Shellshocked

If you’re in Maine, you probably saw that yesterday the state university system abruptly changed course, going from “begin making plans for how classes might be held remotely” to “campuses will be closed starting next week.” (Next week is spring break, so they were already planned to be closed for that week.)

On the one hand, I definitely get it. Reducing social interactions before people can go on spring break and return with all sorts of germs is a safe move to make. And when I look at what’s happening in Italy, I definitely don’t want that here. If those are my two choices, I’ll take “close early” every day of the week.

But at the same time, I’m just sort of swimming in a sea of confusion. Granted, it’s better to be confused and healthy than confused and sick, but there are just so many questions up in the air right now that I’m having a hard time handling any of them. I do well in a crisis, I think, but this doesn’t even really feel like a crisis to me. It’s like this slow moving something-or-other, where it feels like I should both have the time I need to be able to make solid plans, and yet somehow don’t have any time at all to figure things out.

I think the root problem is the uncertainty. There are a slew of unknowns right now, and because the unknowns are a bit away from needing immediate answers, I have time to try and develop a plan for them. But because everyone knows those unknowns are coming, they all want answers now, before I’ve had time to make a plan.

And this isn’t just a work thing. It’s a church thing, as my church deals with canceling conferences and tweaking worship services. It’s a family thing, as each member of my family is affected in different ways. (Tomas had a robotics meet in MA that just got canceled. Denisa is scrambling to figure out how to teach all her classes remotely. We had a trip planned to Quebec this weekend that we’ve now canceled. What should we do about our trip to Aruba? It’s two months away. Is that long enough we don’t need to worry?) It’s a social thing, as the events I look forward to participating in each week are in limbo. It’s a travel thing, as some of my work trips have been canceled. It’s a logistical thing, as I try to figure out how to get refunded for those cancelations. It’s an economic thing, as I watch the stock market in shock and wonder what the repercussions will be.

So many different areas, and all of it compounded by the fact that no one can agree what the right course of action is. Some people think we’re all overreacting. Some people think we aren’t acting strongly enough. We’re in uncharted waters, we have no idea what the answers are, no idea what the “right” decision is, and we all have to muddle through as best as we can.

I’ve got an emergency academic meeting today to figure out university related issues. I’ve got an emergency religious meeting tonight to figure out are congregation issues. And all I really want is for all of it to never have happened in the first place.

I know what needs to happen, in theory. I know I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, figuring things out as I go, and being as understanding and helpful as I can be to everyone else, knowing that all of us are facing the same uncertainties. The same stresses. We’ll get through it, one way or the other, and hopefully by being simply inconvenient now, we can save ourselves from things that are tragic later on.

(Of course, if no tragedies materialize, then there will be some who wonder why we did what we did, and claim it was an overreaction. But then again, what if the overreaction is what made it so no tragedies materialized?)

But while I might know what needs to happen in theory, I’m still struggling to put my thoughts together in the here and now. I even tuned in to the President’s address last night, hoping somehow that would help. (It didn’t. Banning travel from Europe, as if that’s going to stop anything? It’s closing a door to keep out the mice, when you’ve already got a colony living in your crawlspace.)

So apologies in advance if I’m overly spacey right now. You cut me some slack, and I’ll cut you some slack, and hopefully we’ll all get through this together.

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