Friday, September 18, 2020

A Relocation and a Reset

Holy shit, 2020.  

My last post was in April, and it was hopeful.  I take that back - not hopeful, but bittersweet.  Writing about the things that I miss and yearning for normalcy again.  Dreaming about a return to my gym and throwing a massive party and going to concerts.  At that point, in April, if you would have told me where I would be today, I never would have believed you.  

I don't yearn for those things so much anymore, I guess because they feel so out of reach.  Concerts?  Large parties?  Crowded indoor group fitness classes?  I don't even consider it, perhaps because its too painful.  I've learned in the past few months not to think too much beyond the short term, and those things are so far off that it seems futile to consider them.  So I don't.  

Instead, over the past months, I've been surviving on a week to week basis.  And in retrospect, my time in quarantine wasn't half bad.  In April, I formed a "quaranteam" with two other families, and we all saw each other multiple times a week.  We had a lot of fun, actually.  We played trivial pursuit and made cocktails and ended the night with dance fests.  In May, we rented a house on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and had what felt like a legitimate vacation.  

At the end of June, we relocated to our home in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, and it was a godsend.  The air was clean, the vistas were beautiful, and it felt as close to normal as possible for these times.  Absent constant mask wearing, the summer felt like many other summers - we had visitors and ate oysters and went to the beach and dined outdoors.  The covid numbers remained extreme low (there have only been 7 cases of covid in Wellfleet since the pandemic began).  It was a perfect escape, and escape it was.  Because looming in my mind all summer was a return to what - normal?  Who knew what we would be returning to?  I started the summer hopeful that the fall would look similar to our regular routine, with some adjustments of course.  Kids in school, with masks.  Zoom gym classes.  Socially distant get togethers.  Something, anything, better than the spring.  Because as much "fun" as I've managed to have since March, it wasn't all butterflies and rainbows. 

Home schooling could not have been worse.  I decided to retire my youngest from kindergarten in April, and he spent much of the rest of the school year on screens while I tended to my older ones.  My middle child ghosted school for a week, unbeknownst to me until I received an email from the teacher.  My oldest one had a series of meltdowns and panic attacks, and what was I to tell him?  Sitting on a computer for 6+ hours a day alone in your room in 5th grade is not okay.  And when he would demand to know when things would be normal again, I had no answer for him.  

In April, our dog Cous died.  Those that know me know that she was a constant thorn in my side, but I loved her all the same.  She had been declining for months, but it was still a shock when it became apparent that we had to put her down.  Because of covid, only one person could accompany her to the vet, and that person was me.  It was a surreal, spiritual, eye opening, devastating experience watching her die in my arms.  To be alive one second and dead the next - how does that happen?  I had a brief existential crisis, which was only partially saved by getting a puppy 10 days later, that we had reserved at the beginning of quarantine before Cous's health had declined.

Our last picture together - April 26, 2020.  (And yes I had pink hair)

In June, before we left for Cape Cod, the world started opening up a bit more.  And with that came some crippling anxiety.  What's okay to do?  What's not?  Where is the fine line between paranoia and appropriate caution?  I really grappled with how to live, and sometimes, my choices left me with regret and anxiety and the feeling that my throat was scratchy and I must have contracted covid.  My parents canceled their trips to the Cape, and still remain in isolation - we haven't seen them since December.  My best friend aborted her trip to visit us after her entire family actually contracted covid (they are all fine).  I broke my big toe mid-summer and stopped working out.  And then, in mid- August, our school made the announcement that they would not be going back for in person instruction in September.  

This was a gut punch, and a reminder that the world was still turned upside down, even if I was living in denial in the impervious enclave of Wellfleet.  And even though I had thought about it several times during the summer, that day I first said it out loud to my husband - that maybe we should relocate here, where the elementary school is going back full time in person - it seemed surreal.  For how long?  For the fall?  For the year?  Who knows.  Like I said, I think in short terms now.  

It seemed like a crazy proposal.  Because for a long time, my husband and I have been on a pretty predictable course of life.  He works, I pick the kids up from school, we take scheduled vacations according to the school calendar, we have a regular Saturday night babysitter - rinse and repeat.  A couple of years ago, if you would have asked me where I would be in a year, I could have told you with certainty, and I would have been right.  So to do something new again - enter an unknown, uncomfortable, uncertain scenario?  I haven't done that in a long, long time.  

But here we are.  In Wellfleet.  Two of my kids started at the local elementary school two days ago. My older one is in the room next to me as I type, doing distance learning.  And I'm still in a bit of shock.  

I tried to frame coming here as being an adventure, and in a way, it is.  Relocating to a small town where we know no one?  I mean, it's definitely different!  The Wellfleet off season is not the Wellfleet I know from the summer.  The K-5 elementary school has 86 students (and only one class per grade).  The restaurants are starting to close down.  The local population in the winter is approximately 3000 people.  It's going to get cold.  And dark.  And we are here alone - no family, no friends (as of yet).  

But I think I need this.  We need this.  

Over the past six months, even though we've been having our fair share of fun, it was mostly out of the need to distract from reality.  There was a lot of self medicating going on, and I will fully admit I've been drinking and eating way too much.  My kids have been on screens more hours than I'm willing to share, and we've eaten take out for almost every meal.  Bed times became non-existent.  My husband and I lost each other a bit.  My life became a series of diversions.  What can I do to forget what is really going on?  I became quite good at this, if I do say so myself.

But here in Wellfleet, in the off season, there are much fewer distractions.  No friends, no trips, very few take out options (and soon to be none).   I'm on day 5 of a Whole 30 and have cut out alcohol.  I'm back to exercising.  I've started cooking. Here I am writing another blog post!  And for the first time since March 13, we are getting into a routine.  I get to drop two of my kids off at school, and pick them up.  My older son follows a similar schedule, and around 3pm, when we all regroup, the kids get one hour to be on a screen and that's it.  We eat at home.  We go to bed.  And every night, I'm filled with gratitude that we are all healthy, that we are all together, and that we are so fortunate to have the options we have.  

I'm thankful for this reset.

When will we go back "home"?  When will things be "normal"?  I don't know.  Nobody does.  I've tried to embrace and lean into the uncertainty, because that's what 2020 is about.  Uncertainty, anxiety, angst, dread, and above all, perserverance.  Here's to rolling with the punches and facing it head on, for who knows how long.

3 comments:

  1. Shannon, I miss you terribly. Let's plan a (g-d forbid) Zoom date or phone call or something!

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  2. I love that you are getting to live like a local in a place you love so much. I can’t wait to hear about it and hope you have the time and energy to write about it. And also, you can sign up for my recipe membership now that you have to cook! 😜

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  3. I can relate to everything you wrote. Hopefully you feel better having written it all down. I know that when I feel the stress, it helps me to write it out in my blog. We are in lockdown again in Israel, but it feels easier to be in a new place for all of this because everything is new and I didn't have a stable routine. We still don't know what will happen next and I am learning to be ok with that.

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