We’re Crashing: The Corona Blues

We’re crashing. We seriously thought we could do it. We rallied ourselves up. The adrenaline was high. We knew what we had to do and we could do it… Switch to social distancing… Switch to working at home… Switch to remote schooling. We got this. It sounded manageable because we were told that we were staying in for two weeks. And that seemed to be very doable.

For some, it was intense work of changing up the way offices were run, or medicine was practiced, or preschools and schools switched to home-based. For some it was endless hours of getting systems ready to run a new way. For others, it was a sudden social change with kids home all day without the usual supports of friendships and playgrounds and activities. For some, it was sudden isolation, stuck within their own four walls of the senior high rise without Bingo night or card games or opportunities to talk with each other.

And we thought we could do it.

A light: Free library in nearby neighborhood offering masks for those who need one.

But then as the weeks ran into one another and the days blended together and the time stood still, we realized we just couldn’t do it anymore. We were crashing. The adrenaline was gone. The constant stress and unrelieved worry that simmered underneath our conscious emotions began to overflow. We had prepared ourselves for the sprint. We didn’t realize we would be undertaking a marathon.

And just as the tears started to leak and the brain started to spin, we suddenly realized that all our natural coping mechanisms were gone. The tight squeezing hug from a friend. The hanging out together over a cup of coffee. The meals around the table.

Sure there’s the telephone and the FaceTime and the Zoom Happy Hours. But suddenly we realized that wasn’t cutting it. Because if nothing else, this crisis-demanding social distancing has made it abundantly clear that the human body is designed to be in close connection with other human bodies. The energy that radiates from our very cells when next to another feeds one another and refills one another. Being together uplifts one another and soothes us. Technology cannot replace touch and proximity.

Week 6 of shut-down and we’re crashing. We’re crashing because jobs are lost and money is tight. We’re crashing because we don’t want someone telling us what to do. We’re crashing because we just need to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The word “indefinite” doesn’t work for us. We need control. We need a timeline. We need to know.

We’re crashing because we’ve never lived like this. We don’t know how to live like this yet. And we are not getting clear and consistent information and instructions. We don’t see a clear and unified plan. We’re crashing because we’re scared and angry and feeling helpless.

We’re crashing because our usual coping skills weren’t built for this and because we we’re hard on ourselves. We expect to be productive. We expect to get things done. We have forgotten how to rest.

We’re crashing because there are moments when we can’t see the light. The hurt and the pain that surrounds us. The illness and death of friends and family. The images of mass graves being dug and long lines of cars waiting, desperate for food.  We’re crashing because the world is so different than it used to be and feels less safe.

Zen: Adult coloring book by a friend

We’re crashing because it is time to crash. The Corona Blues have set in and we are each having to face the darkness. And it’s time to rethink what we’ve been doing. It’s time to look forward to a new world and a new way of life. It’s time keep our eyes out for the light that is there around us.

And it is time to give ourselves permission to rest. It’s time to find activities that help us make time stand still. Reading a book. Doing a puzzle. Intricate coloring. Baking bread. Weeding the garden. Long walks through the woods. Anything in which time warps and what feels like ten minutes has been forty-five. For in those moments, the body pauses, the breathing calms, the stress lessons and the soul heals.

It’s time we give ourselves those “zen” moments and encourage one another to do so as well.

Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)

We just have to “be”…God’s got the rest.

You Got This

Easter of a pandemic. I stayed up late for Easter bunny fun designing a nice scavenger hunt for the boys to find their baskets in the morning. What I failed to appreciate was the vicious combination of holiday excitement and poor impulse control. Within minutes, Mr. Ornery was in tears about how hard the hunt was, how this was stupid, and how angry he was about having to do this. Within minutes a fight had broken out over whose tiny piece of chocolate was whose after cracking open all the plastic eggs from the family-room-egg-hunt. Within minutes, I was tucked away back in my bed sobbing.

My expectation of a beautiful morning clashed with the ADHD expectation of immediate access to candy! My expectation of a fun bonding moment in the midst of quarantine clashed with the need to just get to the end goal. It took me awhile to bounce back and realize that we are all stressed. Holidays add stress. Decreased amount of sleep adds stress. Constant, smoldering worry of an ongoing pandemic adds stress. A complicated scavenger hunt for an Easter basket was not the right type of stress to add.

I’ve been imparting wisdom left and right about how it’s most important to attend to our social-emotional health during this time, especially the health of our children. The other day, I stood in the hallway of our medical office listening to a mother stress about how many hours of school work she was trying to get her 6 year old to accomplish. She had gotten home from work and spent about 4 hours with her kindergartener trying to get assignments done. There was stress. There were tears. There was guilt about not spending time with the younger sibling because of all the attention on school. Her voice cracked. And my heart paused for her.

