In a world that leaves me burning, I yearn for reminders of that previous life before everything turned upside down. I search for glimpses of hope to douse the mounting fear that turns me to ash. The virus, politics, and news cycles unwavering in their negativity threaten to consume any morsel left of our humanity. Often catching myself on autopilot, I navigate through the days in a self-prescribed numbness in order to survive. Surviving – that’s all I feel I’m doing. I want to live again. Truth is I’m not sure I know how to start. Renewed purpose, new obsessions, and the will to laugh again ushers me into the new normal.
He goes to work each day, George, to face the challenges unique to an economy still reeling within the pandemic. As husband, father, employer, every day George carries the weight of providing not only for our family, but also providing stable employment for the loyal people who work so hard for him. Sometimes, I watch in awe at his ability to shoulder such responsibility in stride. There is nothing I can do to lighten this burden for him, but I seek ways to show my support, thinking to myself that this alone may be my contribution.
The alarm buzzes at 4:45 a.m. and I sluggishly swing my feet from the bed and tug on my robe. Today it’s cinnamon rolls, from scratch. I started the routine of an early breakfast send-off to his day replacing his typical run to Starbucks. Gooey homemade cinnamon rolls, blueberry strudels, and Nutella crepes with bananas definitely serve the man’s sweet tooth; moreover the gesture gives me a renewed sense of purpose.
I can’t ease his stress at work, but I sure can make him feel like he has an arsenal of support at home. It’s more than breakfast; it’s me saying, “I see you and I am your partner in this. What you do for us is amazing. I love you.” Sometimes I think that expressing appreciation is the best way to remove myself as the centerpiece of the relationship.
Honoring the other people in my life helps me forget about my own stress or worries. Finding new ways to say “I love you” is the fun part. Hiding a silly joke or sketch in a pocket or calling an old friend out of the blue has helped me reconnect with those around me again.
Putting my baking skills aside, this last month has introduced many new mini obsessions to my life: mountain biking, piano, tennis, reggaeton, gardening, new authors, and scotch… lots of scotch. To list it all, it appears I may be overcompensating in an effort to cover up the restlessness of waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I guess I hope to avoid indulging all the pent-up anxieties about what the holidays and year end will bring. I venture to say I am not the only one clamoring to discover new passions. “Bicycle sales over the last several months saw their biggest spike in the U.S. since the oil crisis of the 1970’s,” according to the Associated Press. Bikes are nowhere to be found these days – regardless of adult or child models, waitlists are everywhere.
Trail systems are busier than restaurants and campgrounds are booked out for weeks. Six months of quarantine have finally gotten America off the couch and aching for activity. I’ve been nearly manic in finding something else to look forward to, something to plan, something new to discover, something that will take my mind off of all the things going wrong that are out of my control. Still completely in the dark as to what shape our holiday traditions will take, I patiently wait for my new bike to arrive.
Celebrate With Laughter
Falling cats and anything to do with butts will send my son, Broc, over the edge of hysteria. He has the most infectious belly laugh and small day-to-day humiliations lead to the most contagious side-bursting giggles. I treasure the levity. Everything is so serious, all the time. I’m desperate for a break. Recently my escapes have been one-on-one outings with the kids.
Removing the stress of their bickering and perpetual power struggles over one another, I get to shut out all the noise of the world around us. George may take a kid fishing while I take the other rock climbing. Whether it’s a night jumping on the beds in a hotel or the day spent riding a trail, these little vacations spent apart have made me feel closer to everyone in my family.
Without so many people’s agenda to appease, I am able to slow down the moments and focus on the individual. Conversations run deeper and the laughter lasts longer. I understand more about the complexity of my kids’ perceptions of the world as we squeal, giggle, and tease. Pizza picnics and shadow plays remind me the importance of laughing at ourselves and absurdities of this life; butts aside, it’s an incredible feeling.
As I come to terms with being completely burned out, I realize that in the chaos that surrounds, everything I need is here within my grasp. As cliched as the phrase “count your blessings” may be, it really does help put in perspective my stress and worries; finding new ways to celebrate life and my relationships most assuredly will sustain me.