In my youth, I saw a cartoon of a woman sitting on a couch explaining to her husband why she hadn’t done anything all day. Her excuse was she was depressed and didn’t know why. The parody was related to that age-old excuse: a woman’s cycle. Since I can’t use that same pretext for my current doldrums (my plumbing dried up years ago), I can blame Covid-19—and blame I will!
The pain of this pandemic—with its lockdowns, broken economy, and all the precautions we must take with sanitizer and facemasks before we even walk out the door, not to mention the devastating loss of life—has created a slippery mental health slope. Sadly, it doesn’t end there. With the vitriol in politics and systemic racism causing a great divide in our country, we have the makings for the perfect storm for depression.
At the beginning of this mess, I made a conscious decision to remain positive. Sure, it sucked that I couldn’t see my family or friends. I’m a hugger, and embracing another human being is like breathing for me. But I wanted to believe our president that this virus, this isolation, this lockdown, would all be over by springtime. So, I took the quarantine as a time of much-needed reflection, as well as a chance to clean out my cabinets.
But as the weeks melted into months (eight to be exact at this writing, with no end in sight), a malaise so thick began to pour over me, and I lost all motivation—for everything.
By month four, there’d be no more short musings written for my website or YouTube video productions. I put away the brushes and oils and stopped painting. I even stopped calling friends. My work in real estate came to a screeching halt, but it was the loss of my part-time job of twenty-seven years at the El Camino YMCA that became my final undoing. I’d never be able to have one more class with the students I’d grown to love all those years. I couldn’t even say goodbye.
Only one thing could rescue me from the haze of sameness and my guilty pleasure of couch and remote control: Grammie time. I grabbed the chance for my greatest happiness, visiting my grandsons in Austin, Texas.
During my visit with Bo (two years old) and McCoy (six months), I wanted to give their parents an entire day off. They were to leave Saturday morning and not return until after the boy’s bedtime. It was an exhausting day for this old woman (oh, the energy small children have), and by 6:00 p.m., I could hear the bottle of Cabernet calling my name. But I had one more duty to perform before I indulged—bedtime.
McCoy would go down first. He was the easy one, for his Mommy and Daddy had him well trained. Bo would be a different story.
When dealing with a toddler, there is a long ritual one must follow at bedtime. First, the bath (with tons of bubbles and monster trucks), then jammies, several books, a warm bottle, and lots of songs as we rocked back and forth. Forty-five minutes later, I saw my window of opportunity as he let out a long yawn.
“Okay, sweetie. Time for bed now,” I whispered in his ear as I wrapped his blankie around him. All went as planned until I began to head down the hall for that glass of wine. “Grammie, Grammie!” Fearful his head was stuck between the slats of his crib or that he lost his favorite toy, I hurried back.
“Bo, what’s wrong?” I asked, running to his bedside, expecting a gush of tears. Instead, I was met with a sweet smile to melt my heart. “Grammie, can you read me one more book—please. And a glass of water. Oh, and you forgot to turn the music on.”
Fifteen minutes later, having read Goodnight Moon four times and sung every song in his young repertoire (especially “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider”), I placed him back in his crib with his six teddy bears, a couple of stuffed dogs, and Elmo. He was now ready. Peace had finally arrived.
Plopping myself on the couch and taking my first sip, I was hit with the wonder children have for this world. To them, everything is exciting—too exciting for sleep. They live where make-believe rules the day, and kindness, with good manners, is a top priority for living a well-brought-up life. Oh, the innocence of youth, and how sweet it is.
There’s a shift going on in the world, and we’ve all been knocked out of our comfort zones. When I’m not comfortable, the first thing I love to do is wallow in the unfairness of it all. But as I watched my precious grandson that night, I realized I needed an attitude change.
In Jen Sincero’s book Badass Habits, I recently read that the actions we take, the thoughts and beliefs we participate in, are just habits we create for ourselves. And, before too long, if left unchecked, these mindsets become our reality. By walking around with a pissy outlook of doom and gloom, it wasn’t long before I saw the whole world this way.
We’re not done yet with 2020, and though it’s been tough, I don’t want to wish it away. By wanting time to go by fast, Bo and McCoy will grow up that much quicker, and right now, I want to freeze-frame this sweet time in their lives. One day this pandemic will end, and so will their childhoods. So, rather than look to the future, I’ve decided to just be. Be one with my grandsons and their Disneyland hearts. Be that woman who looks for the magic in the simplest of things as they do. And be grateful for what I do have, not what I’ve lost.
With enough practice, I plan to reinstate joy as my main habit, my keyway to living. It’s who I once was, and I want her back. I hope it’s not too late.
How have you been handling these past several months? I’d love to know.