Last Wednesday marked two weeks that I have not left my home, with the exception of my deck and the front yard. Until today I have felt positive and upbeat. Spending a lot of time in my home is something I am unfortunately accustomed to. I am talking about a 5 to 6 day time period. Even when my younger son, Ian was an infant “we” or I were able to go shopping (grocery, clothes, coffee) at least once a week. That did not prove to be good enough for my mental health long term. I have said on multiple occasions that if I could be a runner I would be. My mind is constantly fighting with this body that can not keep up with it. Recently I have put a lot of time and effort into self-care. I literally have to squash my physical fear of getting injured and anxiety that I can independently access places, in order to push myself towards my ultimate goal of full assimilation once again. The good news is that in all recent battles I have prevailed. That being said, life has this uncanny way of slapping me right back down whenever I seem to be making any kind of gains. Just as I am starting to gain confidence and momentum, I am told to remain in my home until further notice.
I have thought often about someone having to “walk in my shoes” so to speak, but never in my life did I picture what we as a world are currently facing. No, per the usual I and other people with disabilities (compromised immune systems, underlying conditions or fear of medication interactions), however you want to classify “us”, have once again been put into the same high-risk category as the elderly. In this instance I completely understand. It is purely about science. Our bodies have similar disadvantages against fighting off The Virus. Now though the “game” has changed into a situation where it no longer matters, young, otherwise healthy people are becoming very sick.
Not all aspects of social distancing or staying home have been negative. In some ways, I have really appreciated the family time aka “The Forced Family Fun.” The frustrating part of this experience, for me, is that we as a collective group (me included) need a pandemic to force us to slow down and appreciate each other. All of a sudden we are reminded to reach out and offer our help to our friends and neighbors. Instead of focusing on where I went wrong in the past, I am choosing to focus on what I have learned or at least have been reminded of during this trying time. The top ten so far are……….
- The most important being, I made the right decision not to homeschool my sons:
I am humbled by teachers. It is sad to me, that it takes something so drastic to remind us that we are not all meant to teach. Creativity and patience are just two skills you have to have as part of an endless supply as a teacher. I am reminded to thank teachers. We really miss you!!!!
- You must try to maintain your sense of humor:
This is a really stressful time, people are working from home, kids are at home age ranging from tots to teens, and parents are being pushed to constantly keep everyone engaged. It sounds lame, but it is more important than ever to keep smiling. I am among the people who get so caught up in the number of books I read to my son, or constantly listening to the news, that I forget that it is ok, no it is important to goof off. Play upbeat music loud and “dance it out”, play outside (the whole family), watch ridiculous tv (stand up comedy or “Tiger King”) and don’t forget to eat at least one meal a day together around the table. Believe me, I value alone time, but it is the perfect time for everyone to put down their electronics and eat together.
- Being able to use what you have and go from there:
Speaking of a perfect time to use things you have been meaning to use for months or years. You know what I mean. One of my favorite things is to plug an ingredient in Pinterest’s search bar and be flooded with ideas to use them. Like a Ziploc bag full of popsicle sticks I have in my craft box. The frozen ripe bananas you are saving for Banana bread. Make it! The box of hotel soaps you keep meaning to use. Use them. The stack of books you have been planning to get to. Yup, read them! We all save this stuff “in case” or for a “rainy day.” Guess what? It is pouring! Now is the time to use it or lose it!
- No house is big enough:
I have a relatively small house, one bathroom for all 4 of us, my two sons share a bedroom and our kitchen has limited counter space. The house has a small in-law apartment that my sister’s family of 3 lives in. We share a common driveway and entry. Making it 7 of us in this small ranch house. On an average day when everyone is coming and going, it feels like a good enough size and sometimes it is even lonely. When we are all here 24/7 suddenly the walls start to close in on me. It is sooo important that everyone is allowed at least a few minutes of alone time. No matter what that looks like in your house!
- The importance of a schedule while maintaining balance:
I actually know my family and I do well with a schedule, but for some reason, I always try to be “loosey goosey”. Wearing PJ’s 24 hours a day and trying to do things randomly. My sister-in-law Nicole actually made a schedule for her family and put it into effect right away. I snickered to myself about how she was being so uptight. Two weeks later I found myself trying to model her and being envious of the amount of normalcy a simple schedule can bring to your life. The biggest problem I personally find with schedules as with many other forms of structure is finding a good balance. It is all or nothing with me, a schedule should ideally work as a guide not a stress-inducing tool.
- Being thankful for your husband who learned to stock the cupboard alongside his grandparents:
No, I do not mean the type of person who buys all the available toilet paper in their zip code. My husband and I have two very different schools of thought when it comes to shopping. For years he has been teaching me the importance of having a fully stocked medicine cabinet and pantry. If it is something you use a lot, or really depend on having in your house then buy the value size and/or have an extra available. Yes, upfront the cost is higher and this is where it was hard for me, coming from being a single mom on disability, I was not able to shop like that. Now when supplies are not always readily available and trips to the store are much less often, having a backup of your families’ key supplies is essential.
- Creating a list of things you like or want to do and do them:
Lucky for me I have been as I mentioned. I was really focused lately on self-care. I have been compiling a list of activities I truly enjoy, with no one’s approval in mind. During this time I am able to refer to it. My husband, sons, house, and cats do tend to dominate my time, but my alone time is one of my biggest priorities. Maybe this is obvious to some people but as someone who finds it unnatural and constant work, self-care is crucial for my mental health.
- When is it truly necessary to go to the supermarket:
My family and I are learning that not everything you use up or run out of, is a necessity. In a time like this, it is not essential to have at least one of everything right at your fingertips. There may be fewer choices available for dinner each night and you might have to get creative. What else is there to do with that? Of course, there are things like milk, eggs, & TP but I mean if you run out of beef, eat chicken!
- How lucky I truly am:
I am so lucky in so many ways. I can only hope that these lessons stay with me when life resumes. I am so thankful I do not live in a war-torn country, and that this is the very first time I have had to live in uncertainty. I am so lucky that my husband is able to work remotely. My two sons are healthy and home with me. I live in the same house as my sister and her family (they have their own living space) who are able to support our daily life. So thankful. I am so grateful that we are still able to get supplies as we need them. I do have a good supply of food, paper goods, crafts, coffee, and books, etc.
- How to survive:
Advice and tips are really helpful, maybe they are what you need to get going. But the most important thing is to do the best you can during this unprecedented time. Love each other and be safe, and remember you are not alone!!