Life As We Now Know It

June 2020
Written By: 
Ashley Daniels
Photographs by: 
Ashley Daniels

Finding the new normal among COVID-19

I just locked the bedroom door (my office) so I could write this and hear my thoughts over “Mommy!” being screamed out every five minutes from my three sons.

The view from here right now in my makeshift home office isn’t pretty, but it’s life. It’s life as we now know it in nearly every home worldwide—affecting nearly 8 billion people at some stage of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a new life that none of us asked to have. It’s a new life that began March 16, when schools were closed and homeschooling my sons at our kitchen counter commenced. It’s a new life that began when our church’s doors were closed through mid-May, the beaches in our backyard—my family’s sanctuary—are off-limits, and my husband’s job at US Foods has turned into life support for restaurateurs in how to survive post-pandemic because so many have been forced to shut down their dining rooms.

I think it’s not knowing when life will “restart,” when we can safely, legally return to public places and hug our extended family and friends, that scares me the most. Will we be social distancing for a month or the summer or longer? All I do know is that I need to take it one day at a time for the sake of my three sweet, healthy sons and my loving husband. And it’s because of not knowing the when that I need to.

What I See

When I watch the news, I see the front line of this battle to flatten the deadly curve of the coronavirus in the hands of all medical professionals. I see their dedication to saving lives. I see heroes at work and hope for tomorrow.

Here at home, I see the boys struggling to understand this normalcy of virtual friendships and classrooms, but also see their faces around the dinner table each night in place of a busy schedule of practices and my husband’s business trips. I see my eldest behind the stove, whose prior cooking experience was maxed at instant mac and cheese, taking orders from the family for fried eggs for breakfast and grilled cheese for lunch. I also see tears in the eyes of my eldest, who was turning 13 on April 26 and realizing he won’t be able to have his friends over to celebrate.

What I Hear

I hear the silence in our driveway that’s usually crowded with the tween boys in the neighborhood playing basketball with my sons. Parks, rec centers, now beaches are silenced everywhere from the coronavirus.

But I also hear the honking of horns from a car parade of middle school teachers as we stand in our driveway, and they drive by waving and flying balloons to show how much they love and miss their students.

What I Feel

Day to day, it’s up and down. Life has spun out of control from my everyday routine, where I was at the helm, and now I feel like I’m sinking.

At times, I feel overwhelmed with breaking up fist fights and refereeing arguments between my three sons, while trying to concentrate on work, reconfigure our budget and meal plans, and pray for our future. Other times, my heart is full with the simple thought of knowing they are alive and well, and their hugs and kisses are gentle reminders from God that life, post-pandemic, will be OK. My 4-year-old whispered to me yesterday, “Mommy, you’re my best friend.”

Someone compared this time to how one navigates through the stages of grief: from complete denial to anger that this is happening to bargaining, depression and acceptance. I’m definitely not at this last stage yet; I think I’m juggling all five at the same time.

What I Have Learned

While I’m still in the process of learning (because … pssst … we’re still in the thick of it), I vow to never forget what this pandemic has humbled me/taught me—and probably all of us. I will focus on the simple silence that gets muffled under the noise of busy, daily routines: hugs, snuggles and love. Love for my family, love for my neighbor. I won’t take my blessings for granted. And I won’t let the petty bullsh-t take over my center.