Writing this has been on my mental to-do list for a week now. I had not done my laundry since the first week of March. I am showering, on average, every other day. Once a day tooth brushing has become the norm. My kids ate Pizza Rolls for breakfast yesterday. I have worn sweats more than not lately (I have dubbed a matching sweat shirt and sweatpants my “pandemic outfit”).
I have not worn makeup in three weeks. I don’t have a bra on as I type this. I am five episodes behind on my favorite podcast. I lost my months-long exercise streak. I am stress-eating Cheetos and crystalized ginger. We hadn’t read Harry Potter since before spring break (bedtime routine, book five). My emotions are on a wild roller coaster ride. We’re up. Then we’re down! Hang on folks!
My house looks like someone turned it upside down and shook it like a snow globe; there’s shit everywhere. I’ve put my contacts in once lately, to go to my last in-office therapy session … whenever that was. Which reminds me, time is a real doozy right now. I thought today was Friday. But it’s not (I checked). I’ve never talked about toilet paper so much in my 40 years on this earth.
I am not having an idyllic pandemic experience. I am not able to “soak up extra family time,” or “dive into that crocheting hobby” or watch that Tiger King show. I don’t have the bandwidth for any of that. We are in full blown “just survive somehow” mode. JSS is something I’ve plucked from the show The Walking Dead: Just. Survive. Somehow.
I am not thriving. This is not the time to thrive. “Thrive” comes from a place that I can’t seem to access right now. My brain is being occupied with a zillion details between all these needs: personal, family, business, podcast, social-life, homeschooling four children, grocery ordering, getting sleep, remembering to eat, maintain social distance, mental health, physical health, and maybe some laundry. I am busier now than I was last month. Free time became a thing of the past.
About a week into this JSS existence, I realized something. It all felt familiar. I had been here before, and you probably have too. This pandemic is eerily similar to maternity leave. The lofty goals of the first-time pregnant mom for her maternity leave sound a lot like lofty pandemic goals. The similarities are abundant. When you bring that baby home, you’re suddenly homebound. You’re hyper-aware of sick people in your orbit. You’re adjusting to one income. You and your partner suddenly become obsessed with the BMs of your baby (toilet paper talk, if you will).
How many pregnant women think you’ll have time to read when you brought your first baby home? Or that you’d be able to maintain your exercise routine? Getting a shower every day was a luxury with a newborn. Your routines around meals are all out of whack. New moms lose track of time, lose track of days, lose track of themselves. We throw our hair up in a bun. We continue to try to maintain social contact from the confines of our homes. Your house becomes an untidy war zone of diapers, wipes, take out containers, missing iPhones (it’s in the couch cushion), and you’re suddenly spending a lot of time with a child.
You’re not sure about this new reality. It all feels slightly overwhelming and you’re trying to just survive somehow. Your emotions are all over the map — overjoyed with this new baby and scared to death that those nurses let you take this baby home.
Scene: Baby is taking a precious second nap of the day; you jump on Facebook and read some comments on a recent baby photo “enjoy every moment.” In that exact moment, you haven’t showered in three days, and your shirt is stuck to you because of a dried milk stain. The dog threw up, but you haven’t gotten to clean it yet because the baby is sleeping on you. You are not sure what day it is, you’re broke from your unpaid maternity leave, you haven’t seen your friends in a month, and all you want to do is go to the gym. You are not enjoying this moment. Mom guilt starts to surface that you are not enjoying every moment with your baby. You should be … but you are not. So now you feel even worse.
All sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
I had the same reaction to the newborn “enjoy every minute,” as I’m having to these “make the most of this pandemic” messages: STFU. I am just surviving somehow, and adding guilt to my mental load is not helping anyone or anything. I know that we will be fine after this pandemic. I know that after my husband and I do some financial gymnastics, we will be fine. I also knew that I would survive having babies. I knew that we would get through it.
I know things work out in the end, but I am not willing to ignore the present stress, worry, anxiety and overwhelm. I won’t trade my present for a future. I fight to stay present everyday. My present is not perfect. I will not minimize my feelings — that is never the path through them. I refuse to take on guilt that I’m not performing enough during this pandemic. I’m writing about this in case you are feeling the same overwhelm, then subsequent guilt about your overwhelm.
What I will do: I will take the wins when I get them So, here are my wins. I am taking time to talk socially on Zoom or FaceTime. I am journaling. I am not drinking to cope. I actually did my laundry while writing this. (I’ll let ya know how long it takes me to put it away.) I am keeping my gratitude practice alive.
I am just surviving somehow.