The sky has been gray, gray, gray this past week in the PNW, and I always forget how much that affects me. I have been feeling glum, anxious, restless, and undone. I feel this mounting pressure of Christmas on the way, and knowing how different it will be this year makes me feel even more pressure to make it special for my kids. But my heart’s not in it. I can’t get myself to plan ahead, so all the activities that require reservations – the free carriage rides downtown, skating on the ice ribbon, etc – keep slipping out of my grasp.
I am usually optimistic, laid back and happy, so it’s unusual for me to feel weighed down. And yet I know that this is a perfectly normal way to feel right now, at the end of a long and difficult year, when COVID numbers only continue to get worse (practically all 50 states are in the Red (highest) risk zone right now according to NPR). I feel mounting annoyance at folks who don’t seem to be taking COVID seriously. That’s part jealousy since they’re gathering with friends and family when I’m not, and part judgement that they are part of the problem of why COVID is spiking and keeping me at home. I feel low-level rage at conspiracy theorists spewing lies and misinformation out there, wondering on one hand how people can be so gullible and on the other where my blind spots and naivety are.
I feel deep sadness for the 317,000 people in the US who have died from COVID, sadness for their families who will be trying to “celebrate the holidays” while the virus that killed their family member is still raging out of control. I feel lonely for my family who I’ve had to cancel trips to see and miss so much. I feel isolated from my local friends, as it seems like all of my closest friends are frontline workers who are extra risky to be around (and heroic badass women for doing their jobs in this time!).
I feel a weird sense of guilt for still being unemployed, working at becoming gainfully self-employed, and yet not having to stress about finances thanks to my husband’s job and some unexpected windfalls from inheritances and family generosity. I feel pressure to do more to be helping my community besides donating money to Meals on Wheels, the Union Gospel Mission, The Black Future Co-op Fund, the Loveland Foundation, the Minnesota Freedom Fund, Khan kids academy, Catholic Charities, Washington Community Action Network, and Legacy Collective (I list all these places not to toot my own horn but to share some amazing groups that are doing good work and could always use more financial support). I’m trying to shop local way more often, and eat out to support our local restaurants, but those are fun things for me and don’t feel that sacrificial. Which I guess is unnecessary – I have a weird hang-up from my churchy childhood that giving and serving have to be trying, difficult and/or demanding to “count.”
I was joking with a friend a while back in April, when the lock down still felt exotic and like an interesting project, that I’ve been training for this for the last 4 years. Since having my daughter, I’ve run the household around a tight nap/bedtime schedule, so unless I have a babysitter or my husband is home, I’m at home way more than in my childless days. That’s been hard, but I do it because I read sciencey parenting books, and am convinced on the huge importance for sleep and a predictable routine to raise healthy kids. So I’ve already practiced being content in this homebody phase of my life.
I do think that is serving me well, for both the practice of being content in an unsatisfying or challenging moment, and the realization that everything is temporary. That has been my parenting mantra: Every phase is temporary. Every barrier, restriction, worry and preoccupation belongs to a certain timeframe in my kids’ life and will be addressed or grown out of eventually. And that rings true for this gloomy weather and for this COVID pandemic. The sun will shine again; the pandemic will end.
But that certainly isn’t making the day-to-day struggle any easier. Life is just hard right now. Life will always be hard in varying ways and to different degrees, so we’re just getting more practice at being human I guess. Today I was able to get on the elliptical during the kids’ naptime, which always helps. I got cozy afterward with a cup of tea while writing this. Writing these blog posts always help to clarify and calm my mind. I’ve signed up for Yoga with Adriene’s 30 day yoga challenge starting in January, with the theme of “Breath.” I’ve been avoiding yoga for a while recently, since I feel too jittery to be holding so still, and I can’t listen to a podcast while following along like I do while doing cardio. My hamster brain has needed to be spinning on several wheels at once lately, which isn’t super healthy or sustainable. So I think it’s time to try to calm down and focus on my breath again.
So I guess the moral of the story is that life is hard, it’s ok to feel down about it, and it’s important to process those feelings, and to have strategies to get energized and content again. Getting stuck in the gloom and doom doesn’t serve anyone well, and pretending that everything is ok all the time is a delusion that will crack open at some point. I think we all get a lot more
“passes” right now to have off days, but I hope that each of us can find a way to move our bodies, to process our emotions, to reach out and connect with our community, and to practice being content, grateful, and mindful about this one precious life we know can go all too quickly. 317,000 Americans, and 1.7 million humans around the globe, have lost their turn at living a joy-filled life, so I don’t want to spend too much time being unhappy in my own little life.
Grace and peace to all of us trying to do this thing called life well.