2020 will be a year we will never forget. Like the 17-year periodical appearance of the cicadas (approaching soon), life changed from normal to something completely different. People wore masks. With your lower face covered, you could no longer smile at people or see their smile for you. Social distancing was the mandate. Stay six feet apart. While walking my dog, I moved to the other side of the street so as to avoid getting within the dreaded six feet. Dogs didn’t stop to sniff one another, and people didn’t stop to chitchat or even smile. The loss of these small, everyday connections had a huge impact. We all spent more time alone, inside, on our screens. No school. No playdates. No eating in restaurants. No shopping. No going to work. No travel. No vacations. No, no, no, no….
Yet, somehow, in spite of all these no’s, or perhaps because of them, I found myself seeking out new yeses. That workshop on learning about my inner child which I used to scroll through and think someday, I signed up for it. Yoga workshops which I would usually be unable to attend as they required time off from work and kids and expensive flights and hotel stays, I do them in my bedroom. A new meditation program which I heard about from a friend, I enrolled that afternoon. Those dear college friends whom I see every five years for a mini reunion, we have had several zoom wine sessions. And finally, that dream getaway house in New Hampshire, which my partner and I have talked about as a possibility for when our kids go to college in four years, we bought it this fall. Yes, I found myself saying. Not someday, not let me think about it. Yes, l’ll do it. Now.
While walking my dog, I have noticed that ever present tension in my chest is no longer there. Why has this anxiety decreased, without any medication? Is it due to the extra sleep I have been getting since I don’t commute to work? Is it the meditation practice which I have been keeping up twice a day? Is it the regular walks/runs/yoga classes I have been doing? Is it my new healthy diet which I have tried to maintain with less sugar, gluten and dairy? I actually think those changes have had a significant impact on my well-being. However, there is a deeper change from within. A letting go. With this huge change in our lives over which we have no control, we have had to let go of trying to control our lives. It has been impossible to make plans so we have stopped making plans.
I have echoed that letting go within me. I have let go of trying to control my kids’ lives. No longer do I calculate how many hours they spend on screen and yell at them, “Get off the d__ screen!” How can I? They have to be on screen all the time for school anyway. My daughter recently made a huge change in her life. Pre-pandemic, I might obsess about her and try to make her change her mind. Now, I accept that she is living her life and making her own decisions. Carving her own path forward. Do I still get occasional bouts of anxiety and worry? Of course. When I do, I examine the root of it during a meditation. Who is this about? Is it about them or is it about me? Is it about my quest to be a “perfect parent?” If yes, then, I see this, accept it, and let go. That will not serve either them or me.
Grateful for…the pandemic?
There were tremendous losses in this pandemic. We lost someone very dear to us. Our kids’ educations suffered from the year at home. Economic losses were severe. Yet, somehow, there were blessings as well. Each night before I go to bed, I write down a few things I am grateful for. My dog. The sunshine. Health. Good food to eat. A comfy bed. Growth within me. This year of change.
Lisa Sidel is a mother of four children and one furry dog who lives in Bethesda, Maryland and hikes in New Hampshire. She is a yoga teacher and certified academic language therapist, working with dyslexic students, ranging from first grade through college.
Image courtesy of Bela cheers.