I don’t know what day of quarantine we’re on without looking at a calendar. Time feels so different right now. The days kind of blur into each other, but at the same time they’re so different. Some days I wake up motivated, I’m on top of things (as in interacting with my kids so they’re on screens for 5 hours instead of say, 6 that day). Some days I wake up and it’s a struggle–sometimes with my kids and Steve, sometimes just with myself. It’s like I wake up every morning to a new Sarah Beck and I have to figure out what the new head space looks like for the day, because lately it always seems to be a bit of a surprise.
I’ve seen a lot of people posting memes about how fairly easy of a sacrifice this is. Lots of stuff on “we’re asked to sacrifice by staying at home and binge watching Netflix or binge reading our favourite books.” Sure, those comforts make things a ton easier. We’ve got some great technological gifts at our fingertips. We can Facetime friends and family. Hold Zoom conferences. We can have things ordered online and dropped off at our doorstep. A lot of us can still do work from home. Here in Fargo, we can still be outside, walk our dogs, go for runs. Yes, there’s a lot to be thankful for.
But I think it does such a disservice to dismiss the disruption itself and pass it off as “free time,” “family time,” “time to get back to what matters,” “time to write the next great American novel,” “time to be more productive than ever.” Because it’s a disruption. A FREAKING PANDEMIC. A disruption of our work habits, sleeping habits, family interactions, vacations, personal goals, and more. It’s a time of GREAT uncertainty. We don’t know when we’ll get “normal” back. And I think, deep down, we all know that the return to “normal” will look very different from what it did before COVID-19 happened.
Each week I write a little post about our autism life. And yes, COVID-19 has disrupted our “autism life.” But a lot of this blog is an ongoing conversation about mental health. Because autism and mental health are so interconnected, and because all of us need to take care of our own mental health as we help others around us take care of their mental health.
In these last few (weeks? I think?) I’ve been trying to be extra mindful of my daily mental health and to not be judgemental about it or wish it was something different than it is. I think a lot about the sense of loss many of us may be feeling right now. I feel like I’ve personally lost two big things, things that I’ve been really working hard toward for months, even longer.
I’ve lost my marathon training momentum. The Fargo Marathon has been pushed back from May 9 to August 29. I had a talk with my coach a few days after the marathon got rescheduled and he told me that we’d have to scale back the mileage and intensity and then build up again in order for me to be healthy enough to run in August. I got off the phone, and then 5 minutes later I started to cry, realizing how far I’ve come over the last few months and how hard I had to work to get there. I finally had hit some good 15 mile tempo runs. I was feeling really healthy too. I fought tooth and nail every day to find time to train (even with ups and downs with J) and now I’m going to have to dial back and do it all again. I’m trying to stay positive about it. It gives me more training time to get better and faster. I’m not a high school senior missing their last season of track or tennis or soccer. I’m not an Olympian who has to adjust their training for another year from now. I will be fine, but it does hurt a little too.
I’ve also lost my writing momentum. I’ve been trying to get that last part of my novel revised and polished to send off to an agent for months now. And it looked like I was going to be finally done with it in March. I was planning on having it sent out to agents by now. I was planning on sending it out to writing competitions in the next few months. I’ve been fighting tooth and nail for that writing time the last few months. The last part of January J, W, and I came down with the flu. February J had sinusitis. He’s also struggled with behaviour and had some suspension days (at home). I was fighting hard to get that writing done. And now my writing time is being scaled back too, and I’ve cried over that. I’m trying to stay positive. In the daily changing “schedule” (there is no schedule, Steve and I are trying different combinations of work times between the both of us to see what works best–we haven’t found that yet) I try to chip out an hour or two of revision. I’ve got 75 715 words (264 pages) of final draft done. I’ve got quite a few more to go. I’m trying to be gentle and patient with that.
It’s been interesting talking with my sister in Saudi Arabia (my sister who has been single momming it now for almost a month while her husband is stuck in Bahrain because of COVID-19 closed borders). She’s been at this about 3 weeks longer than we have been here in North America. At this point, the “ideal schedule” no longer exists (or is trying to be obtained). If the dishes don’t get done by the end of the day, they’ll get done in the morning. Virtual school is a “try your best” experience between trying to monitor 3 kids and deal with technological issues because they’re all using the internet at the same time. It’s really just hang in there and do what you can. And I think, the longer we venture into this lock down (April 30th now, right?) the better we’ll get at adjusting to the “try your best and do what you can” standard.
Yes, we are blessed. And yes, we are struggling. Those things can exist in the same space.