I wish I could press pause right now, I really do. That might seem crazy when the whole world seems to be on a collective pause, thanks to this crazy virus and our even crazier government that can’t seem to get a handle on it.
But life hasn’t slowed down for me since COVID came crashing into our lives. Very much the opposite, in fact. While I am unbelievably grateful to continue to have a steady income, I really wish that I could lighten my load, just a bit. I have so much going on that I don’t know what day of the week it is most days. And the serial entrepreneur in me just keeps throwing irons into the fire left and right.
I don’t think I even know how to slow down. I really have no idea why I seem to be functional only in light speed.
Alissa and I (well, I) have been in an intensive therapy program since early February. It was a court-assigned response to her running away at the beginning of the year along with all of her other behavioral problems. And oh boy, have I been grateful. We’re supposed to wrap up next week, and I’m really sad. I’ll get three hours a week of my life back (which I’ve already re-allocated to new commitments). But those 90 minute sessions really are a time out from this world that seems to be whizzing by me.
Every week, Chelsea (our therapist), asks me what I’m doing for self care. I get the same question from Alissa’s regular therapist (whom I haven’t made time to visit with, despite her offering me a couple of 1:1 sessions after Alissa threw her computer through her bedroom window in April) as well as my own therapist. They ask me often. I shrug and mumble something about having too much going on to stop for a moment.
They say that self care can look like a lot of things. I don’t think that they’ll agree that my form of self care is to overwhelm myself with commitments and to-do’s that leave me little time to sleep, eat, or think. I’m sure they’ll tell me to slow down; to stop overscheduling myself. Truth is, I don’t know how to do that. My time seems to be like quicksand – pull one thing out, and the rest backfills to erase the void.
When Denver first recommended social distancing in early March, I was the last one on the train. I spent my final days before quarantine celebrating a friend’s birthday, going for walks with my dad, and squeezing in all the happy hours and spa afternoons I could afford. I justified this by saying that it was only a matter of time before we wouldn’t be allowed to do such things, and I needed to support my favorite small businesses and enjoy my friends while I still could.
Within a few days, the deadline was looming like the Grim Reaper over our city. It was only a matter of time before quarantine orders were going to become a part of life. And my response was to fit as much in as I could before it became real. (To be fair, at the time, it was still believed that you could not be an asymptomatic transmitter of the disease.) I stopped commuting to the office, but I still spent as much face time with my friends as I could.
Once stay-at-home orders went into effect, I eagerly agreed to every virtual happy hour invite that hit my inbox. I worked all day, I drank virtually with friends every night, “quarantine won’t be so bad,” I thought. “I can do this.”
But a weird thing happened. I started feeling burned out on video calls. And phone calls. And human connection of almost any kind (Instagram and Marco Polo were about my only exceptions). So I unplugged completely. As soon as my work day was over, I docked my phone and retreated to the living room for Netflix or tried to read a book (why did I expect that I was going to binge read through this pandemic?).
I realized just how much my life outside consisted of happy hours and doing things with friends. After a few weeks, I had to start deleting things from my calendar. With sadness, I deleted my Mammoth games. I deleted brunches that had been planned months ago. I deleted orthodontist appointments for Alissa and reminders to do regular adulting chores.
My weekends suddenly became free. It was a feeling I hadn’t experienced in years and I didn’t know what to do with all that time. It lasted a couple of weeks before I found ways to occupy my time, and my weekends and weekdays started to blend together. The only way I had a clear grasp on the day of the week was to complete my morning ritual of writing down all of my tasks and appointments for the day in my planner.
I started working when I felt most productive, which were not always during regular work hours. My afternoons bled into evenings, and my mornings became just as foggy. I finally understood why I hate the movie Groundhog Day so much.
Monotony and routine is a drag.
And yet, I still wake with feelings of anxiety and like time is running out. I stress about meeting deadlines and getting work completed in a timely manner. If I save too much work for when I feel productive, I get overwhelmed and nothing gets done. My pre-pandemic self is still in there, fretting about time and wishing it would slow down, yet doing nothing about changing my circumstances because that feels too uncomfortable.
Even though January was arduous for me and March felt like eleventy-billion years long, I’m still convinced that April doesn’t exist. The month came and went, as did my birthday, with little fanfare and without a trace. I’ve lost track of what week of quarantine we’re on, although I think stay-at-home orders expired a week or two ago.
School is out now. My kid is officially a high-schooler, and even that seems impossible. The past 9 weeks of school were brutal and yet non-existent; I’d like to strike the first half of her 8th grade year from the record completely. And all of that is crazy when Kindergarten felt like a year or two ago. Then again, so did 1999.
As summer approaches, I’m not sure if it will feel long or unusually short. I haven’t deduced whether or not monotony makes time drag on or speed by. Maybe instead of pausing, we can just push fast forward on 2020 and try again next year.
Please check out these amazing writers and their posts on this month’s theme: Slow Down
Being in the Moment by Mia Sutton
Slowing Down by Jacey
On Chasing Slow by Sarah Hartley
It’s Time to Slow Down by Mala Kennedy
A Way to Practice the Pause: Grounding Exercise by Amy Cook
On the Front Porch, Looking in by Liz Russell
Planning Slowly by Kristin Rouse
Can a Busybee Slow Down? by Ashleigh Bowling
Still Spring by Jenn Norrell