I’ve been thinking subversive thoughts lately. Things like – I’m not sure I want this social isolation thing to end. I know it flies against popular sentiment, so I have kept it to myself. My Zoom happy hours are filled with collectively dreaming about haircuts and restaurants and lamenting the loss of our old friend, alone time. I participate in those conversations as much as the next person because I, too, feel those things. However, underlying the draw towards movies and lunch dates, pedicures and walks with friends, for me, there has been another voice, one which gets louder and louder as time goes on. The one that might not want this all to end, after all.
Of course I don’t want people to get sick and die. Of course I don’t want people to lose their jobs and to suffer hardship, that goes without saying, I would hope. I want my kids to see their friends – they get such joy from that. I don’t want my husband to feel so isolated at his desk in our bedroom where he now spends most of his waking and sleeping hours. I’d love to see my extended family again some day. But some part of me was holding back from cheering about the potential end to isolation in sight.
I’ve tried to piece apart why news of Texas opening back up gives me feelings of reluctance. I do know that, as hard as this no-time-to-myself-homeschooling thing has been, I love that I’ve gotten the best of my kids. Sure, on any given day, I can be found hiding in my closet or in a corner of the dining room, but we’ve also loved and laughed and learned together. When my kids get off the school bus, they’re tired, hangry and more interested in finding a friend to play with than in connecting with me.
When my husband got home from work at 6:30, he was worn out from the long day. I was worn out from after school activities and people grumping at me while I tried to make dinner. We got and gave the worst of each other. Now, I see him the same amount time in the evenings as before – he’s working hard – but it’s different. He’s ready to see people and he’s not stressed from the drive home. He also comes out for snacks and lunch, and we share smaller moments in the day. They don’t add up to much, but they’re usually much more positive than the end-of-the-day, stress-filled moments of “before.” I love it.
I walk – socially distanced – with a friend who is a fantastic listener and sounding board. We usually talk about the things we miss and the negative effects of isolation, so I kept this other voice to myself – until today. Funny enough, as soon as I uttered my secret, she said she felt the same way, too. She didn’t at first – like me, it was an adjustment, but adjust we have (mostly).
We both agreed that some alone time would still be nice. And, dear God, a haircut. But, beyond that, we have loved the slower pace. We can no longer run ourselves ragged in the car going to sports or Parkour. We’ve always limited the number of activities our kids could sign up for, but it still adds up. Saturdays no longer consist of three back-to-back birthday parties. Instead, they’re filled with hikes, reading and just hanging out. My friend pointed out that the mental load of keeping all of those plates spinning is gone, and that certainly does bring a huge sense of relief.
As we talked, we also realized that we are both being very intentional about who we are connecting with. It’s a natural outcome of being socially isolated. You don’t set up a Zoom call with your acquaintances who aren’t necessarily your speed, and you certainly don’t make a point to connect with that unkind mom who you couldn’t help but run into in the school hallway.
This has been a time of really figuring out who we’re all truly closest with and seeking those people out before all others. It’s also been interesting to see how I feel when I’m not interacting with the people that leave me feeling more drained than built up. It feels good. It’s encouraged me to seek out more of the bucket-filling people when this all is over. There have been great women that I’ve met in the last few years that I didn’t get to interact with on more than an acquaintance level because my friendship plate was all filled up, and maybe not in the most balanced way. Just like the USDA encourages us to fill our plates with more healthy foods than not, when things go back to “normal,” I want to be intentional about making more room at the friendship buffet for the delicious Mongolian beef, and leave the overly greasy noodles that always end up making me mildly nauseous far behind.
Coronavirus has been somewhat of a reset for the world. Air quality is better in areas than it has been in years. The animals are feeling it, too. Without the stress of constant human observation, pandas at the Ocean Park Zoo in Hong Kong have successfully mated for the first time in 10 years. And, the best of humanity shines in the way we’re looking out for our friends and neighbors.
And there it is, I guess. My conflicted feelings come from my own personal reset. I have loved having more time to love my babies – at their best and not only when they’re depleted. I have loved feeling more available for my husband. I have loved being forced to slow down and to be given a break from the mental load of living life. The challenge for all of us will be to take the things that we’ve learned from this forced reset and apply them to life in the “real world.”
I want to say “no” more often. I want to “do nothing,” which looks like sitting on the couch reading with my kids around me, and turns out to actually be doing everything. Everything that truly matters, that is. Always one to lean towards the sentimental, I feel that pull even more so now as I’m confronted with the fragility of life as we know it. The most precious things to me are the ones right within my reach, and I have been so grateful to have held them tighter and to have appreciated them more.
Photo Credit :: Amy McLaughlin Photography