March 13, 2020
I suppose we all have a date that the pandemic started for us. I know there is a date in which it was declared officially– but this is the day it hit us.
And all day the hits kept coming. The local schools were going online for a week. The college decided to make spring break 2 weeks to give them time to evaluate. One contract after another after another was put on hold, or cancelled, as the airlines saw travel bookings go negative. I tried to keep the kids quiet as my husband fielded calls, tried to navigate the questions my college girl had about what to do, tried not to panic about what this meant for our family, tried to stay upbeat. Failed at just about all of those things.
By the end of the day, every airline contract but one was cancelled. Dance for my daughter was cancelled. Schools completed the academic year online. We huddled around streaming news conferences, praying for good news that didn’t come.
And didn’t come. And didn’t come.
The weeks turned to months of living in fear, sadness, and worry. Weeks and months of kids at home, financial uncertainty, worry about germs and illnesses . . and waiting for the next round of bad news. The team my husband ran dwindled. Dwindled again. Pay cuts, benefit cuts, and uncertainty.
We are almost a full year since that date. I’ve written before about the grief I’ve experienced, about the things that have been hard in this year, the changes our family has gone through. But after a full year, and after spending a full hour-long video therapy session sobbing about how incredibly sad I am, my therapist recommended I take a moment to document what HAS been good. To list the silver linings – however small – that I can find in our experience over the last 12 months.
So – one full year:
- It’s the year we decided we wanted less. We realized we wanted to prioritize the downtime – not because we were suddenly enjoying it, but because we suddenly weren’t. The pandemic moved us very quickly into hustling at side jobs and extra work. This strain added to our weariness and reminded us we wanted less. Fewer ends to make meet. Fewer images to maintain. Fewer entries on our calendar.
- It’s the year we paid off debt and saved money. We cut back on our spending (due to the pandemic, to fear, to wanting less), and we prioritized paying off debt and saving more. We are ending this year with only a single, refinanced, low interest mortgage to our name.
- It’s the year our youngest picked up the guitar and never put it down. There have been hours and hours of music in our home as he learned chords and strings and songs. My husband picked up his guitars – which we have had forever but in recent years have been more neglected than played – and played with him for hours. They’ve bonded with acoustics in hand, as my husband taught, and my son soaked up knowledge.
- It’s the year our middle child hit her stride with school and responsibility. She’s always been the kindest; sweet and full of laughter. This year was no different in that regard – but she also began to reach out to her teachers on her own for assistance as she learned remotely. Rarely, did we have to harp on her to finish her assignments, or worry about her grades. She took on checking the mask stash and starting laundry, she baked cookies and breads, and read with her brother when the realities of our new schedule meant those things were lacking.
- It’s the year our firstborn traversed life on her own. There were plenty of calls to talk things through, but she moved out of her dorm, and navigated an apartment, bills, jobs, school, and all the pressures of real life several hundred miles away from us. It has always been hard on me to let her go – but this year there were few options but to sit back and watch her fly without us. And she did it beautifully.
- It’s the year I went back to therapy. Probably long overdue. But it was the year that my anxiety began impacting my health to a degree that could no longer be ignored. I talked to my therapist about anxiety, perfectionism, failure. I talked about pushing through hard things and had her tell me that it was ok to quit – which might be one of the most meaningful conversations of my life. We talked about prioritizing myself, and she taught me to question the mentality that leads to avoiding that. I crammed sessions between conference calls – leaving exhausted, elated, and feeling slightly hung over, as we waded through childhood events, a spirit of fear, and an over-developed sense of responsibility.
- It’s the year I began embracing imperfection. I’m learning to let go of a clean house, and a clean diet. I’m letting go of a detailed planner with pretty handwriting, of a mistake-less project, of an organized pantry. I’m letting go of the ideas of kids that don’t mess up, dinner that is always planned, my pants always fit, and the happiness of my family is solely my responsibility.
I’d like to pretend that when I think back on the past year, that eventually I’ll think first of these silver linings – but I doubt it. I’m always the girl that remembers the sad, the hard, the hurt. But writing them down makes them tangible, helps me remember.
It’s been almost full year since that day; a year of heartache and impossible options, a year of fear and worry. But also a year of silver linings, of growth and beauty, of love and support, of things that were good despite the hardship.