If you had told me a month ago that we’d be going to the doctors office with masks on, waiting outside the door, getting screened with temperatures taken before being allowed inside, I’d think it would be a terrifying reality.
But it’s surprising how mundane it ends up being. Sure there is an underlying fear, but we still go about our activity, the one that allows us to be in public. We adapt. We still chat and laugh, just without being able to see anyone’s mouth.
We socialize and work via video conference now. Some people still get together in person and stay six feet from each other. We still go to the grocery store. There is plexiglass protecting cashiers at the checkout, markings on the floor showing where to stand to keep a safe distance from each other. Periodic announcements on the loudspeaker remind customers and employees to keep two cart lengths away from others. Sometimes there are lines of people outside, spaced six feet apart, waiting to go in once the new max capacity is reached.
Wearing masks is now required outside your home. We’ve been ordered to stay at home and not leave for anything other than groceries and essential work or medical care for weeks now.
This is reality. An invisible virus has brought society as we know it to its knees. For weeks the news was worse every morning that I tuned into Morning Edition. I stopped listening a week ago, but I hear that there is some hope that things are slowing down. It’s still terrifying to think that it could still get worse. What if this is just the beginning? What if in another month we’re at another surprising impasse? New York says they may have to bury their dead in public parks. Unbelievable a month ago, but a glaring reality today. That’s the thing about living through a crisis that gets lost in the history, you don’t know when it’s going to end, you don’t know where the top of the curve is.
I’m grateful to be quarantined with my husband and daughter that I actually enjoy being around and cherish the extra hours we get to be together. I’m grateful for my best friend, who is a nurse practitioner, risking her own health to help others every day. She shares first hand information and advice on social media to keep us safe. And somehow, she takes care of me at the same time, helping me get proper care for postpartum depression while I’m a thousand miles away.
This week I got to read for Miss Spoken, a fave live lit series in Chicago. Since most of the country is under a ‘stay at home’ order because of the Coronavirus pandemic, they held their first ever livestream show, and through the magic of the internet I was able to join from Los Angeles! We had some technical difficulties with the video, but my full piece about living during a pandemic with an infant is below.
Quarantine day: I don’t even know. I know it’s week two. And I know that I haven’t cried today.
It hit me the other night that this isn’t just a temporary two week thing that we need to buckle down through. This is the new normal, at least for a while, and we need to adjust accordingly. For me, that means structuring a new day with an infant. I need to approach my day with intent. Or my day will shape me.
My daughter is now 3 months old, 14 weeks to be exact. We had just started to emerge back into the world after weeks of postpartum isolation, which was surprisingly difficult on its own. Figuring out how to get the car seat in the base on my own, driving with my baby in the car with all those maniacs on the road?! Learning patience while someone is waiting for my parking spot as I fold up a stroller. Figuring out how to shop for groceries with a baby taking up all the room in the cart or stroller.
All this while my body is still recovering from the physical and emotional toll of growing a human and then birthing it.
I didn’t start to feel postpartum depression until about 8 weeks when my husband went back to work. All of our visitors and helpers were gone, and I was alone with this baby that I barely knew all day. The mornings were toughest. I felt sad when I woke up, and didn’t want to get out of bed. The day ahead felt overwhelming with its demands and unpredictability.
We adapted by scheduling one thing outside the home each day: a mommy and me yoga class, one of my mom support/social groups, a coffee play date, or just a walk or a trip to the grocery store.
And now, Coronavirus. Classes: canceled. Groups: canceled. Play dates: canceled. A stay at home order for the state of California was issued on March 19. Our once a day respite outside of the house is over. We’re back on isolation. And we have to worry about catching a deadly invisible virus. I have to worry about my baby being exposed to it (with the minimal comfort that it doesn’t seem to be affecting children that much). I have to worry about my baby having some other medical emergency or injury and the hospitals not having the capacity to take care of her, plus risk exposing her to whatever is inside.
Still, I’m grateful that we had the baby when we did. I’ve heard birthplaces are now only allowing one support person and no visitors (not even an exception for a spouse and a doula). My parents spent all day every day with us in the hospital and were here in my apartment after to help us. That time is still a total blur to me, and I couldn’t imagine having to do it without the team we had. My in-laws and sisters both also got to visit and meet the baby, and a couple of friends.