“Listen, we’re living in a pandemic. We’re just hanging on some days trying to cope. There’s too much stress of trying to do work well, trying to parent well, and trying to help kids with school. She’s in kindergarten. She’s going to be fine if you just focus on her emotional health,” I spouted.

There are just a few times I’ve cried during this pandemic and most of those times have been while on a phone (or after hanging up) with a teacher or learning support teacher at my boys’ schools. I find that I keep voicing how hard this is for parents to try to do their own work from home while simultaneously trying to figure out how to help the kids. I’ve advocated for paying more attention to “how are the kids feeling?” and figuring out how they are coping with their stress.  We’ve revised 504s and IEPs. We’ve decreased some of the workloads. But it’s a work in progress.

The moment the schools closed, Super Tall Guy packed up and moved over to my sister’s house. He loves being there with her two teenage boys. He spent the entire summer there last year. And while that seemed fine when they talked about closing school for two weeks, when the governor closed schools for the rest of the year – a total of 3 months – that just didn’t seem sustainable.  I struggled with the fact that he wasn’t getting the same “bonding” time that the other two boys and I were having (not that he’d come out of his room to go on our daily family walks, anyway). And although I kept fussing about whether to “make” him come back home, I finally relaxed into persuading myself that his stay there was buffering his social-emotional health. He is happy and that is good enough for now.

There’s just no right and wrong. No clear cut answers to anything. We are all just trying to do our best each day and waking up to try again tomorrow. So I wrote this….

 

 

 

Because of Corona: Covid week 3

I tried a rap with the boys.

You’re off school

Isn’t that cool

Cuz cuz cuz, Corona.

 

Everything’s closed

Stuck at home

Cuz cuz cuz, Corona.

 

They thought it was awful.

We’ve been trying to cope with all these changes and name them. We can’t go to the skate park with our scooters and skateboards, because of Corona. Grandma didn’t get to join us in coloring Easter eggs, because of Corona. We can’t invite a friend over to play, because of Corona. “Will we go to the beach for vacation this year?” We might not, honey, because of Corona.

Because of Corona, I start all my work emails with the words, “So sorry for my tremendous delay in responding….” It’s my “Covid-delay.” You know the joke, where someone gets distracted by a passing squirrel? Well, that’s all I have in my life right now – lots of squirrels!! And there’s no space for brain power.

Because of Corona, the governor of our state just canceled schools for the rest of the year. My 5th grader is missing out on his “senior” year of elementary school – the strutting in the hallways of being the “big” kid on the block, the visit to the middle school in preparation for the transition, the grade-level picnic at the local playground as a last bonding hurrah. I know it’s a small thing in the grand scheme of health and life, but it’s a disappointment and a grieving. And it’s a stress to know that the squirrels are going to be circling me for another two months!

Because of Corona, I am now putting in full days at the medical office which means my sister is helping by watching my youngest for almost 12 hours (which gives her a total of 5 boys in the house; although fortunately the three teens sleep a good chunk of the day). And it means that Mr. Ornery is home alone for a good chunk of time watching TV. I thanked him for it the other night as I tucked him into bed and he said, “It’s okay, Mom. I know you have to help people.” It’s still a sacrifice for the family.

Because of Corona, the younger boys, the little Cavadoodle and I take a walk around the neighborhood every day. They are usually on a scooter or skateboard and I’m usually saying inane things like, “Look at that beautiful purple flower which I don’t know the name of….” We are becoming more in tune with nature and the tiny changes of the season that we would never have noticed had we been in our hectic schedule of gymnastics, hockey, basketball and on and on. It’s a time of growth for us.

Because of Corona, I am a little more irritable and snap at the boys a little more. I’m around them so much now that I start to pick on little things. I’m trying hard to get work in and realize I’ve just snapped at a little boy who interrupted my online meeting because he simply needed a hug. I sleep much more than I used to and yet struggle to feel rested. I read more. I puzzle more. I bake more. My body is stressed and trying to deal with the trauma of an upended life. It takes a toll on all of us.

Because of Corona, my neighbor and I have started to jog or walk together a couple mornings a week. We just need to move and we just need to talk. We just need the comfort of venting to one another, listening to one another. I’ve been connecting with many people electronically. I’ve had several zoom “Happy Hours,” but there’s a different physical and biological response when we’re near someone even if we’re six feet away.

