Thought for the Day:
Don’t judge other people for the choices they have to make when you don’t know what options they had to choose from.
Question for the Day:
Are you worrying more about what others do than what you need to do for yourself?
I fully anticipate that this post may go left, so I’m prepared for some backlash even though I urge folks to hear me all the way out before rushing to judgement. The issue of quarantine is a complicated one for me and I admittedly have mixed feelings. One one hand, I’m just as frustrated by the whole COVID debacle as everybody else and at this point, the entire pandemic, Trump, and all these fools hosting coronavirus parties can meet me outside! This virus has foiled my plans to see Martin Lawrence live, the Set it Off stage play, cancelled my sorority’s 100 year anniversary celebration, and thwarted my plans to take another stab at Disney World this summer. I want this mess GONE which is why I do what I have to do to keep myself and my family safe. Anytime I have to be in public, I wear my mask (and sometimes gloves), use sanitizer, wipe down surfaces before touching them and maintain social distancing standards.
Yet on the other hand, as a therapist, I know that locking down at home for an extended period of time without any mental, emotional or social outlet has it’s own set of consequences. Though I understand quarantine is the most effective way to flatten the curve, I’ve also seen how it has the potential to create crisis in one’s personal life and negatively impact one’s mental well-being. So, although I believe in being safe and protecting my community, when it comes to staying home ALL the time….
Now, before y’all rush to burn me at the stake, be reminded that I’m an essential employee. As a mental health clinician, I’ve worked through this entire pandemic and have actually been busier than most of the people I know who work in other fields. So, perhaps it’s because I haven’t really slowed down much, outside of mandated quarantine, that explains why I’ve gotten used to making the necessary adjustments to live life as normally as possible. Despite the occasional side eye, I’ve continued to do the things that I enjoy when allowed including taking a recent vacation to Florida. Now, I’m not trying to brag and come off as if I’m defying the system. I don’t want to be lumped in with all the fake civil rights activists attempting to make their last stand in their losing battle for supremacy by refusing to wear masks. In fact, everyone who doesn’t wear a mask or social distance is nothing more than a privileged brat who can’t tolerate being told what to do. That’s not me, and as long as COVID rages, the mask is a friend of mine.
What is true is that I’ve made the conscious decision to take care of my own safety in all situations. If I have to go to work, the post office, the grocery store, and the gas station regardless of the virus, then I’m also going to engage in activities that I enjoy regardless. I therefore accept that there are certain precautions I’ll have to take in order to make those choices responsibly. The way I see it, the power to stay safe is up to me. Whatever I have to do to stay safe in the Dollar General is the same thing I’ll do at the beach. As a therapist, protecting my mental health is paramount because I absorb the pain and anxieties of others all day long. Not having an outlet and moving strictly between seeing clients and quarantining at home is a recipe for my own mental breakdown. Add to that the fact that I have a husband with two jobs in the medical field, a child home from college and two other teenagers home schooling and arguing over durags and toilet paper, and it becomes nearly impossible to give myself a mental break. I also know, I’m not alone.
I realized during quarantine that I was burning the candle at both ends and needed to allow myself some type of respite. So much to some folk’s chagrin, and even after I’d shot a PSA video with some colleagues urging folks to stay home, (my bad ladies) when things opened back up, I was all about it! I got my hair done, got a pedicure, got a massage, and even attended a march and protest against racial injustice. One could argue that all of that was unnecessary. Yet, if you understood the toll it takes to be a therapist in the midst of COVID-19 while being a wife and mom and managing my own fears in the face of of this pandemic, you might not be so quick to judge.
Now unlike the nuts I see partying on the beach in swimming pool sized petri dishes, I’m always careful. I respect that my choice to be in public means that I am also making choices for anyone else I come in contact with and I don’t take that responsibility lightly. However, I still feel shamed when I’m doing something other than “essential business” and frankly, it’s aggravating. Even if you judge me and tell me that my pedicure is “unnecesary” (which I beg to differ), please don’t make the mistake of labeling everyone who’s out and about as irresponsible, selfish or unconcerned about the safety of others because the fact is, many people do not have a choice!
Quarantining in one’s home for more than a couple of weeks is simply not feasible for everybody and assuming that someone has that option is often a reflection of privilege. Most blue collar laborers or entry level workers are cleaning buildings, stocking shelves, cashing you out at the market, or working in factories that make the products we rely on when we want our personal quarantine experience to be comfortable. It’s the mid-level or higher positions that usually have the option to work from home and even then, if you have children, it’s more than a notion. Trying to attend a Zoom meeting in the middle of your toddler’s meltdown or with your teenager rapping in the next room, is not going to be workable for long.
Bottom line, while you’re waving your finger and chastising people for not staying home, remember the single mother with multiple children and multiple jobs that can’t stay home and will always need a place for her children to go while she earns a living. Remember the clinically depressed person who could become increasingly unstable and even suicidal without regular outings and some sort of social contact. Consider the small business owner who needs customers to maintain their bookstore, coffee shop or hair salon because their entire life savings and livelihood is on the line. Think about the people like myself who work hard everyday to take care of everyone else and just need to maintain a little something for ourselves so we can live to love, fight, and serve another day.
Many of us are not irresponsible, but simply in need of things beyond the confines of quarantine to stay safe. Yes, our physical safety is critical, but don’t forget that the absence of mental, emotional, and financial safety can have equally devastating consequences. I know everyone is looking for somebody to blame for where we are as a nation, but don’t let it be the people who may not have the options you have or whose needs may differ from your own. As long as folks are wearing their masks, practicing social distancing, and doing their best to protect themselves and others, stop worrying about what they do. Just like they tell you on an airplane, before you try to help someone else, make sure you secure your own mask first.
“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgement.”