I blinked, and months went by.
Here we are, in the middle of a crazy bonkers holiday season, with lockdowns and restrictions rendering celebrations more "intimate" and muted, and the deflating prospect of many more months of COVID-related uncertainty.
COVID be damned - I've had enough.
Yup, it was that kind of year.
What can I say about the last four months of the pandemic year?
While acquiring a higher education, my face has been bathed in the warm glow of the blue light emitted by my computer screen;
I've been partaking in some pandemic snacking (er, make that a LOT of pandemic snacking);
A state of DEFCON 2 alert has occurred on more than one occasion, on account of the challenges associated with being a student (I'm too old to be awake and working on a project at 3:00am, and yet...) while still trying to fulfill the requirements of Motherhood 101... 😬 (funny how after all these years, I'm still stuck in Motherhood 101 - where's the rubric? How do I get to Motherhood 201?);
The good news is that I'm enjoying what I'm learning, and most days, I enjoy being a mother to my kids (the other days, not so much, but thankfully, they're pretty good kids, so I haven't opted to disown them yet); and
I'm thankful for the distraction of school and being a mom, otherwise I'd be a lot more aware of and thinking about how life is kind of subpar right now.
OK, that last point needs clarification. I say that only because this weekend, after I finished my last exam and project, my mom and brother drove three hours to drop off presents and food for us. Usually, we spend the holidays with my parents and my family, so it's a time of family, food, and fun. Not this year, so the Santa Express came for a very brief, COVID-friendly exchange. My mom is very Asian in her expression of love and affection - rarely verbal, always gastronomical (Crazy Rich Asians got that right). We had not seen her in months, and I definitely had not given her a hug since last winter. So the freezerful of food that she brought down was unsurprising, touching, and so her. After we chatted a bit about the woeful state of my bonsai tree (alas, I did not inherit my mom's green thumb), my mom and brother departed for their three hour drive.
That's when I lost it, while loading stuff in the pantry. Shedding tears over dry goods.
I don't think I fully realized the impact of the pandemic on me, on how much I truly miss spending time with my family, having my kids wake up and sharing breakfast with their grandparents, and just being able to have a conversation at the kitchen table with my parents. I ache not only because of the absence, but also because of the loss - the loss of time spent with family, the loss of opportunities to create memories, and the loss of those comforting moments of just knowing and being among your people. We've all been busily surviving, just trying to keep up and making the most of some less than ideal circumstances. I think that without being aware of it, I've come to accept this survival mode as my new norm, and the notion of thriving, instead of surviving, is something for some future other time.
I know it could be worse. Thankfully, I have not been touched by illness, directly or indirectly. My kids experience joy through school, friendships, and each other. And although we're in the Twilight Zone tween and teen years, my kids remain open to me, sharing their thoughts, their hopes and fears. So I am incredibly fortunate and grateful for my blessings. But I am also cognizant of the outsized importance of what we are all missing.
As there is not much I can do to change the course of the pandemic (other than what we should all do to look out for each other), what I can do is share little moments of light. Here, I offer a few moments/thoughts to hopefully brighten your day.
I'm a bit embarrassed to say that I stink at being consistent in meditating. Self care is not my forté, and I can tell you, I need a lot of it. STAT. Now the following may not elevate you to a prolonged state of zen, but for a moment or two, the voice might, until you actually hear what's being said. Then you giggle, cue the endorphins, and feel good for a bit. You're welcome.
Something about an Australian accent...
Don't ask, can't explain it.
"Mirror in the Mirror"
Music has always played a huge role in my life. I've been told that I asked for piano lessons when I was three years old, but didn't start until I was seven, and even then, because my parents could not afford a piano, I started on a cardboard keyboard. Somehow, my parents managed to scrape together the resources for piano lessons for me and all of my siblings, and I can honestly say that every day since, there's always been some genre of music playing in the background. (These days, my kids subject me to the pleasure/pain that I myself dealt to my parents back in the day - scales and arpeggios, ad nauseum. It's called karma.)
The soundtrack of my life would be an eclectic mash-up of 70s pop (hello, ABBA!), 80s pop (for a fun and miniscule sampling, check out the soundtrack of The Wedding Singer), Beatles/Elton John/etc., Elvis/Beach Boys/Bobby Darin/Johnny Mathis/etc., the vintage sounds of the Lawrence Welk Show, Nat King Cole, John Coltrane, Diana Krall, Chicago, Debussy, Beethoven, Chopin... You catch my drift. Nutty. All over the map. A bit of the stuff my parents listened to, and the stuff I picked up through school, living in a dorm, Much Music (hello, throwback!), and a sibling in the music biz. And I haven't mentioned any of the 90s or 21st century! I must confess, though, that I have yet to develop a palate for rap, and only a small sample of country music agrees with me. Anyway, music energizes me, consoles me, focuses me, distracts me, and motivates me. While I would love to share many of my favourites, for now, I'll leave this, Spiegel im Spiegel, a reflective piece for violin and piano by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. This 1978 piece is ten minutes of transcendent calm. I think it suits this moment in time - a time for reflection, and a time for hope. Listen to this when you're feeling introspective and in need of a moment of serenity.
I could compare my music to white light which contains all colours. Only a prism can divide the colours and make them appear; this prism could be the spirit of the listener. - Arvo Pärt
"Spiegel im Spiegel" (Mirror in the Mirror).
Understated yet so moving.
Be Kind to Yourself
It's been over six months since my Mother's Day post and the roller coaster of being, doing, and momming during a pandemic has remained somewhat turbulent and exhausting, if not more so. Months of navigating the unknowns of this pandemic, tending to everybody else's well-being ahead of our own ... It's a lot, and I'll admit to giving myself the short end of the stick in the grand scheme of things. And that includes occasionally being unforgiving of myself when I drop a ball or two (oh, you didn't see me sneak into the mall after closing to find shirts for Orange T-shirt Day - I'm not joking. And it wasn't a slick sneak in - it was an ungraceful scramble 😳). As this year winds down, I'll be going about at a slower pace, and rethinking the tenor of my inner voice. There is nobody harder on me than myself, and it does not make sense for me to think that I should be able to manage everything without some wrinkles here and there. Mom guilt is hard to shake, but knowing that the greatest impact on my kids' well-being (and their success) comes from my presence and engagement must compel me to cast off some of the unreasonable expectations I place on myself. So kid, it may be your third day in a row of cold Pizza Pops for lunch, but when you have one of those Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day types of days, I'll be there to help you pick up the pieces. I just might need a post-event beverage or snack.
Talk to yourself the way you would to someone you love. - Brené Brown
We speak of goodwill to others during the holiday season. I propose, in keeping with the small-scale and more introspective nature of this particular holiday season, that we gift ourselves with that goodwill, and remind ourselves that we're doing ok. And we're going to be ok. 2020, you've overstayed your welcome. We found some inner strength and learned a lot about ourselves and our world. You can leave now.
And 2021? I'm not expecting miracles. Just hoping for better.
With that, I hope you find joy (no, it doesn't have to be big joy with a capital "J," little joy will do) during this holiday season, and I wish you all much happiness, strength, and good health in the new year.
Until next time,