I’m sitting in the family room, my head against the back of the couch, my legs stretched out under the coffee table, staring at the ceiling. I don’t know how long I’ve been here. My golden doodle, Huckleberry, barks, bringing me out of my trance.
This has been happening more often lately. Yesterday, I was in much the same position, staring at the floor instead of the ceiling, doing absolutely nothing for twenty minutes or more. Like most of you, I’m bored out of my ever-loving skull.
There’s plenty to do: I haven’t cleaned in ages. I have work to do, reports to write, calls to make. There are clumps of dog hair everywhere I look, and I’m wearing a workout leotard under my sweatshirt because I have no clean bras. The kitchen is greasy. (Also, the featured image is a bunch of yarn that I literally spent two hours untangling. Because, yeah, that needed to be done…)
If you know me, you’ll know that none of this is really new. What’s new is, I have plenty of time to solve all the above problems. I’m just not doing it. What exactly am I doing? Marking time until all this is over and I can get my life back.
The problem is, life as we knew it may never come back – none of us know where we go from here, right? – and the uncertainty is paralyzing. The grief for what I once took for granted – freedom of movement, freedom of hugs and handshakes with friends, freedom of eating in a restaurant surrounded by other conversations without being obliged to join in – is paralyzing. The worry about friends and family and the world in general is paralyzing. And so I stare at ceilings and floors.
Some people are getting their closets organized. Others are learning new skills or are getting in rock-solid shape (what they’re calling “quarantoned” – and god, how I hate that word). Still others are cooking healthy food and tidying up their winter-messy yards and drinking veggie-infused protein shakes.
Me? I’m eating potato chips for breakfast.
It’s not quite as bad as I’m making it sound. I’m having some fun being with family at home. Paul and I binged on the third season of Ozark, and let me just say, Wow. Sometimes he and I sit in the family room and stare at the ceiling together, which is nicer than doing it alone. We bump into each other in the kitchen and just hug. And the kids and I are having fun. Mike and Lizzie make me laugh. We’ve played some games (though not as many as I’d like). Liz and I went to Estes Park to see the elk and watch the sun rise. Mike and I snuggle with Huckleberry for long, lazy periods of time. My brother Mark has given me a couple FaceTime harmonica lessons and I can now (badly) play Brown-Eyed Girl and When the Saints Come Marching In.
Better yet, like many of you, I’m having weekly Zoom parties with friends (on Sunday afternoons) and family (Wednesday nights). This is more time than I’ve spent with these people in years. Like everyone these days, we wonder, why didn’t we do this before? Why did it take the pause of life as we knew it to get us to connect? I don’t know and I don’t care. I’m just glad we’re connecting now.
I’m taking occasional Zoom fitness classes from my aerial studio, Live Beyond Limit, which is fun, and I’m playing on my hoop that Paul hung, blessedly, from the ceiling in the basement just days before the stay-at-home order was given, which is even more fun. It’s a bummer, though, that the same lack of motivation that leads me to stare at the ceiling leads me to warm up for five minutes instead of twenty before I jump into my hoop and start playing. So my elbows, wrists and shoulders ache constantly, and it’s my own fault for being lazy – except, stop it, Jen! It’s not laziness! It’s just the way life is these days, and that’s my point.
This is a fucked up world right now, you guys.
And on top of all the new, covid-related challenges, we’re still dealing with life. There’s money to worry about, kids’ issues we must try to solve, the usual emotional ups and downs. I have a friend who lost her mother right before all this went down, and I can’t imagine the stress and heartbreak she must be dealing with during this incredibly sad and stressful time.
Anyway, as I was staring at the ceiling just now, I suddenly needed to share the challenges I’m facing, because I know many of you are facing them, too. If you’re doing great, enjoying time with family with no reservations, getting stuff done, taking advantage of the world having hit the pause button, then that’s awesome and I’m so, so impressed. Hats off to you, because I don’t know how you’re doing it.
But if you’re not, if you’re struggling with taking a shower or throwing in a load of laundry, here’s one person, at least, who totally gets it. I support you. I support your struggles and what you probably are calling your “laziness” and “lack of motivation.” I support your makeup-free face and your unbrushed teeth, your choice to eat frozen pizza every day, your increased screen time, and your marital spats that you start from sheer boredom and anxiety. I support your decision to let the kids do whatever the fuck they want because you just don’t have the bandwidth to parent the way you would like to right now.
Be kind to yourself. Stare at that ceiling. Eat the shit food. Nap twice a day. Snap at your kids. You’re doing your best, even if you don’t feel that way. If you can get outside for ten minutes, maybe give that a try. Eat a piece of fruit. Tell your family you love them. But if you can’t manage even that much, I get it. You’re probably grieving and confused and scared. Because I know I am.
Not sure why I suddenly I wanted to say that all that,, but it seemed important. Whether I know you personally or not, I love you no matter how you’re getting through this. Enjoy what you can but don’t beat yourself up when you can’t. Hang in there. When we move on to whatever comes next, we’ll all help each other through it. That’s all. I’m done. Go take a nap or eat some Swedish Fish. Give yourself a hug. And know that I am on your side, because you’re doing a great job.
All my love,
PS: right after I wrote this but hadn’t hit “publish” yet, I got a burst of energy and decided to go to the park with my dog. I jumped up, grabbed my Kindle and keys, got Huckleberry into the car, and backed out of the garage directly into the two garbage pails that were sitting at the end of the driveway. I slammed them hard enough to knock them both down. Luckily the garbage had already been picked up for the day, so no trash was spilled in the street, and miraculously, my car seems undamaged. But come on! Jeez. I finally get up the gumption to get out of the house and my head is so far in the clouds that I nail the garbage cans. At least it wasn’t the neighbor’s dog or something. Be careful out there, my friends!