I’m still… alive?

I know it has been a long time since I have posted anything here. Truth be told, with everything that has been going on in the world, I have been in survival mode physically and emotionally and there have been no words that I could say that would in any way touch what I have been thinking, feeling and trying to understand.

Since my last post, the USA has become gripped in the COVID-19 crisis. Within weeks, my world was completely turned upside down. All of a sudden I was without childcare, my child was out of school, at first temporarily and then permanently. I was now a teacher on top of being a full-time attorney. AND then all of a sudden, I was working from home, while also being a teacher, parent and daycare provider. My husband has always been an “essential worker,” so I was left to deal with the week day craziness mostly on my own.

I have struggled to understand and process the magnitude of this global pandemic on a macro level while trying to keep my life from completely spinning out of control. And try explaining all of these changes to a 6-year old who now is frustrated and acting out and super clingy and all of those things? On any given day I was generally expected to complete at least a base-line of school work with my child through a mixture of online and written means, entertain and otherwise care for my kid so she was not neglected or destroying my home, and also trying to bill as many hours as possible so I can keep my business afloat and my staff employed. This is not even a little bit possible or realistic, but there I was.

I was trying to do all of this while trying to process my very real fear and vulnerability to a virus that was severely sickening and killing people in real-time all over the globe. A virus for which there was no cure or real treatment, and about which the scientific community knew almost nothing. That amount of uncertainty is hard for most people, and then you throw in my anxiety and depression, and that makes a rather large shit-sandwich.

Many days I have not been my best. At the beginning, I was so scared and overwhelmed that I spent a lot of time trying my best just to exist and not break into a million little pieces. The simplest things were beyond me, like hygiene and more than the minimum of existence in all areas of my life. All of a sudden, I had no control over almost anything in my life, and I was spiraling and terribly afraid. Not only afraid of the virus, but of letting people down. Whether it be my child, my partners, my clients, my staff… I knew I couldn’t be everything that everyone needed, but I had no guideposts to help me make those decisions,and very little information to even try to plan. This left me adrift and seriously mentally unstable for a while.

After a while, I started to find some semblance of a routine with our new situation, and I had to confront the fact that I could not give 100% to everything in my life as I normally would. Without more support, there is no way I can do it, and I had to let go of the expectation that I was going to be able to be as professionally productive as I was before. I flat had to accept this, and it helped me a lot. I still worry about what all of this will mean long term for us, but I have had to accept my limitations in this area and have stopped apologizing for them or beating myself up over them. This is the area I decided had to give, and I think I have made the right choice.

Dealing with my child has been difficult during this time. Educating a kindergartner through distance learning is largely a farce. I don’t blame the teachers for this, just the situation and how it had to come about so quickly just isn’t ideal for younger kids. I don’t know how much she learned during that time, so it was mostly activities to do and some structure. However, after the first couple weeks and to the present, we have had a ton of behavior problems and emotional issues with my kid. She cannot understand what is going on and cannot process her feelings and losses like an adult can, so she has been acting out, even getting violent at times, and is extremely mouthy and emotionally manipulative. I know these behaviors have real roots, but I have not always had the spoons to deal with all of this amongst everything else going on. I have not been able to be everything she needs, nor can I replace all of the social time that she craves. I feel guilty about that, and there are days where nothing has been good between us, and I have not been able to be caring and patient about all of this and her behaviors. And even if I am doing the right thing, it is not easy to have to establish the boundaries of how she can act while trying to validate the feelings at the root of the problem while being hate-screamed at and bitten or kicked (often both). I don’t feel good about it, and I know my story here could be told by many parents. But its hard to know that you are failing your children and there isn’t a lot you can do about it. It has been extremely hard for me to see her hurting and not be able to fix it.

As a working parent, I have felt guilty about not being able to give my daughter all the attention she wants from me during the work day. Despite making a decision to ease up on my work obligations, I still have to work to support my family and the people I employ. My kid watches a lot more TV than I would like, and it makes me feel like an asshole parent. Lately, my kid has taken to making nasty remarks when I have to do work stuff to the effect of “you never want to hang out with me,” and “you just want to work all the time.” STAB ME IN THE FUCKING HEART, KID. She also ignores my needs to work and tries to talk over phone calls and interrupt zoom meetings when she knows she shouldn’t. There’s no way I can make her really understand the need to work and all of that, and intellectually I know that, but being fucking guilted like that from a kid is just the WORST and adds a lot of stress to my days. Its like i’m trying my best and there’s no “enough” for me to give, and that can be so draining.

As we are easing into month 3 of quarantine where I live, people are getting tired of it and are getting increasingly short with my and my staff because our office is not as accessible as it was before the pandemic. We take steps to be as available as we can while trying to minimize risk, and we catch a rash of shit off people because they cannot just waltz in whenever they please and get whatever they want. I don’t know how to deal with this sense of entitlement, and this careless disregard for our safety. I know sometimes we end up just being the target of folks’ general frustration and fatigue with the whole deal, but it can be hard to continually be patient with people when all I really want to do is yell, “GROW THE FUCK UP AND DEAL, KAREN. WE’RE DOING OUR BEST AND TRYING NOT TO DIE YOU COMPLETE FUCKING BITCH. COULD YOU PLEASE BE A LITTLE PATIENT AND UNDERSTANDING AND THANKFUL THAT WE DIDN’T JUST CLOSE UP THIS FUCKER. FUCK. OFF.”

I’m also just at a loss for how to deal with COVID deniers and minimizers. I know there is a lot we don’t know, and people can decide what level of risk they are willing to accept. However, to say that this is all a hoax is just baffling to me, and to be careless and not value the lives of people around you just makes me feel sad about humanity. Like, what’s the big deal if you take a few extra precautions if it might be helpful? So you miss a few minor things, what of it in the big picture? So things aren’t as easy for a while-so what? The selfishness and carelessness just make me feel scared and sad and like the world isn’t a very safe place. It has also causes me to lose respect for people that I cared a lot about, and I don’t know how to process or reconcile that in the longer-term. It feels personal, but it also feels BIG. Like macro-shit I cannot even process with implications about what it means to be a civil society and the declining nature of humanity. And fuck grandma, apparently? I just cannot with that at all.

What I have been enjoying some is the slowing down of this period. With a lot less choices of things to do, i’ve been able to do a lot of home things that I never feel like I have time to so. I’m trying to garden again and reading a lot, and taking a season for more rest and self-care. I’m meditating a lot more again. I’m getting more exercise. I’m doing more art. I find that I like this less scheduled existence with a lot less obligations and expectations. I think going back to a “normal” schedule will be hard for me. I still think I am productive and what-not, but this freedom is wonderful. I may have to think about how some parts of this can be carried forward once this situation is resolved someday.

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