Remember 1,000 years ago when *all this* began and we started thinking about all the Fun! New! Skills! we were going to learn now that we were stuck at home? Exciting Things that would — the unspoken message went — somehow make us better, more self-actualized people? All those projects we promised ourselves we’d get to now that we didn’t have to spend all our time going from the office to soccer practice to ballet lessons to Trader Joe’s and back again? Like knitting, yoga, new HIIT workouts, learning another language, batik, reorganizing every corner of the house, making photo albums out of all those zillions of iPhone pics, raising chickens, making our own Horchata — I could go on and on. You know, those Project People. The opposite of the Netflix-and-ice-cream-out-of-the-tub-at-midnight people.
I am here to tell the Netflix people: I feel you. Girl, I am you.
Before we go any further, I want to be clear about one thing: there is nothing wrong with any of the above activities. If knitting gives you pleasure, or just something to do with your fretting hands? By all means, get to it. If yoga is what calms your body and mind? Please, get your butt on that mat and downward dog it up. For my part, I’ve become one of those sourdough people for that very reason; baking has always been one of my hobbies and the kneading of various things has served as my primary way of coping with my end-of-days anxiety. Put some flour in my hands and my blood pressure drops to within an acceptable range.
But what I object to is the notion that we need to build upon our skill set or somehow be productive during this time. That seems (*rolls eyes*) overly-ambitious to me. Plus, using “this time” to do anything is ludicrous because as any parent will tell you THERE IS NO TIME; it’s all being spent peeling our children off the walls, cooking 20 meals per day, hand-washing masks for the love of god, working our jobs from the dining room/ bedroom/ hallway/ bathroom. Oh, and being school administrators (how many passwords can one kid have?!). Moms shouldn’t feel the pressure to learn conversational Mandarin — or to learn any damn thing — if they don’t want to.
On the rare occasions these days when I find myself with 30 minutes to myself, do I need to do that workout instead of sitting down and staring out the window doing nothing? Do I need to finally read War and Peace instead of watching The Vow on HBO? Do I need to finally learn to meditate? Or start my bullet journal? Do I need to improve my physical health by cutting out alcohol? Carbs? Sugar? Or learn to bake with spelt? Or train for a marathon?
Nope, nope, nope. Not if it doesn’t actually nourish me. At 9pm, you will find me with my Lexapro and my book and my clicker and my chocolate cake.
Many people will object to this kind of acquiescence, this kind of giving in, this kind of lack of ambition. But I am here to say that, actually, this is NOT giving up. Far from it.
I want to reach out a hand to those of you who get your kids settled (“settled” — haha!) in front of Zoom at the start of the day, or finally occupied on the floor with Legos for five minutes, or tucked into bed at night, and just… collapse. The moms who think: I really need another cookie. I really need to lie down. I really need to get in the bath. I really need to push that deadline off an hour so I can regain my sanity with a quick call to my best friend. I really just want to have a cup of coffee and stand in the sun for a moment. I really just want to read Jessica Simpson’s memoir in peace. I really want to get out of this day intact.
You don’t need to do more. And you don’t need to want to.
You are surviving. And that’s enough. If everyone in your crew comes out of this with their health and sanity, you have done more than any of us thought possible several months ago. You are accomplishing the impossible. Isn’t that enough self-improvement for one pandemic?