Back when I had three children in diapers, I used to keep a copy of Immaculée Ilibagiza’s book Left to Tell on my nightstand. I never actually read the book. But I knew that Ilibagiza survived the Rwandan genocide by hiding 91 days with 7 other women in a 3’ x 4’ bathroom. Having the book there helped me keep perspective.
I struggled for seven years to have a family. But when my family finally arrived, I didn’t feel fulfilled at first like I thought I would.
Days blurred into the next. Diaper after diaper after diaper. Tiny hands all over me, calling “up,” shouting “no!” or simply wailing in my ear. A baby needing one of my breasts. A machine to suck the rest out. Bigger babies wanting a snack. Apple sauce to wipe off the walls and floors. Sticky hands. Sticky faces. More diapers.
I carried a lot of shame for not being the mother I thought I’d be.
In those days I was grateful for wine each night. I needed quick comfort and some temporary numbness. I knew it was a band aid. But I needed a band aid. I couldn’t read or meet with a therapist, learn a new language or knit a sweater.
I’ve been sober for seven years. Still, looking back, I realize that the band aid helped me get through.
But it was another source of shame.
Looking back, I wouldn’t change the struggle or the even the wine. I would change the way I talked to myself in my mind.
I wish I hadn’t been so ashamed all the time. I wish hadn’t believed, deep down, that I was always failing.
There are a lot of folks who need a band aid right now. Who are dealing with loss upon loss, overwhelming anxiety, extreme financial hardship. Many who are simultaneously trying to support children who face their own combination of anxiety and loss. Who are trying to do the right thing for their communities, their families.
They are drinking a little more wine or watching a little more Netflix or sleeping a little later…
There are also folks who, inside the tornado of financial collapse, fear, a never-ending news cycle and the monotony of lockdown, find comfort in cooking elaborate dishes, running half marathons, learning a new language or posting reviews of sex toys.
A few days ago I read a Facebook post titled “Can all the lockdown motivators get lost?”
Kerry Parnell wrote, “Getting through lockdown is not a competitive sport – you don’t have to come out of it fitter or more fabulous. Whether you’re surrounded by kids, or doing it solo, it’s a struggle for everyone.”
There is no right way to get through a global pandemic.
For you it might be wine or shoes or Netflix.
Tomorrow you might decide to learn to knit.
Neither makes you better or worse.
Band aid or no band aid.
Marathon or no marathon.
Nobody else can tell you how.
Just get through…the best you can.
And tell the “lockdown-shamers” – on both ends of the spectrum — to get lost.
P.S. Did you miss my “pay what you can” time management workshop? You can still get the recording and the bonus goodies. (This system has been keeping me SANE over quarantine!)
One of the participants had this to say: “It was great! A time-management system that might actually work for me!” Another said: I’ve taken a number of other time management courses and this is the first time I ‘got’ how to do the time blocking/calendaring piece!”
Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like the class!