One year ago, today, I was buzzing around a local hotel with other colleagues making sure that the next to the last day of our annual conference went smoothly. I remember being tired, but excited because Hope was on a bus headed home for spring break. I was looking forward to seeing her when I got home and maybe ordering takeout.
Little did I know that that was really *it* for us, in terms of going out and living free. I had taken a few days off from work to spend with her before she headed back to her small liberal arts college. I ended up working from home full time later that week, while we just assumed that she would be heading back to school in a couple of weeks when this COVID stuff all blew over.
Three weeks later we were packing up her dorm room masked and gloved up.
A week later I had COVID, assuredly contracted during our brief trip to pack up her things.
We’ve both been home ever since.
Hope did have a couple of summer jobs, but quit, in part, because classes resumed remotely in September.
We’d been managing to hold it together until then, but early fall presented an escalation in our struggle. Honestly, things just went totally left in August and it’s been a daily struggle ever since.
Hope experienced a series of traumas related to some decisions that 19-year-olds can be prone to making. Honestly, I made some of the same decisions, as did many other 19-year-olds I knew at the time. It’s just a wickedly unfair world that some of us pay dearly for those choices, while others get skate away trauma-free.
I had to really remind myself to meet Hope where she was and remember what that season of my life was like to be as empathetic as the moment required. It’s easy when you have nearly 30 years more life experience to forget what it was like and how easy it was to do something that didn’t seem like it might have lasting repercussions.
There were definitely days when I failed miserably at meeting the moment, and other days when I nailed it. I’m hoping that Hope shows me the grace I don’t deserve as the years pass.
The hits just kept coming through the fall and into the new year. This kinda lost pandemic year totally wreaked havoc on both of our mental health statuses. The loss of control, the lost freedom, the inability to have the usual levels of family and friend support has been so challenging.
I see a lot of loss ground for Hope in some ways; I see a lot of lost ground for me as well.
My own career soared during this time, but it came a huge cost. In the weeks following the murder of George Floyd, my job and voice was in high demand. There was little time for my own processing of grief and anger. It was mostly a lot of work.
And then after a month or so, a lot of anger and frustration about how folks chose to engage me, how little my own humanity seemed to matter, how much was just constantly demanded of me. I really had to start working on creating boundaries in ways I didn’t have or want to before.
Ten months later, I still trying to create boundaries with almost virtual electronic/barbed wire fencing. I do this in the face of receiving recognition for the work I do within a largely homogenous profession. The wear and tear on me this last year…whew.
Add on how I seem to be sliding into menopause…and I just feel…tired, cranky and crazy.
It’s all hard to describe, but it’s just perpetually feeling off. I’ve got some cream and I’ve upped my self-care game, but I’m headed to the doc this week to just talk about what I can and should be doing during this time to cling to my sanity and to not kill anyone.
This year has been hard.
But it hasn’t all been bad.
Hope and I are probably closer than we’ve ever been. Our parent/child relationship is evolving to a parent/young adult relationship. The biggest difference is knowing that being of legal age means I just have to let a few things go and focus on leaning into the years of trust we’ve built.
Our conversations are different. The gaps in knowledge around life skills are more apparent. My pushing and pulling is not seen through entirely negative eyes; she can tell me how she sees things. We are closer, and I’m hoping that whenever the next new normal lands that we’ll maintain this level of emotional connection. It’s nice.
I have also finally, genuinely moved to a place of acceptance regarding my body. This last decade of my life has featured a number of body betrayals that were just layered on to two previous decades of body image problems. I exercise every day. I try to eat reasonably healthy. I do not deny myself foods that I enjoy. I ride my bike. I walk a lot. I do videos and I invested in work-from-home equipment that would help me maintain some healthy habits.
I wrote some time ago that I really shifted my thinking to what my body can do and how to maintain and expand its capacity rather than focusing on how it looks. Honestly, regarding my body, the last 4-5 months or so have been the most liberating of my life.
I still fight negative thoughts, but they are fewer and far between.
Most of all, Hope sees me being less critical and that means a lot as well. She’s a beautiful girl, and she struggles to establish healthy eating and exercise habits. The best I can do is model them for her.
In total, it’s been a rough year. I don’t know when the pandemic will be “over.” I got my first vaccine a few days ago and I’m excited that I will be able to see my parents for the first time in nearly a year in a matter of weeks.
It will be a while before Hope is eligible for the vaccine. Because she’s unemployed and not in school this semester (much less hardly leaves the house), she’s very low risk and will be at the bottom of the list for the vaccine unless something changes. I’m hopeful that this year brings some better energy to both of us. I hope that we can get back to some version of our old normal at some point this year