Guilt Trips

I promise I’ll get back to some suggestions for returning to school later this week!

I’ve seen it everywhere lately: don’t forget about self-care. As an ally, as an educator, as a human surviving a pandemic. I know I have taken time to do a few things for myself already. It has looked like this:

  • Playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons (by myself, with friends, with my husband…)
  • Cooking and Baking
  • Catching up on all the Netflix and Disney+ shows I thought I’d never have time for
  • Cross-stitching

But if you look at my pre-COVID-19 self-care it looks more like this:

  • Binging a Netflix/Disney+ show
  • Traveling to see my family

I am so privileged to have a large family I love and enjoy spread out across the country. I’ve lived in five states and visited 33 to see cousins, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. But living in Washington, traveling to visit family during a pandemic just wasn’t possible. Even after moving to Virginia (five hours south of my parents and brothers), it was still very unwieldy. So what do you do?

First test trip was in May. I brought masks, Clorox wipes, and gloves for the car. I learned that I can make it from my apartment to my parents’ on one tank of gas (barely). It was doable, but no self-care routine over the years has made me feel as guilty as this one now. I had prided myself on following all the scientific guidelines, reducing my exposure to others, and then risking it all to see my family in person? Was it worth it even with the guilt? My mental state said yes while I was there and when I returned home, but those frantic hours in the car said otherwise.

The last week has been the biggest guilt trip (pun fully intended): a trip to the Upper Peninsula with my family. We’d planned it in January after my grandmother passed to wrap up her estate and as a farewell to what we call the Little House. When the pandemic hit, I immediately assumed this would get canceled or my aunt would go alone, but as the months went by, plans were finalized, a house was rented, and my family was going. So…was I?

I did go. I thought about flying and then canceled my tickets when I saw the outbreaks from the Atlanta-based Delta flights. I drove.

Fifteen hours. Virginia to the far edge of the Upper Peninsula. Thank goodness I love singing and being a one-woman show in my car! But hotels were now terrifying. Each gas station used up one of my very few gloves. No stopping at favorite restaurants or visiting friends as I stuff snacks in my mouth with a hand on the wheel. Road trips are different now.

I’m writing this on the other end of the trip, in a hotel so I can finish up some graduate work before the due date (I have been, and probably will always be, a procrastinator). The time I spent with my family was some of the most stress-relieving time I have had since March, but I couldn’t tell you if I had to do it over if I would do it all again. I’ll quarantine when I get home and not leave the apartment and I’ll miss every moment I spent in sunshine in a lawnchair, sitting around a campfire, talking in a pavilion.

Maybe I just need a bigger balcony.

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