As we hunker down awaiting the eye of the storm this seems like the wrong time for these musings. The top COVID19 response coordinator says we shouldn’t even go to the store or pharmacy for the next two weeks.
Yet at Putah Creek with my kids, I keep having the feeling that there will be iterations of this, that instead of longing for things to return to the way they were, it’s worth creating a rich way of being in this new reality.
I write to you in bed with the window open to the rain, my four-year-old sharing toast with our housemate in the living room. Last night, like most nights since Shelter in Place, all six of us held hands around dinner on the little table in front of the fire, our grace sincere and simple: each other’s company, the birds, sun, and rain, the meal, the brave shopper, always our health.
Over breakfast we linger and tell stories of youthful arrests, hallucinogenic epiphanies, and heartbreak. Last week we played improv for three hours on the front porch in the sun, in costumes, waving at the neighbors. I haven’t been this still, imaginative, and present since the Peace Corps.
So it’s a good time for housemates, and…
Just after Shelter in Place took effect, we called a house meeting because one of our housemates was still dating, seeing clients in person, and running around town like a COVID slut, touching who knows what doorknobs and spittle splattered surfaces. Did we have the right to ask him to stop doing these things? And our other housemate wants to take a job at a grocery store…
So the idea I want to propose (and it’s just an idea. I am not a medical health expert and I don’t think now is the time to implement this), is that if this goes on for a long time, or if it goes and comes back, or goes and a different one comes back–for those of you who don’t have housemates or a family you enjoy, ESPECIALLY for any lone folks or single parents….maybe it would be ok to form a COVID tribe.
This would be a very serious thing. I floated this idea to my friend the other day, suggesting it would be like being fluid-bonded, a term from polyamory when lovers choose to have sex without barriers, and she said, “Ya but way more serious than that. You can live the rest of your life with Chlamydia.” So there would be a great deal of communication around this, as anyone you choose for your COVID tribe you would be trusting with your life. Anything they touched, any person they stood near, you and the rest of your tribe would be exposed to.
We would need to be extremely responsible with this. I’m not proposing this as much for folks like us, with six together already, or nuclear families who mostly get along, or even couples. I’m suggesting someone who is alone could approach someone else who is alone, or a family, and ask if they could be a COVID tribe together. This lone person could play board games with the family, share meals, and there would be a high level of communication around what boundaries everyone needs to feel safe.
A single parent might form a COVID tribe with another single parent, taking turns to shop, letting the kids play together. And again, there would be a level of communication akin to what polyamorous or coop housing folks are used to, even greater, as you would be trusting each other with each other’s lives.
And some folks won’t be compatible. We wouldn’t be ok with our housemate working at a grocery store if my 73 year old father lived with us. A healthcare worker wouldn’t be compatible with someone with asthma. Folks with similar levels of risk tolerance might choose each other, forming tighter or looser boundaries accordingly.
To be clear: I am not saying to run out and do this now, before the peak of this, before we understand entirely what we are up against. More that it’s a way of being to dream into, if this is to be our new normal. It’s a better alternative to suppressing crucial human needs, only to rush out the minute controls are relaxed to reinfect ourselves.
I’d love to hear your comments below.
Be safe and gentle with yourself. Get outside (at a safe distance), move your body, turn inward, feel your feelings. For most of us now is not a time to do anything particularly well or produce. We are in a crisis. Just be. More thoughts to come.
Big love, Florie