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March 29, 2020

Lock Down and Slow Down

I planned on journaling every day during our shelter in place, ( I am in Illinois) but that hasn’t happened. I also planned on cleaning out closets, handing each child a stack of great literature to read, and reading some myself…also has not happened. Like most things in life, my pandemic stage is not turning out as planned.

I am spending a lot of time on my phone…like a ridiculous amount of time, and I don’t feel bad about it. In “normal” times I would feel guilty and make sure I put my phone away for a while if it is distracting. But now, my phone is a bit of a lifeline. I don’t feel guilty. I remind myself that I am staying connected and helping others stay connected as well. As soon as I wake up in the morning, people pop into my head. If they do, I reach out to see how they are doing. It is part of my routine now. I check on people daily, and others are checking on me, with the help of technology. I have been so touched by people who know, as a single mom, I might need something, so they reach out.

Through Facebook and Instagram, we make each other laugh every day. We share the tears, frustrations, and concerns, and we keep each other company. We live in a new world where people can grow closer to one another without ever really meeting. Being locked in our homes doesn’t mean we can’t stay in touch. I feel a great sense of community with my friends all over the country. I can tell relationships are growing stronger because of this. It’s rather beautiful.

I am praying more. I am also eating more…and apparently my stomach feels, in desperate times, the order of meal consumption no longer matters. Craving a ham sandwich for breakfast? Go for it. I’m sure the pandemic will end just in time for bikini season.

I excused my children from school for a few days. I know, you are thinking, “she kicked them out?” No. That is illegal. We just took some time off. I was seeing a lot of stress and anxiety. There was a feeling of unsettledness in the home. My kids hear everything. They are older but not completely grown up yet. They are worried, though they may not always admit it. I have had a sore throat, and was afraid to tell them because I didn’t want them to worry about anything else. But they do. My ten year old keeps kissing my forehead to make sure I don’t have a fever, and she is serious. This is a lot for them to cope with. But it’s ok. I am here to teach them how to do that. They are watching me. I want them to know it is ok to admit when a change up is necessary, or sometimes a walk outside to reduce stress is needed. In my house, the site of four vaporizers ready to plug in just in case, can look a bit scary. They need to see how to be prepared without panic. I am teaching them how to handle a crisis.

Within a day, the atmosphere in my home changed. We needed some down time together. In the beginning of all of this, I went directly into survival mode. Truly, every day of my life I am in survival mode with my children; however, in the last few weeks, that survival mode has intensified big time. The last thing I had time for was checking the schoolwork of four children, while planning a month long menu (just in case), searching for vaporizers and Tylenol, teaching kids how to properly sanitize and put away groceries, and barking orders at my mother to stay the hell home. Thanks for listening, mom.

I decided during this little break, we would just hang out. We are now able to have dinner together every night. I did finally pull out a few books I’d like the kids to read. I have been surprised by what I have seen in them the last few days. I was worried that taking time off of school would lead to too much screen time, and I’d have to step in. It has been exactly the opposite. They are running around more, and acting goofy. They are all getting along and helping each other out when the other one is bored. Last night at dinner, my cheeks hurt from laughing. We are taking walks together and just talking. There is no more rush, because there is nowhere to go. My stress, and theirs, decreased big time. I am lonely and of course have worries. But since we slowed down, it has lessened. It’s like the kids and I took a giant deep breath together, and now we are slowly exhaling. I love it.

My closet is still a disaster. My children are sick of eating vitamin C tablets. I haven’t read a book in a really long time. Our hands are chapped from washing. And thank God, the vaporizers have not needed to be unboxed yet. When all of this is over, I will be hard on myself I am sure, for not getting the spring cleaning done. I want this health crisis to end as soon as possible…but I don’t want this precious time with my children to end. I may not be willing to give them back to the schools, activities, and the constant tug of our culture.

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Melissa Nicholson  |  Contribution: 3,625