I had planned for a full day off from work today. My son hadn’t been feeling well and I wanted to be on-call with him without interruption. I worked overtime last weekend into this week, in order to make sure I would be all caught up and O.K. to take the day off. I must have put in 80 hours of work over the last six consecutive days just to be able to take this day off. And long last, it was here. As it turned out, my son seemed fine as the day began, and continued to be in good spirits all morning. Turns out he didn’t need much attention today after all. So, I gave my kids a free pass to play Fortnite. With my husband upstairs on back to back conference calls, well, I found myself with nothing to do today.
Nothing. Not a thing. Not one single thing to do today. And can I tell you??? The feeling was SO surreal that it stopped me right in my tracks.
Should I just log into work? I certainly had plenty to do there…
But no. I immediately had another thought. “Take the day, girl!” And the one thing that brought an immediate smile to my face was the idea of getting back to my writing! Because this blog, my book, my voice – I had missed it more than I had realized over the last few months. Every time I tried to think about having the luxury of “time” again, I was terrified I would never have the time to write again. I was so afraid I had lost my voice. That I would never get back what I had worked so hard to build. In fact, I had even convinced myself over the last few months that none of this writing really mattered… just so that I would have a hall pass that I hadn’t even thought about “Work It, Girl!” (my passion project!) in months!
When I wrote this chapter, this image seemed appropriate. This chapter in my book is about self-care in the form of exercise. It’s about empowerment. It’s about self-discipline. The commitment to oneself, and the parallels I draw to being great at my profession because I take the time to make an investment in myself, every day. This image was meant to be sarcastic. A satire. Because it was so far from the actual truth. I mean, look at her. She looks like a hot mess. And I had my stuff SO figured out, that the idea of looking like this girl, was actually hilarious to me.
Today when I looked at this image, she actually reminded me of myself a little. No joke. I was literally thinking, “Oh I just did that last week.” And by “that” I mean take a pair of scissors and randomly chop off one of my goldie locks in the mirror because it was just starting to annoy me. I tilt my head on zoom calls now because the left side of my hair is significantly longer than the right. That’s a fact.
My random beauty hacks were catching up to me. My workout hacks were starting to make my jeans feel tight, too. I was still doing all the right things. But apparently, I was also doing all the wrong things, too. I was having trouble following a routine as of late. And my 8:30am mandatory morning workouts were now regularly being replaced with twelve hour work days that started the moment I opened my eyes, and only ended with my kids begging me to feed them at night. I had been so grateful to have a job during a BLEEPING pandemic that I worked so many hours. Too many hours. Saturdays and weekends were all about catching up on laundry and doing chores. And maybe some work if it spilled over (which it usually did). Time and time, I kept hearing executives at my company and others say “with all this free time you save not traveling or getting on a plane, you should have time to ______ (fill in the blank). “What free time??!?!!” I kept scratching my head and just worked even more. All the while thinking “I am even more caught up in the rat race now!” – more than ever before! Over the last three months, I had completely abandoned my self-care and had replaced it with so many random hacks – just to survive.
I realized that I had been so busy surviving, that I had done a really terrible job thriving. Now don’t get me wrong. I am loving my new job. And I’ve already had a few wins and settling really well in my new role. Things are busy, and I continue to be inspired on a daily basis by my colleagues. My family is healthy and well. My kids are funny. And I am grateful for my home and a safe place to shelter in place.
And, I know. “Be kind to yourself!”, some might say. “Don’t have such high expectations!” some might say. “We’re in the middle of a BLEEPING pandemic!”, some might say. YES! To all of those things. But I’m not operating at my full potential and I know that. And to ignore that feeling would be disservice to myself. I am not the same person today that I was going into this pandemic. I’m just not. I’m not sure how precisely I have changed. But I have. My old ways don’t seem to be working. New ways haven’t been established yet. But this middle place just isn’t working quite right either.
Can we get real for a minute and about how exhausting the last three months have been?
Where has the time even GONE!
Like most of you, my family and I have been in our home for the last 94 days – A QUARTER OF A YEAR! – in quarantine!!! I had just opened my eyes for what feels like the first time in AGES – and realized that I have been living like a programmed robot for the last few months. Adjusting, adapting and surviving. Super important stuff, I know. And I am really proud of my crew for course correcting so smoothly.
In phase 1 we were all terrified. We transformed our home into a military base. Routine, rigor, lots of planning and lots of supplies. Everything was on a schedule. We were efficient and methodical. There were rules for everything. Designated times for play. For chores. For work. For exercise. For fun. We became utilitarian. Our survival mechanism kicked in. Similar to military life, we all had our designated jobs at designated times. The daily walk, pre-planned meals, portable quick lunches, loads of laundry being run/folded/put away without so much as a whisper to remind anyone about any of it. And the dishwasher? Well, 94 days? 94 pods, of course! Loading that damn dishwasher every single evening like clockwork so that we can clean up the mess of the day and be ready to take on another day – a maddening, yet very similar day – tomorrow.
We have a household with two full time jobs that require two different office spaces for back to back video conference calls. Two children requiring new devices for online classrooms and a clean, distraction free, space for zoom classrooms throughout their day. And homework. The homework was another layer. It wasn’t that it was hard. But it was there. And managing yet another level of deliverables on top of your own, PLUS all the chaos it took to manage our day already, just started to become too much.
We got really good at communicating with our eyes while on zoom, given all four of us were on conference calls and zoom calls, practically ten hours a day. Piles of dishes became easy to ignore throughout the day. Eight years olds who were getting really good at using words like “troubleshooting”, “Google Classroom” and “glitching”.
We made it work. I even curled my hair every day for the zoom calls. Most days I dressed up. But elastic pants and daily hacks were quickly becoming the norm for all of us.
We all practically lived on top of each other every single moment of every single day. My poor kitchen – the lifeline of our home – never even had a moment to breathe. Swiftly transitioning from dining hall, to classroom, to lunch room, to classroom – back to dining hall. Then at the end of every day, the clean-up. Finally ending the day with the soft humming of that damn dishwasher signaling that we had survived one more day.
And guess what, we did survive. And I am SO thankful for that. But now I need to take the time to figure out my “new normal” so that I’m ready to take on the “reentry” back into my own life again.
The hair? Well that still needs to get fixed by a real professional. And unfortunately, that appointment is still three weeks away. But the dark clouds seem to be fading away and the sun is starting to peek through now. And if you will be patient with me, I will continue to write (when I can find the time!) and tell you all about me – the good, the bad, and the ugly.