Saturday, March 28

I’ve always been the opposite of a germaphobe.

I’ve always encouraged my kids to get dirty. We don’t buy antibacterial soap. I don’t take my kids to the doctor unless they are extremely ill. I avoid taking antibiotics or letting my family take them unless it’s a last resort. With a family of six, I pretty much assume we will eventually get whatever illness is going around, and I don’t mind because I believe it makes our immune system stronger.

But today, I was thinking about the spread of germs in a way that I have not done before.

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Like many people, we have reached the point in our social distancing that we’ve decided to do some long-delayed home improvement projects. We wanted to paint our upstairs bathroom, and remodel the girls’ rooms. They were 4- and 9-years-old when we moved into this house so they’ve both outgrown the colors and styles of their rooms.

Because Target and Home Depot are still open, we decided to venture out and pick out some new bedding and paint colors. I think this is the first time I’ve been in a store in the past two weeks. My husband and sons have been willing to pick up any groceries that we needed so I’ve barely even driven a car.

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Both stores were full of people. We noticed the signs asking people to stay at least six feet from other shoppers. And we were grateful for the employees wiping down all of the carts so we didn’t have to. But honestly, there were enough people in the aisles that it was difficult to keep our distance.

“I just touched my eye!” I told my daughters, suddenly aware of all of the germs that were around us. “I can’t believe I touched my eye!”

My youngest daughter picked up a few things we didn’t need and then returned them to the shelf. “Stop touching things!” I admonished her. I analyzed everyone around me for any signs that they might be ill. I’ve never been so aware of the potential for the spread of germs.

“I wish we could just see the germs…” I told the girls.

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People are referring to this time of social distancing as a “quarantine.” The reality is that for most of us, we aren’t even close to being in quarantine. We are avoiding other people as much as possible, but we still leave our homes.

I’ve never seen so many people in my neighborhood going for walks everyday. People are out walking dogs that we’ve never even seen before. We often come across people we know, and we are so excited that we can’t resist stopping to have a conversation.

If it’s OK to talk to someone during a walk, is it also OK to plan to go for a walk with someone we know?

Our dog plays with a few other dogs most mornings. I stand a few feet away from the other dog moms. But the dogs are wrestling and drinking from the same bowl. I read that dogs can carry the virus in their fur, which means that if another family has the virus, they could give it to their dog who could give it to my dog, who could give it to me.

If it’s OK to go to Meijer for groceries, is it also OK to go to Target for a comforter? And if it’s OK to go to Target, is it OK to wait in the paint line at Home Depot?

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(Look how fancy they are making Target, by the way!)

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I read that we should think of our family unit as one individual. If any one member of our family is exposed to a member of another family, then my family is exposed to that family, as well as anyone they might have come into contact with.

For some reason, I feel less threatened if I am friends with the people I’m in contact with. But I don’t know where my neighbors have been or a friend I encounter on a walk. What stores have they been in? Who did they talk to on their walk? And what about the guy at home depot mixing my paint? I probably touched the paint can that he touched before I was able to wipe it down.

I’m not used to thinking about germs in this much detail!

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It gets really crazy when I start thinking about food. We’ve gone through a drive-thru a few times in the past week. I have no idea who was preparing our food or who that person was in contact with. Did the barista at Starbucks cough before I pulled up to the window?

What about the guy in the back of the meat counter at Costco? He is cutting and processing meat all day long. I don’t know where he’s been or who he’s been around.

When I allow myself to start thinking about all of the potential to spread germs, it can start to drive me crazy. If all of us are going to take this seriously, then we should not go out in public at all unless absolutely necessary to keep from starving.

But then again, we could pick up a germ in the most random, unlikely way. Maybe the postal worker coughed right before putting our mail in the box. It feels like it’s impossible to completely protect ourselves, so how hard should we even try?

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All of these swirling thoughts have been making me think about how we think about life, in general. Do we take it seriously enough?

We all know that eventually we are going to die. We know if could happen when we are 90, or it could happen tomorrow. And yet, we go along, buying paint at Home Depot, planning DIY projects, binging our life away on Netflix, as if it won’t really impact us.

We spend so much time thinking about what makes us happy in the moment. I WANT to paint a bedroom. I NEED a coffee from Starbucks. I choose to ignore a WORLDWIDE PANDEMIC because I don’t want to disrupt what I want to do today.

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Ugh. I have a lot of intense thoughts on my mind today. In the end, whether I’m thinking about this virus or the bigger picture of life, I want to do it with a healthy awareness of the situation. And at the same time, I still need to live each day.

So, today I’m painting bedrooms. I probably shouldn’t have gone to Home Depot. Once I was there, I knew I should be taking this more seriously. And yet, here we are. Living today. Doing a bedroom makeover in the middle of a worldwide crisis.

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Read my past posts:

Life is canceled: Day Zero

What does this mean for us?: Day One

Sunday morning painting party: Day Two

This isn’t difficult: Day Three

College and corona: Day Four

Working and learning at home: Day Five

It’s getting real: Day Six

Dividing the time: Day Seven

“All the hours are the same!” Day Eight

Art journaling for mental health, Day Nine

Practicing gratitude on a snowy start to spring break, Day 10

Pure joy from a distance, Day 11

Dogs in the fog, Day 12

You don’t have to keep doing all the things, Day 13

Two weeks down, Day 14

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