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Love in the Time of the Coronavirus

The trill of the FaceTime connection had begun. I sat at a bar in a California hotel with a mimosa in my hand waiting for my mother to pick up on the other end. I had spiraled and resorted to maladaptive coping. All I wanted was my mommy because regardless of our age, we find comfort in our parents or kinships.

Once my mother connected, I just burst into tears, and simply said, “I just needed my mommy.” Her reply, “oh baby, let it out.”

I could have cared less at that moment who saw me or did not. Being an academic is only a sliver of my identity. I am a daughter, sister, and aunt. The fact that I have to worry about the economic stability of my own family is of real concern. California declared a state of emergency and New York followed shortly after. I booked a flight and dropped some unnecessary coins, but I needed to get back east to prepare for what was to come.

The world is in a panic and chaos brews in the media and in the communities where we live. How does one make sense of and put words to this epidemic that has become known as the Coronavirus (COVID-19)? Ignorant comments from 45 stating that this is a “foreign disease” are frankly disgusting. White supremacy and racism are not the solution to an epidemic AND will only produce a pandemic. People fear what they do not know, are making irrational decisions, and hoarding necessary medical preventive care from the most vulnerable populations. I worry about the elders in communities of color, our youth without homes to retreat to, and the overall well-being of folks that do not live with privilege or access to resources.

Dr. Nichole Margarita GarciaDr. Nichole Margarita Garcia

Once I made it back to the east coast, I literally sent a group text to my parents alarming them for the first time since I left home. I am scared and living in fear. For many of us, the ability to go home where we are close to our loved ones is not an option. We are in isolation, alone, living with fear. The last thing I want to do is respond to emails, write that book chapter, revise that manuscript or tend to the overall bureaucracy of institutions of higher education. As the masses of universities and colleges move to remote virtual interfaces, the unknown will undeniably come to fruition in the next couple of months.

My body is telling me I need to listen to it now more than ever. It is as if I entered a panic room for preventive care, but I cannot get out of it. My heart is heavy. My anxiety is on some next level real shit. I have restricted my time online, reading and listening to the news, because it only heightens my anxiety. I read a post by a colleague, Harry Franqui-Rivera, which was titled, “Love in the Times of Coronavirus IV,” where he outlined his own realities and experiences during this time. This became the inspiration for this blog.

I do not have all the answers, but I do know this.

I am returning to the how my body remembers, feels, and copes with such high stress and anxiety. How do I maintain not only my physical  but mental health as well? How do I love myself in isolation from my family and friends? More importantly, how do I care for myself when I only have myself to do that work? Phone calls, FaceTime, and texts have become mandatory for myself to connect to my family and friends. Writing freely for me is a form of healing. It is where I nurture my soul the most. It is my refuge.

I urge us to have patience with one another and offer spaces of authentic care in any forms we have access to and can share with others. We have to love ourselves and one another to heal in these trying times. Please share how love looks for you during this time.

Dr. Nichole Margarita Garcia is an assistant professor of Higher Education at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. You can follow her on Twitter @DrNicholeGarcia

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