Coping and Carrying On

                The other night, some friends and I had our “Mom Circle” sunset meeting at the beach.  It was supposed to be last week, but there was rain moving through our area. Such rotten luck, it has only rained a handful of times since June.  I watched the weather app on my phone for about ten minutes, replaying the projected radar, almost willing the showers to miss us.  We were all so ridiculously disappointed to call it off… we all turned to different coping mechanisms for self-soothing.

                I went to Trader Joe’s.  I usually hate grocery shopping, but this is Trader Joe’s.  It’s not just groceries. It’s shopping.  I took my time, which is exceptionally unusual for me.  I went looking for wine, specialty cheese, and chocolate. 

                One friend ate an entire bag of peanut M&M’s.  One friend ate chocolate chip cookies, and another friend ate peanut butter and chocolate Reese’s puffs cereal straight from the box.

                As I was driving home, my wine and my chocolates sitting next to me in the front seat,  I decided not to take the highway.  Instead I took the more scenic route because the rain clouds were moving out.  The western sky was starting to light up, and it looked like it might be a pretty good show. So I drove to the beach. I had a blanket in my car, so I was ready to settle in for a bit.  I was sad that I wasn’t meeting up with my friends, but there’s no such thing as a bad evening sunset at the beach.  I saw a double rainbow as I pulled into the beach road, right over the water.  It was amazing.  The setting sun was turning the clouds a brilliant orange and electric yellow.  The water was reflecting the light, and turning a hue of silver, shimmering as if almost alive.

                 I sat down with my sorrow and my self-pity (leaving the wine and chocolate in the car) and let out a long exhale.

                Inhale, and exhale.

                And repeat.

                I wasn’t crying, but I’m not going to say I was exactly happy. Coping with disappointment during COVID isn’t easy- you’d think by now I’d be used to disappointment- with everything that’s moved from in person to online, or postponed until… forever. You’d think I’d have learned to set the bar so low that I’d expect next to nothing. 

                But it’s the little things I’ve been hanging onto.  A Facetime call, a text chat, a small gathering outside.  In a world where nothing seems quite normal, I am clinging to those little things like my sanity depends on it.

                And in some respects, it does.

                It’s hard to keep absorbing it all- the disappointments and the cancellations seem constant. Colleges that put forth comprehensive hybrid plans months ago are pulling back at the last minute and going full virtual.  The impending start to the school year seems like there won’t be a “back to school” at all- just back to PJ’s during morning meeting.

                The daily nagging “brush your teeth before school” seems completely pointless in the face of Google morning meeting.  Who gives a flying you-know-what if you’re in PJ bottoms with bad breath?

                As a mom, you absorb all the disappointments in the house- your own plus those of your kids.  It’s just part of the job. We do our best to “roll with it,” and teach our kids to do so, as well as they can.  We try to lead by example, showing them that resilience with a positive attitude is the way to be.  That it’s worth it, and it will all work out in the end.

                But this… this is way more than I’ve ever prepared myself to absorb.  How do I know when the saturation point is reached?

                This isn’t a birthday party cancelled because of rain. This is life put on pause- indefinitely.  Starting middle school, beginning senior year of high school, getting a “real job” after college, businesses closed or limited…

                There are only so many times I can say to my kids, “things will all work out, things will go back to normal, I know it.”  I don’t know it.  And I don’t think my kids believe me anymore.

                I’ve often joked when people have asked me during this age of quarantining and social distancing, this not-so-normal summer, “How are you doing with everything?”

                “Well,” I respond, half in jest, “At least I’m not an alcoholic!”  I throw up my hands and laugh.

                Am I allowed to lose it?  The days that I don’t have any ugly cries by myself in my bathroom, that might be considered an accomplishment.  When the tears do spill out, I let them all out, hoping that I’ll be empty enough for a long time before the next cry. 

                And then I’ll pick myself up, wash my face, and I’ll put one foot in front of the other.  Because I should?  Because I have to.  Because there’s no other choice when you’re the mom.

                So I think of all of these things as I’m sitting on the wet beach by myself, watching the sunset.  I try to let go of this latest disappointment. And I hang onto the little things, the texts from my friends, all of us assuring each other that very soon, we will bring our chairs to the beach and be together.  We will share and complain and laugh and sympathize.  And we will forget about the other stuff for a little while.  Two hours of being together is healing.

                I know this much is true.  Even if everything else is uncertain.

                Inhale. And exhale.

                And repeat.

                It begins to get dark and I pick up my blanket.  I turn my back to the water.  And I carry on.

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