Ironically, as heartbreaking and debilitating the impact of COVID-19 has been on our county, including my friends, family, and so many people that I love, for someone who suffers at times from debilitating anxiety, I have been quite frankly floored at the peace it has brought to me and my home. For me, and that is all I can speak to, this stressful and scary time has also been equally eye-opening to me and has brought me a sense of peace I was lacking. While the restrictions in place and the limitations on our day to day lives, can be suffocating at times, in other ways, they have ironically showed me how many of my day to day “choices” were not “choices” but rather things I believed were necessary or felt were needed in my life. From buying things I don’t need to worrying about things that truly don’t matter on any logical sense (such as what I am wearing today, if my jeans will fit, etc.), to even the over-involvement at times of my family in social events, sports, including obligations relating to family. Sometimes, more than we even know, we have to slow the hell down and learn who we are without any of that in our lives. This has been one of those times for me.
COVID-19 and the restrictions on our daily lives have ensured I am home with my husband and kids (for 21 days in a row now and yes, I am counting- I am no Mary Poppins). However, during those days, I have had more time with my kids and just my kids than I can recall. Not watching them play a game while my husband coaches it and which results at times in weeks without us all catching up and just enjoying ourselves and each other. We have eaten together every day, sometimes lunch, sometimes dinner, and gasp…..sometimes both meals! I have taken more walks with my husband and laughed than we have in years. Most of all, I have time to be in my own head and that’s something none of do (or rarely) if we aren’t forced to.
I cannot nor would I speak for “everyone” and I appreciate the social isolation of this situation can be brutal on some people, I simply observed my own lack of anxiety which is something that has been a constant for me since losing my parents. I graduated law school in May 2005, had my first son in May 2006, began my clerkship, and then and then and then. In 2009, I found out I was pregnant with my second child only to learn my mother had cancer and to lose her six (6) weeks after Justin was born. Rather than learn from those losses and experiences (which I felt I had), I kept going, never slowing down, and never stopping to see how much I enjoyed myself let alone my immediate family. Not once since giving birth to my amazing two (2) boys have I stopped to slow down enough to really evaluate need in my life- what do I need versus what do I want. What do I really enjoy? What do I even really believe or think about things. Sure, just like everyone else, I see the positive quotes, memes, etc. on social media and from self-help books and think I am working towards that mindset. But until the restrictions of COVID-19, I can assure you I didn’t make my own mental well-being a priority. My version of cutting back wasn’t enough. My idea of slowing down was still living at a marathon pace. Until March 9th, I like most of the people I know, lived subject to schedules, agendas, and things I thought I “had” to do. I forgot to even think about who Kelli Martone was. I have to say thankfully I am a fan of the girl, mom and woman I have become. Phew, that’s quite a relief.
While, I am certainly not claiming this current situation to be a “godsend” or “blessing” in any traditional sense, and although this crisis is beyond tragic in so many ways, I am not sure our lives were not in danger of tragic consequences anyway. People running from place to place, job to sport, sport to the store, throwing in some homework, throwing in a beef and beer or other social event, it was catching up with all of us which is evident from a five-minute review of social media postings. Depression was rising anyway. Drug use and substance abuse was increasingly the norm. So, in other words- I am not sure we were all doing so well despite our perfect social media lives. I know I certainly wasn’t.
For many of us this is the first time in years we stand in equipoise, meaning that we are all in some shape or form in this together with no one “better” than the next person. Our careers have truly never mattered nor defined us, our Facebook “likes” have clearly never mattered, and yet for the past several years, many of those things have resulted in us feeling good or bad about who we are. COVID-19 and the impact has confirmed- IT DOES NOT MATTER. For once, our lives our collectively undefined by the amount of friends included in your happy hour pictures, the success of your children’s sports or academics, and we are all living as basic humans and getting to see that for the most part most of us are truly good people inside.
In other words, nothing about this current crisis is “fun” and nothing in this article designed to insult anyone and the horrific impact this is having on their particular situation. People have and will lose jobs. Our economy is and will continue to suffer. People will continue to lose many that they love and even worse, be unable to bury them or appropriately grieve. I appreciate that all and it is downright scary as hell. However, for me, someone who has been diagnosed with complex PTSD and at times have been crippled by anxiety, I have found it ironic that given this current crisis, I have experienced no personal anxiety, no panic attacks, and instead been fortunate enough to find strength in myself and joy in my family I haven’t felt in a very long time. I found my focus has changed to things that I could control and that years of therapy, anti-anxiety drugs, and self-help books have been unable to teach me. I have gotten to know myself again. I have prioritized in a way I should have been for years and sadly had to be forced to do. I have enjoyed the simple things with my kids (and I am no “Karen”) but I get to talk to them directly, not through a fence at a game or in the car when they are distracted by Ipads.
So, just like everyone else, I continue to pray for this to end. I continue to pray and worry for those first responders risking their lives daily, those who have sadly died, and those fighting their battles medically or even the financial struggles this has created. I cannot pray hard enough for this to end as soon as possible. However, I would be lying if I didn’t say it’s taught me more lessons in twenty-one (21) days than I have learned in the last ten (10) years- slow down and relax.
In the end of all of this, I will certainly join whatever social media frenzy or group to get back into our jeans we all doubt would fit us right now. I will also most likely join the masses of Pinterest “cleanses” and exercises for the perfect “summer body”. But I do believe I will care much less as to the results of these attempts to get my pre COVID-19 body back. I can’t and will not say thank you “COVID-19” or that I am grateful for this catastrophic pandemic. However, I can and am very grateful for hard lessons learned, especially in a world where we have done everything to make our lives easier and all about hitting the “perfect” button.
My hope for us all is that if anything comes out of this catastrophic pandemic it is that we have all slowed down enough to see our own worth, our own kindness, the kindness of others, and the blessings we have all taken for granted such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer and good friends and family.