I keep getting Timehop reminders of what life looked like one year ago. The photos are all sunny and happy captures of the kids in the backyard against a backdrop of daffodils and an uncharacteristically mild spring.
With every photo I think — wow, we had no idea…I’m glad we had no idea.
Also, my hair looked great back then. I can’t believe how badly I need a haircut.
Last year at this time we still thought this would be short. Just a few weeks. We’ll stay home, we’ll flatten the curve. Things will get back to normal.
Now, a year later, we’re still inside, behind masks, waiting for vaccines, not sure if life will ever get back to normal. At least, not in the sense that we’ll ever be the same as we were before.
The thing that really strikes me when I see photos of last year is the energy with which I took this on. I was excited. School was canceled and I remember feeling low-key grateful for this gift of time with my kids. When will we ever get this much time together? I mused. Don’t we always wish for a few extra days without plans? I was glued to the news, but acutely aware that in our home, this was an opportunity. A virus was wrecking havoc on absolutely everything, but my family was safe, and we were together.
I decided to find small ways to celebrate every day. We played outside, I took lemonade out to the playhouse, we did art projects, I made a 6-layer cake for no reason whatsoever. Or maybe worse, I made a cake to celebrate a completed jigsaw puzzle.
According to my blog, this lasted three weeks. After three weeks I was out of energy and optimism. Three weeks! Wow, I thought I had a lot more in me than that!
After three weeks of quarantine, our governor issued a stay-at-home order through June 10. Tom was working more than he ever has as in our marriage, and for the first time, I started to feel the weight of this whole thing. June 10. June 10!
And yet I still had no idea what was coming. None of us did, did we? The stress of this year did not stop with stay-at-home orders, but continued with boulder-rolling-down-a-mountain force and scope. Race relations, law enforcement, politics, education, science, medicine — what hasn’t been controversial?
On top of these big, fraught issues, all day every day we’re confronted with all these decisions that we’ve never had to dedicate brain space to. Can we take the kids to the grocery store? Is an outdoor birthday party safe? How can I go to the doctor to get a strep test in the middle of a pandemic? (Ah, yes, my own personal calamity — developing a chronic illness that is not the pandemic, in the middle of a pandemic.)
A year later, I can say with confidence and gratitude that we are ok. We’re employed, my kids are happy, and my extended family is healthy and safe. All things considered, we haven’t really been touched by this catastrophe that has ravaged the globe.
That’s why I feel strange saying it’s also been a hard year. These past few months have felt like such a slog, and if I thought I was over it three weeks in, I’m O.V.E.R.I.T now.
I can’t exactly pinpoint why things are so hard, and maybe that’s part of the problem? We are FINE and this is HARD. How is that possible?
We’ve settled into the monotony, the nothing-on-the-calendar lifestyle; virtual learning and pjs all day. We haven’t really given up much — I mean we have, but they’ve been more on the “second grade play” scale, which isn’t nearly as heartbreaking as a senior prom or college graduation. We’re ok.
I keep considering what my kids will tell their kids about this time. What was the COVID-19 pandemic like? Perhaps the most honest response would be, “I don’t really know. We were mostly insulated from it. We had virtual school and didn’t get our hair cut for a year. We ate nachos for like six meals a week, and mom started watching @gocleanco videos on Instagram but inexplicably stopped cleaning our house.”
That doesn’t really scream “catastrophic global pandemic” does it?
I realized that I’ve blogged less this year than I have since I started the blog. Turns out, staying home and doing nothing for a year is pretty all-consuming. A pandemic has zapped the creativity I used to pour into this blog, more than pregnancy, having a four babies, or those years I spent trying to keep Thomas from scaling the side of the house. But is sort of an indicator of how everything else is going in my life. If I have time and brain space to blog, then everything else must be going ok, too. So now, I’m not blogging, and I also don’t have motivation to cook, do laundry, or clean bathrooms. Is just ONE Netflix binge too much to ask?
But, as I type this, Thomas is draped across my lap chatting about video games. Mary is working on a biography of Helen Keller, and David is creating a code language. They don’t know. The world is in upheaval, Mom feels lamer than she ever has, and they don’t know. One thing has stayed the same this year — we are together, we are safe, we are grateful.
Perhaps the folly in my first-two-weeks of celebration and optimism wasn’t that I was sprinting in a marathon, but that I thought cake would carry us through. Cake, no matter how many layers, doesn’t sustain us in any sense of the word. And if I’m putting my hope in cake, when the cake is gone, what happens to the hope?
Last March, the kids painted rainbows on big pieces of paper and we hung them in the windows as a message of hope; a reminder that we’re in this, separately, together. We proclaimed to each other that we would cling to Christ’s promises. But then the year got long and our painted rainbows faded in the sun and, eventually, fell from the window. Maybe we should paint new ones, as an act of defiance in the face of this long pandemic. But also as a reminder to me that God hasn’t left us, and He always keeps his promises. When we have cried out for mercy over and over, He remains steadfast in His reply, “I am.”
Though I wish it was, this is not an essay that ends with a tidy lesson or encouragement. If that’s what you read this far for, this has unfortunately been a waste of your time. This is not a “how to remain cheerful in a pandemic” or even an explanation of why things feel so darned hard.
Instead, this is just the rambling mind dump of a mom who lost her steam three weeks into this. This post is for posterity, so one day when the kids hear mom talking about how the pandemic was mostly fun! We stayed home! We made cake! They can pull up this post and remind me through a dramatic reading, that for a whole year I tried to pretend that laundry wasn’t my responsibility.
This post is written because I wonder if, perhaps, there are people out there like me. People who feel the weight of this incredibly dark and difficult time, and at the same time look around at all they have and are overwhelmed with love and gratitude.