By Elizabeth Mechem
When our governor first issued the directive to shelter in place,
limiting our movements to home and essential travel only, I
thought not much was changing for me. I’ve been at home for
two years in various states of employment/unemployment, as
well as being an at-home mom to my teens. Being home was not
new to me. If anyone could handle it, I could. I was made for
this. It was relatively easy when nobody else was home. I had a
schedule and very few distractions. But having everyone at home
and my travel limited has disrupted my flow in unexpected ways.
First, as always, there are the children. They were on Spring Break
when the order came, and they have continued that laid-back
attitude. The kids have online classes, and two of them have
adapted very well to the new format. The middle kid attends but
refuses to do any work. The school told them that grades counted
until April 10th. After that, grades would only be counted if they
improved between April 10th and May 23rd. Since the middle
child received A’s in all the classes, she has written off the rest of
the year, despite being expected to take two Advanced Placement
tests. It’s been a real struggle trying to explain how we are not
sending her to school to get grades, but to get an education. She
has also taken to trying to stay up too late and convincing me
to hang out until 2 A.M.
Secondly, my husband is now working from home. He teaches at
the local university and does much of that online. Now instead of
doing whatever I need to do and not worrying about how loudly
I’m doing it, I have to be quiet at certain times, disrupting my
normal schedule. It really is difficult for me to change gears in
an instant. It took a few months to get a schedule going, after
quitting my outside job, in the first place.
Lastly, I had way more outside connections than I realized. I miss
them. Among other connections, my dog Minnie and I would
go to the dog park and meet friends on at least a weekly basis.
There was a local Scrabble club that I attended that can’t meet.
Unfortunately, neither the dog park friends nor the Scrabble
friends use social media. That really puts a kink in the works.
Over the past month, all this has left me feeling pretty down. I
had to do something to improve my situation. So, I’ve decided to
adjust a bit to the new reality, and let go of the old one. Letting
go of many expectations has been extremely helpful.
I’ve let go of the educational expectations with that middle child.
She is a junior in high school, and her educational responsibility
is not all on our shoulders. She should be expected to bear that
responsibility, as well as suffer the consequences of not studying.
Her teachers don’t call home every night to nag her to do her
work. It’s not my job to do so, either. Anyway, it turns out that
she is quite prepared for the AP tests, except Calculus. Her dad
can help with Calculus if needed. It’s not like I was going to be any help there. My math skills are atrocious, at best.
I’ve let the housework go. Except for crucial sanitation, if these
people want to live like this, fine by me. I’ll pick up after myself,
do the laundry, and make sure nothing gets too gross so we don’t
get sick. Who cares if we live in a dust-bunny kingdom? It’s not
as if we’ll be receiving any visitors, so it’s no big deal. (As it turns
out, dust-bunnies are great listeners, keep secrets, and don’t pass
judgment. They are some of the best friends I’ve ever had.)
I’ve let go of the idea that I have to be constantly doing something constructive. I noticed that my self-criticism was at an
all-time high. I was really being a jerk to myself. I realized that
everyone else in the world who could, was taking this time to
relax, sleep in, stay up late, and go easy on themselves. Heck,
I’m one of the few people I know not wearing sweatpants all
day, every day. There is so much awful out there, why be awful
So I relaxed. Relaxing a bit is something we all need to do to
cope with the stress of the COVID-19 situation, anyhow. I
started letting the kiddo keep me up until 2 A.M., then sleeping
in, and stopped worrying so much. Nobody is grading me, and
my teen actually needs the comfort of sitting with me. She has
a lot of anxiety about current events herself, and actually needs
me to hang out with her.
Letting go of some things helped, but getting out and seeing
people was another matter. So I’ve called my parents more often,
reconnected with my younger sister via texting, as well as with old
and new friends. Facebook, for as much criticism as it receives,
is extremely valuable there. I spend more than my share of
time on Facebook, but it’s because it provides those valuable connections to
people and the outside world. It’s not perfect, and I sometimes overuse it, but it is an extremely critical connection tool when isolated.
I also have a podcast that I run with other bi folks. Since we do
it’s been very easy to keep that going. However tempting it is
to slack off, I’m glad we’ve been able to keep that going without
missing a beat. It has provided a sense of the old normal for all
of us and maintained that connection to one another and the
bi+ community we all value so much.
Where the dog and I are concerned, we have begun exercising
regularly. While we don’t go to the dog park, we have begun
walking around the neighborhood. What was once a weekly
walk has now expanded to three or more walks a week, each at
least a mile in length.
That’s how I’ve adjusted to sheltering in place; learning to let go,
learning new ways of connecting, and keeping myself mentally
and physically healthy. I know that I am lucky to have the options
I have. It’s hard to appreciate how much we have, sometimes.
There is so much negativity in the world, it is so easy to get
sucked into it. However, realizing what I have and working
within that structure makes a huge difference. Sometimes you
have to just stop the inner critic, look around, and work with
what you have to adjust to a difficult situation.
Elizabeth Mechem lives in Lawrence, KS, with her three children,
husband, dog, and three cats. She is the producer of the podcast
bi+plus, providing content for the bi+ community.