What 20+ Days of Social Isolation Has Taught Me {About Me}

On March 12, 2020 , I walked out of my office building unsure of what the following days would bring. The narrative was changing by the hour and I made the last-minute decision to bring my work laptop home with me. When I walked over to the school to greet the kids at the end of their day, I chatted with friends as the kids played with friends on the playground, blissfully unaware that the school year unofficially ended that day. It has been a ride. Because Clay continues to leave the house almost every day, the kids and I have hunkered down and have spent our days either at the house or enjoying the outdoors in our immediate neighborhood. We did leave the house this morning – the kids sat in the parked car while I ran into Whole Foods to pick up a birthday cake for Clay and a few grocery staples. To be honest, I waffled between going or not but ultimately decided that he deserves to eat gourmet cake this evening. And dammit – I want a slice too.

I’ve learned things about myself during this 20+ days of social isolation – some good, some bad. I’ve been noticing that on that days I consume more caffeine, I become hyper-focused on all of the deaths, the over-tasked medical workers, and the impact on the economy. I am still finding the right balance of keeping myself informed and preventing being swallowed by the beast comprised of things beyond my immediate control. I’ve never been one to put my head in the sand and I refuse to do it during my first pandemic. But overall, I think I am doing okay. I am coming to terms with the abrupt changes we’ve had to make and I am allowing myself time to grieve for all of the travel plans we’ve cancelled. As of right now, we’re PCSing to Chicago as planned this summer and the Army hasn’t issued us orders saying otherwise. The realization that the kids will not see their classmates, teachers, and friends in their ‘normal’ environment before we move has hit our family. Like most things in life, we’re treating this period of social isolation as a learning opportunity and I am hopeful our kids emerge from the experience with lasting memories and lessons that will serve them well as they grow into who they’re meant to become. And you know what? I hope I do too.

What 20+ Days of Social Isolation Has Taught Me {About Me}

  • I thrive with a routine and absolutely flounder without one.
  • Memes and GIFs are my love language.
  • I need my alone time.
  • Activewear 24/7 is my ideal wardrobe.
  • I’d be an okay Chopped contestant.
  • I rather enjoy my company.
  • A pandemic isn’t the best time to stop drinking alcohol on weekdays.
  • I still don’t like talking on the phone.
  • Even with nothing else on my plate, I still feel guilty to sit down and read a book.
  • I took a lot for granted prior to social isolation.
  • My art skills are rusty.
  • I need a tan.
  • Running on a treadmill is a great stress reliever.
  • How I speak to myself affects my perception of the world around me.
  • I don’t need 3/4 of the stuff we own.
  • My mood has the power to affect our family.
  • Ignoring the process is fatal to success – the process is art.
  • I’m happy I am not too much of a planner – flexibility has saved me in multiple ways.
  • I am married to my person.
  • Lifting heavy things is my therapy.
  • Fourth grade boys are complex creatures.
  • I can see the computer monitor better when I wear my glasses {that I never wear}.
  • I don’t miss gluten near as much as I thought I would.
  • Journaling isn’t only therapeutic but absolutely necessary.
  • Having high standards is a good thing.
  • There is a limit as to how many cartwheels I can watch our 6-year-old daughter do.
  • I am not a homebody.
  • I hate puzzles. I also sort of love them.
  • Rearranging furniture is a perfectly acceptable coping mechanism.
  • I rely too much on instant gratification.
  • This experience has value.

Have you learned anything about yourself during your social isolation journey?

We Do Hard Things (But Not That Hard)

Earlier this afternoon, the Governor of Virginia announced that his administration have ordered all schools to close for the remainder of the school year. Our family continues to be among millions of others swimming in uncertainty and unknown as to what our new normal will look like in the coming months. My facade of adventure that I’ve been painstakingly wearing for my children waned around lunchtime – I made them Bagel Bites and sat them in front of the television. And I went down to the basement to meditate.

So it turns out that I am awful at meditating. Then I tried to do headstands, because why not? Not surprising – I’m not really good at those either. And now my neck hurts so there’s that. Over the years, I’ve said that I am comfortable with the uncertainty that the Army life brings to our family. Sure – it can be frustrating and anger-inducing at times but it can also be exhilarating, amazing, and incredibly rewarding. Perhaps I’ve always embraced the unpredictability because there was the comfort of ‘regular everyday life’ to fall back on. And now that I can’t rely on society operating as normal, the fickle nature of Army life has started to chip away at my worldview that everything will work out in the end. Right? Everything will be okay...

