I’m not going to sugarcoat this: things have been a little dark over here.
You see, the two things that have been keeping me sane during the global pandemic were seeing my friends and family outside, and taking daily walks. The weather has been glorious in California, and I’ve felt so lucky to be able to stay connected with the people I love, and to be able to spend time outside every day. Fresh air is really good for the old mental health.
When the wildfires fires came last month, and the smoke blew into the Bay Area, Jordan and I looked at a map to see where we could go to get a little relief from the unhealthy air (he has asthma), and quickly realized that the entire coast was on fire. We even thought we could drive up to Portland to see my brother, but learned that the air quality index had reached hazardous levels in Oregon. There was nowhere to go. I may have cried in the bathroom while the girls were “exercising the dog” by throwing a ball against our dining room wall and running up and down the stairs with treats in their hands. It was all too much.
I think of myself as a very resilient person. I always try to see the bright side, to look for possibilities, to get creative and seek new answers. But, when I saw that map of my beautiful state filled with little fire icons and had to tell my kids that it wasn’t safe to see their friends anymore, I hit a wall.
Here’s what I do when I hit a wall: I cry, I write, I talk to my friends about it, I have a pity party, I cry some more, I watch really bad junky tv, I consume entire pints of ice cream. The crying and talking and writing helps a lot. The ice cream, I should probably do without, but that does not feel realistic right now.
In any event, that entire process generally lasts about twenty-four hours, even though it feels like a lifetime. And then, something amazing happens. The wave of grief/anxiety/paralysis passes, something shifts, and I start feeling better. Generally, when I feel better, I get right into action.
In this case, I started to think about what I hope my kids remember about 2020 when they’re older. I decided to write them a letter.
Here’s what I wrote down:
Chloe and Emilie,
2020 was filled with challenges we had never anticipated or planned for, but we did it. Here’s what I hope you remember about this year:
I hope you remember that we did little things to protect ourselves, and others, when the virus came. That we even washed our fruit with soap, and picked up our mail with tongs, until we realized it was ridiculous and fell on the floor laughing at ourselves.
I hope you remember how we supported our local small businesses, ordered takeout, bought gift cards, and wrote cards thanking our essential workers.
I hope you remember how we took walks every day, made eye contact with strangers, smiled and said hi, even though it felt awkward in a mask.
I hope you remember that when the wildfires blew ash and toxic air our way, we talked about the things we valued most, put together an emergency kit, and a list and a plan that felt good to everybody.
I hope you remember that when we saw racial injustice take place again and again, we grieved and talked, acknowledged our privilege, educated ourselves, and then made phone calls, and signed petitions, and committed to practicing anti-racism in our daily lives.
I hope you remember the fun we had even when we had to stay inside for weeks on end – ping pong at the dining room table, dance parties in the living room, four-square tournaments on the patio, yoga in the living room, cozy movie nights, popcorn and ice cream sundaes, cake for breakfast, stargazing from the hammock, and Shake Shack meals in the back of the car.
I hope you remember the Zoom calls and picnics with your grandparents, the virtual surprise parties, the patio visits with our favorite people, scooter dates in the street, long walks, and even the occasional movie night in the suburbs, where our friends dragged a TV outside into their yard so you could safely watch movies under the stars.
I hope that even though your parents were often flustered, overwhelmed, and imperfect, you always felt loved and safe and supported.
Most of all, I hope you remember how we just kept showing up. That even when it felt like everything was cancelled, we still made our beds, we got dressed, we did the dishes, we clipped flowers from the garden, we baked cookies for friends, we checked in on the people we loved, squeezed each other tightly, laughed and cried hysterically through it all, and just kept doing the little things that were in our control and trudging along, together.
I am so very proud of you both. Let’s keep being kind and strong and loving even when we’re sad, tired, defeated, or want to give up. Let’s keep being better versions of ourselves when this is over.
None of us know what’s in store for the rest of this year, or really any year, but I do stand by the belief that we always get to decide how we want to think, feel, and act in any circumstance. I’m committed to showing up for myself, my kids, my family, my community, and all of you – even when I feel like giving up. It feels better. And, honestly, I really need to get my cholesterol checked before I go on another ice cream bender.
How are you showing up for yourselves and the ones you love this year? I’d love to hear. Xx
Image Credit: Vivian Johnson Photography