I feel so helpless. That is the main takeaway from these days of rapidly shifting news. (Warning. This post may not be  helpful to anybody. Remember the line from the Marlo Thomas song in the seventies? “Some kind of help is the kind of help we all could do without.”)

In a literal way my husband and I are helpless. We are confining ourselves, on strict orders from our kids, because we are members of the most vulnerable population. In the other sense of “helpless,” we can’t go out and help anybody else. If anything, we must be helped. This is Day Five of our radical sheltering-in-place.

It is easy to see ways we could help if we weren’t so hogtied. Our son is sick. (He is a doctor but can’t get tested for corona because there aren’t enough tests.) If we weren’t self-isolating we could help our daughter-in-law by going there, cooking, helping with the kids.

Normally we would help Ben by taking him to the bank, to the Social Security office, to the BMV, to the Chicago ICE check-in March 31 unless that is called off. I worry that, as his sponsors, we can’t help him enough in these first weeks of his freedom and adjustment because we have to protect ourselves.

Normally we would help our daughter, who is still seeing clients (who knows how long that will last), by taking her kids for a while because they’re out of school. Not going to happen.

There are other ways I could imagine being helpful if I let myself, but I have stopped trying because so many of my usual ways of being helpful are closed off.

A friend says, but you have words. Well, I don’t have many of them. There are no words for this situation. I don’t have perspective. I am afraid for the first time. Afraid that it will stretch out far longer than three weeks (the first estimate) or two months (the second estimate), all the way to “when there is a vaccine”—i.e. 12 to 18 months. A year to a year-and-a-half of economic and social collapse, repeated isolation, and uncertainty, to say nothing of spreading illness and death. It’s as if the virus, my own personal mortality, is the least of my worries. But my personal vulnerability is tied in with everything else.

I do not trust anybody who comes up with answers too quickly or thinks they understand what is happening and what will happen. I do not trust anyone who puts an ideological spin on all of this. I do not trust government to make all the decisions, although the more draconian the measures taken by government, the more I trust them. At this point I don’t believe in pushing limits.

To boot, I am feeling dizzy, tired, sniffly, “off.” Maybe this post is a reflection of that. Please do not try to console me.

Humor is ok, the blacker the better. Here is some. My husband ventured out last evening to pick up dinner from our favorite Chinese restaurant, which we intend to keep in business though dine-in is now verboten in our state. Dinner came with fortune cookies. Mine said, “Challenge yourself in unconventional ways.” Okkk-kayy. Vic, who is managing our investment portfolio as the market crashes, opened his cookie and found nothing. Get it? No fortune. How’s that for a message?

Now. Let me mope a bit. Thank you.

4 thoughts on “Help

  1. The only real hope is to embrace hopelessness. There is an odd comfort in giving up hope. Somehow it brings us into the present reality. And confronts us with one of life’s great paradoxes: In castatrophe, we find joy right here, right now. Elders, we need to show the young’uns how to do it.

  2. As persons who gives assistance to family, in the broad and local sense, it feels most frustrating to not be free to do so. We must put aside our assistance and maybe ASK for assistance….. a very new learning curve for many of us!
    Be well, stay in touch and clean the keyboard frequently!

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