This year has been brutal. Mentally speaking, especially. Enduring a pandemic isn’t something any of us can say we entertained thoughts of. I mean, history books tell of such tales, but did you ever think you’d be walking around donning a mask, alongside a mask-filled public?
I sure as heck didn’t. It still plays with my mental state, when I run out for essentials and am greeted by all of it. The masks hanging on car rearview mirrors, where trinkets and rosaries normally hang. Children holding their parents’ hands in stores with ill-fitting masks. It’s just so damn surreal. I feel like I am in an apocalypse movie and can’t change the channel.
But I will admit to something. The whole “not seeing family” for months at a time hasn’t been so difficult. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my aging parents and always will. But my family of five includes some very proud anti-socials and a chronically ill adult child. We have learned that the best times are the times we are just sitting around together. Literally doing nothing.
I have been told I don’t do enough for my kids. I should “force them out into the fresh air.” I should “make them go places, turn off their devices, make forced phone calls” even though kids today don’t use phones. But I digress. Apparently, I am a bad Mom for allowing our lives to be as they are: quiet, hunkered down and boring. Away from everyone.
Trying to survive
So, it goes without saying that we didn’t suffer much when malls and events shut down and we were forced into lockdown. In fact, we have relished it. I’m quite serious. It’s been much of a year now, and we still only take the risks of essential grocery and medical appointment outings, or my husband going to work. That’s it. Stage One—more or less.
I often receive flack about not visiting the grandparents, or making my kids call. And maybe I am a bad person for not making that a priority, but I feel that mentally, I am just trying to survive here.
As fall approaches, we are actually starting to get excited. The leaves are turning colours, and we’ve begun discussing how we will manage the holidays during this pandemic. The kids have opted to continue remote learning for school, so as not to infect their older sister. We are currently amid the chaos of setting up online structures for their schooling.
I paused my real estate career and had just landed a new job, which I then lost due to the pandemic. Likely (now, in hindsight), a blessing in disguise. We are fortunate, financially, to be able to have me stay home and teach, and be here for the kids while my husband works.
Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas
Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and we are relaxed for the first time here as a family. Knowing it’s a simple “no-stress” dinner, sitting on the sofa watching the kids play video games, or a simple Charlie Brown special on TV. No dressing up, heading to a family function, filled with dreadful anticipation in knowing there will be family drama or pressure to perform and be who we simply aren’t.
Same to be said for Christmas. My family has always dreaded the gathering aspect of such events. We are pretty low-key. Christmas is simple: gifts and TV/music, a sugary breakfast and time assembling gifts. We love it.
Suffice it to say, we have already begun thinking this out. The “perks of the pandemic,” you might say. We began just joking about it, in terms of how we intend to stay closed off for safety from this virus. No Halloween trick-or-treating, but I intend to buy treats to fill our home and decorate somewhat, and we will do our usual watching of the proverbial necessary Halloween movies and shows, Nightmare Before Christmas, Charlie Brown and so on.
Our youngest daughter, as did her sisters at this age, has been losing interest in actual trick-or-treating. She wants to cosplay now instead of dressing up. How cool is that? It is something we are getting excited about. The aspect of just us doing nothing, again, is making us almost joyful.
And Christmas? Simple gaming gifts and time together, and as my middle daughter pointed out, we can actually look forward to snow and winter storms because we won’t be risking our lives to drive in any of it to get to school! Heck, we may even go out and play in it. Amazing. We’ve never really been “that” family. But this pandemic has changed so many things for so many people.
Happiness in general
And none of it is wrong. There is no right way to cope. We’ve learned what we truly enjoy, and what we don’t. We’ve realized that we tend to do things for others to appease them, while making ourselves unhappy in the process.
Imagine a worldwide pandemic teaching us that? For myself, it’s been incredibly life-changing for sure. My mental health has suffered immensely throughout this pandemic, but it has also forced me to come to terms with so many aspects of my life I had hit the snooze button on. My work. My family. Outside toxic family relationships. Writing. Internal joy. Happiness in general.
I never imagined when this virus hit our world, slowly creeping across it, country after country, altering the way we live, that it would be the catalyst to real change. Uncomfortably facing what isn’t working in my life, and slowly tearing it all down and rebuilding it. Brick by brick. Stone by stone.
But here I am. Nine months down the road, still anxious about this virus and its effects on life itself, still living in Stage One overall. But I am also reshaping my life to be the life I truly want and need. Desire. I don’t think I would have done much of what I am doing if it hadn’t been forced upon me through a worldwide pandemic. Who knows?
I will say I am learning to live one day at a time, something incredibly scary for someone who suffers from anxiety as I do. An overthinker by nature. I generally clutch with a death grip, fighting this notion, needing to know what lies ahead. But this year is forcing me to do the opposite. And I can’t deny it feels OK. An unknown perk.
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