What day is it? Monday? Thursday? Do we even name the days of the week anymore? I have no idea. The kids just came home from their grandma’s and asked how our weekend was, and I basically couldn’t even remember when the weekend took place. Yes, calm down, we are very much still in a state of sequester and aware of the dangers of visiting the (ahem) elderly – however, said Grandma has been religious about isolation for the sole purpose of having access to her precious gifts from God. Which is important as, after six years, she still thinks I am not qualified to have access to them. We understand this stroke of luck – while others remain on a true countdown of each minute of time spent with their entire family, we have had, in total, ten days off.
The kids were beckoned back home due to a family therapy appointment. Like an actual one. With a our therapist. A family tele-therapy-appointment. We really went back and forth on whether or not to keep the date during this awkward time – and by ‘back and forth,’ I mean three out of four wanted to cancel it, but I was insistent that we didn’t let some mere pandemic take away our kumbaya-ma-lawd progress. And, the reality is, if things got tense during the appointment, three out of four of us still had the opportunity to take a de-compression drive after, as if we were leaving the physical office. So we did it.
No surprise the first volley was a question on how we’re all coping with this new and becoming-less-abnormal-everyday world. And, I don’t mean to brag, but…it’s going pretty dang great. As of this journal entry, we are passing the 30 day mark and all family members are still accounted for, fairly sane, seemingly pretty happy and getting along like we’re on some planned out extended stay-cation. It is, well, odd. If you’d asked the each of the four of us six weeks ago how we would handle a minimum of thirty days with hyper limited contact with anyone but the other three (and a grandma), it would have gone something like this:
Rich: Amazing. This is my dream. Just stay home? Like ALL the time? I’m in. 100%. You don’t even have to pay me for the study. It’s not a study? This is real life?!?! That penny I threw in the fountain when I was eight finally came to fruition!
Jyl: Oh. Wait. What? For how long? I think I hear my mom calling. Yeah, should probably go there. Oh, I can’t hang with the elderly? Oh. Okay. Well, let me up renew my prescriptions for Valium, Xanax and Clonzepam and pick up a BUNCH of wine. Also, there is no way this is going to end with me still being married as there will definitely be some sort of atomic bomb (hopefully just one) delivered from my mouth in an argument that likely started over me wondering if Rich turned his Read Receipts off on purpose. I’m literally going to dive in and drown myself in that fountain.
Zoe: Yeah, no. I just got my freedom and I realized I like being out and about better than I like being at home. Also, I hate everyone and can’t wait to leave for college. Nobody here likes The Mountain Goats and if I want to have bags of trash in my room, that’s really just my choice.
Zack: I’m fine with it as long as I can take my computer to my room along with a mini-fridge, toaster oven, two new pack of socks (cotton, tube). Once those requirements are met, don’t plan on seeing me.
And yet, here we are, with no end in sight – 97% content and 3% yearning for a visit with friends or a trip to Target. How is this even possible? The answer back to our therapist? A pretty firm, “we’re doing really well.”
I’ve seen a lot of memes about God putting the world on pause or opting for a reboot or ‘hey, He did promise no more 40-day rain storms.’ Without getting in to my personal religious freeloading beliefs, I would say, yes – this is definitely some sort of Mother Earth putting us in our time-out chairs. In our house, we’re seeing the good loud and clear. Let me preface the next paragraphs, again, by saying – I know we are not everybody. I know we may be the lucky ones or have it easy or, or or…this is just our look.
In our house, it took a while for the momentum of the Merry-Go-Round to finally come to a stop. When it did – there was silence. There still is silence. There is no running list of who needs to be where and when. There is no longer a feeling of living on a train going from station to station and back again. The Rolodex of plan this, buy that, pick up this, drop off that has been closed. We don’t mark the days on which Rich will be travelling anymore or the nights Zoe will miss dinner due to work or when Zack has soccer or I have tennis. There are no polls of when various chores will be completed if the chore-doers are going to be out and about most of the week. There is just calm. The crashing waves of an overbooked life have turned into slow ripples, gently washing across our very still feet.
In our house, we have rediscovered our enjoyment of each other. And, let me tell you, we needed it (well, two of us did). We have had a very up and down past nine (or so) months within our family dynamic – partly due to having two teenagers with teenager-y attitudes and mostly because one of those teenagers has been taking the role of ‘I’m practically an adult, I do/say what I want” very seriously. It came through the house much like a hand thrusting into a fish tank and swirling it around – leaving the inhabitants left to figure out why their world was amiss. We were slowly putting the pieces back together – and then, hello, global pause – PUT THE PIECES BACK TOGETHER, NOW. We were functioning like a three-legged table, always wondering when the big topple would occur. Turns out all we needed was a bit of forced together time for Zoe to realize that she really does like her family very much and for us to be reminded of the joy of her presence. I think that is the piece, when we look back, for which we’ll be most thankful. This kid who had mentally packed her room up and placed it as far away from us as possible; this kid with zero plans to miss us and possibly not even wave goodbye; this kid will likely drive much more reluctantly away when the time comes for her next adventure.
In our house, my 14 year old finally realized that I do, in fact, have an actual job. He has remarked several times about not knowing how much work I did for my company or how many meetings I attend or how I even use big words on some of them. In fairness, I’ve always tried to have my workday wrapped up at bus delivery time – and then only really shared my daily escapades out and about with him. I generally never included what I actually did to earn that 80% salary.
In our house, we’ve discovered all the rest of the space, mental and physical. We’ve come out of our rooms and offices and landed on hammocks and couches – together. The number of times the four of us are in one space increases each week – not necessarily doing the same thing, but just ‘with’ each other. There’s so much less time staring at our laptops or phones or iPads. There’s more reading (real books!) and researching fun topics, just because. We’ve unleashed this new flexibility where we don’t each assume the worst about the other or others and, if headed that direction…we just, well, ask. It seems so obvious, of course.
We have time between our breaths now. We have time to plan and then throw it away with a chuckle because when are we really going to leave this house, anyway? There’s no deadlines or I-need-this-by’s or when-can-you’s. Instead, there are made up games and silly pictures and experimental meals and two very, very exhausted dogs.
I do wonder about the slingshot. Once we are restarted, will we timidly stick our toes back in the water or will we run in at top speed? I’ve already warned Rich that I’m getting so used to having him around 24/7 that I’m planning a giant meltdown the first time he’s permitted to go out of town. First there was anxiety in being locked in – no there is anxiety about begin let out. My hope is that we find a balance somewhere between house arrest and running free. My hope is that the kids have story after amazing story about the great Quarantine of 2020 (“back when I was a kid…we had to stay home for months…and we only had one-ply toilet paper…and my dad made us wear button pants to dinner…”).
While you may be frustrated and annoyed and wishing for anything but another day at home – we are flourishing. We needed this. Desperately. So thank you.
Thank you for (not) participating in our pause.