How are you doing with all of this social distancing? I imagine if I were to ask a random selection of people, the most frequent answer would be, “I’m fine.” Honest answer from me? I saw a meme (created from a comic by KC Green) of a dog sipping a cup of coffee while everything around him was on fire and a word bubble above him said, “This is fine.” This felt very accurate to my life right now because when someone asks, I reply, “I’m fine.” But the truth is my world feels as if it is on fire, and I feel helpless, which makes my heart hurt and my emotions wonky. I go back and forth between happy and sad at the drop of a pin. One moment, I’m thankful to be safe and comfortable and the next moment I’m irrationally angry about missing important pieces of life while stuck at home. Then, I spend far too much time worrying about others and situations that are out of my control. I am so far into “both” emotional extremes that sometimes even I can’t keep up. I was thinking about this complex process and how we often bottle up all the nuance into automatic, one word responses, when the truth is, I am not sure very many of us are simply “fine.” I hope this post can be a space where we can look at the nuance and mess behind the “fine” and be a little less alone in our social distancing fires.
Since this season started, everyday in my journal I document the “number of days of social distancing.” “April 26, 2020, day 42.” My husband told me to stop doing this because he thinks it makes me sad. However, I explained that it doesn’t make me sad, it reminds me that time is moving forward so I don’t get lost in this never ending at-home time bubble. A friend shared that when she was outside cleaning the yard, for a moment it smelled like fall and she said, “I had to stop and think, what season is this? What month is this? Did I miss summer?” I laughed with her and agreed, me too! Sometimes I have to shake my head and remember what day it is. Day 43… day 44… it re-grounds me. This isn’t fall; everything isn’t dying; we aren’t going into winter. We are in the season of new life; spring is here, the sun is shining. Despite the closures, time is still moving forward.
I do find some amusement in the quarantine jokes that are circling the internet. I read one meme that said we should start referring to our kids as our co-workers, since we are working from home. The notion makes for some amusing anecdotes. The other day, I was in a Zoom meeting with several colleagues and my “coworker” shouted, “I’m done and it’s a HUGE poop!” I politely excused myself from the Zoom meeting and went to wipe my “coworker’s” butt. During another Zoom meeting, I had to quickly cover my camera because my “coworkers” ran into the office naked, having removed their pajamas but not yet finished the process of getting dressed for the day. Yes, life truly is unexpected.
I also read another meme that suggested we should pretend our pets are “the drunk guy at the end of the bar.” To which I think to myself, “I would go do the dishes but the drunk guy at the end of the bar won’t stop purring at my feet,” or “I woke up this morning to the drunk guy at the end of the bar demanding I feed him.” Neither of these musings are actually that funny, but both make me laugh. Another sign that the world is a little upside down and nothing makes sense.
I do attempt to find joy in this unusual situation. I have realized that my kids are actually pretty awesome little humans. I’ve had opportunities to observe them in ways I wouldn’t have, had life stayed the same. The other day, I went to check on them and found them playing together, making goofy faces at each other and laughing. Not little giggles, but deep belly laughs that shook their entire bodies. I found myself laughing (quietly, trying not to interrupt) while feeling the unrestricted joy of the moment. Then I cried. Because it was the most beautiful moment and life is so full of these beautiful moments, and yet I’m still so sad right now, too. And I recognize that so many people are so sad right now. Sometimes it feels like too much.
I entered this world of social distancing over a month ago thinking it would be the perfect time for me to “really decide what I want to do with my life.” I rationalized that I would have time to focus on and prioritize my “real goals.” I wish I could go back in time and pat myself on the back and say, “No.” Because, contrary to what I had hoped, it turns out that “deep personal discovery and career clarity” doesn’t happen in the middle of a global pandemic when the entire world around us appears to be on fire. So, if you are someone who established a goal of making significant, positive, impactful life changes and instead have found yourself barely holding it together, you’re not alone. And, no, you are not lazy. No, you are not failing. And, no, you do not need to live in a cycle of shame over a perceived lack of progress. You and I are going to take a deep breath together, remind ourselves that we are living in uncharted territory, during an unexpected time. And, if meeting our basic needs and those of our family is the best we can do right now, that is okay.
I would love to hear your social distancing ups and downs. Feel free to share your nuanced answer in the comment section below, accepting it is ok to not be “fine.” Remember, time is moving forward. Spring is here. And, despite being socially distant, we can still find ways of connection. Wishing peace for your chaotic hearts as I invite peace into mine.
Author: Jessica is a wife, mom, school social worker, and aspiring writer. She is co-author of the blog The Unexpected Ever Afters.