We All Need Each Other
This “new normal” got to me today.
It brought me down in a major way, and I felt like I was wading through sludge. Thoughts of just getting away flitted through my head.
Not leaving forever, just escaping this house, the kids, the work on my laptop, and everything, just for a while.
I wouldn’t do that, and I didn’t leave my kids alone, but in all honesty, it really crossed my mind.
It was tempting to just keep these dangerous thoughts in my head, and continue to walk around in my muck, head down, discouraged and frustrated with the ongoing reality of life at home, with my kids, all day every day.
But I didn’t.
Instead, I recognized these thoughts as unhealthy, and I felt the overwhelming urge to talk to someone about it. So I reached out to another mom friend.
We had a really good talk over texts (as I helped my youngest finish his schoolwork), and were able to commiserate over how hard this life is, and the struggles we are both facing.
By the end of it, we came to the conclusion that I did really need to get out of the house, but obviously in a safe way for my family. My husband had already offered to let me go for a bike ride when he got home if I needed that time, and my chat with my friend solidified my decision to go.
Any moms out there, facing this relentless at home time, I recommend a solo bike ride for a much needed mental boost.
I have always loved my neighborhood, and today, the sight of the greenery of the trees and the water reflecting off the lake brought new life into my tired head.
I heard the twittering birds, and saw the turtles swimming, and the cobwebs of my mind were whisked clean.
Instead of a grumpy mom, with no patience for anyone, who snapped at everyone, I rode home in a great mood.
Here’s the best part- when my mood lifted, I was able to lift up my family’s moods too.
I came home to my husband frustrated with my daughter, who was also moping around, not wanting to eat, not wanting to bike ride, likely going through the same quarantine slump that I was before I left.
He was doing all he could, but couldn’t get her to shake the mood.
See, she tends to get the most angry when she is hungry, likely from lingering adoption/ malnutrition issues when she was young. But when she gets hungry, for some twisted reason, she frequently refuses to eat.
The other way we can perk her up is with some exercise… but she didn’t want to do that either, and with all of her parkour and trampoline classes canceled, we are having more trouble engaging her in the remaining forms of exercise that are allowed.
If I had stayed home, I would have become frustrated with her too, increasing the dark cloud over the home, and it might have led to everyone yelling.
But instead, invigorated by a bike ride where I had to watch no one, yell at no one, wait for no one, and just let go of my cares… I came home and started listening to some upbeat, motivational songs.
Then my husband and I started dancing, ridiculously, in the kitchen to these songs.
This, in turn, made my daughter laugh at us, and start eating her dinner.
After dinner, for a while, I just kept the dance party going, and both kids had a great time dancing with us, and you could almost palpably feel the mood of the house lift.
Plus, this dance party led to her agreeing to go on a bike ride with her dad, which further lifted her spirits, and she came home bubbly and talkative.
It all started with my decision to chat with a friend.
Social distancing implies that we can’t be social right now, but nothing could be further from the truth.
We need to be social, because part of our genetic make up is to form communities, and associate with other humans.
Normally, we get these social doses through our jobs, our time watching our kids at sports with other parents, conversations with neighbors and in the myriad of little interactions with others that occur naturally in life.
But now, we are dutifully trying to minimize all of the interactions with others, to our own detriment.
Check in on your friends, especially those with kids.
We are not okay.
My guess is that many others are in the same place I was earlier, feeling completely overwhelmed with life, and needing breaks that never come as we try to juggle all of the things we have to be during this time of the pandemic.
But here is the thing about community- when we get the help we need, we are then able to help others.
When I had just a small, honest conversation over texts with my friend, I was able to accept the offer of a break from my husband, part of my nuclear community.
His allowing me to “escape” the house in turn, helped me be in a good enough mood to boost the mood of my daughter, which helped his evening go better.
Now that my funk is cleared, at least temporarily, I will be better able to give back to others in my community, like the teachers I support, the students I work with and others who might reach out to me in texts.
We all need someone to lean on.
Whether you recognize it or not, you are part of a chain. It is extremely healthy for you to have someone who you are willing to reach out to, hold on to, and talk to when times are rough.
This person could be in your family, a co-worker or friend, but I hope you have someone that is your link to stability when times are hard, because they can make a world of difference, especially in these challenging times.
But you are also someone’s link.
There is likely someone out there who also needs you, and could use your support.
Just like contact tracing for the virus, contract trace your normal social links. Who do you know who usually chats with you about the problems in their lives? Is it a mom of one of your kids’ friends? Or someone who always seems to share their problems at soccer practice?
Think about sending them a text, just to check in. Maybe they will want to talk, maybe not, but it is hard to get the guts to share when you are struggling, especially if you have to be the one to start the conversation.
It is so much easier to maintain a tough exterior, and just post pictures of how life is good, and never show the bubbling turmoil that lurks under the surface.
But speaking as a generally optimistic person, with little to no mental health issues before this pandemic struck, I can attest firsthand that life inside is not for the faint of heart.
I can only imagine how hard this is on people who were struggling in the time before, and know it must be compounding the anxieties and fears of those who are prone to panic attacks.