It is C+16 since my world changed. Pardon me if you don’t understand my lingo. Ironically, I happen to be reading “Seveneves” by Neal Stephenson, which is a story about a BIG world change, the destruction of earth as the result of an Agent that breaks up the moon into little pieces. The science is over my head, but everyone gets time to prepare for earth’s destruction because there is a lag between the moon break up and the earth’s destruction. The characters in the book decide it’s time to establish a new calendar and gone is AD and CE to be replaced by A (for Agent) plus the number of days since the unknown Agent hit the moon.
So, it’s C+16 since the Global Pandemic changed my world and the world of most of us. The impact of the change slowly crept in as the endless emails that notified us of the new normal rolled across my screen. And while I fear there may be more to come (no thanks, in small part, to the endless bad news that continues to dominate all screens) at C+16, it feels like the significant impact has happened, and I am living my new normal.
That…was…fast. As I stood in line at my local grocery store yesterday (the requisite two metres apart as the stickers on the floor guided me), and observed the masked cashiers, I had a bit of an out of body experience. Suddenly, I was a character from one of the endless number of dystopian books my teachers gave me to read and that my kids and I continue to read.
When I got up to the cashier, I smiled at her as she looked utterly frazzled. I asked her how she was doing, “Not as good as thirty minutes ago when I started my shift.” She was an older woman and told me that she had just gotten back to work after being off for four months due to a shoulder injury. Her grown children were mad at her for going back, but as she explained to me, she had no choice. I packed my bags so she wouldn’t have to and tried to channel deep breathing thoughts and calm to her, but I know that they likely weren’t much use as the line for the cashier was so long, it wound its way around the entire store. I also knew that my chest was feeling tight and so I was more likely channeling stress to the cashier. I thanked her and told her to take care and left the store.
I came home and washed all my purchases and myself, and then, with my dinner-making aid in hand (my rum and coke), I continued to make dinner for my kids and me.
I called up my sister on Facetime, and the kids set up online MarioKart, and they raced (to be precise – my sister and niece race against my kids – isn’t technology amazing?). At the same time, dinner got to the point it could make itself, and I moved over to my computer to tackle some work from a happier place (yes, with a slight buzz on and with headphones channeling pure teen pop as it helps when wading through emails and blocks out ambient MarioKart).
By the way, don’t worry about me, my new normal is mostly the same, and I’m keeping my drinking to my standard “one a day except on Fridays.”
You see, I’ve set up a routine to deal with my new normal. It’s not particularly a routine I would “normally” choose, but it gets me through the day.
7:30 AM. I wake up, and so does my youngest.
We go to the kitchen, and I badger him to feed the cat and empty the dishwasher (he’s almost got that routine down).
He begs me to play the Nintendo Switch, and I say, “NO, read your book until after breakfast.” And he does.
I make and drink my one coffee of the day. A new normal – I used to drink two cups (otherwise known as an entire french press), but my second coffee no longer tastes good, and it does something to my chest – is that anxiety or Covid-19? Whatever it is, that second coffee is out.
Then Switch time starts. At some point, my teenager drifts into the kitchen/den/MY OFFICE and gets himself breakfast and then advises on Zelda until he gets handed the controls. Hey – the schedules I made them adhere to for the first three days have worked – they now know how many Switch hours there are in a day, and they share the controls accordingly.
At 11:15, my youngest says, “I’m hungry” (it’s uncanny – same time every day), and I get up from my workstation and go to my other workstation and start washing dishes and prepping lunch.
I start saying things like, “we are going for a bike ride/run/outside after lunch.” My kids protest or ignore me.
We eat lunch.
We argue about what to do next. Somewhere in between the hours of 1 and 4 (when happy hours starts these days – ok, maybe that is not quite the same as before), I get the kids outside, I connect with my friends and family, and I do some more work. My carefully planned work schedule has flown out the window, and I’m working in triage mode to help my neediest clients first.
Then it’s happy hour, dinner, after-dinner Switch/work time, storytime, and bedtime at 9 PM, and the day is over, only to repeat it the next day Groundhog Day style. Yes, I make my teenager attend storytime – we are making our way through Narnia again. We read it so long ago it’s like new. Storytime is one of the highlights of my day, and I have told my teenager in no uncertain terms if he wants Switch time, he has to endure storytime and outside time. He is almost convinced.
That is my day and that has been my day for the last 16 days (minus the kids for some of the days as they were with their dad – hallelujah).
Now some of you might be going – “must be nice,” and some of you might be going, “I don’t think I could do that for 16 days in a row…”
That’s because it’s my schedule, and I built it after knowing all my constraints.
As I created my new normal, it reminded me of my separation process, and I realized that hey, I’ve lived through the end of the world (for me) before.
When I was newly separated, I had a schedule that got me through my process (it was cobbled together at the time). I was, what I like to call, on mom auto-pilot. My kids were young – seven and four. I took care of them, and when they were with their dad, I cried, took long baths, and phoned my friend Barb for therapy (because I couldn’t afford therapy or so I thought). During that time, I cursed the world, and I cursed my spouse for throwing me into a process that I had no control over.
I drifted around for a year, blown around like a leaf, at the whims of family law, my emotions, my spouse, and my kids. My separation process lasted almost exactly a year, which at the time was an eternity and also what I thought was my new normal. Then my newly divorced process lasted another six months after that as I continued to be blown around by my emotions, my ex-spouse, and kids (at least family law was no longer a constraint).
Then, I said, “stop. I don’t like this new normal.”
So I created a new normal. I ejected some constraints or learned how to constrain the constraints (bye-bye overly emotional Renee, ok, she still shows up sometimes, but I’ve built in an emotional recovery time).
And I got pretty good at it.
And while I was developing my new normal, I realized something else. What I was doing was building resilience.
And I learned something else (and this is the exciting part – especially now – ok, trying not to get overly excited here), this was THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I EVER LEARNED IN MY LIFE!!!
I learned how to take care of myself, and by default, my kids, through the separation days, the divorce days, and now the C+ days.
And, because I’m not sure if I’m made my point yet (yes, my stories are endless), the separation process days were horrid as I was being blown around by some outside force that I had no control over. And the C+ days are horrid, and I have no control over them… and I’m fine.