I remember back in April, when we were at the beginning of the COVID crisis – the chaos, fear, uncertainty, saying many times to people….”When this is all over, we’ll…” fill in the blank. Go to dinner? Go to the movies? Have a party without worry? Celebrate milestones without “drive bys”?, SEND OUR KIDS TO SCHOOL?
I don’t know when it started to change, maybe sometime this summer, when the world realized it wasn’t going to be “all over”. It was going to hover over our plans, our existence, our everyday life, for a good long time. We stopped saying: When this is all over. I stopped planning for things too far into the future. It was incredibly painful to cancel everything on the calendar last spring, so by not having too much on the calendar, that doesn’t scare me so much now.
The “plandemic” has arrived. My strategy to plot my family’s life only a few days or a few events at time. I held my breath for school to actually start, I held my breath even longer for soccer practices, and games to actually land on the calendar. Week by week. Actually, day by day.
There’s now a fall chill in the air. With winter looming, and knowing the days are getting shorter, I have had real moments of sadness, so I started employing a strategy of coping by only thinking about things in bite size pieces to keep me from getting completely overwhelmed. I don’t know that it always works, but sometimes at the very least, it calms me down.
But when I get to question of planning for the holidays, I just stop. Too overwhelming. What’s happening THIS WEEK, I ask myself, and the answer is, soccer games, bike rides, walks, deep breaths, and cooking good healthy food. That’s a good week! No planning beyond the week. To the next high school soccer game, fingers crossed, breath held.
My sister Chris and I wrote an article together a couple of months ago about coping through the pandemic, using duffel bags as our barometer and how to metaphorically pack them with strategies that would buoy us up throughout the pandemic. Best case scenario was 1 duffel bag, worst case would be 3 duffel bags. (In case you missed it, and are curious to know more, you can read it here: https://www.zip06.com/living/20200730/an-emtx2019s-duffel-bags-provide-metaphor-for-pandemic-survival )
In my proverbial duffel bag scenario, winter right now is at about a 10. So, there you go. I struggle with the winter in the BEST of times, so it’s daunting to me to even imagine coping without my usual comfort mechanisms – will I feel OK to go out and eat at a restaurant? People won’t want to gather inside, so we will be isolated just like last spring. What will I do when it gets dark at 5pm? I may just invite my neighbors over to the fire pit with many layers and 5 blankets instead of mustering up the courage for one more zoom call to socialize.
This is where I get to the Plandemic. Plandemic = no planning. I have to kind of shape my day as I feel I can, take baby steps, don’t eat the whole cake – take the small bites. Do the thing that makes me feel good.
When I listen to the “experts”, (and by the way, who the hell is an expert on living through a pandemic?) they say self care is so important. Take care of yourself. This is my coping mechanism. The “Plandemic” is going to go on for at least a few more months, so I am going to continue to go day by day. Week by week. Piece by piece. This is my self care, this is how I will stay sane.
But….having a Senior in High School during a pandemic is like WTF every single day. It makes college planning activities kind of hilarious/traumatic. (Is that even a possible combination of feelings?) There is literally not one piece of going to school right now that is normal – though I am extremely thankful they are trying. But as far as “planning” for actual college which is NEXT YEAR (!) I am going through the motions. I feel so disconnected, as if this is some mirage of activities that are not real. But I will say that young Joe has proven his resilience, and he is showing his maturity. He’s finding his way forward, so I am following. But, also saying my usual set of phrases on repeat: “I don’t know…” “Well see….” eventually I suppose there will be acceptance letters, decisions to be made, financial aid packages to weigh, and I’ll probably keep saying, “I don’t know…” “We’ll see…”
I admit that I am a bit weary of being grateful for the little things we get, as if we should be thankful this pandemic wasn’t screwed up even worse. “At least….” has become my least favorite leading sentence.
- At least my son is in school *sometimes*.
- At least they are having a soccer season, even if it’s not what they thought it would be. At least we get to go to the games, even if my family can’t come and watch his senior year.
- At least my daughter is at college, even if she has to live like a hermit…
At least… It’s a real struggle not to be angry, which I know does not help. But yes, I am angry that so much has to be sacrificed by us when we weren’t protected from this AT ALL, and now it looks as though this is a future sacrifice for….who knows how long.
I did briefly think of writing a book called: Parenting in a Pandemic for Dummies – but maybe instead I’ll write one called Plandemic strategies for tomorrow, or Have your Plandemic cake and eat it too. Seriously, y’all, it’s a plandemic dilemma.