Wow. So this is what a global pandemic feels like, eh? Not sure I ever thought about what it’d be like, actually, but I’m pretty sure if I did, it probably would have involved less stress and less quarantine snacks.
But maybe I missed the memo on what pandemic behavior is *supposed* to look like?
Anyway, let’s first get one thing out of the way: if you are sick, know someone who is sick, have lost your job or are worrying about losing your job during all of this, my love goes out to you and I’m so sorry.
Now the second thing I need to get out of the way is this: I do not find comparative suffering helpful. Your suffering is valid, my suffering is valid. It’s not a competition.
Comparing whether I have a right to be scared or angry or happy or stressed or any other feeling, against what someone else is going through during all of this, is useless. At best, it’s unhelpful to what we’re actually experiencing and feeling and then only adds guilt on top of all of those feelings when we say things like, “Well, they have it much worse, so I shouldn’t feel bad.”
Do not misinterpret this to mean I think you should not practice a boatload of gratitude every chance you get. Comparative suffering is very different from gratitude.
Gratitude is incredibly helpful at any given time, especially during a global pandemic. Right now, my energy level is low with all I’m trying to keep up with at home. So trying to figure out whether I deserve to feel exactly how I’m feeling about my given situation because someone else might be more worthy of that feeling because their life is more stressful or busy or whatever— is a really poor use of whatever energy I have left.
We are all worthy of our feelings. It is possible to have good feelings like empathy, gratitude and joy at the same time you’re having heavier feelings like sadness, loneliness or grief. That’s how humans work.
So, let’s stop comparing whether we should be feeling a certain way about all of this and just embrace that we are, quite simply, feeling a lot.
For example: on any given day, I feel frustrated, exhausted, anxious, stressed and agitated with my family. On that same day, I may also feel true joy, peace, gratitude, relief, and deep love towards my family.
I love that I’m getting to spend so much time with my kids. And also? It’s too much together time.
I love that I have a job flexible enough for me to work remotely. I’m incredibly grateful my husband and I still have our jobs. And also? I am jealous of my co-workers who don’t have two little kids who can’t be left to themselves.
I am working an average of maybe three hours a day—on a “good” day—instead of seven. And they’re fragmented hours with a distracted and tired mind. The work hasn’t lessened, but my time to do the work has. And so, feelings.
I love that we’re all, thank goodness, healthy. And also? Every time one of us coughs, I formulate a contingency plan for quarantining the coughing family member if it keeps up. (Like any rational person, obviously.)
I love that the scariness of the world hasn’t seeped into the psyches of our kids (from what we can tell). And also? I’m nervous about what this is doing to all of our psyches.
I love that our calendars are completely empty for the first time in (literally) forever. And also? We miss our stuff. Our people. Our routines.
I love that we still have the ability to connect with our family and friends via technology. And also? It’s not the same. It just isn’t.
Nothing is the same.
For the first week or so, I was upbeat about this whole thing—look on the bright side, find the silver lining, keep laughing. And I still embrace that mentality, but I also can’t ignore the other stuff that has all become part of our “new normal.”
Like the fact that my partner and I have probably snapped at each other more in the last two weeks than we have in the last six months. Because we’re both more tired and stressed than we’ve ever been. We’re trying to find that elusive time with each other when all we have is time with each other—except, not really. Because it’s interrupted, distracted time at the end of the day when we barely have enough energy to brush our teeth, let alone have a conversation about anything meaningful.
We’ve found moments, although fleeting, to check-in with one another about how we’re both feeling and to talk about what we need from each other to get through the day. We’ve been able to laugh at the fact that we’re eating as if we’re about to hibernate for a prolonged winter and we’ve resigned to the fact that we’re both a bit on edge.
We’re all feeling things. Little feelings and big feelings. We’re bored yet there’s not enough time in these never-ending days that blend together. We’re grateful and we’re scared. We’re relieved and we’re anxious. We’re happy and we’re sad.
We’re feeling things while parenting and coupling and working and cleaning and organizing and entertaining and schooling. It’s not easy and that’s okay.
And if you learn anything from this, then tomorrow, I hope you spend whatever quiet time you do carve out for yourself to go and sit in a parked car in your driveway so that your kids and husband can’t find you eating chocolate chips out of your hoodie pocket and sipping on your favorite beverage.
Like the hero you are.
You’ve got this, mama. One day, one moment, one quarantine snack at a time.