America, Can You Hear Me? The Scary Reality of Living in Spain During the Coronavirus Pandemic by Jennison Grigsby
It’s like one of those nightmares when you see a friend at some distance smiling at you. You are screaming at them, warning them about what is approaching from behind. No matter how loud you are screaming, you have no voice. They cannot hear you. They continue smiling and standing right where they are. Your voice is silent. Your legs don’t work either. You’re frozen. Helpless. Literally watching a nightmare in front of you.
Can you hear me?
Here I am, writing from Spain with much hesitation, but feeling as though there is no choice, except to share with you the reality of what is happening. My life, one week ago, was shifting. Something was changing. There was more fear, separation, anxiety and confusion. A lot of uncertainty. But still, doubt. Denial, even. Last Wednesday, I enjoyed a coffee date after yoga class with some of my students. We stayed later for a glass of wine in the sunshine. We knew, deep down, this would be the last time we would see each other for awhile. Although the sun was shining and the city was buzzing. It was all about to change. Wednesday evening, we received a call that both my in laws were diagnosed with pneumonia. And right then and there, the world stopped.
It isn’t real, until it is.
One of the best pieces of advice I have read is to behave as though you have the virus, not as though you are avoiding it. This is the only way you will move forward with love – with the intention to protect others. Rather than running away out of fear and avoidance, engage in acts of selfless love. Stay home. Protect the vulnerable by practicing social distancing. Completely. This does not include small dinner parties with your friends. This does not involve taking your child to a public park where you will probably be alone. This does not involve supporting your local businesses by visiting your neighborhood pub or cafe. Just stop, please. I understand that the livelihoods of many people are being destroyed, trust me I get it. I, too, have lost almost all financial income and security. But you know what, the lives of my friends and family matter more. The lives of strangers matter more.
What can you do for those businesses instead? Reach out to them to see how you can help (virtually). Help to promote their businesses. Offer moral support. Donate. Encourage others to do the same. Donate and give as much as you can to the establishments, small businesses or entrepreneurs that mean the most to you. But please, stay home.
The reality hit us hard. We canceled ALL of our plans, pulled Luca out of school and have stayed home completely except to go to the market twice and to walk the dog, once in the morning and once in the evening. By walk, I mean take him to do his business. That’s it. No extra laps around the block for exercise. No excuses. Out and in. It has been six days since our family went into isolation. Three days since Spain has declared an emergency and the whole country has been on complete lockdown.
Here is our reality:
Police patrolling the streets, checking ID and receipts to make sure you actually went to the market or pharmacy. Fines are set at 3.000 euros.
No fresh air. Luca, under no circumstances will be allowed outside for at least the next 10 days. I have 10 minutes of fresh air in the morning when I take the dog outside. My husband has 10 minutes when he takes the dog out in the evening. That’s it. For those of you with a backyard, please stop complaining.
Tantrums. Arguments. Anxiety. Yep. This is reality. Every hour or so. Your kids are going to act out way more than normal. Their little bodies are confused and they are also incredibly intuitive to the stress that surrounds them. Give them opportunities to exercise, let them run wild down the halls. Get creative. Give them grace. Hug them tight.
Tantrums. Arguments. Anxiety (adult version). Yep. You and your partner, or roommates, are also going to be experiencing these things waaaayyy more than normal. Amazing what stress and anxiety do to us, huh? Many of our actions these days are driven by fear and insecurity. Separate yourself from the emotion the best you can. And be sure you are owning your emotion, not blaming God-knows-what on your partner. Then, give yourself grace. Hug each other tight.
People are dying. And no, not “just” old people. I hate to break it to you, but young people are dying, too. Remember, those “just” groups of people such as the elderly, vulnerable or sick are someone else’s everything. Maybe yours. Definitely mine.
You do not need to be old or have a prior health condition to die from this. It does not discriminate. I know it feels far away because you don’t know anyone who is sick yet. But, I promise, you will.
Everything is a risk. Last night as I wiped down our groceries with alcohol wipes, tears filled my eyes. Have you ever thought about needing to clean a can of beans and pasta packaging because it posed a threat to you and your family?
Testing is nearly impossible. Whatever numbers you see out there are not correct. Testing is virtually inaccessible. Imagine calling the helplines for six days to have someone come to your house to test you for the virus. If you are lucky, you might get through after a week of showing symptoms. If you are not in grave danger, you will be told to stay at home. No test. Behave as if you have it. If it gets worse ... what? Because guess what? The emergency lines are not picking up either.
Can you imagine a world without 911? Well. Welcome to the new reality. No emergency services at your finger tips. 112 is unreachable in Spain. You’re young and not going to get sick, so no big deal, right? Hmmmm. What do you think is happening to the people who are having heart attacks? The robberies. The car accidents. The child who fell and hit his head and is non-responsive. What now? Good question.
Separation and a lack of freedom. Our borders are closed. I am not sure I could even find my way home to California if I wanted to, or needed to. So, yeah. I won’t even go there. I will leave it to your imagination what nightmares I am living with at this moment. So, please, do me a favor. Stay home.
Beauty and blessings. There will be a lot of beauty hidden in these next weeks. Unexpected, tear-jerking, jaw-dropping, heart-warming beauty. You will be filled with so much gratitude, so much love, so much community in isolation. I guarantee it. Enjoy it. (I will dive deeper into this on my next post.)
Protect your families. Protect mine.
Protect strangers the same way you are protecting your neighbors.
The truth is, we are in this together. So, I beg you. Be in this with me. This is not a drill. This is not a joke. And for those of you reading this from America, it’s on its way. More real than you can even imagine.
My intention in writing this is to be raw and truthful. And I am not concerned about fear mongering, because it actually feels necessary. We didn’t act until we were scared. Shitless. Good thing we stocked up on TP.
Take care everyone. Please know that this comes from a place of love. A little fear, but a lot of love. The better you take care of yourselves now, the sooner we get to be reunited.
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