This pandemic stuff is hard! And while I’m purely speculating based on recent observations, it seems to be hitting the 30-50 year olds (my generation) the hardest. Or at least, that’s who I hear being most vocal about it. Although it’s not to say everyone isn’t suffering in some way, I think my generation may be struggling the most.
We are worried about our parents and grandparents. We aren’t ready to lose them, but they are at the highest risk in this pandemic. Some of our parents have decided the risk is worth living their lives to the fullest and that’s terrifying for us.
And we are sad for our children: the vacations we aren’t taking, the education they aren’t getting like we’re used to, the parties we aren’t having. We are sad for ourselves too, but many of my friends talk most about not being able to make memories for their children they want to be making.
And, we, like our parents, have lived a really long time without anything remotely similar to this happening. There are very few people alive now who were alive during the flu pandemic of 1919 and almost none that would remember it. So, this is all very weird.
And yet, there are still posts going around social media telling us how we should react to this evolving global crisis. The basic premise of these come in two flavors:
“This is the worst thing ever! Stop changing your lives as a result of it!”
“Stop being sad! Go find your ‘new normal’ and be happy about it.”
I certainly understand both sides of these proclamations. If we’re lucky not to have endured racism, extreme poverty, or religious persecution (to name a few), this is likely the worst thing that has happened to us. So here’s permission to be sad, angry, exhausted, and easily frustrated. Totally normal. And yet, I look at my three kids, who seemed to have adapted, stopped being sad and found happy within the restrictions of social distancing and masking. I didn’t coach them to do that. If anything, they role modeled that behavior for me.
Whenever we are in the midst of a storm, it may feel like it will go on forever but it will not. And this pandemic too shall pass. When someone posts about making the most of a bad situation, I suspect they are trying to grant us permission to let go of the unrealistic expectations we put on ourselves as parents and guide us to maintain perspective and remind ourselves that in the grand scheme of life, this will one day be a distant memory.
So, here’s my advice to myself. I hope it could help others:
It’s okay to be mad, sad, exhausted. Mindfulness teaches me to acknowledge those feelings and thoughts, sit with them for a while and then let them go. Because after a few minutes, they aren’t doing me any good. Once those thoughts keep me from sleeping or functioning in my other relationships, it’s gone too far and I need to seek outside help.
In the current situation, I cannot expect the same experiences for my children and family as I did pre-pandemic. Stop trying to pretend we aren’t in a totally unprecedented, crazy time. Stop driving yourself nuts thinking you have to find ways to entertain your kids so they aren’t traumatized by this. Look at your children and see if they okay. If they are, sit down, express gratitude and have a cup of coffee. If they are in crisis, go get help. If they are somewhere in between, make a list of the things you can still do that are fun and will create memories: things like hiking, teaching them to bake, or teaching your dog a new trick.
I don’t have to act like we are on strict lockdown all the time. This summer, we took a camping vacation and visited cousins in another state. But when cases are surging and hospitals are filling up, we need to buckle down a bit to help flatten the curve. In October 2020, hospitals are full in Wisconsin, and Ohio is surging and revealing itself to be just a few weeks behind Wisconsin. Unless we do something. So, my kids will be unhappy to miss an indoor party this weekend, but it’s just not socially responsible. We’ll find something else fun to do in its place.
This winter isn’t going to be easy. We will still be dealing with this pandemic into 2021. And while I will miss the holiday parties, the vacation travel, and the work conferences that typically mark my winter and spring, I will take comfort in the fact that I have a puppy at home who loves my family like crazy, and without this pandemic, I could have never convinced my husband to ever get a dog.
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