“Don’t feel the need to be super productive.”
“You’re doing great, you don’t have to excel at homeschooling.”
“Set a schedule.”
These are some of the comments, memes, and notes I’ve digested (amongst so much more) over the last few days. One worrisome day, turned into an avalanche of a week. I felt punched in the face, and, quite literally, ill. The stress of it all got to me, and my body and mind overdosed on information.
Truthfully, I’ve gone through an intense range of emotions. I suspect tomorrow will bring its own. It’ll be brand new, decorated, and on a silver platter, when I roll over and realize that this is our new reality. I wish I was steadfast in my position on this. That yes, I know joy is something we all need to try to harness in such globally trying times. But equally, the simple struggles that many people–parents–will face in this crisis, day-in and day-out, isn’t something I can ignore either.
In terms of priorities, my clothes and my own self have been last on the stack. As things play out, it will be harder to fight for these things, through the waves of these uncharted waters. But today, when I woke up, I felt different. I thought, if you just try this, then it may make a difference in how you approach each day.
This morning, despite our already made schedule that allows for school for the kids and work for me, I decided to get ready as if the city streets were still fluttering by. As if, upon exiting my apartment, I’d rub elbow-to-elbow and body-to-body. Cheeks kissed and hugs squeezed. Things I once cursed, but, in day four of self isolation, truly miss. Yes, while welcoming less traffic and less fuss, the residual eeriness of New York right now is remarkable. Not magical. Not wonderful. Just powerfully different.
I keep thinking about the stories I’ll share with my children one day about this particular time. My mind, for a form of release, likes to float me there. What stories they may one-day share about me during this time. Surely they’ll say that I was frustrated and, at times, sad and angry. Yet I hope they also will say that I did it well. I tried. I made the days feel as normal as I could. For us, much of that (for better or worse) is tied to getting dressed.
No one’s going to see you, yet, you see yourself. I’ve swallowed many Instagram stories in the last 72 hours, and I know that it is very likely I’ll continue to see more of the intimate crusts of people’s homes as we all yearn for connection. And what we we wear when no one is looking is just as important. The puzzle of life is that the little things so often become the means of measuring how we handled a bigger thing.
Just like singing the days of the week so Oak has a sense of time to ward off the ungrounded nature of endless hours and days in the same scenery, I’ve thought a lot about what I could do for me that may trigger much of the same. There are songs, the sun, and noticing the way the petals open up more and more each day. But there is also: clothes. The roll of a body. The red-painted toes on the wood. The shoes that cover the feet. And the lipstick that pops the smile. It is the scarf that ties the hair. And the bracelets that jingle as we scribble in our nature books.
Why get dressed when no one’s going to see you? Well, because everything, every body in you, will see you. Somehow, dressing less for others’ gazes and more for the molecules of our selves, to get over the curve of whatever this is, invigorates. It infuses with the vigor we need to make it through.
When River and Oak took one of their last swim classes two weeks ago, Oak refused to jump in because he was deeply upset about me forgetting his goggles. He was unsatisfied when the lifeguard found a pair for him to borrow. But eventually, toward the very end of the class, when coaxed in with some matter-of-fact talking and a dose of silliness, he plunged in. His face above water. His wet suit heavy, the seams of cobalt blue contrasting with the pool water. I sat hunched over, knees to my chest, cheering as if he were a professional, a master.
When considering all the things on the table right now, and the simplicity of getting dressed, I think of that. A plunge into the deep unknown. And yet, trusting that with your face right above the ripples, people cheering us on, we’ll be able to do it.
Dressing isn’t that deep. But maybe in a world where everything truly is right this minute, maybe, it simply needs to be.
Here’s what I’m wearing above:
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