This week my kids went to school.
Normally that’s not a noteworthy accomplishment. But we’re living in anything but normal times.
Then on Wednesday the husband, who’s been merrily working remotely from our bedroom, went into the office. The door closed behind them and I was left with an empty house and an empty day.
I was left with what used to be normal.
I think I expected a moment of breathing space. Like one of those commercials with women breathing deeply over a cup of steaming tea. I expected a wave of calm to wash over me like a gentle breeze.
But what I was left with was not calm as much as a ball of confusion. Yes, it was quiet. Yes, the house was empty. But I was suddenly very much alone with everything I’d been shoving under the Rug of Feelings for the last two months.
For the last 67 days, I’ve put most of my own feelings, my own fear, my own work, my own life really, on hold to act as the Mom glue that holds everything together. I know I am not alone in this. For two months of emergency remote learning I continued to make packed lunches, just like I do every other day. I insisted upon showers in the morning. I extolled the importance of routine. I didn’t start any projects which I couldn’t drop at an instant if I needed to–and I did, plenty of times. I came up with a myriad of ways to make lockdown (I hoped) interesting: challenges, games, fun facts, forced acts of gratefulness. I was an annoying, chirping mom-o-analyst asking them every which way how they felt. I found ways to make sure we had our time apart because we were always together. And yet we were often together superficially–in different rooms, under headphones. And as bizarre as it sounds, I had to find ways for us to be together as well–often thrusting hand sanitizer and moisturizer at anyone and everyone while I rounded us up like a little family herd. Mom-Bo Peep.
As much as we could, we kept to our pre-Corona life. Most of that was due to me. I don’t take any great pleasure or sense of accomplishment in that, nor is it braggadocio. It’s just the way it worked out. There are lots of reasons why this job fell in my lap and I’m sure I’ll delve into that another time, but suffice it to say that for two months most of the responsibility of holding us together–mentally, physically, emotionally, academically–fell to me.
And now, suddenly, almost as overnight and as quickly as things changed, it feels like they mostly changed back.
Hello from the other side.
We’re on the road to back to normal–but of course the normal of today, post-lockdown (or in reality, mid-lifting lockdown) looks very different to what life looked like on March 10th.
But now, without the dull, throbbing need to keep everyone and everything together, I am faced with endless stretches in which all I can do is try to figure out what it all means.
I’m a planner. You know how they say people like to have their T-s crossed and their I-s dotted? Well I like that plus I like my O-s closed, and my C-s curved. For the last two months there were no T-s. There were no I-s. We couldn’t plan more than a day or two in advance and a lot of that involved toilet paper.
It was terrifying, but oddly, it was also kind of freeing. But now? If lockdown meant that up was down and down was up, now we’re just kind of floating in this weird sideways limbo.
When I glance outside, things look normal. But that’s the external stuff. More people on the street. More shops open. But internally, there’s still hesitation.
And I’m not sure when….or if….that will go away any time soon.
Talking or planning more than a week in advance is still impossible. Summer plans? I got nothing. October break? Nada. Christmas? Maybe, if we’re lucky.
Four months ago I had a minor freak out about college for my high school sophomore. Now? I don’t even know if colleges will still be functioning–oh, they’ll be up and running, but who knows how many are going to close between now and then? How will education change in the wake of Covid-19? How will that affect him? Us?
Right now the other side is like it was, but not. It’s the same, but different. There’s a definitive line between before and right now, but the border is translucent and porous. It’s taking big, leaping strides down the street because you can, keeping one eye on the corner because you’re fully expecting a boogey-man to jump out at you and smack you over the head with a two-by-four.
I don’t know if that guard will ever drop completely–now that we all know just how quickly the world can change.
But we’re here. For now. One foot on the other side, wiggling our toes in the pool of new normal.
I can’t tell you how it feels yet because I don’t know myself.
But I promise I’ll keep you posted.