The AND List

My husband is a frontline healthcare worker in the small town where we live.  As scheduled months ago, he did not work this week.  When he goes back to work on Monday, we do not know what will happen from that point forward.  We watch the statewide numbers rise each day, and we can only assume what that means for our community.  Like many other families, we are talking through difficult scenarios which involve things like how and when to isolate my husband from the rest of us and childcare if we both become severely ill.  We worry about the worldwide struggle for healthcare workers to obtain personal protective equipment, but we feel inspired by the number of people coming together to try to help. 

In the midst of us trying to prepare our family life for the range of likely possibilities, necessary calls, emails, texts, and updates have frequently interrupted.  We feel like we now live in a strange dichotomy between the virus and what we can piece together of normal life.  The often rapid shift between the two and the resulting emotions challenges our coping skills.

Many years ago, while helping me learn to manage anxiety, a psychologist taught me to use the word “and” during difficult times, and that word has helped me this week.  Instead of stopping and shutting down with whatever big emotion and situation I am dealing with, I acknowledge it and then add “and”.  The past week has presented many opportunities for me to practice using this tool.

I feel afraid that my husband will get sick due to the shortage of protective equipment, AND we will have a picnic in the backyard for lunch.

I feel overwhelmed by what I will need to manage alone if my husband is unavailable in the upcoming weeks and months, AND we will make s’mores over a campfire after dinner.

I feel unnerved by the empty shelves I see at the grocery store, AND we will spend the afternoon blowing bubbles.

I feel short on time to get the needed things completed, AND we will campout in the tree house tonight.

I feel consumed by discussions of the difficult, AND we will watch the stars from the hammock after the kids fall asleep.

I feel angry that we cannot go on the family vacation we planned, AND we will play boardgames, eat popcorn, and watch movies together.

I feel lonely because we cannot visit those we love, AND we will make up silly plays and puppet shows to share on video calls.

I feel sad because my life has changed in ways that I did not plan and cannot control, AND I will see how far I can jog in the beautiful spring weather today.

The story I hope to tell when this pandemic finally ends, and the one I hope my kids remember most, is:  

There was this virus, parts of life challenged us and the world, AND…

I hope that my AND list fills the page.

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