(What I have done for the last 2 months: yoga every day.
What I have not done for the last 2 months: felt, in any way, relaxed, calm, peaceful, or zen.)
make an attempt or effort to do something; an attempt to achieve or attain.
difficult or annoying; hard to endure.
Has any other homonym been more applicable during this pandemic?
If so, forgive me. My brain is oh so tired. (And, while your’e at it, please give me bonus points for remembering the difference between a homonym and homophone!)
We are about to enter into another novel phase of this novel time of this novel virus,
and I am scared. The two hands I wrote about in May are not just full; they are unkempt, unmanicured, weathered, and they are trembling.
I have shared a lot of how I am feeling on my Instagram page (particularly in a highlight called RL Talk COVID, if you are interested), but compared to my normal level of openness, honesty, and verbosity, I’ve been quiet.
I have spoken about my anxiety and hypochondria, shared my worries for my kids, posted metaphors about how, for me, the idea of schools reopening now feels like trying to shuttle kids in school busses during a severe blizzard.
What I have not yet shared? The thing that is so hard to consider that I, most often, do not; the thing that hit me, just yesterday, during a teletherapy session; the thing that is just as novel to me as this virus and chapter in history:
COVID19 is making me feel like a bad mom.
Allow me to explain.
There are so many things that make me feel like me.
In “normal life” I am proud to identify as many things at the same time. While being a mom always tops the list, I am also proud to be a wife, and an author, and a blogger, and a friend, and a daughter, and a sister, and a singer, and as part of a rock and roll band, and an advocate, and as a speaker, and as a gardener, and as someone who faces tasks head on.
As COVID19 began its perilous spread, each of these things began to fall. Some were in deafening collapses. Others were silent.
This one hurts the most.
All of my external identifying factors began to disappear.
(As swiftly as the disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer bottles on store shelves? Too much? Too much.)
My second book, Baby Ever After, came out right before the pandemic reared its head. I was an author with a book that could not be promoted properly. I could no longer blog, as I had mommy school to teach. I had a singing gig lined up for July, along with my incredible guitar teacher, and I would be able to play for the first time ever in public. We all know how that went.
All of my attention had to be harnessed inward, or at least to the inside of our home.
I tried to keep our spirits up. I tried to keep us connected. I tried to keep music in the air.
In the past, even in my darkest days, I could still host a raging dance party for my kids.
I could twirl them around, play them like a guitar in my arms, set the amp to blast music so loud that it felt like the house would shimmy and shake along with us. I could keep my kids happy.
I could overcome.
I did live-blog my severe postpartum depression in real-time, after all.
I’d done this before! I had worked through a crisis! Even when I hated myself during those miserable months of postpartum depression, I loved them enough to keep them happy. I over-functioned, in many ways. I couldn’t do many simple things (you know, like feed myself), but I could plan elaborate costume parties, perform in rock concerts, make kale smoothies, enroll both kids in the right schools, participate in fun classes, and jump in ball pits. I even got them their own ball pit! (Note: I have never been good with germs).
I was on top of my shit.
I could persevere through my own suffering just enough to give them all they wanted and needed and then a little bit more, leaving exactly no reserves left, but it was OK. It kept us afloat. It wasn’t ideal, but they were smiling and thriving and nothing mattered more.
It was trying, but I was trying, and, most of the time, my tries were triumphant.
All of this is to say, motherhood was this one, salient, impenetrable thing I could always fall back on. I’ve been blogging here for ten years, and during that time I have been open about many of my struggles and alluded to others, but during all of these times I still felt like a MOM. A mommyish mom. A good mom.
And that feeling, the one thing that has been my buoy, is gone.
Right now, as this un-summery-summer is drawing to a devastating close, I feel more lost than ever before.
I do not even know which direction in which to paddle my arms.
With little leadership, no uniformity, limited data, inadequate supplies, and a poor sense of direction I am trying and trying and trying to tread water, because I do not know what else to do.
When I look in one direction, I see red hazard lights blaring.
“Stop!” They indicate. “There is danger, ahead! We do not know exactly what this danger is, but it is bad. It is so bad. We know it is probably even worse than we think, but we will not know for a long time, but trust us: you should be scared! Oh! And make sure to scare your children, as well! Not, like, scar them scare them, but make sure they know the gravity of the situation! Stay. At. Home.”
When my head whips in a different direction I see the flags from mental health organizations, hanging soberly.
“It is OK to not be OK,” they read. There is profound compassion and obvious good intentions.
The flags wave in the wind, but I can still make out their words.
“Kids need other kids!”
“Kids are suffering!”
“Kids aren’t meant to be alone!”
“SAVE THE KIDS!”
This is so confusing. Both directions are telling me to save the kids, and all I want to do is to save the kids, but I cannot do both, and I do not know which direction in which to head, and I should know.
A good mom would know.
The sound of loud music thumping draws my attention to yet another direction.
A pool party! In the sea! How about that!? It is almost as if science doesn’t matter and a pool can exist in a churning ocean! WHOA! These people either know something about science that I don’t or…
…wait, I cannot think straight, the music is too loud.
As I try to make out the figures at the party in the distance I realize that it is hard because they are so close together.
They are raising glasses of colorful drinks, throwing arms over shoulders, laughing with unmasked mouths.
What. the. fuck?
