* Disclaimer: Please disregard any grammatical errors, words are hard right now, do not even get me started with my constant struggle with grammar!**
Last week, my roommates committed to working on a shark puzzle for the second time this year. I really hope that YAVA’s from Tucson will read this blog so that I can hopefully identify the origin story of this horrendous puzzle. This weapon of madness is a JIGSAW puzzle filled with many different shapes and sizes of pieces; ranging from large like a poker chip and smaller than a pencil eraser (note: these may be broken chunks of other pieces). The box says that the puzzle is 800+ pieces (not an exact number) and the border is curved into the outline of sea and Sharks. As previously stated, we attempted this puzzle once before but gave up due to how complicated it was. Now though, as we are “sheltering in place” and rarely leave the house, we were committed. What better time to be frustrated with a puzzle?
As I think about the frustrations I have with this puzzle however, I am wondering how much of it can be a metaphor and outlet for the anxiety I have around the Corona Virus. This virus has many unknown and everchanging variables: who is the targeted population it is affecting, is it small immune-compromised children, or elderly adults? Will it last a month, a year; are the precautions we are taking necessary? How is the virus spreading, what boundaries are necessary and which ones are fear-induced? Do we trust fear or does it lead to chaos?
The puzzle was a slow start, we grumbled at how none of the pieces seemed to fit, it did not make sense, but we remained hopeful that maybe the more pieces we got to work together, the better it would get. We just needed some time. This is similar to how the U.S. was reacting three LONG weeks ago about the pandemic. It’s fine, the affected people are mostly overseas, wash your hands, no problem.
Then the panic set in. The more pieces that fit together the more we noticed how unprepared we were. Of the 800+ pieces that were supposed to be there, only maybe 400 seemed to be. Slowly but surely, panic grew as more and more pieces seemed to be missing. Missing just like the toilet paper in the stores. My boss joked to me on a Costco run that she would just have to use paper towels and discard the paper “Mexico style”- all because some idiot thought they could make an easy buck by buying up the stocks.
After the panic, came dread and lack of hope. Why are we working on a puzzle that will never get done? What better do we have to do? Sure, we are too far back to quit now but also- what is the point? This is the phase I am currently struggling through with the virus and it affected most of my week last week. Why dedicate so many hours on something that will inevitably be canceled, postponed, or extended. Sure, it is scary right now because we DON’T KNOW. But eventually, things will fall into place and everything will close down and hopefully, then people will start to understand and help one another. … This is the goal- but where is the follow-through? Right now, my community partner organization is representing 53 clients who are in immigration detention centers. Courts across the country are closing down and inmates that prove unharmful to society are being released so that the disease does not spread through mass confinement. Our clients that are not in detention, all have their hearings postponed for the next month. Judges, mostly old white men, have taken time off from work and refuse to come to court for the risk of germs spreading. Yet, my boss who should for many reasons be sheltering at home is still having to go to Eloy and Florence to cover hearings. Our clients are not being released from detention centers and our volunteers are working overtime to file applications to make it happen.
Meanwhile, I wonder what’s the point? Won’t we slowly but surely realize (like we have been) the impacts this virus is causing? It is a TERRIBLE thing to admit and I see my privilege in the statement. I can afford to look for a better day and hope for change. I work for a program that looks out for my safety and although my job is essential, asks that I work from home. I do not have to worry about catching a virus because I do not have to go anywhere or see anybody. I do not have to wait in a cell until someone realizes I am a person of worth. I, I do not have to face the fear that most likely, that moment will never come. I do not know, nor will I ever realize, what it is like to have society hate me because of the color of my skin and the way I sought refuge from unexplainable horror. I will never have to put into words and have to justify why my life has value. Instead, I can choose to sleep in an extra hour or spend my weekends binging Netflix. I do not have to worry if, by the time people do understand, it is too late.
We stuck with the puzzle. We knew it was lacking pieces but it was not as many as we thought and although it is no longer on our dining room table, we left it mostly put together and are hoping that in doing other puzzles in our house, we can find more of the missing pieces. There is no throwing in the towel with this virus, it is not a puzzle we can put back in its box. So, we have to remain hopeful, I remain hopeful. That this experience is more than a puzzle metaphor and that this time brings us all deep reflection.