A month ago, before any of us had any idea what was coming our way, we were doing life like we normally do – but times eleven. We were going to volleyball tournaments every weekend for both of our girls, we were both incredibly busy at work, my husband continued to study for exams required for his profession, I was meditating, writing, working out, and doing all of the things, we were checking homework status, communicating with therapists, doing the blended family thing, planning work trips, running around, and on and on it went.
Since the beginning of the school year, things have been challenging. Our life seemed to have reached this heightened level of ongoing stress and anxiety. Like everyone was talking four octaves higher than usual. Everything was moving so fast. We never took a moment to look around and wonder if we were going in the right direction, if we were making the right decisions for our family, if we were doing what was necessary to protect all of our own brains, hearts, and souls.
And then, full stop.
As the dust starts to settle, and our shelter in place rules go into effect, the shock has begun to wear off. What’s left in it’s place is a suspicion that this may have been exactly what our family needed. A way to push pause. A way to extricate ourselves from some dramas we were never interested in being a part of. A way to take a break from schoolwork and work work.
None of us wanted this, certainly. And we’d all love for things to go back to normal, of course. But there is something to be said for saying “hold please…” to the way our life was going and really reestablish what our family is all about. We are not, as a group, reactive people. I am not, by nature, a worrier. But when we’re stuck in the hamster wheel of everyday life, and dealing with situations that are particularly challenging, it’s sometimes hard to maintain our cool. Our objectivity. Our worry-free, proactive, normal behaviors give way to quick decisions, fast responses, and anxiety about things that we normally wouldn’t allow to touch us with a ten foot pole. Our way of life had reached a fever pitch.
I was doing things that don’t even make sense. For example, I was getting a manicure every three or four weeks with dip nail polish. Fun fact, I hate manicures. I hate them. They take way too long. The small talk is nonexistent. Every single time, I end up watching some horrible show (not even good bad TV – just bad TV) on their satellite TV that, inevitably, glitches and comes in and out of focus. I have to read the subtitles because the sound is off, which also glitches, and I miss important pieces of information to understanding what is actually going on. And at the end of the far-longer-than-an-hour-for-the-love-of-God I have to pay a stupid amount of money for an experience that I despise. Why, you ask, did I do it? Because dip polish stays on for a long time, sure. It looks really nice, yes. And, more truthfully, it’s impossible for us mere mortals to get that sh-t off our nails ourselves. And when we finally do, our nails are weak AF and feel like they will all break off within minutes.
Since jumping on the dipped nail bandwagon, I have paid for an experience I hate, over and over again.
Because that is where we all were in our heads. Go, go, go! Do, do, do! Don’t think about it, just do it. Don’t think about it, just move onto the next thing. Don’t think about it, it’s easier this way. Don’t think about it, just go to work, go to the gym, go to therapy, talk about it all exhaustively, go get nails done, go to Target, go to bed, start all over again.
This strange new world with nowhere to go and nothing to do allows us to reset. Normal life isn’t a thing right now so we can actually take the time to remember who we are. What we need. Who we want to be. The noise, the speed at which we were living, the drama and the in-your-face situations with which we were struggling, all of that has gone away.
The idea of doing a million things without thinking seems laughable now. We find ourselves in a kind of free zone.
What comes with that is a freedom to remember and to try new things. The freedom to spend our time any way we GD please. Work a couple of hours, go for a run. Eat lunch and watch half an episode of something, then two Zoom meetings in a row. Write a blog post, write a proposal, pitch an idea, go to virtual wine night. When in the history of ever did we have the opportunity to live this way? And, depending on how this all shakes out, when will we have this chance again – at least to this degree?
We haven’t received any word about how distance learning will roll out for our kids. I could care about this, stress about this, call about this – but no, thank you, I’ll wait to be directed. I have no idea when my work life will return to anything close to normal. I could be panicking and losing sleep but instead I will do my best work in the interim to try pivot to different kinds of projects and maintain contact with my clients. And the uncertainty and ambiguity, some of my least favorite things, could very easily send me right over the edge, but even that is okay for now. I don’t know how we’ll feel about all of this next Saturday, another week into our forced pause, but that’s okay.
I have to look at all of this from an angle of, shrug “what are you gonna do?” and “our glass is way more than half full,” and “sweet Jesus are we lucky.” It’s the only way we, as a family, will learn from this and use it to come back to our true selves.