I keep trying to figure it out, but I can’t think my way out of or through this. I have not made a wrong turn. None of us have. But we have all lost our way. Or maybe the way has lost us.

Today I should have been going to campus to meet a new batch of students. Instead I am awake at 4 AM with jitters, wondering if my students will be forgiving of my inevitable ineptitude with technology. This week I should have been juggling the start of my classes and the children’s start-of-school scramble. I should be spending hundreds of dollars on school supplies, cursing at the shortages because I waited to the last minute. I should be printing paper copies of syllabi. I should be trying to wake the house up earlier and making sure the children’s real shoes fit. I should be cleaning my office and coming home to a chaotic house and cranky children who have played too many video games.  I should be embracing the happy chaos and eagerly awaiting that moment of release next week when they go back to school.

But I can’t decide if they are even going back to school. I know the impossibility of at-home learning, but I feel like I’m going to throw up when I think of sending them away from the germ-free safety of this house.

This should be the time when, after the lingering pause—the deep breath—of summer, we are left panting from the pace of it all as we sprint to reconnect with each other and find our shared rhythms. Instead we are separated, as we have been for months.

After months of isolation has rubbed us raw, we feel our divisions so keenly. Some run out the door, a mask dangling under their nose screaming, “Hallelujah! It’s over!” (Then whispering cautiously, “It’s over, right?”) Some bar their doors, reinforce their walls and wish everyone would go back home again. Some seethe in anger behind their barred doors. Some fling off the mask completely and race naked through the streets claiming that they cannot die. Some step out cautiously with the windows wide open, carefully calibrating the six feet of distance while wearing a well-researched mask.

Many of us hover over the edges of our own sanity trying to puzzle together the shell fragments of who we used to be. As they crumble in our hands, we wonder how long we can feed our families on the one egg that oozes out. We feel the pieces of the communities that sustained us form cracks, small at first, like a drinking glass dropped on the floor that we stubbornly sip from. It cuts just a bit at first, and then, gradually, with repeated use, slices straight through. We retreat and tend our wounds, trying to feel the love still.

It has become hard to think in a straight line. And even the sanest among us begin to wonder if we should pick up some Xanax or Prozac just in case.

We’re all here. Somewhere on this spectrum from harried to insane, from running away to letting go.

What happened to changing the paradigm?

Amidst the blistering heat of change, as summer turns to fall, all we can aspire to do is kick off our shoes,  focus on the heel that steps in front of the toe, and feel the concrete, chipping under our well-calloused feet.

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