There is a lot of frustration right about now. For me, as a member of the introspective but resigned Generation X (read Vice article for real bashing), least of all because in many ways, the Covid-19 virus has proven to be infuriatingly on message with Gen Zs that the way forward is woke, clean living – both literally and metaphorically. And, whether you’re in the middle of a meltdown, a Netflix binge, a wardrobe cleanse or zen-ing out in a fort that your kids built; all of these scenarios are good outcomes, according to the health-first Gen Z mantra; and now, begrudgingly, according to me.
There are a lot of awful, horrific and hostile things floating around in my head daily since the Corona Virus became the new “normal”. But, one of the lesser morbid ones is that only good can come out of being at home. (If you’re not home though, seriously – GO HOME & STAY THERE – article linked for why). Because whatever shitty or wonderful or combination response I am having, as I am being faced with my life choices and forced to live with them day in day out, is worth observing and exploring. It’s an opportunity I guess. Whatever isn’t working can be shifted (even if it doesn’t feel that way after this long week); whatever there is too much or too little of can be adjusted, and whatever feels uncomfortable is an opportunity for growth. Even if that growth is merely the ability to tolerate things that were easy to ignore before; or the courage to change them even.
If this sounds like a load of shit to you, then maybe it is! Maybe you’re doing OK. Or! Maybe you’re suffering from something I often accuse my husband of that I myself do all too often: mental resistance (misery does love company). Which, obnoxiously, is the first step toward change…so circling back to that.
Observing, then accepting or changing is harder than it seems (on a relative scale of scary, non-threatening things) and I am full-on freaking out. The mental resistance is raging. It’s like when someone found and read my teen diary because I lost the stupid key of the oddly tough lock so I kept it open confident no one will read it. Boy was I wrong, and like that, this too is excruciating and it’s cruel. But maybe it’s necessary and maybe I am standing to gain if I manage to beat this in the end, literally and metaphorically, right??
The relationships we are in, to the weekly shopping we consume, are all up for reexamination. The way we view our world: the little worlds we individually created and wrapped ourselves in – are affected by a collective one, the spin of which is in fact fueled by the very choices we make in our little worlds. So what we think, feel, say and do really does matter.
I think of it as a “collective wheel of imagined expectations”: our choices, guilty pleasures or peer pressures, of everything we consume from what we watch, ready, eat, wear, put on/in our skins, how quick, how much and how we expect our wants to be met. This is what has come into question for me lately. It may be far more painful than someone opening your Amazon order history, and even the outcome promises to be far more gratifying than the packages arriving – if we power through the shit fest and examine with the F we were doing thus far.
I’m thinking that if we then opt to keep doing what we’ve been doing then it means we are fine how things are and that’s good; if we want to do it differently, then great. And! If we at least want to appreciate that we could do it if we do choose – then absolutely wonderful. Win-win, see! (Eyes roll, mine most).
The biggest revelation is to really acknowledge and appreciate how entangled we all are with each other and how our personal choices and well-being have a compounded affect that is larger than ourselves and so in doing our part we are contributing to the greater whole.
First world problems that won’t feel like a win (but are) will be things like the fact that some staying home will miss the regimented monthly beauty upkeep. Roots stand to be darker (or whiter. I’m guilty of both), nails will only be as good as we practiced at home as teens, eyebrows will be fainter or fuzzier, lips smaller, foreheads creased, body hair…there. (Sorry. Teen DYI training will help here too). And honestly, all that weirdly fills me with relief because I personally prefer how adults looked when I was growing up (barring 80’s hairstyles and fashion). There is something sweet in a mass acknowledgement of each other’s imperfections and to be honest, who cares! There are people suffering and dying before, during, unrelated and due to the Corona Virus.
Some of us staying home will dread how quiet it is being alone, or how loud and chaotic it can get cohabitating (loud flat-mates whether young or old). Either can be claustrophobic. We will notice something in our behavior or in the behavior of those we live with and perhaps love that we never quite saw before (do my kids really pick their nose this often? Why do I always have my hands on my face so close to my mouth?) It may be endearing or enraging.
Either way, the fact that I am noticing is enough…it’s a start. It is giving me the chance to practice a well-known mantra that was hanging in my house growing up for years. It said: “God give me the strength to change the things I can, accept the things I can’t; and the wisdom to know the difference.” I stared at that print blankly a lot. I would do a double-take of it monthly and as the years passed and I grew taller (until I didn’t, circa 1991), wiser and even wider, I somehow stopped noticing it was there. Then, one day, I walked past it and something clicked! I retracted and walked back to have a real look and finally I realised that I got it! It was a big Ah! moment. Ever since, it has been a mantra I have found very hard to practice. I am still trying.
Some of us staying home will have to re-think our priorities or how we have been doing things so far. Whether it’s something as practical as how we clean our space, to how we deal with our children’s tantrums or how we manage our time. The thing is that this “collective wheel of imagined expectations” had me spinning myself a bit too quick and spreading myself a bit too thin. Whether it was the pressure to juggle, multi-task, standout, fit in, be one way or the other; whether its external or internal, the pressure was palpable and a marathon that was being run is now an opportunity to sit and be still. And there is a lot to be gained from stillness it turns out. I get that now. It’s a key step toward implementing the mantra that was up on my parents’ wall!
I always struggled with stillness. Physical stillness that is very much a manifestation of constant mental and emotional jittering. Motherhood has beaten physical stillness into me. To be there and be present and to stay there and stay present. God, spending two hours in the same position as baby napped on me or next to a crib because toddler finally slept, really taught me the stillness lesson. But, while my body knows how to do it now, my heart and my head still wander. This self-imposed, Corona induced, home-stay has made me aware that those whose stillness manifests inside are able to take part in a riot without losing their cool. I am still trying.
So far, this last week has felt like only a series of fails. Failing to hold certain boundaries (ironic, I’m aware), failing at certain relationships, chores, schedules, promises, tempers and much more.
But! All is not lost. I have found that growing up in the 80s and 90s in Jordan has done nothing if not prepared me for constricting my life to a home-garden-home only routine. It even feels a lot like exam time circa IGCSE and IB phases. Restricted food choices, days spent being bored, lots of self-discipline required to get work done and at the same time remember to self-care, having a social life that only spans long phone conversations with old friends (ok now they’re very short and kids are screaming), being bored and finding humor in the silliest things: what once was a skim of Teen Magazine is now a scroll on Instagram.
So, if like me, you’ve lost your way a little, don’t worry! Come, join me in the panic corner, recognise what’s scaring you the most then get a grip, breathe and try to be still. This tough time we are having is nothing compared to the real stuff others are having to deal with. But even so, if this is proving to be a hard time for you, TVs, WIFI and all, so be it. Join my corner. This time may just teach us the two most essential lessons we are told to teach our children from a very young age: “You can handle this because you’re enough.” And “boredom is the best trigger for creativity.”
So yes. I am throwing some of the crap I share on Insta-stories back in my own face and saying: Let’s do this. We are privileged that we get to at least try because, fact is, we need each other to be clean (and woke), literally and metaphorically, for the world to sort it’s self out. So stay home, wash your hands, observe, prioritise, get bored, and be still because you can and because it will make a difference.