First, on the practical side, if you’re going nuts spending this much time with your kids, I have a small little way to help.
Everyday I’m releasing a new episode of the Mommy’s Pen podcast where I read a chapter from my kit lit novel, The Cat, the Cash, the Leap and the List. I’m hoping it will give your kid something to look forward to each day, and provide a moment where you can go drink a glass of water and breathe.
Now, on the emotional side, we’re about a week into this mess. How are you holding up? Are you over the initial shock and grief?
Frankly, I feel like I have an unfair advantage in situations like this. No, I don’t have a storage shed full of toilet paper, but I have had the metaphorical rug pulled out from under me several times in my past.
To give you just a taste—and without getting too heavy for a family blog—in my early thirties, shortly after having Nora, I developed type 1 diabetes. I’ve been insulin dependent ever since and I spent about a year struggling with grief and anxiety. These days, I consider it one of the biggest blessings of my life.
The most important takeaway from experiences with groundlessness is this: I cannot control the universe. I can only work to control my own mind.
And I don’t have to let my mind spin out of control and add a layer of suffering to an already painful situation. We cannot know what our lives will look like on the other side of this, even though our brains are busy fabricating scary stories about it. We do not have to believe those stories.
Here are some dos and don’ts I set for myself during this, er, experience. Maybe they’ll be helpful for you, too.
- Use this is a character building opportunity — who do I want to be on the other side of this?
- Be compassionate—to myself as much as others.
- Journal my thoughts, notice how they create feelings.
- Challenge each thought — is it really true? Or am I creating a story to scare the pants off myself?
- Make art! Make things!
- Maintain my best habits.
- Keep a gratitude journal. I put a jar on the kitchen table and everyday the kids and I write things we’re thankful for on little slips of pink paper and drop them in.
- Make decisions—don’t just sit in confusion—and don’t second guess myself.
- Find ways to help others. I’m getting a kit from a local hospital system to make face masks.
- Set goals for my time.
- Get outside.
- Constantly read the news! Set boundaries around media consumption.
- Let my brain spin-out without questioning it.
- Let myself spiral into bad habits that won’t serve me.
- Judge others. When I judge others, I lose.
- Try to control others. Same deal, if I try to control others, I only make myself crazy in the process.
- Argue with reality. It’s a direct path to suffering.
Ultimately, my guiding principle is this: when I don’t know what to do, I choose something that strengthens me. Even if it’s only drinking a big glass of water and taking some deep breaths.
For most of us, if we look at this exact moment, we are just fine. Take it moment by moment and remind yourself of that as many times as you need to.
Sending virtual hugs.