cloud pierces through the shadows, letting through a shining glimmer of hope.