Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Re-entry

Several of you kind people commented on my last (three month old) post that they hoped I was doing OK since they hadn't heard from me in a very, very long time. One comment really got at the root of the problem, which is that everything, including blogging, showering, and feeding ourselves, somehow feels extra hard and overwhelming when we find ourselves inside this neverending news cycle of despair. And that is really the only explanation for the long absence: Quarantine got me down.

If the constant scary national and global news and the constant threat of disease wasn't overwhelming enough, there is the constant presence of my family. And I mean constant. And I LOVE my family. And I love being with them. But everyone is (was, I will get to that in a minute) cranky and hot and exhausted from missing our people. They take it out on each other and me. Ryan has gone back to in-person work and I am (was) doing endless days of nonstop family time with no breaks, no real options for out of the house fun, and no community outside the computer. And, it goes without saying, absolutely no privacy. You may remember that I was in the midst of a little career transition when we last talked. Those things require time to think and reflect and process (and for me, community community community) and I have had few opportunities for any of those.

It has been an absolutely exhausting summer, mentally and physically.

My rowing club opened up in June with very strict requirements for handwashing, mask wearing, boat washing, and distancing and I took a leap and signed up for a lesson on a single (we also cannot row boats of eight people because of distancing guidelines). It turned out to be a terrific link to sanity for me. I went Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays for a few weeks and felt great. I was getting better and faster and more skilled at not embarrassing myself in the tiny boat. And then the protests started and the one in my town frequently and unpredictably shut down the highway that I take to get to rowing. Since I go down early in the morning, when it is still dark, just a few blocks away from the protests, and since I tend to run on the more anxious side of normal, this felt unacceptably risky and I took a longer than intended three week break from rowing.

When I realized how much I was missing it, I signed back up for a few more rows and they were great! I felt strong and capable! I had time to listen to podcasts and sing in my car on the way there and back (this was huge)! I had time alone (HUGE)! And then the city shut down all the parks and with it, the rowing club, because of the massive surge of cases we were experiencing. That news... I did not take well.

It has not been all bad, but it certainly has felt very heavy and hard. Little things like keeping the house neat and making meals that normally give me so much enjoyment and pride felt monotonous and burdensome and, truly, pointless given the fact that there were four (sometimes five) undoing everything I did all day long anyway. 

Some of the brightest bright spots in this entire experience have happened this summer. One, my fortieth birthday was in June. I had dreamed for several months of renting out a brewery and hiring a friend or two with guitars so that I could have my own Beer and Hymns, but that became impossible because both gathering in breweries and group singing, AKA my favorite things, are now potentially deadly, so I told Ryan all I wanted was to have really good food and to at least hear from my friends. BOY did he deliver. The day before my birthday my neighbor invited me to have a glass of wine in my front yard, which is not unusual. We sat in chairs ten feet apart and toasted to each other (we share a birthday). I didn't think anything of it when she suddenly remembered a quick errand she had to do inside her house and took off. Ryan came outside and asked me to move my chair to the end of the driveway, which was weird, and when I did, I saw one of my good friends driving down the street towards my house. The next hour was a constant parade of people coming to say happy birthday and air hugging and throwing cards from a couple yards away. After a months long people drought, this was the best birthday present ever. My parents and sister stayed and Ryan got takeout fajitas from a great Mexican restaurant. So thoughtful and sweet and perfect.

The best decision we made this year was to continue with our plans to go on our annual trip to Maine.  With fully refundable airfare and a free place to stay, we made the arrangements and then remained noncommittal all the way up until the day before we were to leave when I broke down and let the kids pack. We told the kids not to get excited until the actual plane was actually taking off. I was nervous about every aspect of the travel, but a couple of things worked out in our favor--one was that they canceled our flight into Portland, which meant we had to fly into Boston instead. This was great because it eliminated a three hour layover at JFK that I had been dreading for covid and other reasons. There was a two week mandatory quarantine for out of state visitors in Maine, so my aunt grocery shopped for us before we arrived and left everything in the empty house. Ryan scheduled covid tests for us for the Monday after we arrived. We stayed in the house and the yard for three days, took the tests, then spent another few days in quarantine before getting our negative results (you can come out of quarantine with a negative test). We took a celebratory (masked) trip to the grocery store because we were painfully low on butter by that point (because I didn't want to admit to my aunt that we need three pounds a week). Since then we have maintained a pretty limited schedule, with limited trips to the grocery store, one or two takeout sandwiches, a hiking trip (in masks when within sight of other people), and a boat trip to the harbor for ice cream and hot dogs (outside with masks on). Aside from generally not taking the kids inside any buildings other than our house, this is the most normal anything has felt since March and I can tell the kids are feeling it too. They are so happy and relaxed and much less irritable than they were before we left, when I was truly wondering if they would make it through this experience with their mental health. I realize how lucky we are to have this opportunity and am grateful for all the things that had to work out just right to get us here. Maine feels like home for us. I wish we could stay forever (my friends hate when I talk like that!).

So that's the rundown of what's been going on around here! The kids and I are all doing online school starting sometime in August and since it's going to be a thrillion degrees when we get home I am prepared to jump back into the great hunkering (as my friend calls it). Hopefully having some structure to our days, even if it is on zoom, will help with the boredom and restlessness that were driving us all crazy.

Here are a couple of favorite pictures from the last few months before I go. I promise to not let another three months go by. Thanks for checking in!


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6 comments:

Chiconky said...

Welcome back :)

Brooke said...

We are almost birthday twins! And I relate to all the struggles you've detailed here. Sending love and solidarity.

Anonymous said...

So happy to hear that you guys made it to Maine. A brief period of time to let things feel "normal" again can be so restorative. I went camping for 3 nights over 4th of July weekend and I think the combination of being unplugged from the news and breaking up the 7 days a week monotony that is our current life (where weekends are just like weekdays only with more idle internet surfing time) did more for me than I thought possible.

Your birthday parade sounds like it was lovely. Heres to cooler temperatures and more structure for all of us!

Anonymous said...

So good to read this! I've missed your blogs, with their so-lovable rants and their over-the-top celebrations, so real and human and finally always so positive. I didn't comment about missing them because I don't know you at all except for this blog, and (almost always) I'm just an anonymous lurker.


MM

Carolyn said...

Phew! You have been missed. Seeing you back is balm for the soul.

Anonymous said...

Yay! I was so pleasantly surprised to see this update this morning. Welcome back - I’ve so missed your posts. Glad to hear you and your family are all doing well and that you had a wonderful birthday!