A couple of nights ago, my husband and I decided to have burgers for dinner. As my husband grilled and the girls played around him in the backyard, I was in the kitchen slicing veggies for a salad. The windows were open and the smells of the grill and sounds of my 4-year-old chattering floated around me. End-of-day sunlight streamed into the kitchen, creating yellow puddles of warmth our dog stretched out in.
It felt so peaceful and happy.
It felt normal.
I noticed my shoulders had relaxed.
My mind had stopped racing through an endless loop of questions and worries.
For a moment, we just were.
Life has felt so wildly different lately. Infused with a lot of fear and uncertainty. I wouldn’t be able to sleep the night before I had to make a grocery run. I would fret over every potential germ that could get into our house. I would obsess over news reports and death rates and the endless cycle of bad news. I decided—I can’t live this way. I had to switch out of crisis mode for my own mental sanity.
I realize my privilege at even being able to make that transition—we both have jobs we can do from home, I was already homeschooling my oldest daughter and I have consistent (albeit delayed) access to safe, healthy food and other basic necessities.
I don’t mean to say I think the situation has gotten any less dire or that it is any less important to continue to comply with the recommendations of trusted health organizations to stop the spread of the coronavirus and protect those around us. I don’t mean that I think this is any less of a crisis than it was last week.
For me, the change is entirely internal. Instead of fretting over every next step, constantly worrying and wondering how the situation will evolve and what I should be doing, I’m taking a step back. I’m living differently, but not unbearably. I’m missing how things were, but I’m also able to maintain a sense of normalcy for my kids that even I can buy into now and then.
Since then, those moments of “feeling normal” have popped up a bit more. Maybe it’s when my preschooler and I are working on an art project or while my 1-year-old is doubled over in giggles as I tickle her belly. Maybe it’s at the end of the day when my husband and I not-so-guiltily decide to watch “just one more episode” before we go to bed. Maybe it’s dozens of tiny, insignificant moments that I suddenly realize I don’t take quite so for granted anymore.
Of course, things aren’t normal right now.
We’re still socially distanced from all our friends and family, relying on technology to keep us connected (and keep us from going batty). We’re still home, pretty much all day every day as my husband and I try to find a new rhythm of both being work-at-home parents who never really get a break. I still worry every time I have to leave the house to pick up groceries, or any time a package arrives on the doorstep about what germs we could be bringing into the house. I still worry about when my husband has to go back to work, even just for a day, next week.
My worries haven’t vanished, but I do feel like I’ve finally stepped out of crisis mode.
Put simply, I think I’ve adapted to this new way of living for now. I automatically factor in at least a week’s wait time for my grocery pick-ups. I keep a mask and gloves in my purse and an extra set in my car. I wash my hands often and disinfect surfaces daily without thinking twice. I exercise daily, take it easy on my skin and hair and am mindful of taking care of my teeth because I don’t know when my next doctor appointments will be.
I look for virtual activities to fill my calendar and plan online playdates to occupy my very social little girls. So much of life has continued on, mostly as usual, despite the seismic changes happening outside our door.
I’m fortunate to be able to do this. I know it—and I’m feeling extra grateful for that blessing these days.
Of course, it’s not a perfect science. That same night we made the hamburgers, as my husband tucked the girls into bed and I watched a show, a commercial came on showing all the incredible healthcare workers risking their lives to keep so many of us safe. Within seconds I felt fat tears rolling down my cheeks, the tightness in my throat clenching in a silent sob.
No, things aren’t actually normal right now.
But for my own mental and emotional well-being—my own mental and emotional stamina—I’m welcoming those moments that feel almost normal.