Adaptability

Week 10 of quarantine. The days are going by faster now. I no longer wonder whether we’ll make it through this time; I know in my heart that we will. Wow, we had no idea what we were in for back in mid-March when everything shut down. I was so excited back then just to get through St. Patrick’s Day. I made little green cutouts of the kids hands and put them up on the sliding glass door to the backyard…

That feels like an eternity ago. 

Other than missing friends and family, our new “normal” is quite lovely. Mornings are so much more relaxed! The kids are able to wake up whenever they’re ready. We have a leisurely breakfast. Nobody is running around like crazy people trying to get out the door on time. There’s a palpable sense of calm. Even as I sit here writing this, the sun is rising, my coffee is hot, and I am totally content. 

There’s no long commute to drive up our stress levels. We go for walks as a family over lunchtime. Coming “home” is even better. There’s no commute. The kids eat almost two hours earlier every day than they used to. They run up to Jon when he comes out of the office and yell “Daddy, Daddy!!” as if they haven’t seen him in years. It’s the sweetest thing ever. We get to spend time as a family in the evenings, going for walks, running around at the open field, playing in the backyard, playing games, or making popcorn and watching a movie. In our little bubble here in Walnut Creek, California, we are blessed to be healthy and safe, and life is truly ideal (meat shortages aside). 

The other morning the groceries were delivered and without missing a beat, I got my gloves on, got the spray out, sprayed everything down, wiped it up, and got it put away. I think I was even talking on the phone the whole time. Ten weeks ago this step of sanitizing the groceries brought me to tears and rocked my emotions for hours afterward. I couldn’t fathom a world where I had to spray down the kids box of Cheerios with Lysol before it was “safe.” 

It’s amazing how adaptable the brain is. It’s amazing how something that was so outside of the realm of possibility one day can become common practice just a few short weeks later. 

I remember feeling this way when my Dad had his heart attack ten years ago this June. My life was turned completely upside-down with a simple five-minute phone call from my sister. She said, “You have to come here to Oregon. Dad’s had a heart attack and it’s not likely he will make it.” My heart dropped through the floor of my office. Down, down, down it dropped to the core of the earth. I couldn’t believe the words I had just heard. Thankfully, it was before Rose and Dylan were born, so Jon and I were able to jump into action and were on a Southwest flight to Portland within the next two hours. I hated every second of that flight… It was the last one out for the night, eerily empty and overwhelmingly sad. I saw a shooting star as we drove over the Bay Bridge to get to the airport. I thought it was not a good sign, but I still wished with all my heart that my Dad would be okay when we got there. 

My Dad was not okay when we got there. A paramedic had done thirty minutes of CPR on him. Lord, bless that sweet soul. If it hadn’t been that man, on that day, I don’t know if my Dad would still be here with us today. My dad was still technically alive, but he had suffered severe brain trauma due to the lack of oxygen for so long. Doctors came in and out of the waiting room, talking to us in cryptic medical terms I wasn’t familiar with. “Damnit, why hadn’t I paid more attention in biology class” kept going through my mind. I had to keep asking them to stop and explain it more clearly for someone who didn’t have a PhD. Then we met my Dad’s main doctor, the man who saved my Dad’s brain. The one who made sure I still have a Dad who knows who I am. A Dad who remembers our camping trips and our family stories, and walking me down the aisle. He explained they were going to freeze my Dad for several days to help his brain shut down, essentially hibernate, and heal itself. Those days were the worst ones of my entire life. 

We stayed back at my Dad and his girlfriend Barb’s house. The daily routine was to wake up, shower, drive to the hospital, get a briefing on my Dad’s condition, and go in and talk to him (even though he never talked back). To pass the time in the waiting room we worked on puzzles. So many puzzles… Overnight my life had gone from being busy every second of the day between lighting shots for films, spending time with Jon and friends, and playing in a band — to nothing. Absolutely nothing. We were sitting in a hospital waiting room, listening to the tick of the clock, the horrible daytime tv on low volume, and puzzles. A seemingly endless stream of puzzles. 

But, miraculously, just as my Dad’s brain was adapting and healing, so was my own. And, by the second week, we had a routine. We knew where to go at the hospital. The doctors knew our names and said hello. We even started to find humor in the oddest ways, like when we told our Dad, he needed to wake up, or we would paint his toenails…or even get him breast implants! 🙂 

Eventually he did wake-up and though it wasn’t really my Dad, and yet at the time, he was alive. Hallelujah! I am also blessed to report that he has since gained back all of his memories. We are so incredibly fortunate.  

I remember even back then going through that horrible time thinking to myself how quickly life can change and similarly, how quickly we learn to adapt. 

Even if this time of Covid-19 feels like the hardest time of your life, you will learn to adapt. You will have a new “normal.” Millions of years of survival instinct is working in our brains right now. All of us are learning the new normal, adapting, making changes. Even the things that still feel completely abnormal now will probably normalize over the next few weeks. And eventually, maybe we’ll even be able to find humor in this situation someday… because we’re strong, because life does go on, because we’re wired to adapt. 

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