I’m not saying I have it worse than anybody else. This unprecedented event is affecting everyone in different ways. There’s my friend who is a nurse, seeing patients who are coughing directly on her, my parents who are in the higher risk group in their 60s, friends who work in retail that counts as essential business now, friends who have already been laid off from their jobs, kids who don’t have warm meals, or safe homes to spend their days.
We’re all coping, or not.
I still feel depressed in the mornings, and now my days are coupled with anxiety. But this is where I try to see the bright spots. I get to spend my mornings cuddled in bed with my new daughter. My husband is home and safe (even as we struggle to share our small space with him working from home). My support groups and even yoga communities are holding online video meetings. I’m talking to my friends and family in Chicago and St. Louis more than I did before the pandemic. We may be living in isolation, but we’re more connected than ever before.
Yesterday in one of my mom Zoom meetings, I was talking through some of these challenges and wrapped it up by saying ‘But we’re getting by.’ I was reminded that we don’t have to be ‘just getting by,’ life is for living and you can decide what that life looks like, what your day looks like. Even if it’s going to be indoors for the foreseeable future.
And sure that can be tough with all the challenges we’re facing right now, or ya know, when an infant dictates what most of your day looks like. We need to approach our day with intent, now more than ever. Or the day will shape us.
When I named this site, I really did mean for the title to be placeholder, and if anything else, just be ironic that I never got around to changing it. Lol, right?
Well, since then, I’ve become even more conscious of how many things in life are temporary. I’m aware of just how much this theme runs through life, especially after being pregnant… the “morning sickness,” the SPD pain, the swollen feet, ultrasounds, baby’s kicks, postpartum pain and recovery, postpartum hormones and tears, nighttime feedings, newborn clothes, changing diapers, literally milking my boobs and juggling pump parts. It’s all temporary, and what feels like forever right now (hello sleepless nights) really doesn’t last all that long.
I can’t wait to see her grow up, but I also wish I could freeze every moment. She changes every week, every day. She’s already almost doubled her weight! I’ve watched her little nostrils and thumbnails get bigger, knowing that she’ll never be this small again. I try to absorb every little sound and funky movement she makes, knowing that next week she may move on to something else.
The only thing that isn’t temporary is that I’m a mom now. And that’s alright with me. As I watch her grow and change, I’m happy to continue being that guiding light, whenever and however she needs it, for the rest of my life.
As I stand up and look at my moms social group (yes, I’m in a moms social group), a little part of me still can’t believe I’m here. I delved into the new High Fidelity reboot series last week, and it reminded me so much of my old life in Chicago. Concerts, bars, booze, spirited discussions about music and culture, bad choices and unnecessary drama… check, check, check, check aaand check.
I don’t miss that life (and I certainly wouldn’t want to return to the drama and heartache that accompanied it), but seeing the scene so well represented sure does pull on my heartstrings. I have a fondness for the places, people, experiences and of course the music.
I’d like to think I’m still a little more Rob than frosè girl in spirit though, or at least somewhere between, but as I walk my stroller up to the coffee shop in my yoga pants and a tank top that says “grateful thankful blessed,” I fear I may have gone full frosè.
Trying to reconcile your past with your present and future is a complex thing, especially for someone so cynical. One episode especially hit home, where Rob’s brother realizes that his life is drastically going to change with the addition of baby:
“I’m so excited to have this baby with you. Just, I don’t wanna lose the person that I used to be. That guy’s – – I like that guy. He’s super chill.”
I felt that hard. But, the thing is, you are still you when life changes! You bring all that shit (good and bad) with you as wisdom, and maybe you have some cool stories to boot. As my girl Lisa said so eloquently when we discussed it, “Getting older is becoming ok becoming the thing you use to hate, and realizing you hate a bit of who you were in the first place.”
She also added, “Eh, frosè is delicious. Like Rob said at the bar, ha.”
