Without meaning to be, my day turned out to be an impromptu science experiment. Those of you who follow me regularly know this has been a particularly challenging week. Nothing has been that much different, other than finding out that Garin was failing out of long-distance learning. I attributed my gloomy outlook to that and the extended duration (87 days) of this stressful quarantine.
Today, things were very different, not so much by design, but rather by accident. These differences seemed to have a significant effect on my overall outlook on life, so I found myself both paying attention and reflecting as I went through my day.
I spent some of yesterday and all of this morning cleaning the house, as I do every week now. Before I clean, I request that all toys and books be picked up; all beds be neatly made; all "crap" (as I like to call it) be picked up off the floor, etc.. It works out that there is only a brief window of time (Saturday) that the house is both picked up and clean. During that brief moment in time, I noticed today that my entire demeanor changes. I feel peaceful, content and the general angst falls away. Pre-COVID-19, most of my weekdays felt like this, since the kids were gone all day and the house remained relatively neat. Having four kids creates untold amounts of mess and chaos and a neat house always been my antidote for that.
I got out of the house to go to the market late this morning. I went by myself to Ralph's. Going to the grocery store has now become the highlight of my week. I was only gone for a little over an hour, but my entire mood lifted in that short time. I attributed this to being out of my house, grocery shopping (which I have always enjoyed), away from my kids (whom I have had to be around far too much) and seeing strangers out in the world (rather than the same four faces day in and day out, despite how cute those faces are). I even enjoyed my brief chat with the check-out girl at Ralphs. While there, I was keenly aware of how much less irritable and depressed I felt.
It's Saturday, so there was no homeschooling today. Other than the make-up work that Garin did on his own, I didn't have to stay locked in my kitchen/family room keeping track of Zoom meetings, checking on the progress of countless assignments, verifying with Garin, every two minutes, that he is not on Minecraft, and watching Miles wander around bored and frustrated all day with no one to play with. I have come to the conclusion that I loathe and detest homeschooling.
I had my first social distance visit from an old friend, whom I have known since we were 12 (Garin's age). We attended Immaculate Heart together. Ann follows my blog and must have sensed my emotional destress lately. She texted me last night and offered to come, sit in my backyard and have some adult time with me. Of course, I responded immediately with a resounding, "Yes!" The kids wandered in and out of the house and pool, while we visited. We caught up on mutual friends, her 9 siblings, her 91 year-old parents, and much more. It was so wonderful for me to be with a friend and have a normal conversation.
Finally, I committed myself to cooking again. I don't mean the pedestrian stuff I have been making this week just to get by, but recipes I was excited about. I know that cooking always brings me joy, so I forced myself to choose some recipes, purchase the ingredients and make them. That experience was so therapeutic.
I reached the following conclusions upon reflecting on my day of unintended experiments:
I have no tolerance, try as I may, to live in a messy, dirty and cluttered house.
I despise homeschooling my kids. I am not even going to pretend that I like it. I can say with all candor that there have been few things I dislike as much in my life as this experience.
I need to get out of the house, be out in the world, see new faces and people and be away from my children. Being locked up with the same four people is driving me to the brink of insanity.
I miss the company of friends and (adult) people I love. As much as I adore my kids, I long for adult conversation and the camaraderie of being with my girlfriends.
I need to keep up the things that bring me joy and fulfillment, such as cooking, gardening and reading. Without joy, I feel like a flower that is wilting and slowly dying.
On the one hand, I am relieved to know the reasons for my dismal state of mind, of late. It gives me some measure of comfort to know that my feelings of depression, frustration and irritability have been a result of my situation rather than the fact that I am losing my mind. On the other hand, I am not in a position to change much of what is causing these feelings as long as I am living under the dark shadow of COVID-19. My kids are going to continue to be under-foot, 24/7 creating untold messes. Homeschooling, or some other form of entertaining them all day is also going to continue indefinitely. With regard to escaping my environment, I can only leave the house so often, because we are supposed to be staying home for our own safety and the safety of others, not to mention that my kids are all alone when I do leave, which is far from ideal. I don't know how many friends I can see during this time, since most don't live close by and visiting in your backyard, with masks on, is not for everyone. The only challenge I can realistically address is pursuing the things that bring me joy. I can try to be more mindful of doing things I enjoy each day, but often there is no time left for me to do anything, much less something I love. I come last, as do all moms. That's what we signed up for. It's just that the scales are way more out of balance amidst this pandemic than any of us ever planned for.
Clearly this is a marathon (a very long one), not a sprint. Each of us needs to figure out how we are going to get to the finish line in one piece. I, for one, am still trying to figure that out.
Garin and Graham helping to clean off the kitchen island stools.
Graham was our resident tattoo artist today.
Snakes and flames.
Catherine the kitty cat.
Twin kitty cats, painted by Graham.
Ann, our first official social distance visit in 3 months. What a treat!
Lady Catherine, pretty in purple.
Garin helping Catherine with her speech therapy homework.
Shepards Pie. Delicious and healthy (made with ground turkey).!
Fresh Strawberry Pie with a Shortbread Cookie Crust. The recipe was from this week's New York Times Food Section.
Graham helping to make the whipped cream for the pie.
The finished product. Even more delicious than it looks. The perfect Spring dessert.