I woke up to rain in New York City this Monday morning, entering week three of social distancing for our family, online learning for my kids and working from home for me and my husband. The initial fervor I felt for stockpiling supplies and working at a manic pace has gone the way of the sunshine this morning, behind heavy clouds and seemingly unreachable. When I give myself a chance to consider the implications of this surreal moment in our lives, like I am this morning, I recognize that the hardest part is the not knowing how long it will all last. We are caught in a limbo with no clear goal posts for what needs to happen in order to free ourselves from this in-between existence. After two weeks of my initial high productivity and stiff upper-lip, a new, lesser energy has set in this morning, perhaps inspired by this past week’s “Quarantinis” (composed of vodka and pickle juice because I forgot to buy jarred olives in my erstwhile stockpiling phase.)
While it may currently feel like we are living in a dystopian YA novel, for my own sanity, I cannot go down the road of exploring that story-within-a-story too deeply. I’d like to continue to feel productive, to model positivity and optimism for my children and to work hard to find the bright side to this experience (which I do believe actually exists.) So instead of climbing back into bed today with a bar of chocolate and an iPad (which may yet happen), I am going to do some heavyweight compartmentalizing, shut away those hard thoughts in a little attic inside my mind, take a deep breath, and do what I do best: make a plan.
First, I’m going to commit to living day by day and not thinking too far ahead. I’ve decided not to play out the possible permutations and implications of the current bizarro reality over an extended period of time because it makes me panic.
Second, I’m going to set an alarm every weekday morning, partially so my kids are on time for “class” and partially so that I begin every day with a routine and a sense of control.
Third, I’m going to keep up with my self-care. I’m going to shower every day, even when I don’t feel like it; get dressed in clean clothes; brush my hair and maybe even put on a little makeup.
Fourth, I’m going to continue to move my body every day, walk outside if I can, do indoor exercises if that’s my best option and encourage my kids to do so as well. (My entire family doing core exercises on our living room floor was a sight to behold.) I know I feel better mentally and physically if I get exercise and this is not the time to ignore the things I already know about myself.
Fifth, I’m going to make myself a schedule for each day, even if it only consists of how many hours I’m planning to work, what meals we will cook and what chores my kids need to do. I always feel better when I have structure, so I will listen to that need and create some. I also really like telling other people what to do.
Finally, I’m going to come up with a silver lining at the end of every day and write it down. I know there are beautiful and positive things coming out of this totally strange experience and I don’t want them to get lost or forgotten when we (God willing) return to normal life.
As a gift to me, today’s silver lining was offered up unsolicited by one of my kids. He turned to me after making his own lunch and said: “Mom, the upside of this experience is that I’m getting a lot more self-sufficient.” Thank goodness for small mercies — that’s item number one on my silver linings list.