I’m in the last week of my second trimester, and wouldn’t you know it, things all over my body are already starting to hurt and/or swell. They say the second trimester is the bright spot of pregnancy–you’re not nauseous anymore like in the first, and you’re not yet feeling the bodily discomfort of growing larger and larger in the third.
It’s something new, something different, expected or not, every day.
But each week as my belly grows bigger, my baby’s kicks, punches and rolls are growing stronger. I can’t really describe the feeling of having another tiny human being moving around inside my body. It’s weird, wonderful, and oddly comforting and routine. There’s the way she riles up about a half hour after I eat, the way she responds when she hears her daddy’s voice, the early morning kicks before I get out of bed, and late night jabs when I’m trying to fall asleep.
Sure I tire easily and some days it hurts to walk, but I’m sure that I’ll miss all of it once she’s with us on the outside.
It’s the last day of the first month of 2019. The time we use to set our intentions for the year. I used to think that manifesting was bullshit, though. Maybe using words like intentions and goals makes it a little easier to swallow. How else are you supposed to achieve goals without keeping them front of mind? I’m still skeptical about manifesting concrete things like love or people into your life, but if you keep yourself open to a possibility rather than being cynical or closed off, it could be called a success in the end. Changing your mindset can change your life.
I’ve almost always kept myself surrounded by reminders of my past and present. Photos of people I’m grateful to have in my life, pictures and souvenirs of happy events and moments, vacations, etc. But it wasn’t until the last few years that I decided to display phrases and quotes to influence how I wanted to feel. I would stick post-it notes on my bedroom door, bathroom mirror, refrigerator, places that I would see them and be reminded every day.
Last year was the first time that I set an intention in a visual form. I posted two California postcards from a recent trip on my bulletin board. Part reminder of a great trip that was meaningful to me, and part intention of eventually moving there. At the time it seemed crazy, but I thought that I would be really happy in the climate and culture of Los Angeles, and I realized that as you get older there are less and less opportunities to try something new, to completely change your life. And I wasn’t getting any younger.
So I set it there. One year. Open to the possibility. Intention set. I saw the postcards every day. And the idea became less and less crazy, especially as I started to see the signs that were everywhere. I was open to it, but not pushing it. And now that move is in the works.
I’d love to hear your own stories of manifesting or intentions realized. Has simply changing your mindset ever changed your own life?
The last two months have been such a fulfilling (and busy!) experience. I’ve completed eight weeks of yoga teacher training (just 10 more classes until I receive my RYT 200-hour certificate!), where I turned my self-study (Svādhyāya) into a practice, challenged myself and made new yoga family friends. While I loved learning the class sequence and what it takes to be a good teacher, I really enjoyed learning the philosophy behind yoga. The eight limbs, yamas, niyamas, and the 7 chakras put names to the pieces of the journey I’ve been on over the last year. I had already learned so much about myself and about using a challenge to thrive, and diving into this near familiar world was another sign that I am on the right path. Being able to turn my attention outward has been a great part of my growth as well. Not only have I set this goal to teach others, but I’ve shared with my Omies and in turn helped them open up, too.
To cap the training, I booked a trip back to LA where I am right now typing away on a coffee shop patio. It’s been amazing to have so much open time (that would usually scare the shit out of me), even if I did spend a couple days of it sick and dealing with the challenge of plans not working out. I’ve been able to get a ton of restful and healing sleep, spend quality time with my boyfriend and hit the mat for fun. His place is a block over from a CorePower studio, which he swears he didn’t choose for me, but hey, lucky either way. And today I finally made it out to Y7 to try out their “sweat dripping, beat bumping, candlelit yoga.” Twas fun.
The world of dating has CHANGED. Not that I was all that adept in it ten years ago the last time I was single, but I do not remember shit being this complicated. Or maybe it was MORE complicated without the simplicity and efficiency of apps like Tinder and Bumble. Technology has changed the world in more ways than just dating, plus I’m a decade older, peeking over the hill at 40 instead of reveling in my mid-late twenties. So we’re talking differences in life stage as well as digital age.
I mean, did we even have smartphones yet in 2008? I certainly didn’t. I might have been pining for an iPhone though while waiting for my two-year AT&T contract to end so I could get a new phone for free.
