This past week has been a whirlwind of activity and emotions. One week ago today, our younger children—one a high school senior and the other a sophomore—went to school expecting a return for one more day that week and then a two-week break from school, including their spring break. By mid-day, they and we had been notified that our district’s schools were closed indefinitely.
Almost ten days ago, our church’s leadership under the advice of an ad hoc health committee decided to shutter the church for one week (two Sundays and one Wednesday night along with church sponsored activities for that week). This past Friday we were notified that the church will close indefinitely, with Zoom meetings occurring for committees, children and youth ministries, and Sunday School classes.
The word had not meant much to me before this past week. Indefinite appeared in my vocabulary but rarely capturing the vagueness it has now. I know my children will go back to school . . . one day. I know we will gather in the church building again . . . one day. But unlike so much of our preparedness for disruption to our lives, the end remains indistinct, unconnected from our sense of time.
Do schools remain closed until the infection curve flattens or next year? That means our oldest will not finish, in the true coming-of-age sense, his senior year of high school. If like China, we work through five months of “fighting” the virus before we get an all-clear, that would put us into August and new school year. It is this vagueness that I think gets at my unease with the word indefinite.
The coronavirus has striped us of normalcy without the usual pieces to remind us that the crisis is not over. We still have electricity. We have hot water and a roof over our heads. We can go to the store to get supplies, which means we still have food. Other than my children being at home there was little in our daily lives last week that reminded us that life had changed. Except the daily counts of new infections that jumped in Georgia by exponentially in a matter of twenty-four hours for more than six days in a row and counting. There are state of emergency orders and closing of public places, but there are no visible signs for us. There are people who have experienced this virus too close to home, but for many of us right now, that it not the case. So we attempt to carry on in the everydayness of lives but that feels illusory.
The indefinite status of our lives is a testament to the power of that microprobe. We worry about “those immigrants” or that aggressive nation. We try to prepare for terrorist attacks or build a larger army. The thing that ground us to a halt and disrupted our lives is something we cannot see and does not discriminate in ways we often do. The virus will run its course and we will be in a new space mentally and emotionally, but when we arrive is not yet clear.