"I don't think I can do this anymore. I feel like I'm failing everywhere. I'm just SO tired of this shit."
This is a text message that I got from a friend a few months ago. It was sent so late at night that I'd long fallen asleep after spending the day juggling my meetings with Ian's, taking turns playing pirates, Barbies, Pirate Barbies, taking walks, and trying not to make it feel like a never-ending Groundhog's Day for us or our kids. I'd put my laptop on the floor next to my bed after realizing I was reading the same sentence of an email over and over without comprehension and I fell asleep without even going downstairs to say goodnight to Ian, who was also catching up on work after the kids had gone to sleep.
I texted her back the next morning as I woke up wondering what day it was, hoping it wasn't one of the days that I needed to do the mental gymnastics required every Monday through Friday in order to make it through what everyone on social media was calling our "new normal." Weekends were sanctuaries of freedom from the stress of setting four different alarms on my phone so as not to miss my next meeting or the 45 minute Zoom kindergarten class that I'd forgotten about the day before.
It seems that I spent a good deal of last year laying awake and going over in my head all of the emails I'd left un-sent to co-workers or the calls I forgot to set on everyone's calendars for the pending project due next week. Which can't be confused for the times I'd wake up in the middle of the night to add "Cheez-its and broccoli" to the running grocery list on my phone, knowing that I'd have to find an hour to run to the store since Instacart and Amazon seemed perpetually booked for the foreseeable future. And, after-all, I'd get that quality "me time" everyone kept telling me I needed, while being outwardly annoyed with the suggestion that grocery shopping during a pandemic was now somehow supposed to give me the same results as spa time.
Anyway, I responded.
"I totally get it, I feel that way all the time. I promise that you're doing a better job than you think ❤️.”
And in that moment I realized that I may as well have just been texting myself. Because hearing that she felt that way confirmed that we were in the trenches together, wearing sweatpants and skipping showers to keep each day moving forward, together. That I wasn't the only one. That I wasn't alone. That I wasn't failing at Pandemic'ing. Or if I was, at least we were failing at it together.
During this pandemic, it's possible that I've said, "I think I've hit peak ‘I‘ve given up‘," so many times to Ian that he looks up to assess whether this is, indeed, my peak, or if I've had way worse moments. If you’re curious, see this photo for proof that there's no such thing as too many sweatshirts worn at once. I don't see this as failure, by the way. I see this as leveling up in life. Sure, it's possible that putting on pants with a zipper at some point in the next few months would be a good personal goal, but I'm also all about managing expectations. And I don't think anyone should expect me to button my pants until this shit is over. Deal?
This time of Pandemic'ing has also created a new version of my husband, since recently he consumed so much dinner in one sitting that he had to get up from the table and put on pajama pants and then come back to the table to finish eating in pajamas. Because he wasn't abiding by my "no buttons on your pants this year" rule, apparently.
Thankfully, in addition to the insights I've gained into elastic living and expectation-management, I've also gained a bit of perspective on the last ten months. And I don't think chalking 2020 up to a lost year would be doing it justice. And it wouldn't be doing any of us justice, either. Because we did it, you guys. And we're continuing to do it. And not everything was horrible....right? (Let's be clear, though - if you are someone who has been grieving or lost your home, that's an exceptional hell that no amount of perspective can fix right now, so put on some pajama pants and you do you.)
It was really hard and incredibly lonely at times, to be sure. It was a year where both my daughter and I got sick with Covid, my husband was furloughed, my job became more demanding than ever, our friends lost people they loved, my daughter missed getting to experience her first day of kindergarten in her new elementary school, and both girls missed months of classes, socialization, park visits, birthday parties and huge, loud holiday family gatherings that they love. My husband and I felt the walls of our house shrink, our patience with each other wane, and our creativity and parenting stretched to their limits as each day blurred into the next and driveway obstacle courses and hide-and-seek became monotonous and ordinary and played out. I snapped at my family more than I'd like to admit, had meetings interrupted by my kids asking for their gazillionth snack of the day, and felt the lines of work and life blurring as the hours of both became one in the same.
But last year was also a year where my daughter and I both recovered from Covid without any noticeable, lingering side effects, my husband got his job back and we were stable enough financially during it all, fortunate to not have the added stress of wondering if we'd be able to pay our mortgage or feed our kids on top of everything else. My daughters maintained consistency and some much-needed, in-class friend time once we were able to send them back to their school/daycare. And it turns out, my kindergartner never even knew that she'd missed the "first" that I'd been so fixated on her having. Our parents stayed healthy and in our small bubble so that our girls were able to get some outside-of-our-four-walls family moments (as well as being the “fun” grown ups who were actually willing to give them ice cream on demand). And I was able to perfect the art of being professional on top and a party on the bottom when needed. Or, as I like to call it, the Mullet of Zoom Fashion.
I reveled in the slowing down and pulled my hair out because it was too slow - all at the same time. I relished the daily giggles and cuddles from my kids and locked myself in the bathroom to eat breakfast in peace - all at the same time. I gave myself breaks and let the house get super messy and then I’d have the inevitable nervous breakdown that would follow where I'd threaten to throw away every toy and sock left on the floor while my kids blissfully learned to ignore me. But the point is, I attempted to take my own advice and gave myself (and my family) a break. And we made the hard days more bearable by regular Zoom drinks with friends, that we otherwise would rarely see, binged shows, discovered the Drizly app, and had movie days with our kids. We cried, we laughed, we mourned, and we celebrated. We gave up, we succeeded, we cursed, and we found hope.
In other words, we had an epic year.
Say what you want about 2020, and I've said a lot - but she's memorable. She's one for the books. And she didn't break us, though she certainly gave it a valiant effort.
So my advice to us all, to take if you’d like, is to embrace what the year gave us that's of value and leave the rest behind.
But if you take no other advice for the rest of the year, for God's sake, don't put on any pants with buttons. It's called self-care, mama. You're welcome and you’ve earned it.
Happy New Year.