From the Multnomah Lawyer: At Home During Challenging Times

In the span of 10 days, we have all embarked on a sudden transition into our homes and ourselves. Doctors believe that COVID-19 can have dramatically different symptoms for different people, and certainly this period of shutdown/lockdown/quarantine is manifesting itself in our daily lives and in our psyches in drastically different ways. My 17-year-old stepson is indignant that his family is his sole social outlet for who knows how long, my self-employed carpenter husband is nervous about the economic impact, my kids have quickly acclimatized and now just want to live in the treehouse, and I have to admit that, with every work deadline and kid activity that was canceled, I felt an increasing sense of liberation. For me, puzzles are the hallmark of a useless activity that we DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR! And as I write this, my family is happily gathered around a card table with a 1,000-piece puzzle. The heavy part is acknowledging that we have it so good.

Small businesses are shuttering their doors and many will not reopen. Solo practitioners are wondering how long they can stay afloat without business. People are losing their jobs. The “gig economy” is either dwindling away, or suddenly demanding a daunting exposure risk that the rest of us are avoiding. People in retirement homes, prison and, the state hospital are no longer allowed to have visitors and video visits (at least in prison) are cost prohibitive or impractical for most. Close living quarters and generally inadequate medical care is compromising the health of thousands of people in jails. For people living in congregate, institutional settings, social isolation is a luxury totally outside their control. Elderly people and people with disabilities often don’t have the support networks to get their basic needs met while homebound. Healthcare workers are on the front lines without adequate protective equipment. Many people are sick and more will become sick in the coming weeks.

I have been telling my kids that they will tell their kids how they lived through the COVID-19 pandemic, a public health event unprecedented in our lifetimes. I wonder what historic changes are being ushered in right now? This moment marks the collective realization that we actually can drastically alter our lifestyles overnight. We can stop driving. Many of us can work from home. We can indulge in extended hours of leisurely family time. We can subsist on whatever we were able to scavenge from the scant supplies at the grocery store.

Hardships imposed, mostly on poor people, by government and corporate systems, which seemed so intractable, have suddenly evaporated. It turns out that many of people in jail really don’t need to be locked up. The convention center will be repurposed to provide shelter. Evictions have been halted. Utilities have committed to not disconnect services.

Let’s pause to notice that in big and small ways, machines (both actual and socioeconomic) are grinding to a halt. We are experimenting with a global elimination diet (that’s when you stop eating everything, and then slowly reintroduce one food at a time), and when this passes, we’ll have a rare opportunity to be intentional about whether we revert back to business as usual. Maybe my family will stay involved in COVID-19 prompted mutual aid networks, but we’ll also scale back on some of the activities that make our family life feel so hectic. Maybe the current scarcity of pantry and bathroom staples will make us more conscious of our consumption and waste. Maybe the aerial photos of air pollution before and after quarantine will remain in our minds as evidence of the collective impact of individual actions. Maybe we will more deeply value the people we haven’t been able to see and touch. Maybe climate change and homelessness will resonate as emergencies that warrant dramatic action.

I wish you and your loved ones health and stamina during this walk through uncharted and uncertain territory. I’ve never felt so insecure and yet, so - literally - at home.

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