I ugly cried, last night. I'm grateful for a partner who comforts me. I'm still a little shaky, today. I'm grateful for a quiet house and softly snoring kitties. I look out over the computer monitor, now, to see patches of blue sky and a brightly lit backyard bearing signs of spring.
The pandemic, the changes in our routines and movement, the people falling without a safety net, the essential workers on all fronts, the powerful accepting collateral damage in exchange for wealth and security... the situation is so BIG. I am so small. I am ineffective. I am isolated and meaningless. These facts and feelings spin and rage in my mind and my emotions. My sleep is one long nightmare. My body is aching and tired.
The storm inside me will pass. It has before and it will again. For now, I tend myself gently with nutritious food, a warm shower, napping in the sunshine, and so much gratitude that I can tend myself in these ways.
Making some meaning of the BIG storm, for me, is not contained in taking care of myself, my family, my home... Making meaning is reaching beyond my yard. I am small. I am not ineffective or isolated. I do see both people in need and people in power. I am not content, not really. I'm looking for ways to make a difference, make daily life different, liveable, in the midst of crisis, and between them. This is not the only storm.
I think about meaning-making, or assigning significance and definition to our experiences and events in our lives, as a largely communal or collective phenomenon. There is an element of making sense of things as individuals, but even that doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We make sense of things through the lenses of our family of origin, formative experiences, spirituality, location in the socio-economic strata etc. And that stuff is communal or collective.
Given that everyone is stuck at home, right now, I’m wondering how people are making meaning out of the pandemic and all its associated impacts, influences, and adjustments to “normal” life. Based on what I’m seeing online, the place for communal activity these days, it looks like there are two main avenues into this question. Folks starting at the individual and household sphere, and folks starting at the societal and political sphere. I don’t have a judgment on one or the other approach. I think, ultimately, we’ll all end up trying on both positions - and more.
When I consider this a level deeper, I’m reminded of a lesson from grad school - every community has its own “common sense.” Or, there isn’t a broad brush universal common sense for comprehending events and acting on that understanding. This was struck home to me in an ethics course exploring the meaning of justice. A classmate, a woman of color, explained that in her community there is “no justice, there’s just us.” In her example, calling the police to respond to an incident isn’t necessarily common sense, because police involvement may escalate the situation. The common sense is to solve the problem internal to the community.
What is the common sense or meaning made of the covid-19 pandemic in our communities? It’s probably too soon to tell, as we can find disagreement within a given household regarding what it all means and how to act. Even so, I want to wrap my head around it. For me, that means trying on a variety of perspectives and reading accounts from a variety of communities so that I can perceive the spectrum of common sense.
I’ve started at my individual and household level. That’s my most immediate experience and where I can assert some noticeable agency. In myself and in my home is where I feel the most intense emotions about this experience, address the most immediate changes to our routines and expectations, and recognize the advantages and challenges of our current life together. While broader meaning making is still in progress, for now I know that we have a safe comfortable home, simple pleasures, and gratitude. Our immediate needs are met. We’re adapting to competing priorities for jobs and schooling. We wash our hands, a lot. We make few trips to the store for necessities and treats. We savor our treats.
Almost simultaneously, I thought about our neighbors, the local food banks, grocery store workers, nurses, and then the forces at directing and bearing down on them (all of us) from the government and concerns for the economy. If I feel pressure to keep pace with my job and keep pace with my son’s academics, I imagine that pressure is more intense for folks with essential jobs and their own children to tend and to teach. What feels like an unwieldy challenge to me, might be untenable for a mother with fewer resources.
Starting with just these two perspectives, I’m noticing that while “back to normal” might feel very good in my home, it might be out of reach, and blatantly damaging, for folks in other locations of the broader context. The common sense in those positions may be a call, a conviction, for a new meaning and a new context altogether. I have no idea what that really means, today. I am curious to learn more. Even as I’m sensitive to what changes and new common sense it could mean for me and my household.
Tonight, I am grateful and content. This weekend felt...normal. Like the former normal. Kiddo went to his dad's. I cleaned and organized the house. We purchased more seeds at the hardware store. There was time together and time apart. I napped, twice!, today. While grocery shopping, I picked up some stuck-at-home toys for kiddo. He was grateful and we played together in the late afternoon.
Recent days have been bumpy. Each day with its own series of ups and downs and back up again (mostly). Because the "new normal" doesn't arrange itself overnight. We create it one small course correction at a time, which bring us closer to stability, familiarity, and a sense of normal.
Things that are working in my house: making art, physical activity outdoors, planting seeds (literally) for a big new garden, revising the schedule of working-at-home and school-at-home, practicing patience and mercy (aka grace) with ourselves and each other. What's working in your home? What fails are you either learning from or just moving on from? It all counts.
I was tired, pausing, and resuming, on Sunday, March 22. I'm exhausted, queasy, still in my pjs, and sitting very still, today. The last two days I pushed to keep up with my job and kickstart the kiddo's homeschooling. I tried to make (force) a normal level of productivity from both of us. But this isn't normal. So we'll ride the waves of productivity and rest. We'll plan and accomplish; rest and recover. These aren't cookie-cutter days. These are days of adaptation and attention.
Pause. Breathe. Repeat.
Social distancing and staying home - doing everything for the family at home, feels more difficult and draining than I think it should. Or, maybe, it simply is difficult. And I am tired.
I'm tired in my body, my mind, and my emotions. I'm not to the bedridden, despairing fatigue place. I'm at the place where I can pause, nap, move slowly, set priorities and only do those tasks. Pause between tasks. Nap, again. Jot a few notes in my journal. I'm at the place of acknowledging that this is challenging.
It's challenging for good reasons. Transitions from one set of routines and expectations and the corresponding feelings to a completely alternative and, frankly, alien set is challenging. The limbo of not knowing how long this will last and what the impacts and implications will be on jobs, school, resources, etc. is challenging. The multi-tasking to manage working at home and schooling at home and parenting all day while doing both of those things all at the same time is challenging. Feeling distant and disconnected from friends and coworkers and neighbors and family is challenging. Feeling crowded, as a deeply introverted introvert, by the tasks, immediate family, work-related texts and emails, podcasts and TV playing in the other rooms are all challenging.
So we, I, pause. To say, yes, this is a different kind of unfamiliar labor for which I'm not trained because there is no training. To say, it's ok that this is hard. To say, now we, I, pause. I acknowledge the work I'm doing. I rest and restore myself. I identify the skills I'm using and prepare to use them more appropriately and skillfully in the coming week.
And I nap.
Practicing social connection in the time of social distancing... We're adapting to, and grateful for!, varied ways to maintain social connection during social distancing. Texting, chatting in the driveway, "elbow-bumps" and "air hugs," and hollering over the back fence to the neighbor kids. How are you staying connected in these strange covid-19 days?
"Pause. Breathe. Repeat." An entry about remembering to take my own advice. And some household tools for remembering your calm and focus in the midst of a very challenging transition.