No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. ~C.S. Lewis
Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things. ~Arthur Schopenhauer
Every Tuesday over the last three years, I’ve sat down at this computer to put to words what’s in my heart.
Sometimes it’s cathartic. Sometimes it’s just reflective of what I see around me. Sometimes it’s simply sharing resources. About hope. About resilience. About finding meaning in life and purpose in action.
But the last three weeks have been … different.
Over the last three years, I’ve steeped myself in the collective emotions of the newly-political. I’ve listened, watched, comforted and been comforted. I’ve researched using humor to get through difficult moments, searched for stories about people who’ve overcome hardship, and studied how hope and resilience intertwine and make us stronger.
And at this point, friend. I feel like we need all of those things.
We need humor – which, to paraphrase Charlie Chaplin, is playing with your pain.
We need hope – that secret sauce that keeps you moving forward without crumpling under the weight of the present moment.
We need examples – of people who have gone before, faced obstacles, and have come through their adversity with grace and strength.
We need community – a sense of belonging, so that the future we envision isn’t solitary, but communal.
But most of all, we need honesty.
This is some serious, serious stuff we’re living through.
The generation coming of age right now will probably carry a label that has something to do with this pandemic. (I’ve already seen “Generation C” bandied about.) Their brains are being hardwired in a time of global pandemic and economic depression – a one-two punch that’s going to change how they experience everything that comes after.
And that’s happening to us, too, you know.
In less than a month our entire lives – our jobs, our pocketbooks, our shopping experiences, our family time – nearly every experience from morning to night – has changed. Case in point – as I type this, my son is at my side reading “homework.”
But I should be heading to his school to pick him up right now.
We should be thinking about summer plans. Easter celebrations. Mother’s Day. My son’s birthday.
But we’re not.
Instead, we’re staying inside to stay alive. That’s not hyperbolic. It’s reality.
This is a mind-blowingly serious experience that we will (hopefully) never have to relive. And I think it’s okay to stand back and gaze at that for a moment. I think it’s important, actually. To turn it over in our hands for a bit. To recognize the unique gravity to this collective experience that’s on the tip of your tongue but is impossible to explain. To honor the depth and breadth that’s so massive it’s hard to fathom.
Sometimes I feel like we’re not really accepting the enormity. As if maybe our collective coping mechanism is to carry on as normal as much as we can, clinging to any structure we can find with the tips of our fingernails.
All of that came into focus as I sat down with my son to go over his weekly spelling word list.
It felt both reassuring and ridiculous to have him do those spelling words. Because of course spelling is part of first grade. And I love his teacher for putting together packets that parents can use, in whatever way we can. (Someday I’ll talk about the Zoom bedtime story hour with 20 first graders. It was EPIC.)
But spelling lists feel so … normal. And now is not a normal time.
And right now, kids are doing great if they are not overwhelmed with anxiety. Period.
You are doing great – parent or not – if you’re getting out of bed.
Let me repeat that a different way for you overachievers. You are already doing enough. Even if that’s just getting out of bed or feeding the cats or puttering around in the garden.
You don’t need to be making pinterest cakes and following the calming exercises someone’s brother’s aunt raved about on Facebook. You don’t need to make every day epic for anyone – including yourself.
It’s okay to not be okay.
Because it is not okay.
It will be okay, in time. But right now, you are living through 1918-pandemic-meets-Pearl-Harbor-meets-Great-Depression. If you’re not under your bed muttering about toilet paper while eating cheese puffs, I say you’re doing pretty f*ing great.
So please adjust your expectations of yourself, and the people you love, and give yourself some grace. You deserve it.
And a special note to parents? Your child[ren]’s teacher is trying to be helpful, and they love your kid(s), and they’re just as at sea as we are. They’re making it up as they go along, just like the rest of us. If they give you so many ideas and plans that you can’t do them … don’t do them. Prioritize your mental health and your kids. I promise you will not get detention.
I’m a parent, and realized immediately that I can’t homeschool and work and mother. So I adjusted my expectations – of me and him – and chose cuddles over math. Partly because I think he needs that more right now. Partly because I think I do.
I know he’s falling behind. That’s painful, especially for our family, because he needs socializing even more than typical kids. But I’m confident he’s going to learn greater than/less than eventually.
And this is just the way it is.
I cannot change the fact that he is losing time. You are losing time. I am losing time.
We are learning the value of time because we’re losing it. Important, but very painful lesson.
So let’s own what we’re losing. And let’s grieve what we’re losing.
So that, in time, we can let it go. Because we cannot let go what we do not admit we have.
So, friend? It’s okay to not be okay.
Take care of yourself.
Let’s get to work.
Actions for the Week Of April 7, 2020
Tuesday: Small Deeds Do Make a Difference!
Easy action for today, because I’m embarrassingly late with today’s post. This might be an old article, but I think it’s amazing: Five Ways Small Actions Have Huge Power. It’s all about how great you are. And it has great illustrations! I think you should read it. Here’s the link: https://www.yesmagazine.org/issue/mental-health/2018/09/10/5-ways-small-actions-have-huge-power/
Wednesday: Volunteer Surge
A new organization/entity affiliated with the Yale School of Public health is helping people get trained to be volunteer nursing assistants to help with COVID-19 patients. The training is remote, online, and about 30 hours – and the end of it, participants are able to help on the front lines. If you or someone in your network wants to lend a hand, go to www.volunteersurge.com and find out more.
Thursday: Great Resource about how to hold online events to keep your group connected
If you’ve been wondering how to keep your group connected, here’s a great resource with ideas to help you out. I know this is a big topic right now, and again, I think we’re making things up as they go along. Please share your ideas and your experiences – we’re switching up how we organize on a dime, so crowdsourcing best practices is super important!
Friday: Have you Gotten that journal yet?
A few weeks ago I encouraged you to sit down and write out your feelings and experiences in a journal. I may not write in mine daily, but I can already tell this will be a resource I go back to in the future to see where all of our heads were at various points.
Especially if you’re having a hard time right now, take a few minutes to document where you are right now. Someday you’ll thank yourself for doing it.
WHEW! GO TEAM!
P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.
If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!
Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.