How to Survive a Family During a Pandemic

It’s not just this virus. Literally anything that happens to us, good or bad, either draws us more closely together or rips us apart. A pandemic like COVID-19, of course, draws us together no matter what. We quarantine. We lockdown. We huddle together in a bubble held together by, in some cases, nothing more than proximity. The question isn’t just whether we can survive the virus, it’s whether or not we can survive each other.

Are we a family of ships passing in the night, or is there a love still there that can be rekindled by a whole lot of togetherness?

I want to make two things clear up front before I dive into this:

  1. I’m the writer in the family or you’d be hearing from my wife, Erin, right now. The following is all down to her. Her ideas, her initiatives, her glue holding us all together.
  2. All of this requires effort. I know it’s easier to be lazy during a pandemic, but that way lies madness. Family is work. Family during a pandemic is a little more work. No way around it.

Okay. Here it is. The following is what the Heasley family has been doing the past four months to survive each other during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Your mileage may vary.

CELEBRATIONS

When so many things are going wrong, you’ve got to elevate the good. We will take any excuse to celebrate. And I mean, ANY. Yes, we’ve done things like in-home celebrations of birthdays and our eldest daughter graduating from high school and an in-home prom with the help of John Krasinski, but we’ve also come up with a completely made up reason…

The pandemic itself. Starting on Day 50 and every ten days since, we’ve put together themed celebrations just to say to ourselves, “Hey, we’re doing this, we’re staying in as much as we can, we’re masking up, we’re avoiding anyone who doesn’t live in this home, and we’re doing our part. Let’s celebrate that.”

Here’s what that’s looked like so far:

Day 50 – Family Sock Hop

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Day 60 – Mocktail Night

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Day 70 – Family Fun Run

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Day 80 – 80’s Movie Festival

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Day 90 – Water Day (New trampoline with sprinklers and water balloons/guns)

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Day 100 – Service to Others and Ice Cream Sunday

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Day 110 – Blanket Fort Day

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Day 120 – Spa Day

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Day 130 – Christmas in July

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Day 140 – International Night (Trivia and food from around the world)

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Consequently, marking time during the pandemic has gone from a depressing thing to an exciting thing. Yeah, it’s a lot of work for us (again, mostly Erin), but for our kids they’re going to look back on this time as difficult, yes, but also special. Exciting, even.

I mean, everybody got presents during Christmas in July. Our kids should be LOVING this. And they do.

ONE HOUR CLEANINGS

Every day. Every day except Sunday we get together as a family and clean for one hour, at 11 AM. Four out of five of the people who live here are able to participate, which means that our house is getting four hours of cleaning every day.

Within two weeks we had cleaned literally everything in the house. Spring cleaning the likes of which we have NEVER done before. Now, it’s just upkeep. Really easy stuff. We even folded in a repaint of the bathroom over the course of a week because there’s just less to do now.

Look, my family HATES cleaning. I don’t think we even started cleaning the house in a significant way until around Day 100 because we hate it so much, but it has made a HUGE difference. We are in this space ALL THE TIME, and having it clean just FEELS good. Plus, no one gets mad at anyone else because their stuff is somewhere it shouldn’t be because know that 11 AM the next day it’ll get picked up.

Or fed to the dogs. I don’t make the rules.

ROUTINE

Speaking of doing things every day, a routine is essential for a time like this. The days can easily get away from you, you can lose track of time, and you can be so unproductive if you don’t have your routines in place. Besides the cleaning, we also get up by 9:30 AM each morning (why wake up any earlier when you don’t go anywhere?), eat dinner together as a family every night around 6 PM, read scriptures and pray together as a family at 7:45 PM, and the parents take over the TV at 8 PM. Because we paid for it.

Simple stuff, but it keeps our clocks in order and gives structure.

BREAK THE ROUTINE

If the routine is wearing you down, it’s not doing its job. Take breaks! Just the other day, Erin woke up and said “I can’t clean today.” So, we didn’t! And we didn’t the next day, either. Or the day after that (mostly because that day was Sunday). But today? We were right back on it. Breaking the routine is just as important as keeping the routine. So, break it.

But then get right back on it.

ICE CREAM

Sometimes, you need ice cream. That’s it. That’s the tip.

(But don’t overdo it.)

GIVE EACH OTHER SPACE

Don’t be in each other’s business all the time. We got both Animal Crossing and Minecraft for our Nintendo Switch for our youngest. She hasn’t seen a friend since March and it’s her major form of entertainment and socialization, sadly, but more importantly it keeps her in a private space at a time of her life when she can kind of talk your ear off.

Best way to not get on each other’s nerves? Don’t be in the same space all the time. Respect the need for privacy.

DON’T OBSESS OVER THE NEWS

The job of the news is to inform, and the most essential information is always going to be bad news. There’s a lot of bad news right now, and a lot of disagreement about what is and is not true about that bad news. You can drive yourself mad trying to sort through it all, and everyone I know who lives on a steady diet of news (TV, in particular) is pretty sure the world is going to end, like, tomorrow.

That’s not a super healthy place to be, but if that’s the place you insist on being, don’t take your family there with you. Not everyone wants to go. We talk about current events in our house, but we don’t dwell and we are conscious of who is in the room and what age they are. There’s only so much we can control, but controlling our home environment? Well, that’s all up to us.