“Come hang with us, kids!” The partygoers shout. “We have candy! New friends! Fun!”
It is as if I am looking at a reality so different than my own that, although there is something vaguely familiar about the scene, it is impossible for me to comprehend. It feels like something I must have dreamt about, a long time ago.
And then there is yet another direction in which I feel myself being pulled.
I hear laughter, there.
Laughter feels better than the blaring of red sirens, or the somber flag-waving, or the thumping party music.
When I turn my head in that direction I see the most startling sight of all.
I see little Becca, on stage, dressed as a cat, with perfectly applied cat-person makeup, belting out a song into a microphone.
It is a scene from my fifth grade play (which was, obviously, “Cats!”)
I see a montage of scenes from my youth, in which I am talking to, and laughing at, and playing with my friends, who are still, to this day, my best friends. We are making shared memories. Doing things that we will, I know, still be talking about almost three decades later, as we reflect back with fondness and warmth.
It is this direction that finally knocks the wind out of me.
I can barely tread water anymore. I want to throw up.
It is in this direction that I am seeing everything that my kids cannot have. It is in this direction that I feel that I am failing Belle and Beau most. It is in this direction that I am reminded of all the ways in which, despite my best efforts, my trying cannot triumph any longer.
Despite the mounting uncertainty, there are three things I know to be absolutely true right now:
1. This is hard for everyone. No one likes this.
2. I am extremely privileged. I have a partner, a home, resources, access to care, and so many advantages. I am aware of and grateful for my privilege every single day.
3. I love my kids so much that, just sitting here and typing those words, I feel a physical ache in my chest and stomach. I love them so much that it hurts. I love them in ways that I never thought possible. I love them more than I did yesterday.
If only that camaraderie, that privilege, and that love were enough.
Right now, everything feels surreal and impossible. Like a choose-your-own-adventure nightmare.
Make a choice, face the consequences. Pick between multiple bad options.
How can I do my best to keep my kids physically healthy and mentally healthy right now?
Do I prioritize their short-term and long-term physical safety, which, if compromised, I cannot necessarily control or treat, or do I prioritize their happiness, over which I feel like I have a slightly better handle?
Do I keep them enrolled in their pubic school, the school where they have both finally found a safe home, knowing that we are at the school’s mercy? Do I sign them up for the year-long virtual school, so that things will be consistent, but will no longer allow them to be part of their home school community?
Will they learn? Will they grow? Will they feel confident?
Does the school know what they’re doing? Will they reopen in person? What metrics are they using to determine the safety?
What about the teachers? The teachers who are my friends? What about the teachers who have helped our kids and loved our kids and devote their lives to them? How do we keep them safe?
Will my kids be the only ones stuck inside, alone, while their peers POD up into discrete groups?
Will my kids be ok without a POD?
Is anyone being as cautious as we are so that we could even entertain the idea of a POD?
How do I find out?
Whom can I trust?
Am I making the right choice?
What if I allow them to see people and someone gets sick?
What if they get my parents sick?
What if someone dies?
Would I really send my kids to school during an unprecedented, dangerous blizzard?
Would I really send my kids to school during an unprecedented, dangerous blizzard?
Will they ever make memories like I did in “Cats” or did I (and not COVID) rob them of the joys of childhood?
Will they resent me? Does that even matter? Would I even blame them?
Why is this so hard for me?
Why is everything so hard for me?
Why do I have to be such a whiner? Will people read this and roll their eyes at me? Chide me for complaining?
Will I be more alone than I am now?
Will that negatively impact the kids and their ability to socialize?
Why can I do better?
Why can’t I just be a good mom?
I have said it before and I will say it again: We are the lucky ones. I said it about my postpartum depression and the fact that I survived. By the skin of my teeth, I did, but I did.
I was able to order school supplies. My sister gave me the furniture from her old apartment and it is cool and functional and allowed me to set up classroom areas for both Belle and Beau.
But, as we all know, it is not about the infrastructure, it is about what is inside.
Right now, we are a family who does not see other people indoors. We still do not go into any public places, except for visits to the doctor that are necessary and unavoidable. We have our groceries delivered and wipe down every item with disinfectant. We do the same with takeout, and only order from restaurants that are not currently allowing for indoor dining. It is an arbitrary rule, but one that gives us a small sense of control.
We try to get outside every day, but some days, like yesterday, the kids did not leave the house. They were down, and it was a vicious cycle. I took some time to water the plants in my greenhouse, but it no longer feels like my sanctuary; yesterday it felt more like a chore. I cannot identify as a gardener anymore. My plants are yielding a stunningly small amount of fruit this year.
This is the best I can do, as I keep treading water, spinning around in every direction, reading, researching, evaluating.
I do not know when things will change, how much worse they will get before they improve, or how much my anxiety is influencing that grim internal forecast.
I do not know if I am making the right choices, and that is something I may never know.
There is no one right choice, after all.
Every choice exists on a spectrum, as a shade of right and a shade of wrong. I’ll try to look at it as the former.
Today, I do not feel my best, but I do not feel my worst.
I do not feel like a great mom, but I am hopeful it will change. As COVID19 evolves, so will I.
Today, though, unlike most days, I was a writer. A blogger. An advocate for my children and yours.
I hope that counts for something.
At least I tried my best.
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