But because of Corona, we’re also awkward around other people now. I fold my arms across my chest to make sure I don’t accidentally reach out and touch someone as we talk. As someone who is not all-huggy, I now crave the hugs from my great-hugger friends. My neighbor brought over sidewalk chalk for the boys and we awkwardly tried to figure out if she could hand it to me or put it down and I’d pick it up…. Because of Corona, I wonder if people worry about me baking cookies for them (so I wash frequently and use gloves to plate them). It’s a constant edginess.

I asked the fifth-grader how he felt about missing his last quarter of his school year. “Awesome!” he exclaimed. “Isn’t it a little weird, though?” I inquired. He paused. He doesn’t talk about emotions much (you know, a preteen boy). He replied as he walked away, “Yes, it is weird. …. But I’m okay.”

I’m okay. Acceptance. That’s the point we need to get to, but it’s going to take awhile. We are coping with loss and disappointment. We are coping with uncertainty and constant change. We are coping with stress and trauma. The wisdom of Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief fits this age of pandemic. As individuals and communities, we worked through denial of “it’s just a flu.” We wrestled with the anger of “how can you shut down our normal routines and businesses and ask us to collectively stay home?” We start the bargaining of “Can’t I just….or….” And we feel the depression and anguish of the current state. We hurt for those experiencing intense hardship. We worry about the individual and societal and worldwide impact of this experience. The grief is real.

And we work toward acceptance and healing. We work toward a new “normal” and a new level of empathy and compassion. We work toward making sure that everyone is “okay.” Blessings to each on this journey.

Forsythia heart in a neighbor’s yard.

 

 

Social “Distancing” – Week 1

When the fifth-grader’s teacher texted me on Tuesday night to say she had an “inkling” that schools would be closing by Monday, I panicked. “Oh, please, no,” I responded. The thought of having the boys home ALL the time was overwhelming to me.  But as I read more and more about the coronavirus COVID-19 and as more and more places closed, I slowly started to grasp the reality.

And then by Thursday night, my stress level climbed as I got downright frustrated that the school district had not informed parents about a closing. As more and more neighboring districts closed and ours wasn’t, I got more and more worried. I got so worried, that I had to rip open another jigsaw puzzle box, pour a glass of wine and stay up late into the night putting tiny cardboard pieces together to help me relax and unwind the tightness of the stomach and muscles.

Super Tall Guy called me Friday afternoon right after I hung up from listening to the school district’s automated message. “We’re out of school for two weeks!” he exclaimed. “Where are you?” I queried, hearing a cacophony of noise in the background. “In reading class,” he responded, “Everyone is calling their parents.” I imagine the reading teacher had basically just given up with her room full of teens!

….There’s a reason I was never a stay-at-home mom. Well, of course, the reason is that I need to work as a single mom. But the other reason is that kids are entirely exhausting to this strong introvert. There’s nothing I like more than curling up with a great book beside a fireplace. Taking a long run or walk. Losing hours to the lull of a jigsaw puzzle (do not mess with my pieces – I know the location of every single one of them as they await being placed!).

Kids are entirely exhausting to me. And juggling kids while trying to work from home is entirely exhausting. Making food all day long is exhausting. Keeping up with the tracking in of dirt is exhausting. Biting my tongue and escaping to my room when tempers flare and kids quarrel is exhausting. Listening to the whine of “I’m bored” is exhausting. And trying to explain in a safe and non-scary way why we’re not playing with other children for awhile is exhausting.

But what is most exhausting is stress. Stress is exhausting. Holding ourselves together is exhausting. Reading about the insidious spread of a virus is exhausting. Worrying about the health of your own family and your aging parents is exhausting. Frustration at the lack of a coordinated and helpful response by your own government is exhausting. Worry for colleagues in the medical field is exhausting. Worrying about seeing patients is exhausting. Stress is exhausting!

I slept a lot last week. A lot. So did the eleven-year-old. The eight-year-old watched a lot of TV. A lot. The 13-year-old played Fortnite. A lot of Fortnite.

But we made it through. We made it through with rest, with games and movies, and cardboard creations for the hamster. We made it through with faith and music and stories. We made it through with cookies. Lots and lots of cookies. And, we made it through with understanding that it’s not “social distancing” we’re trying to accomplish, it’s “physical distancing.” The social connection must remain. So, I continued to call my mom daily. I texted many people I hadn’t connected with for awhile. I started getting outside for walks or runs with a neighbor, each of us letting the other know when we were about to blow and needed some physical activity to clear the head and raise the endorphins. We started to figure out what it meant to stay away from others and yet try to stay connected (I miss hugs….).

And, we made it through because there was no school requirement yet and no pressure to juggle one more thing…

….but then there’s tomorrow morning. Remote school starts.

Let the wild rumpus begin!

Jeremiah 29:11