FIND GOD

This isn’t going to resonate with everyone who reads this, but find God in all this. He is, I assure you, there. I’m not super old, but I’m not super young either. I’ve been through some stuff, and I’m telling you that even in the darkest of times–ESPECIALLY then–God is there. He cares about you. He loves you. (Yes, he’s allowing all this to happen, but that’s for a purpose that would take a whole other blog to cover (or, y’know, a movie I wrote). )

He’s in the kindness of strangers. He’s in the smile of those you pass by. He’s in the hug of a child and a meal shared. He’s on the other end of the line when you pray. I have felt tremendous comfort through all of this, and, I would argue, my wife has been tremendously inspired through all this by the Spirit of God. We are constantly, constantly looking to Him, and because of that we know peace.

And because we know peace, the Heasley family is more than just surviving each other during this forced togetherness. I daresay we love each all the more.

What I’m Listening to #intimeslikethese

I swear if I see one more commercial that starts with some somber woman intoning the words “In difficult times like these…” I think I might pop. This is a time in which we are all seeking comfort, but I don’t look for or need it from a Subaru advertisement. God help me if I ever do.

Where I actually find a lot of solace is in things like prayer and family. And music. Music is big for me. I have no actual talent in the creation or performance of music whatsoever, so the listening of it is something I do purely for pleasure, not for examination or study.

I recently came to the conclusion that the song No Hard Feelings by The Avett Brothers (see below to listen) is perhaps the most beautiful song released in the last couple decades or so. (Argue with me if you want, but that just means you haven’t heard it.)  It’s a song that didn’t strike me immediately on first listen, but my appreciation of it has grown and grown over the years. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with the lyrical content, which (to me) is about the relief waiting for us in the next life when old hurts and regrets are wiped away and we are reunited with our loved ones and our Savior, with whom we will “shake hands laughing.” It’s just gorgeous.

My cousin Carly added the song to her “Being Held” playlist, the idea of which I quite like. There is a need to reach beyond this virus and all the turmoil it’s causing in our hearts and in our streets and in our hospitals. I think we’d all like to “be held” right now. And, as a person of faith, I’d like God to do the holding. Metaphorically speaking, I believe He is, and a playlist that reminds me He is there and always present is a good thing.

So, here’s my “Being Held” playlist. All of these songs are either about God or make me think of Him. They may not have been intended as such, but that’s what they are to me. And, when it comes to music, I think what it means to me is the most important thing.

Maybe you’ll find a few gems in here that will help you, too.

(Note: If you build this for yourself, I recommend not hitting shuffle. I sequenced this sucker!)

  1. Slow Your Breath Down – Future of Forestry. A good reminder, especially #intimeslikethese.

2. No Hard Feelings – The Avett Brothers. Chills every time it reaches the climax.

3. This Road – Jars of Clay. You’re gonna see a lot of Jars of Clay on this list. This song is like a warm blanket.

4. Before You Were Young – Travis. Not hard to imagine who is singing this song.

5. Open Arms – Elbow. Makes me tear up. This is what I want God to say when I return home.

6. Hymn – Jars of Clay. “So melt my pride that I may in your house but live…”

7. Division – Moby. No lyrics, just a vibe.

8. Help Me – Johnny Cash. This is speaking to God from a desperate place. A prayer given by a man at the end of his life who has said a lot of them.

9. I Don’t Mind – Phantom Planet. Whatever the Lord needs to inflict upon me, I’ll take it because I know it’s worth it. I don’t mind.

10. Oh My God – Jars of Clay. Now, in almost every instance I view exclaiming “Oh my God” as using the Lord’s name in vain. This is Jars of Clay crafting an entire song around the idea that there actually is a circumstance in which using that phrase is appropriate. What they come up with is absolutely devastating. This lays me flat every time, and it’s in my personal Top 3 favorite songs.

11. I’ve Been High – R.E.M. This always, always lifts me up.

12. Let Your Heart Hold Fast – Fort Atlantic. “For this soon shall pass like the high tide takes the sand…”

13. Morning Light – The Hunts. This song, sadly, is not available on YouTube, and is even difficult to find commercially. It’s worth tracking down though, believe me. A sweet song about turning the “darkest night into the morning light.” (A huge theme in a lot of my writing.)

14. Worlds Apart (Live) – Jars of Clay. A plea to God to “take my world apart,” which is a good thing to do when your world is bad. (Find the live version off their “Furthermore” album, if you can.)

15. Outro – M83. I think it’s a synth, but I wish the organs in our churches sound like this.

16. Bathed in Sunlight – Fort Atlantic. Wouldn’t we all like to be? Even I, who prefers dark rooms to the outdoors, want that sunlight.

17. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing – Jars of Clay. Probably my favorite hymn, and this is the best rendition of it.

18. Til Kingdom Come – Coldplay. Coldplay actually did a straight up, no-holds-barred Christian song, and I feel like people forgot about it. More overt than anything U2 ever put out.

19. On the Nature of Daylight – Max Richter. No lyrics, but the feeling this song evokes is extraordinary. I find myself thinking in cycles, life and death, that sort of thing. I think about God.

That’s it, those are the songs I’m drawing the most comfort from right now. Anything you would add to it? What are you listening to that’s bringing you to a better place?

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay