It’s almost 11pm. I am tired. Right before I carried my sleeping son from my bed to his bed, I checked out the prompt over at NaPoWriMo and figured I’d just wing this one.
🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪 What It’s Like Being A Single Mom During a Pandemic 🏗🏭🏢🏬🏣🏤🏭🏢🏬🏣🏤🏢🏢🏢 I drive into the city to pick up my kids. The city doesn’t act like a city anymore. It looks uncertain and confused— like the rest of us. It looks like it is waiting for something— like the rest of us. 💻💻💻💻💻💻💻💻💻💻💻💻💻💻💻💻💻💻💻💻 We get back home and I fiddle with my computer until I successfully get my fourth grader into her online class meetup. I bring her snacks. She tells me she isn’t supposed to eat during online learning. (I think to myself, Why in the world not?) I watch her drawing during the online class, just like she does when she attends class in person. I mean, just like she used to do, back when kids went to school… I fiddle with my other computer until I successfully get my second grader into his online class meetup. I bring him snacks. He chews with his mouth open and sprays bits of apple on my laptop. I am not amused. I attempt to read while they finish their online class meetups. I am only partially successful. 🌳🌲🍃🌷🍃🌲🌳🌲🍃🌷🍃🌲🌳🌲🍃🌷🍃🌲🌳 I take my kids out on a walk. It’s a beautiful, cool day. My ten year old is already fifteen in her tone, body language, and declarations of existential angst. I am not amused. I attempt empathy, patience, kindness, and compassion. I attempt to enjoy my walk in spite of my ten year old’s angst. I am only partially successful. 🧁🍰🍮🍭🍬🧁🍰🍮🍭🍬🧁🍰🍮🍭🍬🧁🍰🍮🍭🍬 Back home my idea to bake brownies devolves into a fight over who gets to set the oven temperature. I am not amused. I again attempt empathy, patience, kindness and compassion and am mostly unsuccessful. I am disapointed, annoyed, frustrated and depressed. I want to scream. 👩🏻💻👩🏻💻👩🏻💻👩🏻💻👩🏻💻👩🏻💻👩🏻💻👩🏻💻👩🏻💻👩🏻💻👩🏻💻👩🏻💻👩🏻💻👩🏻💻👩🏻💻👩🏻💻👩🏻💻👩🏻💻👩🏻💻 Another mom tells me that her husband is annoying her by sharing his two cents about their kids’ remote learning, and then going back to his remote working while my friend attempts to harangue their kids into actually attending to their remote learning. She is not amused. I am suddenly glad that I am single. 🥦🥙🥕🥒🥦🥙🥕🥒🥦🥙🥕🥒🥦🥙🥕🥒🥦🥙🥕🥒 I make dinner with as much efficiency as I can muster. We eat well. The kids devour their dessert. We sit together working on our own things. My ten year old draws. My eight year old works on a puzzle. I play with my singing bowls. We are very successful. 🌲🌳🍃🌳🌲🌔🌲🌳🍃🌳🌲 We get ready for bed. I read to them a few pages of The Phantom Tollbooth. My son passes out. My daughter goes back to her room to read some Harry Potter. I muster up the strength to carry my eight year old into his room. I pour him into his bed and tuck him in. My ten year old is still reading. I tuck her in and turn off the lights. She smiles and says I love you. I am extraordinarily successful.
The way you doing anything is the way you do everything. So, if you’re really honest with yourself, are you handling this pandemic the way you handle (what was) your everyday life? Is it a crisis? Are you panicking? Does it feel like something is missing? Like you should have known better, or done more, or saved more, or created more by now? Do you have regrets? Do you yearn for what was? And how is this thinking different from the way you were thinking before the $hit hit the fan? Honestly? What if… you decided to elevate your mind to a state of gratitude? What if you started searching for the opportunities present in this challenge? What if you decided to leverage your gifts, talents and abilities in service of humankind, right now? Just remember… the way you do anything is the way you do everything.
It’s up to me. I choose how I go through this. I choose my response. The old habit may be to panic, catastrophize and focus on what could go wrong, but this habit isn’t helpful. It isn’t life-affirming, or empowering. It doesn’t enable me to offer my gifts to the world. Why not breathe? Why not practice gratitude for what could be an incredible opportunity for awakening, for transformation? Why not envision a realm of infinite possibility? Let’s collectively create a brand new habit called: awakening to our blessings, envisioning possiblity, offering our gifts in service to the greatest good!
