Sometimes I just sit in front of my computer, staring at the screen, knowing I am supposed to be working, coming up with new ideas, creating amazing things, and sending people the documents they are waiting for. Then I look through the window at the trees in my yard. I work at a little table in the front window of my living room now. The trees are bright green. There is a slight breeze. Sun shines through the leaves and I wonder what the temperature is like.
And then I remember that there is a class zoom meeting. Where is the meeting ID number? Shoot.
Did I sign him up for the science group? When is that?
Ping. Text message. Did I do the thing? Not yet. I’ve been... busy? I feel busy, but not like I’m really accomplishing anything.
Ding. Email. Here’s another update about what we’re allowed or not allowed to do, but so-and-so says that is stupid and what’s-her-face says it’s a conspiracy. So, maybe we don’t have to do it?
It’s all urgent, but it also feels artificial. It’s important, but kind of optional.
Snap out of it! This is a great opportunity! And look how lucky you are. You should be thankful. Other people don’t have what you have. Stop complaining.
But is this complaining? Does feeling antsy mean that I am ungrateful? Is it complaining to feel like this abundance of something that we are all feeling is somehow not enough? Oh! Zoom class meeting starts in 10 minutes! Do you have the login? It’s the same as last time, right?
It’s been six weeks now that we have been in...whatever this is. It’s not a quarantine, because we can kind of go anywhere. People are dying by the dozens, but hey - you can get wine delivered to your door and look, those people are taking their boat somewhere. They look okay. Is this even a real thing?
I get up and wander to my husband’s office. Our house is quiet. The kids are…doing schoolwork? Sure. We stare at each other as I lean against the door frame. He’s in a zoom call. We have it good. We have jobs, a house, food, and all the time in the world now. Opportunity!
“Mom, I did my spelling. Now what?”
I turn around. “Let’s go for a walk outside.”
We walk, and he talks. I listen, but only halfway because another voice is talking just a little louder. “Do you get it yet? Zoom out, not in. Look at the big picture - there is good stuff here, and it is enough.”
Zoom! This is the real zoom: the zoom out. We were supposed to make it simpler and we made it more complicated. We were supposed to slow down and we sped up even more. We added meetings to our lives that we literally refer to as “zooms.” But we zoomed the wrong way.
My pace quickens as we turn the corner and I feel energy come back into my body. I smile down at the boy next to me, chattering as he wheels around on his scooter. The meeting ID numbers are lost and we don’t care. The passwords are forgotten and it doesn’t matter. We’re going to be okay. We’ll adapt and we’re going to see the world change before our eyes, if we remember to zoom out.
It has officially been one month since my 8-year-old has left our property. He came home from school on Friday, March 13 to begin spring break, and he has stayed home ever since. My teenager has left twice - once to pick up a pizza and once for a doctor’s appointment. I hope that things are going well for you and your family in this strange time we are living in.
One thing that I have enjoyed is more time for family walks. I’ve incorporated a couch to 5k program as part of our “home school,” and every morning at 9:00 am we head out for 30 minutes of exercise. Enthusiasm is mixed but we’re doing it anyway!
This morning, my little one raced ahead and I was left with my teenager. I asked him how school was going in his new online classroom. In typical teenage fashion, he provided pretty limited feedback, but in between grumblings and wry observations, I heard him say something that caught my attention.
“What was that?” I asked.
“What,” he replied.
“What you just said. You said you try to get back into something-mode. But I missed the first part.”
“Oh. Pilot mode. When I get off track or I get frustrated, I try to get back into pilot mode.”
I couldn’t suppress my smile, partly because I loved the idea of pilot mode and because I was so proud of him for being self-aware and pro-active. He went on to explain that he tries to remember that he is the pilot and that he needs to not get distracted from that. I asked where he learned such a cool idea and he said, “nowhere, I just made it up!”
We are surrounded by distractions, frustrations, and unknown elements that provide plenty of just cause for getting out of the pilot seat and wandering around the aircraft looking for answers, explanations, or signs that life will return to normal soon. We could turn on auto-pilot for a few minutes and indulge ourselves in that distraction, but before long we need to get back into pilot mode and take the controls again.
I asked him how he does it. “How do you get back into pilot mode?”
“I just notice that I am out of it, and I remind myself to get back in it.” That kind of non-judgemental self-awareness is a gentle and compassionate way to care for yourself. In the process of kindly redirecting yourself, you build the confidence you need to tackle difficult emotions, circumstances, and feelings.
When we got back home from our walk, I watched him run ahead of me and into the house so he could do whatever he had on his mind before signing in to school on zoom. Over the past month that we have been living in this strange time of history, I have definitely felt like we are flying our family to an unknown destination. But we have a good flight crew, and together we will land this plane safely! And so will you. Stay in pilot mode!
P.S. If you need a little help getting back into pilot mode and staying there, consider joining The Good Life! As a member, you'll get group accountability AND one-on-one coaching to help you live the way YOU desire each & every day.
It’s April 2020, and things aren’t going the way we expected. Remember January, when we were super excited about the new year and everything it held for us? We didn’t know.
Now as we sit quarantined in our homes - you’re not going anywhere, are you? - I feel a little guilty because I am not completely hating this. That’s a complicated way to feel because people are suffering, people are working really hard to keep us alive, and all I have to do is sit here at home, and I don’t hate it.
My family goes for two walks a day right now, once in the morning and then in the evening. As we left our driveway last week I noticed myself feeling wistful for the time we have together right now, and knew that I would miss it when things go back to “normal.”
I thought about the amount of time I used to spend in my car, driving Mom’s Taxi back and forth, back and forth, not accomplishing anything other than getting people to places, and getting them there late even for all of my hustle, and feeling lame for being late all the time.
I thought about how I used to feel overwhelmed by the number of things we had to do, and obligations we had or expectations we had to be places and do things. That’s gone now. No one expects us to be anywhere, we don’t have to come up with reasons why we can’t do things, and the expectation is that we are going to hole up in our nests and live our lives and tend to ourselves. And I like it.
Normal wasn’t working. Normal American life had resulted in a stressed-out, overweight, overworked, exhausted group of people who desperately needed a break, looking to other cultures for cues about how to live more simply. Now that we are being forced to live more simply, we want things to be “normal.”
I’m spending time considering how much of this new, slow, simple life I can keep, and what my new normal will be. We can create it, you know. We can say no to the old way, and stay in the new way.
What do you like about life now?
What do you not miss?
What do you not want to go back to?
What do you want to keep about this?
I’m not getting everything right in this experience. There are new frustrations and worries, and every week reveals a new wrinkle. But sometimes, I think about what parts I will keep, and what will become my new normal. A new normal. Are you brave enough to live it?
About This Blog
Each week, I write the "Healthy Heather Blog" in the Tallahassee Democrat. It is republished here in case you are not a subscriber (what???). Sometimes it is really good and other times it is just okay. Thanks for reading it regardless of your opinion!