Focus On: Michelle Murphy & Family

As I write this, we are in week six of social distancing. Although I have less fear than six weeks ago, I am still wary of the unknown and what the future looks like. The lead up the week schools closed knowing it was coming but not knowing how long it would last and what social distancing “looks like” was a bit daunting. I still don’t understand the right answer to that, which is tough. I do think (and hope) there are responsible ways that we will be able to visit with family and friends as we come out of this quarantine, but in the meantime, we will just wait and see. We are fortunate that the weather is warmer and hopefully sunny days will allow for outdoor social distancing. 

The biggest change for us has been to be able to sit down to dinner with my kids every night. I had started traveling a fair amount for work before this started so between that, volunteer work and other social commitments I was always on the go. Time is something that we don’t get back and I look at this chapter of our lives as a gift because I am able to slow down and spend time with my children that I wouldn’t otherwise have had.  

Professionally, I have shifted my work hours to accommodate the needs of my family but fortunately I have the flexibility to do that. Socially, I am still able to connect with family and friends thanks to technology so it is not as isolating. And to some degree there are people I “see” more now than I did before we were told to stay at home. The other big change is school! I come from a family of educators so I have always had an appreciation for teachers and their roles in the development of children…but this takes it to a whole new level. The older kids (7th and 9th grade) are more self-sufficient but working through 4th grade learning is tough so a big thank you to all the teachers out there working hard to keep our kids on track. For the kids, I think missing the routine of school, friends and social activities is tough. We were looking forward to a spring of baseball, lacrosse and dance. 

I think that everyone is doing the best they can and that is all we can hope for. This is unchartered territory for all of us – town leadership, educators, first responders, small business owners, parents, children, even pets! All we can do as a community is look out for each other and have empathy. Everyone handles stress differently and we have to accept that without judgement, which is easier said than done. Town leadership has been very communicative from the beginning and I feel that has helped alleviate some of the unknowns, along with the many resources available. Watching the community come together for organizations such as Westport Food Fund and Food for the Front Lines has been heartwarming and inspiring. We need to help our neighbors because we never know when we will need them to help us. 

All we can do as a community is look out for each other and have empathy

Becoming a divorced mother of 3 when my kids were under the age of 7 forced me to accept that which we have no control over. I learned that I could feel all the emotions that one has, going through traumatic experiences, but I couldn’t marinate in those feelings as I needed to be present for my children. Every day I reminded myself it could always be worse, and that is true in today’s current environment. We can’t let fear bring us down, we need to stay strong and positive and take comfort in knowing that we are truly all in this together. I was taught a long time ago and try to instill it in my children now to find something beautiful in every day. Just because there are clouds, it doesn’t mean the sun is gone. When people ask me now, how I am doing, my answer is always – I am healthy, my kids and my loved ones are healthy, I am still employed with a roof over my head, food on the table and for the most part I am still sane. I have nothing to complain about. 

I hope that a year from now the country is in a place where we have the vaccinations and immunities needed to combat this virus. I hope that families that have lost loved ones during this time find peace. I hope that my children remember this period of time fondly albeit challenging. I hope when they think back, they remember the gift of time they got to spend with family. I hope that we all come out of this as better people. It is amazing how quickly this pandemic has changed the way many view the world. Things that used to seem so important no longer are. It’s all about perspective and I hope that people remember that. My hope is that hope beats out fear. My greatest fear is not knowing if I am doing enough to keep my kids safe both mentally and physically, or something happening to me that would prevent me from being there or being able to provide for them. 

I recently did one of those “what does your birthday month say about you” gimmicks and the message for mine was: “no matter how tough life gets you have a way of always keeping hope alive for yourself and your loved ones. You smile, even when you’re sad because you will never give up, even when the going gets tough.” I think this is very apropos to who I am not just today, but every day. Hang in there Westport – we are strong and we will get through this together. Sending a big virtual hug to you all. 

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To read more of the museums long lens oral histories please visit the Westport In Focus page.