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Don't Lick Your Neighbor

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

I’m typing this over my twentieth cup of coffee, coughing and sneezing up a storm, trying to mediate the argument brewing between my two children about who needs to pick up the marker that has fallen to the ground, squarely one feet between them both. We just reviewed our inaugural “word of the day,” since we might as well learn some stuff while we’re at home (“Waggish,” by the way). My son has declared that Kit Kats make a good breakfast food, and as I’m trying to argue that no, he should eat his muffins instead, it occurs to me that there really isn’t much difference. I’ve consumed hours-worth of scary news, informative news, inspiration, and humor already today, it seems, though it is not even 9:00 am. I’ve tried, and failed, to help my daughter with her sixth-grade science lesson, a very elaborate food chain flow chart. And I’ve commiserated with my son who finds his third-grade suffixes assignment tedious. I’ve talked to my mom on the phone, who’s worried about me, while I, in turn, worry about her. We’re trading our worry like one trades recipes or the daily forecast. In all of my communications, we are asking how are you, and this time, we really want to know. Professionally I’m trying to reassure our partners that we’re here, I’m here. We are apart but we are here.   I’m trying to explain to my children why the playgrounds, too, are closed. And I’m trying emphasize that it is important, occasionally, to change out of one’s pajamas. We’re arguing over who gets to be DJ, and all the while loving the music that accompanies these long, strange days. And we are trying to find on-line workouts suitable for an eight, eleven, and forty-seven year old all at once—exercise that meets the weekly gym requirement and also lets off the restless steam that’s building, building.  I say a daily prayer of thanks that I feel strong in my own recovery, and a daily plea of hope for those that I know are not. My hands have aged thirty years from all the sanitizing, and the lines that furrow my face have deepened. Yes, from worry. But also from laughter. Humor is the great connector, and there is plenty of that floating around for us right now. I’m pretty sure it’s Tuesday but it might be Saturday. My son is mourning the delay and possible cancellation of his baseball season and my daughter is wondering if she will ever get to return to her locker; or, in fact, if she will ever get to go back to her intermediate school during this, her final year there.

This plan cancelled, and that one. This disappointment tended to, and that one.

And all the while, marching on and on, are the repetitive questions, the big ones, the soundtrack of our days. Will my loved ones be okay? Will my job be okay? Will the stores have food? Will I be able to pay the bills? Will my kids ever go back to school? Will my own health be okay? Will I really have to figure out the new way to do math? Will we ever feel comfortable shaking hands again? Am I over-worrying? Am I under-worrying? Am I just-right-worrying? Is anyone else worrying? Can that guy over there stop worrying so much, already? Can that lady over there start worrying just a little bit more, don’t ya think?

And, of course, there is no answer to any of them, really… just the knowledge that time, in the end, will tell.  

So in the meantime, I guess that the best we can do is take these long, strange days one at a time. We can try and heed the advice of the actual experts and also use our own common sense. We can follow basic safety precautions like, you know, don’t lick your neighbor.

But most of all, we can love. We can lead with love, breathe with love, live with love. We can soften our hearts in this unchartered space that we all—truly all—find ourselves in.

Well, that’s what I’m going to try and do anyway.


How can you love today?

Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.