I’m feeling a little bit like Jane Villanueva in the Netflix series, Jane The Virgin, with frequent writer’s block or like I have a developing case of ADD. Lockdown in Spain has brought up so many feelings, experiences, reactions, worries, reliefs, desires and aversions over the past 11 weeks and every time I sit down and try to post something on this blog, I am hit with paralysis and exhaustion or a realization that I have already moved on to something new. Alas, I am going to attempt to compile as many of these feelings as possible in some semi-articulate and captivating post.
The initial impact of lockdown on our family and our remaining time here in Spain has triggered some grief. Just 11 weeks ago, we were relishing in how our kids were showing signs of growing attachments with friends, activities, and the Spanish language and culture. They had come such a long way through more than a year’s worth of huge adjustments and hurdles, finding their sense of belonging in a new and unfamiliar place. As lockdown took hold in March and our family’s isolation increased, their motivations to maintain their new attachments decreased and their desires to get back to American life with all its conveniences and materialisms took hold. Thanks to the insight and support of my colleagues, I now understand they have been trying to ground themselves in what is familiar in this very uncertain time.
Further into lockdown, George pointed out to me one day that we had been here in Spain for 642 days with only 42 days left, only 6.5% of our total time. What a way to wake me up to the many privileges we have had these past two years and to the need to be as present as possible for our remaining time. “We will never get this time again,” George expressed to me with tears in his eyes. I get it. But do I really? If I am honest with myself, I have been so caught up in the fears of the pandemic, the suffering of others, my grief over not doing enough as a community member, a social worker, and a parent, the academic success of my kids and their alternative ways of studying, not to mention their mental and physical well-being, my ability to be a compassionate spouse and our shared ability, as a family, to make this time in quarantine any fun at all. Despite the many COVID articles and poems I have read about the importance of resting during this time and just enjoying being together, my expectations of myself and my family have gotten out of hand. As resilient as I feel on the surface, I can’t deny my subconscious anxiety after having back to back dreams one night of accompanying Trump to an event while he turned into an Anaconda snake and volunteering to sit with a COVID patient while being denied any PPE.
To everyone’s relief I’m sure, my anxiety and expectations have deflated slightly in recent weeks. Meanwhile, George and I are sitting deeply with the many paradoxes of traveling back to the US, as we wait to see if our flights to Boston on June 24th stick. I miss our Seattle community terribly and I suppose a sense of belonging. In addition, it is hard to rationalize being so far away for much longer from family. Yet, I have such an aversion to returning to a culture and being governed by a system that feels inconsistent with my personal values and is ethically unacceptable. Never before have I questioned so much my loyalty to my home country. What does one do with that? Despite feeling safest right here in Spain and wanting to raise my children in a more peacefully diverse part of the world with affordable higher education and healthcare for all, we feel pulled back to the place we know. Are we missing an opportunity here to commit our family to what we believe to be a healthier lifestyle with cultural values more in line with our own? While our fellow expats are making choices to stay permanently in Spain but are only a 3-hour flight from their home countries, I realize that the decision to move here permanently, as Americans, with family and close friends half a world away, is a much bigger deal.
As I resist focusing on the NYT front page report on COVID statistics (reminicent of a Holocaust memorial) and photos of violent protests all over the US, a few things help bring me back to the present moment: the warmth of the Spanish sun; Quinton preparing and sharing lunch with me on the terrace; celebrating Hadley and Davis’ 13th birthdays, re-familiarizing ourselves with the narrow walkways through old town and sharing a coffee with friends by the sea after our lockdown restrictions start to lift, Davis handing out awards in the family for best COVID cookies and cake, a Monopoly war and no screens on Mothers’ Day, Quinton’s growing self-discipline with regards to both school and fitness; Hadley’s initiative to lead the family on an 8 mile hike along the coast without a single complaint; and Davis getting 100% on a school assignment after working through so many adjustments with online learning. All of this reminds me how life is a recipe made up of challenge and ease, good and bad, joy and the sorrow and rarely with one right answer. More often, it’s messy with many angles, offering several lessons to learn from or at least to chew on.