Two months ago, the Coronavirus felt like a distant problem. I was sad for the countries living in pain, but even as I watched things unfold on TV, it felt far from home.
Fast forward to today, and that distant story is our reality. Not only is Covid-19 affecting life in the U.S., but one of the largest epicenters in the country is my very own backyard. I live in Westchester, NY and in a matter of days, our school districts shutdown, after school activities closed indefinitely, our governor asked that we stop commuting into Manhattan and time just seemed to…stop.
After being bombarded with messages of school closures and district decisions and—OMG THE WORLD IS FALLING APART—I regained my consciousness. I thought, OK, this is life today and we will have to adjust. I made a mental checklist and did roll call: Kids, Dogs, Husband, Business (not in that order). I gave myself permission to fumble and to figure it out as we go.
My game plan was simple:
1. Business: Meet the increased demands of a world crisis, keep our product in stock, ship to stores, deliver to customers, have contingency plans, survive.
2. Girls: Teach them valuable lessons about self-sufficiency and imagination.
3. Partner: Lean into the other working parent, my husband, to manage our 24-hour schedule and sanity.
4. Dogs: Inform everyone in the house that dogs must be fed and walked and we are all in this together.
This continues to be my game plan two weeks in.
Soon after the chaos ensued, I turned to social media to see how the rest of the world was coping. I started noticing posts about homeschooling and parents enthusiastically teaching lessons. I scrolled through hundreds of pictures with hourly schedules of fun activities to do at home with kids. I thought, well, that sucks. I was certain my plan of winging it and keeping my sanity was brilliant until I looked at the pretty pictures on social media.
Between work and no school and simply surviving, I couldn’t see beyond my nose. I felt the external pressures of Instagram telling me to be better and do more, and yet all I could think of was putting one foot in front of the other. I was doing my best but I kept questioning whether this was enough. Then a blessing in disguise: social distancing.
The mandatory space between us and the outside world finally allowed me to tune out the noise and turn inward to my family. As it turns out, that’s all I needed.
The first few days were messy. We became two parents working from home while two girls were bouncing off the walls. As the news about the coronavirus got worse, the demands of my start up business got crazier. Trade shows were canceled, orders surged to an all-time high, and pressures were placed on our manufacturing timelines, all while I prioritized making sure my team and my family stayed healthy. During this hectic time, two young girls were still bouncing off the walls that seemed to be closing in. That’s right, I thought, we can all do hard things (thank you, Glennon Doyle).
I looked around and realized we were all more than OK. We were (mostly!) happy, healthy, and had each other. No one was pressuring me to be or do more. Everyone felt loved. My husband, five and seven-year-old daughters, the dogs and I were all figuring it out as we went and it worked for us.
The past two weeks have been challenging, exhausting and scary at times, but they have also been unusually special. The girls have been learning more about us and our jobs and we have been learning more about them and their school days. We’ve learned that we don’t have to follow a set schedule, or any set of rules, to make things work for us. We can just be who we are and find our own groove. Taking a step back from the outside world gave us an opportunity to reconnect with ourselves and remember who we are without the world telling us who we need to be.
Weekends have also been a welcome change. We normally head into the weekend with a million plans—birthdays, sports, dinners—and have little time to relax. We would wake up on Saturdays and look at our calendar to strategize where we needed to be and when. Now, time on the weekends has stopped. Thanks to social distancing, all our plans are canceled. I can’t remember the last time we had nowhere to be and it feels great.
I keep thinking about how ironic this entire pandemic has been. Like we needed a virus to take our lives back from the over-scheduling, and the gadgets and the FOMO. To be comfortable with stillness and show up in our lives again. To be in the presence of other human beings and make eye contact. To stop living by external pressures and start living our own truth. To heal.
As we navigate through these uncertain times, I hope we all use the space to refuel and rebuild our humanity. Pushing through tough moments, even when it feels impossible, is exactly when we have our most meaningful breakthroughs.
Hang in there. We will all be stronger on the other side!