Adaptability Boot Camp

I was looking over my writing from the beginning of the year – from the “before” times – hoping to find some writing inspiration. My creative outlets these past 5 and ½ weeks haven’t extended much beyond chalk-art with my kids, and innovative cocktail-mixing for Zoom happy hours. But all I found were several journal-like entries on my need to be more adaptable. 

According to the pages of my writer’s notebook, finding out that one of my kids had a random Friday off of school for an “in-lieu-of” holiday would send me into a tizzy. Making a Herculean effort to get to the gym to find a sub teaching my Zumba class would aggravate my nervous system. Even the grocery store being out of all of my top three ice cream flavors would throw the rest of the day off balance.

Despite my relatively easy-going exterior, some unexpected and unwanted change would send my brain-scape into disarray. My perfect plans – the work I would get done on Friday while the kids were all at school, or the evening in which I intended to watch “Jane the Virgin” with a big bowl of ice cream – would completely fall apart because one little curveball caught me off guard.

Yet I feel like I was improving in the arena of adaptability, putting forth great effort to match my manic internal landscape with that of my calm-ish exterior.

Apparently, the universe thought that I, along with billions of other fellow humans, needed a greater challenge, and instead of throwing us a slider, they dropped a bomb in the form of Covid-19.

Clearly, the “Intro to Adaptability” course that I had been attending in my mind for the first few months of 2020 wasn’t teaching me enough, and now I have been thrown into Adaptability Boot Camp.

I am fully aware that the accommodations that I am forced to make during this pandemic and period of shelter-in-place pale in comparison to most, yet they are still my reality, and the only story that I can tell in all honesty. For we are all in different boats, just trying to navigate these choppy waters. And while I’m not cruising on a swanky yacht, I am certainly not bailing out water from the bottom of a rowboat like so many during this time.

With three young kids, I haven’t been able to show excessive stress, sadness, fear, anger, disappointment, or anxiety. My calm mask remains on (for the most part), although I share that it’s okay to feel those negative emotions during this unsettling and unprecedented time. In fact, I do feel relatively at ease, though if what I read on my Facebook feed is true, then the trauma that I am bottling up now will be coming back to haunt me in the next 6 months to two years. In the meantime, I am apparently channeling my negative emotions into obsessive levels of weeding.

I haven’t completely surrendered, but I have quickly adapted to my new condition  – homeschooling my kids, moving my part-time teaching job into a virtual format, maintaining my health in both body and mind, monitoring the moods and needs of my family, keeping us nourished and well-stocked with one carefully planned Trader Joe’s trip every 10-14 days, and continually tweaking my plans and intentions. I am in a continual state of adaptation – and it’s exhausting.

Prior to shelter-in-place, I adapted to other shut-downs. Schools shut down temporarily due to an essential teacher strike, poor air quality, and power outages. My community buckled down and pooled resources and made it through those challenges, which seemed monumental at the time. Now we know they were simply a warm-up act to what we have just begun to endure. 

My children are far more adaptable than me, yet it is this situation that will have a massive long-term effect on their lives. The economic and educational disparity in our community and nation has been exacerbated and I fear it will define their generation in ways I have not yet allowed myself to imagine. My hope is that Americans will vote en masse for a change in leadership this November so at least we can start to ease the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic and the policies of the last three and a half years.

Learning to be adaptable is not a massive burden, yet it is f-ing hard when you’ve already worked so hard to create and maintain a functioning family unit. Will I be able to further adapt to these evolving conditions so that my family can have opportunities to thrive and not simply survive? And is it greedy of me to even want to thrive during this time of extreme hardship for so many?

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