Chronicles of a Grant Writer in the Time of Social Distancing — Week 14

June 17

Today was rough. I took off time from work on Monday and Tuesday because my daughter had surgery to repair her fractured leg. The surgery went well, but I knew I would be worn out and that I needed to be available to help my daughter even more than in the last couple of weeks. While she was relatively pain-free and increasing mobile last week, recovering from surgery has added another layer of (temporary) difficulty. While her pain has been manageable, and she has a good attitude about her recovery, I was still worn out today when I resumed working from home.

I knew that any progress I would make on work today would be slow and incremental, and that proved to be true, but I was successful in getting some things done — not too different from other first days back at work after a break — and hope to do more tomorrow.

At the same time, today was also one of those days when the frustrations of all being at home, invading each others’ space, was particularly difficult. For most of the weeks of online school my daughter spent the majority of each day in her bedroom on her video classes. Now, however, she is parked most of the day on the couch, just a few feet away from my husband’s home office. It’s not a sustainable situation, and in addition to being hopeful that my daughter will be able to gradually resume all of her regular activities, the rest of the family is beginning to feel that we really need her to be more mobile as quickly as possible so we can regain some personal space.

On the bright side, I am told that pain usually begins to subside on the third day after surgery, which is tomorrow. In addition, the surgeon indicated that as she feels able, my daughter can start to put some weight on the injured leg and to begin bending and straightening it a small amount to relieve stiffness. Just as I have since this working from home adventure began in mid-March, I am moving forward with cautious optimism. Things will get better in time, but the healing process feels long and difficult.

I know that everyone has their own sweet spot on the optimism/pessimism continuum for dealing with difficult situations. For some, cold, harsh perspectives help them strategize for getting through things. For others, focusing on best case scenarios is more comforting. As my readers will know, I lean heavily toward the side of optimism, but not to the point of being out of touch with reality. I am realizing as I think about my own thought processes (the very definition of meta?) that I am an incremental optimist. Rather than thinking big about all the great things that can happen, I try to see the little good things that happen every day. Soon, I tell myself, my daughter will be using her walker again without pain, as she did before the surgery. I know she won’t be running and dancing next week, but she will be stronger and more stable, making incremental progress to regaining full motion.

On the evening when my daughter was first injured, I could clearly see that she was hurt, but I doubted it could be anything serious. Within an hour or so, after trying icing, elevation, and Tylenol, I began to come to terms with the fact that something more serious than simple bruising had resulted from her fall. A part of me is still hurting that I didn’t immediately grasp what was going on. Clearly, no parent wants to deal with a serious injury because it’s awful to see a child in pain and, selfishly, it’s incredibly inconvenient to have to take care of a child who needs a lot of physical care. I am not concerned that we compromised her treatment, because within two hours, she was in the ER to treat an injury that was not life-threatening.

However, this experience is one of many that illustrates the pitfalls of blind optimism. When we calm ourselves in the face of difficult situations (my default response, rather than assuming the worst eventualities), and reassure ourselves that things are still globally going to be OK, we can’t ignore the urgent actions that need to be taken to address issues that are still quite serious. We are fortunate when there is clear guidance to responsibly tackling these issues. For an injured child, there are answering services for pediatricians and ERs open 24 hours. For public health crises, there is guidance about wearing masks, social distancing, hand-washing, and contact tracing.

Like a lot of people, I am fatigued by the necessary steps to combat the pandemic, and I want to believe that things will just get better on their own. However, the more critical side of me knows that there’s no denying the ongoing threat of the pandemic and the importance of continuing preventive measures, even if we doubt their efficacy, and even if we aren’t perfectly consistent in upholding them.

My daughter’s leg won’t magically heal, and COVID-19 is far from being totally gone, but following medical advice and daily, positive self-talk about optimistic news related to the virus will help us all get through this.

June 18

As some readers have surely surmised, the title of this blog series was inspired by the book “Love in the Time of Cholera” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It’s a book that had been on my “must read” list for a while, and I finally got around to reading it a few weeks ago. Because, if you’re going to live through a pandemic, it makes sense to have appropriate reading material, right?

It turns out that “Love in the Time of Cholera” doesn’t really deal directly with cholera, as in the main characters in the novel aren’t dying of the disease, it’s more of a backdrop and a metaphor. So, in that sense, I was a bit disappointed, and I was also disappointed by the love story that is central to the book. On the other hand, I was mesmerized by the gorgeous writing and the descriptions of a country that is presumably Colombia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with its complex social strata and racial politics. I also enjoyed the portrayals of deeply layered characters and relationships, though their colorful flaws also play to the aspects of the story line that I found disappointing.

As a consumer of literature, I was glad that I read the book, but as someone who also likes conventional happy endings I was disappointed. I was glad that last week I had the opportunity to share my thoughts on the book in the Bring Your Own Book club for my office, which met virtually last week. The group was part of the reason I decided to read this particular book, and it felt like a bit of closure to share my thoughts with my coworkers, whom I miss seeing in the office.

June 21

A brief update: my daughter’s pain level did indeed begin decreasing on Thursday, and she is now off pain meds, and slowing building strength and mobility. This is all a big relief, as providing care with daily activities is quite wearying for her parents. I keep reminding myself that we are fortunate that her injury was not worse, the surgery went well, and she is likely to completely recover. Really, it’s wonderful to know that she is not feeling pain, and it’s remarkable to see her improve a little bit each day. I hope when she is back to full mobility that we never take it for granted again.


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Susan Jablow, Free-lance Writer

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