A family motto of ours is ‘We do hard things!’ We have high expectations of our children and ourselves – we believe that tough experiences build character and shouldn’t be avoided just because it’s not the easier path. Clay continues to go into the Pentagon every single day of the week and his schedule will likely remain as such for as long as our country is tackling the pandemic. I continue to manage expectations – both the children’s and my own as we watch society seemingly collapse through our broadband connection. We’re managing to take advantage of close quarters and participate in family activities when we can. While our life is anything but routine right now, it is relatively stable. Not to mention, my husband is not away and has been by my side, both figuratively and physically, through this ordeal. So complaining about the uncertainty and moments of suckiness that exist in our little family bubble isn’t really all that productive – I realize this truth.

It’s not my family I am worried about. Yes – we do hard things. But compared to a lot of families out there, the things we’re currently doing just aren’t that hard. It bothers me that we are doing fine when so many others aren’t. And in my attempt to be socially responsible and protect my family, it’s difficult for me to not feel both guilty and helpless. The narrative changes at such a feverish pace that it’s impossible for me to calibrate my thoughts before I’m pushed in another direction.

I made chicken and dumplings for dinner – it felt like an appropriate meal for a dreary, cold, and drizzly Monday. The kids and I are going to eat dinner in the living room and cuddle together on the couch under my favorite blanket. I’m sure things will change soon after I hit publish – prompting more feelings and more thoughts. But for now, this’ll do.

State of This Blog

I’ve worn nothing but activewear for the past nine days. By that measure alone, I am living my best life. The uncertainty hangs heavy but I’m determined to find the silver linings of this period that history has yet to label. I am managing okay – the kids are learning, my position has translated nicely to telework, and I’m finding solace in controlling what I can. Going about my days in yoga leggings has certainly contributed to my positive attitude.

I’ve thought a lot of this blog this past week – mainly when working on the 1000 piece puzzle I foolishly brought into the home. I have come to accept that I am not a good blogger – at least as defined by so-called experts.  My personal style is far from boho-chic and my photos lack filters that make it appear we reside in a 3000 square foot Air Stream camper with muted outdoor furniture. I put absolutely no effort into SEO and I have no hustle when it comes to promoting myself. My blog doesn’t have a focus beyond “Um…this is my life..I guess?” and a lot of what I write about is probably of little interest to the general population. So I have to ask myself whether or not I’ve outgrown this space.

That’s the nice way of putting it. To be honest, I’ve associated my various blogs throughout the years as evidence of my inability to climb to the next platform. Which is funny because money nor notoriety were never my reasons for maintaining such spaces. And the times when I attempted to monetize specific posts, I was left feeling disingenuous and slimy. Reconciling my desire to turn observation writing into a sustainable source of income combined with low self-esteem and an overflowing bucket of self-doubt has led me to half-ass this area of my life and banish it to a hobby.

I’ve been in the world of content development and instructional design long enough to know that I have passion for creating content that provides both a meaningful connection and the opportunity to learn something new. In this era of curated content, sponsorships, and affiliations, it’s getting increasingly difficult to find authentic voices writing online – especially in the military spouse community. Posts about surviving a PCS with tips such as, “organize personal records in a binder and hand carry” are of no interest to me…we’ve been doing this for over 15 years now – I’ve got it down to a science. I don’t want to read how-to guides about sending care packages overseas or scroll through a gift guide specific for military members (what?!?).

Where are the late thirties/early forties women? You know – the ones with children who are becoming more independent and loving spouses with thriving military careers. The ones who are left looking in the mirror wondering what happened to the spirited twenty-year-old woman who was going to take on the world. The ones who have no idea what the hell is going on with their hormones – “Why am I so angry? WHY is my nose getting bigger?” And the ones who have an incredible amount to give to a society that seems to be increasingly set on dismissing her worthiness.

So please be patient with me as I take full advantage of social distancing and turn And Then We Laughed into the space that I’ve been wanting it to be for quite some time. It’s about damn time.