Halfway through this challenge, and I have to pause to be grateful for gratitude itself. I began a gratitude journaling practice years before my marriage ended, and had made it a habit to focus on what was going well in my marriage, so I was shocked when my husband announced it was over. Turns out he had been doing the opposite, focusing on what I did that annoyed him. Although I pleaded with him to step back and look at the good in our lives, he had made up his mind that I was the worst wife ever and there was nothing I could do about that. I continued to write in my gratitude journal as my life fell apart at the seams. I continued writing in my journal even as the voices in my head told me I’d be better off dead. I continued writing in my journal as I weathered storm after storm after storm. I have learned perseverance, strength, discipline, will, resilience. I have learned how to put things into perspective. I have learned that I don’t need a man to feel worthy— I am worthy because I exist. I survived. And I attribute a large part of my success to the mindset I developed while practicing gratitude. Thank you gratitude!
Choosing to change and choosing to like change… will help smooth the path of life’s inevitable changes. And life demands that we change. There is no way around it. Every day draws us closer to the inevitable edge of the great abyss that stares back, revealing the nothingness of our dissolution. Who will we become before death closes our eyes forever?
Slowing down, taking time… Body run down says Stop. Rest. I listen. I rest as much as I can in between classes. It would be so easy to blame. To go back into victim mode and complain about the upheaval. But that’s not congruent with who I am. Who I am is strong. Who I am is loving. Who I am is resourceful, creative, inspired. Who I am is kind. So instead of looking out and blaming, I look in and ask, What can be done now? My body says Rest. I listen. I rest.
Turning adversity into opportunity… being willing to see value in difficulty, not complaining, but doing what needs to be done. Rewiring my brain is difficult. My brain wants to complain. It wants me to feel sorry for myself, to feel like a victim, to focus on the abandonment, the betrayal, the grief and the loss. It wants me to feel envious of intact families, and look at women with their men and ask, Why not me? I’m tired of being tortured by my mind. I don’t want it to remind me of everything that went wrong. I want to focus on what’s going right. But after four decades of negative programming, I don’t know if I’m capable of seeing the positive.
When it all can change so quickly, when it all can be swept away without warning, what exactly can we count on? When we know that life is full of challenges, unpredictable ups and downs, sudden turns in the road and no guarantees for our happiness and success, what can we really look forward to? I’m starting to understand how our life philosophy matters, how if we can expect and embrace challenge we place ourselves in the driver’s seat… Our mindset matters. If we can make up our minds to view every life event as an opportunity, a chance to change, grow and evolve, we will have no shortage of peak moments. Today is the best day of my life. Today is the day of my amazing good fortune; no matter what happens I choose to make this so.
It occurred to me that if I want more joy in my life I need to choose to enjoy each moment. Life is made up of everyday, simple moments, repetitive tasks, things that need to get done. If I’m rolling my eyes and groaning every time I need to tidy up, go grocery shopping, do the laundry, pick up after my kids, I’d be constantly miserable. But if I could cultivate a mindset of gratitude and joy for each of these simple moments, day by day and breath by breath, they would all add up to a joyful life. I don’t need to defer my happiness for someday, for one day, for whenever this or that comes to pass. Happiness is now, where it always was, where it always will be— right here in the present moment.
I know now that it had to happen. I’ve come to this realization before, so bear with me, but you know how this works. We keep circling and circling and circling back to the same old stuff until one day we get it, and we can finally set off on a new trajectory. It had to happen. I was comfortable, and comfort was making me complacent. I knew deep down I was meant for more. I longed to be met at my depth, to be seen and held and loved by someone capable of seeing my value and loving the woman that I was. It wasn’t happening, and a part of me grieved deeply. It wasn’t happening, and I resigned myself to a love not quite deep enough to be congruent with my true nature. I yearned for more, so deeply in my heart I yearned, and a voice said that I was fooling myself, that such a love wasn’t possible in this world. I was determined to do the work inside myself, to search for where I felt unmet and dissatisfied, and discover how I could meet and satisfy myself. Hence the meditation, the writing, the reading, the sewing, the knitting, the kombucha making, the therapy, the workshops, the trainings, the research, the practice, the commitment to arete. I secretly thought I was doing him a favor putting up with his lack of depth, his lack of vision, his inability to penetrate me fully to the core of my being, to flower me open to bigger possibilities, to take me open to God. Well if this is it, I told myself, then I may as well make the most of it. So I kept going. And then it happened. He dumped me. ME. Me, the mother of his children. ME, his WIFE. Me, his yoga teacher. Me, his partner, his best friend. He threw me away. It had to happen. It took a while, but I see this now. At times I look jealously at intact families, and I’m triggered by what was stolen from me. But then my new mindset arrives and reminds me It had to happen. The comfort was making me complacent. I had to be made extremely uncomfortable to be forced out of this nest, this cocoon, this cage of material wealth, where my needs for food, clothing and shelter were met, and the price I paid for it all was my authentic happiness. I look back on who I was and I shudder. I look forward to who I know I will be and I shiver. I look within to the one I am now and I smile, at peace with the fact that sooner or later, it had to happen. ✨ ✨ ✨ ✨