Exhale

Last week was…weird? Discombobulated? I struggle to find a word that succinctly wraps it all up nice and neatly in an orderly, grammatical way.

I didn’t know how to respond to everything that was happening, and happening so quickly. So many shifts. I was conflicted, caught somewhere between acting like everything was normal, because on some level things felt normal, and at the same time knowing everything was far from normal. I didn’t know what to do or not do, and my actions mimicked the confusion. Some days I stayed in pajamas. Other days I got dressed. I didn’t monitor anyone’s screen time for hours on end, or I was micro-focused on it, there was no in between. I put off going to the grocery store (and as a serial meal planner, this might have felt the most unhinged). Underlying all of that was knowing that my girls felt similarly, had less of an ability to hang on to their own emotions, and I had to show them some modicum of normality amidst a complete lack of it.

I vacillated between wanting to drink all the bottles of wine because I felt stressed and overwhelmed, a dear old coping mechanism of mine, and sticking religiously with my hydration plan that I have cultivated which I know makes me feel nourished and clear-headed. I have Pinterested school schedules, and I have not given a damn about what my kids were doing in terms of routine. I have thought about going for a walk and then scrolled Facebook for the better part of two hours. I have been zen, and I have utterly and completely lost my shit over the smallest of things. I have subscribed to virtual yoga classes and not done a single one. I have stuck to my somewhat normal workout routine thanks to my local gym community, albeit virtually, only to turn around and eat half a bag of chips I discovered hiding in the back of our pantry. I have cleaned out all of the kitchen cabinets in a Marie Kondo effort, and I have napped.

And you know what? Every single one of those things were OK.

I gave myself a pass last week. There was so much coming at me that if I took it all in I knew I would hit system overload. This sudden and abrupt shift of all the time in the world felt like a gift and a curse; I simultaneously wanted to take advantage of it and do all the things but also internally railed against the need to be productive.

After allowing myself that time to wallow, however, I knew that I needed to be a bit more intentional. On Sunday, my typical weekly planning day, I told myself I would stick to the basics that I have been working on building, before life spiraled into the plot for a sci-fi novel. Focusing on what made me feel best – gratitude, sleep, movement, water intake and limiting alcohol, auditing my consumption of media and reading materials, as well as sticking with my nightly routine – and discarding those that just weren’t sticking, such as waking at 5am and journaling every day. I have no time or tolerance at this juncture for working hard at things that I don’t thrive in doing. Also, building unsustainable habits that work through a pandemic but not into the days that will be reminiscent of business-as-normal probably isn’t the best laid plan.

There’s plenty that I want to drink about, there are more than enough things that could keep me up at night, and I am definitely not going to make the homeschool teacher all-star team.

And there are definitely times, like yesterday after a trip to the grocery store where people in an otherwise genuinely friendly community hesitated to look each other in the eye much less say hello from a safe distance, where I pause to feel the emotions that I can’t deny are there, swirling all about.

This is not a time for rockstars. It took us years to groom our at-work skills. This is a time to lower the bar, do what you can to make yourself feel good, feel your emotions, and for the love of god, connect with your social networks. Those things will help you through the five thousandth “Mommmm”, the incomprehensible math work and the sheer chaos that will likely ensue from being sheltered-in-place with those you love so, so dearly (and yes, I am trying not to be sarcastic here).

This is not a time to pick up heavy things just for the sake of lifting.

There has been this increasing pressure to be productive with all of our time. To be “busy”. I think this might be the time for us all to take a pause on productivity and perhaps just connect with those things that make us feel good – not temporarily good, but nourished, cared-for and genuinely good.

My boss once gave me a card, after a particularly rough day I had, and the front simply said, “Exhale”. I still have it. It reminds me to take deep breaths.

On a regular day, I need that reminder often. Now, I need that tattooed on my forehead. Or perhaps my hand because, let’s face it, I’m not really taking the time to pause in the mirror.

This is temporary. And it’s uncomfortable. It’s challenging and hard and lonely and beautiful and peaceful. It’s so many things, and all the things all at once. Let’s just focus on getting through it as best as we can. Cry when you need to, smile when you can, and take some deep breaths.

 

Creating Space

As I have shared before, I am an obsessive list maker. I keep rotating “To Do” lists in the Notes app on my iPhone. I write them in my planner. Sometimes, my weekly goals consist of the things that I just need to get out of the way.

Each week, there are items that carry over, copied and pasted or rewritten again and again, week after week. I can highlight them, write them in different colored ink, draw fancy stars next to them, and yet there they sit, next to an empty check box at the close of the day on Sunday.

Since our move, which was about two months ago now, I’ve had the goal of bringing donation items to Goodwill. Week after week I expend energy around this task; something so small that is taking up space, carrying a weight of disappointment when I get to the end of the week and still haven’t made this happen.

This week, I have left my To Do list completely blank with the exception of this one line. I will only allow myself to write in additions once I have completed this task. I will take care of that Goodwill pile that’s taking up real estate in my home and in my head. Then, I will replace that item with something more valuable.

Creating white space allows room for the bigger, more important things.

Our goals don’t have to be mountains. Sometimes, they are small and seem silly, yet completing them can make us feel productive, allow us to gain positive momentum, and can fuel other, more significant progress. Taking action doesn’t always have to be a grand gesture. It doesn’t always have to be big and scary.

Sometimes the next step, no matter how small or insignificant, is just the next right step. Each step leads to change that we may not notice as we take them one by one, but when we look back, everything has shifted.

We have to make room for the steps; even the smallest steps need space.

How can you create some space in your world? What could you fill that space with, once you created it?

white, space