For the past six months or so I have felt fairly disengaged with big issues that are important to me – climate change, politics, activism. Mostly, I think it’s because I’ve been busy growing a human and wrapping my head around the idea that come August, there will be a new baby in our lives. It’s an emotional process that changes constantly and takes away from the energy I have to think about other big things happening in life. Not ideal, but also not forever. More recently, the COVID-19 situation has raised new questions about big issues in life and while I haven’t had a lot of brain space to engage in these either, the dots between this pregnancy, this period of isolation and the possibilities of what’s to come are starting to connect.
I think one thing I underestimated about being pregnant is the discomfort of the unknown ahead. Truthfully, we don’t really have an idea of what our lives will look like after this. I know they will change completely and forever, but I can’t look forward into that new world and catch a glimpse of who we are or who I’ll find there. I can’t know how I’ll feel, how I’ll cope or how my relationships will change. I like to think I know some fundamentals about myself, but when everything else changes how much can I count on those things staying the same?
Now, granted, no one knows these things about the future. But rarely are there catalysts in life like this, that trigger a change and then…just stick around. This is the kind of change that untethers you from what you knew and bounces you sky high, but then gravity forgets to kick in bring things back to reality. Instead, the uncertainly continues and you are forced to let go and float for a bit, trusting that things will find their way back to a kind of ‘normal’. From the outside, I guess I saw having a baby as the point where everything changes, while pregnancy was all about time to prepare for the real thing. I’m sure this is true for the most part, but I wasn’t expecting how much change and adjustment would come from the very start of these nine months. How quickly my sense of all things self and normal would start to shift.
Isolation and reflections
I’m finding #isolife to be a bit of a roller coaster. On the one hand, time at home to rest, take things easy, to nest and prepare is exactly what I need right now. On the other hand, time with friends and family and people who are going through similar changes in life – time to build my community – is exactly what I need right now. And isn’t this how everyone is feeling? This pull in all directions: grief and sadness for our everyday lives, joy in time spent with loved ones (at least those of us lucky enough to live with loved ones), inspiration for reshaping our lifestyles and brushing up on long lost passions, frustration and a general listlessnessfrom the total lack of control and choice in this situation. For me, already in a time of adjustment away from the life I knew, the COVID-19 situation has been a whole new level of unknowns to add to the growing pile.
A few days ago, the reality that this could be our new ‘normal’ for months to come finally hit me. I cried and mourned the unspoken hopes and expectations and the false notion of control I’d crafted to get me through this pregnancy and beyond. I cried, thinking that in a few weeks when my neighbour gives birth, I can’t visit to share her joy and bring her love and supplies and company and all of things every new mother deserves. I cried, thinking that if things continue this way, the first days and weeks and months of parenthood could be spent without our friends and families surrounding us. I cried, thinking of the last shreds of our ‘normal’ (pre-baby) lives being stripped away prematurely, leaving us without a chance to celebrate, without birthing classes, without the chance to enjoy our adult time with friends, whatever it is that we wanted to do! (All of these are selfish, small things in the scheme of things I really do know that, but sometimes we all just need a good cry and it’s ok to feel sad for your own selfish, small griefs.)
This weekend, I’ve come back to feeling grateful for time to reconnect with things that are often pushed aside in our busy lives. Only recently, I was reflecting how much things have changed for me since returning to full time work nearly 2 years ago. This time 2 years ago, I was still living in the Tiny House. I was working three days a week and my days were filled with cooking, growing food, caring for my family, caring for myself, writing and being active in the community. These were the things that got me up every day, put a smile on my face and fed my soul. My life is just as full these days, in just as many wonderful ways – but it’s also very different. We bought a regular sized house and moved out of the tiny. We haven’t had a chance to build a veggie garden in our new place yet. We don’t have as much time for cooking or preparing our own food and between working at our jobs, on our home and making time to see family and friends, we aren’t as careful with managing our resources and footprint as I might’ve been in the tiny. The privileged luxuries of unlimited resources are hard to resist when your life is dominated by something that focuses all of your energies elsewhere (ie full time work).
I reflected on the reinforcing nature of this lifestyle. I know that gardening, cooking, creating and being outside are the things that ground me and make me feel most like myself. And yet I could see that the less time I spent doing these things, the less I craved them and the less they became a feature of my daily life. I was feeling less connected to my food and my lifestyle and my community than I did two years ago. And then, COVID-19 came along and stopped the train. While I am very fortunate to still be working during this time of crisis for so many, everything else that took up time is on pause. Our jam-packed weekends, our daily commute, our catch ups and weekly events are all on hold indefinitely. Now, I have time in the morning, evening and on the weekends and I’m spending it gardening, cooking, creating and being outside (to a lesser degree than I’d like, but still outside!). I can’t help but reflect on the timing for such a completely unpredicted situation that has flipped everything on its head. Both in relation to my recent reflections about the shift in our lifestyle generally, but also in this time of transition and reflection about how our lives will change as parents and what things will look like for me when I’m not working in an office job.
COVID-19 and moving forward
You know I’ve heard a lot of thoughts and ideas about this whole situation – that it’s Mother Nature’s answer to the plague of humanity, that technology is to blame, politics are to blame, our broken system is to blame. Maybe all or none of it is true. I haven’t really thought about the causes of it too much (you know, between all the crying and the baking and walking our dog three times a day). But I have been thinking a lot about what it means, on an everyday level and at a broader level for our communities, our country and for the world. I think what matters is that it is an opportunity we’ve never had before. This article that has been shared a few times in that last few days probably says it better than I can:
‘What the crisis has given us is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see ourselves and our country in the plainest of views. At no other time, ever in our lives, have we gotten the opportunity to see what would happen if the world simply stopped. Here it is. We’re in it.
(There’s a lot more I wanted to include here but you should just go and read the article.) I think this is true on a macro level, absolutely. It’s a lot to think about and I don’t think anyone has the answers. But the very least we can do is start by looking at ourselves, our daily lives and using this time to get ahead of the race and a little bit closer to ourselves. It’s a sobering, challenging time for everyone and my heart goes out to all of those who are not just feeling the effects of this social isolation but are facing additional uncertainty and stress due to financial, health or other worries too. The fallout from this, and so soon after the bushfires, will be felt for a long time to come. We have a lot to consider when we walk out of this crisis and I’m grateful, in my own way, for the chance to pause and reflect.
The little things
I don’t have a take away message here as such, I just wanted to put this down somewhere. To find some way to look at the whole strange picture, and tie together such an unexpected tapestry of feelings and events. To find some kind of anchor during all this and maybe to connect with others who are feeling the same way. I’m coming back to the little things for now; the things that ground me in a time of uncertainty. Those things bring me small joys amidst the unknown. Thinking about the bigger stuff – our government, our society, how we will all recover from this, whether we will and in what way…it’s hard while we’re still in the middle of the ups and downs of right now. We can’t block it out, we mustn’t lose sight of what we want to rebuild, because opportunities for change this big don’t wait forever. But it’s also okay to take time out to focus on the little things that get us through each day. In my own way, I’m processing and finding my bearing in the best way I can. It’s not much, but in the end, maybe the little things are everything.
Big thanks to Jaccob McKay for the wonderful new photos of Tiny go Lightly!