Anyway, meeting someone online was JUST becoming a socially acceptable notion with sites like Match and eHarmony, much less apps that you could use to go home with someone within x number of miles of you that very night. I thought it was crazy enough that I met my future ex-husband on the internet while applying to write for a reputable website (RIP Chicagoist). Now it’s swipe right, swipe left, yes, no, yes, no; it’s like a Hot or Not game on steroids. With real people. And real interactions.
I did a short Match subscription once when I was 26. I went on a bunch of dates because I was 26 and had nothing to lose and who knows, even though I’m not really clicking with someone via text, that doesn’t mean he’s not unknowingly the man of my dreams. Right?
Most of the guys were short. Really short. Which I have no issue with, just an observation. Maybe back then in the analog days shorter dudes had a harder time picking up women in the real world, so they resorted to the internet. It’s especially interesting to me now since almost every dude’s profile that I see on Tinder mentions their height, like they’re bragging that they aced the ACTs. Or won the genetic lottery.
It’s also made writing pickup lines a new art form. It’s almost like a tit for tat – write a profile that’s just luring enough to give someone a nugget of info to use in their opening line. Here’s just a sampling of some of the initial messages I’ve received in the month that I’ve been on dating apps:
“Hey Michelle – going thru your IG pics and it reminded me that I have a whole in my life, and I needed it filled. Sorry, did I say “life”? I meant fridge. It needs Oberon.”
This one is good because he took the initiative to look at my “IG” pics and talk about something relevant to me. And who doesn’t like a guy who’s funny? But then he misspelled hole.
“Good morning beautiful, interesting lady. Hopefully I can be the first to compliment you today”
Flattery will get you everywhere. Except the inside of my apartment.
“Oooh girl we matched!” (accompanied by a gif of John Mulaney shaking his shoulders)
This one is good because it’s cheeky, and shows me that he knows who John Mulaney is, and communicating with gifs > words sometimes.
“I love st Vincent! You’re so lucky to get to see them”
This one is good because he references the artist and concert I mention in my profile. I even let it slide that St Vincent is a her and not a them because I liked that he talked about social activism and books in his profile, and we had mutual friends on Facebook. And because he was cute. Is cute. I’m still talking to this one. He’s 6’5”, not that that kind of thing matters to me…
Something else about app dating is being a target. Whoops did I say target because I meant woman. My first week on the app, I get this Tinder notification:
“Wow, you had quite a week! 2470 new people liked you! 😍 Keep swiping!”
Now, I’m not trying to brag here. That is just downright terrifying. Granted I was in three big cities that week, and I was new meat in the app, and I don’t know how these algorithms use that information, but I could swipe all day every day for another week and not get through two thousand profiles. Going from being in a long term relationship to having thousands of guys “liking” you is scary. (Okay, I’ll admit there’s a teensy bit of ego boosting going on, especially after leaving a marriage and feeling so crappy for so long.)
There are also some swiping “rules” that I implemented along the way. I admittedly jumped into these apps too quickly, but the swiping is just so much fun. But then there are all these matches and messages, and for someone just entering the dating world following a rough divorce, it was a little too much. Especially with Bumble’s 24 hour rule. I don’t need that kind of pressure when I just swiped right on like 10 guys.
So I had to “like” less often. Here are some of my automatic “nopes”:
No written profile.
Shirtless photo. Save it for after we exchange numbers. And not unsolicited.
Photo with another woman that’s obviously not your mom. I don’t care if it’s your sister, cousin, ex, whatever. You have one goal here and it’s not to show women what you look like with other women. Seriously, of all the photos you could choose for a dating profile?
While we’re at it, group photos only. I shouldn’t have to compare every photo to figure out which one is you.
DJs. Or any type of nightlife professional.
I’m sure I could write another whole post about how this form of connecting brings us back to our most basic, barbaric selves when selecting a mate (whether for long term or for the night). It’s mostly based on looks, height, race (come on), photo choice and composition. I suppose at its base, meeting in person is like that too. We judge with our eyes initially in most cases, whether we want to admit it or not. But I’m not a sociologist. I’m just a woman trying to navigate the new weird world of being single.