– Ben Martens

COVID-19: Part 6

It’s been almost 2 weeks since the last update, and it has been nice to tone down the obsessive reading about the virus. I limit myself to a couple minutes per day. My basic routine is:

  1. Hit the home page of a local TV station. If there isn’t anything new on that initial screen, close it and move on.
  2. Visit the excellent page of graphs and scroll through to see how/if things are changing, especially for Washington.

It’s wonderful to see that some countries are actually peaking. I don’t believe any of the data coming out of China, but even ignoring them, but even ignoring them, countries like Australia, Taiwan and maybe even Italy are starting to actually have fewer new cases each day than the day before.

Washington has beautiful mountains, but being the flattest state is nice too.

In most other places, we’re just happy to be seeing the rate of acceleration slow. That means we’re still getting more cases per day than the day before so the worst is yet to come, but those logarithmic curves are bending down closer and closer to horizontal and having the same number of new cases tomorrow as we did today is the first big milestone. From there we can watch the number of new cases each day decrease until finally, the total number of people with COVID-19 is less than it was the day before.

I think that is still quite a ways off. Anytime someone tells me a date of when a particular restriction is going to be lifted, I wonder why anybody even puts out those dates. It feels unlikely that any of them are correct. Weeks ago my company said, “There’s no end date. We’ll tell you when there is one.” That feels more reasonable at this point than saying the lockdown is over in X weeks.

I continue to wonder what will happen to schools. There are so many ideas floating around and none of them are good. Some states have already said there will be no more school after the scheduled end of the year. I can see how that might work for older students who are getting a reasonable online education, but what about my first grader? Despite having a trained teacher staying home tutoring an only child, there’s no way he’s learning as much as he would be at school, especially when a lot of that learning centers around social skills. We’re working hard and doing our best, but will they really just bump him up to second grade? Tyla and I are thankful that we didn’t hold him back a year when he started because that will leave the possibility open for that down the road if needed. I think one outcome of this whole experience will be an almost complete removal of the stigma surrounding repeating a grade. That’s going to be so much more common than it was when I was growing up.

Personally, I’m getting in to the groove of working from home, but this is probably the busiest I’ve ever been since taking this job. Cloud computing is booming and with supply chains disrupted, work is… challenging. As if that wasn’t enough, I’m also putting in a lot of hours helping our church to get services online. Pastor and Dave, our main organist, are doing a great job getting me recordings, but my evenings are spent at the same computer where my days are spent so I can edit everything together. It’s all important work and I know people are thankful, but it’s all so draining physically, emotionally and mentally. On Wednesday of last week, I realized I hadn’t been outside (except to put up the flag or take out the trash) since Sunday. Since then I’ve abandoned my post over lunch, left the phone in the house, and gone for a walk. And oh yeah, my family needs extra attention and time through this too!

When I do get a few minutes of free time, I feel like I should be spending it on work, church or family. But if I do talk to friends, watch my favorite YouTube creators or listen to podcasts, it feels like a never-ending stream of “I have so much time.” I know that everyone has their own challenges and the grass is always greener on the other side, but the idea of having an entire day (much less multiple weeks) with no responsibilities feels like the Shangri-La to me. If you are in that position, don’t squander your time! Don’t blow it watching Netflix all day. This is an amazing opportunity and if I can’t have it, I can at least enjoy seeing you be productive. It would feel so amazing to spend a couple days out in the garage working on that dresser project which is taking me so long.

As a family we’ve totally cut ourselves off from outside contact except for groceries and occasional food deliveries. We took a family “adventure” on Saturday which amounted to driving around. We drove through the new tunnel under Seattle. I’ve always wondered what it would look like to drive through four billion dollars. Now I know. We continued our tour around the Space Needle where we parked right in front and hopped out for a quick photo. We wrapped it up by driving down the main drag at Pike Place Market. That’s an impossible feat on a normal Saturday. It’s a measure of Elijah’s boredom that he thought this long car ride to nowhere was exciting.

Speaking of Elijah, he’s handling this all pretty well. He, like of all of us, has his moments where it all feels like too much, but overall I give him a thankful thumbs up. It’s especially hard for him when he sees other families who are interpreting the lockdown differently than we are. I try to let him feel that frustration but treat those as teachable moments. (If you’re a parent, this is a great 5 minute watch.) But in the back of my mind, I do wonder if we’re drawing our own boundaries correctly. However, deep down I still believe that if we all suck it up and cut off contact, we’ll be back to normal sooner than if we do this halfway. It would be different if you had symptoms as soon as you were contagious, but any one of us could have it right now and not know it so having contact with other people feels irresponsible.

In the end, my bar is “If everyone did this, would it be ok?” You can twist that in lots of ways to make anything seem permissible or not, but when viewed honestly and for lack of anything better, it feels like a reasonable starting point.

As I struggle to live up to my responsibilities as a Christian, husband, father, employee and church AV geek, I constantly have to remind myself that I’m not doing this alone. Yes, I have my family to support me, but more importantly, God is here with me. He’s guiding me through all of this and I’ll come out better for it having experienced it.

Psalm 50:15 Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.