Alison Bogle is a writer living in Austin with her husband Scott and three children. Her piece originally appeared on Austin Moms and has been reprinted here with permission. Her work can also be found on www.mycontrolexperiment.com.
I’ve been thinking subversive thoughts lately. Things like, "I’m not sure I want this social isolation thing to end." I know it flies against popular sentiment, so I have kept it to myself. My Zoom happy hours are filled with collective day dreams about haircuts and restaurants and lamenting the loss of our old friend: alone time. I participate in those conversations as much as the next person because, I too, feel those things. However, behind the talks about movies and lunch dates, pedicures and walks with friends, for me, there has been another voice, one which gets louder and louder as time goes on, one that might not want this all to end, after all.
Of course I don’t want people to get sick and die. Of course I don’t want people to lose their jobs and to suffer hardship, that goes without saying, I would hope. I want my kids to see their friends -- they get such joy from that. I don’t want my husband to feel so isolated at his desk in our bedroom where he now spends most of his waking and sleeping hours. I’d love to see my extended family again some day. But some part of me has been holding back from cheering for the potential end to this isolation.
- 2December 14, 2020
I’ve tried to understand why news of Texas' reopening gives me feelings of reluctance. I do know that, as hard as this no-time-to-myself homeschooling thing has been, I love that I’ve gotten to see the best of my kids. Before the crisis, when my children got off the school bus, they were tired, hangry and more interested in finding a friend to play with than in connecting with me. Now, we spend their school days together. Sure, on any given day I can be found hiding in my closet or in a corner of the dining room, but we’ve also loved and laughed and learned together.
Before, when my husband got home from work at 6:30 p.m., he was worn out from the long day. I was worn out from my after school activities and from people grumping at me while I tried to make dinner. We got and gave the worst of each other. Now, I see him the same amount of time in the evenings as before -- he’s working hard -- but it’s different. He’s ready to see people and he’s not stressed from the drive home. He also comes out of his home office for snacks and lunch, and we share smaller moments in the day. They don’t add up to much, but they’re usually much more positive than the end-of-day stress-filled moments of “before.” I love it.
Most mornings I walk -- socially distanced -- with a friend who is a fantastic listener and sounding board. We usually talk about the things we miss from the outside world, and about the negative effects of isolation -- so I kept this other voice (the one that cherishes isolation) to myself, until today. Funnily enough, as soon as I told my friend my secret, she said she felt the same way. Like me, she didn't enjoy self-isolation at first, it was an adjustment, but adjust we have (mostly).
We both agreed that we'd like some alone time, and, dear God, a haircut. But, beyond that, we have loved the slower pace. We no longer run ourselves ragged in the car going to sports or Parkour. (We’ve always limited the number of activities our kids could sign up for, but it still adds up.) Saturdays no longer consist of three back-to-back birthday parties. Instead, they’re filled with hikes, reading and just hanging out. My friend pointed out that the mental load of keeping all those plates spinning is gone, and that certainly does bring a huge sense of relief.
As we talked, we also realized that we are both being very intentional about who we are connecting with. It’s a natural outcome of being socially isolated. You don’t set up a Zoom call with acquaintances who aren’t necessarily your speed, and you certainly don’t make it a point to connect with that unkind mom whom you couldn’t help but run into in the school hallway.
This has been a time of really figuring out who we’re truly closest with, and seeking those people out before all others. It’s also been interesting to see how my mood has changed now that I’m not interacting with the people that leave me feeling more drained than built up. It feels good. It’s encouraged me to seek out more of the bucket-filling people when this crisis is over. There have been great women that I’ve met in the last few years that I didn’t get to interact with on more than an acquaintance level because my friendship plate was all filled up -- and maybe not in the most balanced way. Just like the USDA encourages us to fill our plates with more healthy foods than unhealthy ones, when things go back to “normal,” I want to be intentional about making more room at the friendship buffet for the delicious Mongolian beef, and leave the overly greasy noodles that always end up making me mildly nauseous far behind.
Coronavirus has been somewhat of a reset for the world. Air quality is better, in some areas, than it has been in years. The animals are feeling it, too. Without the stress of constant human observation, pandas at the Ocean Park Zoo in Hong Kong have successfully mated for the first time in 10 years. And, the best of humanity shines in the way we’ve been looking out for our friends and neighbors.
And there it is, I guess. My conflicted feelings come from my own personal reset. I have loved having more time to love my babies at their best and not only when they’re depleted. I have loved feeling more available for my husband. I have loved being forced to slow down and to be given a break from the mental load of living life. The challenge for all of us will be to take the things that we’ve learned from this forced reset and apply them to life in the “real world.”
I want to say “no” more often. I want to sit on the couch and read with my kids around me -- something that looks like "doing nothing" but turns out to be everything. Everything that truly matters, that is. Always one to lean towards the sentimental, I feel pulled to it even more now, as I’m confronted with the fragility of life as we know it. The most precious things to me are the ones right within my reach, and I am so grateful that I've gotten this time to hold them tighter.