When the superintendent announced our schools would not open this fall for face-to-face instruction, I wasn’t surprised. We were in the middle of a pandemic. Perhaps it was my intuition; maybe it was my natural tendency to prepare for the worst… most likely it was a little bit of both. For whatever reason, a deep sense of knowing had taken root in my gut for months. No, I was not surprised. In fact, I expected it. But that doesn’t mean I wanted it.
The pandemic changed everything.
I’ve looked forward to August 2020 for years. Literally counting down until the time all three of my children would be in school full time. (I even scheduled a celebration pool party three years in advance). After 10 1/2 years as a stay at home mom of small children, I was ready to finally have some kid-free time.
I daydreamed about going to the bathroom by myself, making a phone call without being interrupted, and actually hearing myself think.
Every morning last year, as my youngest son and I headed home after walking the older two to school, I visualized my future mornings. Maybe I’d leisurely take the long way home before working on my book for hours with out interruption. Finally I would not have to wait until 9:00pm to have a moment of silence.
Then the pandemic hit.
The Fall I ‘ve been looking forward to, planning for, and counting down to is weeks away. And it looks drastically different than the one in my daydreams. And I am one of the lucky ones. My husband is employed and able to support us. I acknowledge my enormous amount of privilege in this situation. If my biggest problem is I won’t get any “me” time, I understand I am extremely fortunate.
Yet the school year looms ahead with more unknowns that I can articulate. And the weight of the responsibility of making sure my three small boys’ educational needs are met on a daily basis feels crushing. I adore our neighborhood elementary school and applaud the teachers who are skilled, experienced, and educated in their field. And even though I worked for a decade in schools, I was not and am not a teacher.
I am not trained to teach my 5-year-old how to read. My almost 8-year-old still refuses to read out loud at home, and my 10-year-old knows more about science and math already than I do. It is all overwhelming.
An Unwanted Plot Twist
The Corona Virus has thrown a plot twist into the lives of everyone I know. If I am not careful, I could easily drown in the hurricane of anxiety and obsessive thoughts that are swirling through the air we are all breathing. Staying in recovery from the eating disorder I battled for more than half my life requires I stretch every recovery muscle I have ever developed while also building new ones. When I lived in an eating disorder, I believed I could control outcomes by controlling my body.
Recovery taught me that was actually an illusion of control. It requires I let go of trying to control, plan out, predict, and prepare for every possible outcome. It requires I connect deep within my own soul to the wise intuition and learn to sit in the discomfort of the unknown and trust.
Recovery has also taught me to embrace the fluidity of life and the cyclical nature of our existence.
Just like my body was never meant to stay the same my entire life or fit a rigid mold, our lives also are constantly changing. Relationships, circumstances, environments, careers… EVERYTHING is always changing. When I resist the changes I only make life harder for myself. When I accept what is, it reduces suffering and frees me to be present and show up. Recovery also demands I recognize and own my power. Simultaneously I have to welcome mistakes as tools for learning and evidence of my humanness, to trust the process, and remember that resilience is born from “failures” and struggle.
Surviving the Changes that Come with a Pandemic
Without recovery, I know this plot twist would crush me. In the past, I would have wanted to crawl under my bed and hide from the world. Today, instead of focusing on how unfair and scary everything is, instead of getting sucked into self-doubt and criticism, and instead of being swept away by the anxiety whirling around me, I feel a knowing deep within me. It is a quiet knowing that it will be ok, that I can handle this, and that I have the wisdom to figure it out as I go. I know that this school year will have ups and downs and that it won’t be perfect. It won’t even be close to perfect. But we will figure it out, together, one day at a time. One moment at a time.
One thing that has made the past 5 months challenging is the lack of an obvious “finish line,” when Corona Virus will be gone. There is no light at the end of the tunnel that we can see right now when life will return to “normal” (whatever that even means). But rather than cower and hide in the dark, I am choosing to use the skills I have learned and the strength I have found in recovery to find my own light. Hopefully, I can share my light with others, and when my light dims, perhaps yours will guide my way. And in the pit of the darkest moments, I will dig deep and use my own light to guide me. And I will find the joy and beautiful moments within the journey. Because that truly is what life is all about.