When life as we all knew it stopped back in March 2020, suddenly we had all of this free time. Footage showed empty streets, the absence of traffic, and wildlife returning to places where it had been scared off by humanity. Of course there were new concerns, but for those of us who were lucky enough to stay well and stay employed, this screeching halt was a welcome change. We were gifted downtime and slow living whether we asked for it or not.
Gone were many of the entertainment options we previously had (You might call them distractions, really.), the reasons to spend money on the weekends, all travel plans that had been made, which led to many of us actually saving money (plus no commute, no gas, and no tolls to pay for). At the cruel, opposite end of this pandemic spectrum were people who had suffered so much financial loss, and worse yet: death. You can read about the havoc caused by the pandemic literally anywhere else. It’s inescapable. After talking with friends from all walks of life throughout this long year, I’ve concluded that it’s the subtleties of the pandemic that are piling up, in positive and negative ways. If this has been your experience, I see you.
While the quality time with immediate family has been unlike any other period in our lives (which I do think has benefited society exponentially), it’s also been never-ending, for better or worse. Childcare is necessary for both the parents and the children. When there is no break, we parents can’t bring our best selves to the interactions we have with our children. We can only be present when we have time to reset. That sounds ironic, that we need something other than what is in the present in order to be present, but that unplugging and centering time we get from “time off” is critical. The truth, also, is that people who have been alone during this time are deeply craving human contact. One thing is universal, at least for those of us who have altered our lives during this time (I have to specify that since there are a surprising number COVID deniers still out there conducting business as usual), and that is that unresolved fears, grief and family issues have been brought to the surface. There is no escape. And this is all teaching us something, right? Peeling back layer after layer and, if we’re the lucky ones, seeing that it’s happening, as unpleasant as it can be in the process.
Many of us have settled into routines that are semi-functional and flexible. It’s an ever-evolving situation and we’ve grown used to figuring something out only to have to modify it a week later. There are days that really suck and other days that feel really productive. And while we sit with all of this “free” time we’ve gotten back, we have so much to do. Many of us mothers are sitting here, commiserating over the overwhelm of parenting, educating, doing anything remotely career-related and the goddamn cooking and cleaning and day-to-day minutiae that happens within the walls of our homes (Again, #blessed. Thank God we have homes, family and minutiae, but…) and we are all in this together…yet none of us can physically help one another. And the nature of friendships these days is such that friends are spread across time zones anyway, somehow reminding us that we’re just as “alone” as we were before this happened. Hello darkness my old friend.
But. BUT, I hope this has had an eye-opening and empowering effect on you, as it has on me. We actually can do this alone. It doesn’t mean that we should or that we want to. And thank God for technology, that’s made it possible to learn and connect at all. And nothing lasts forever. Not the good, nor the bad, nor childhood, nor pandemics. And damn if the people who have been virtually sitting next to me on this struggle bus ride haven’t solidified a VIP spot in my heart for the rest of the time it’s beating.