I had a bizarre experience the other day. I was watching a television show, which admittedly was pretty intense. In the show, a girl was hit by a car. Badly. The way they filmed it made you feel like you were the girl–the camera was right behind her shoulder and moved with her, while she was looking around. Which meant that when she was hit, it was quite shocking. The reaction I had was the strange part though. I screamed and immediately started hyperventilating. I pressed my hands over my heart and couldn’t let go for some time. For the rest of the night, I was crying off and on and couldn’t seem to stop. There was really no reason for this reaction, but in that moment a small part of my brain thought back to that day just over five years ago when I fell and hit my head. It wasn’t that the show reminded me of it in any way, but it brought back that feeling of, “oh no, this is really bad.” To call it a flashback is the only way I can describe it, but more of an emotional one than a literal one.
It’s a Wonderful Life
“It’s a Wonderful Life” has been my favourite holiday movie for quite some time now. I honestly don’t remember the first time I watched it but I cried at the end and still do…every time. I prefer the black and white version but will occasionally throw in the colour version to mix it up. I have it on DVD just in case I miss it on TV. It has become my Christmas Eve tradition: pour a glass of wine, finish any last-minute wrapping, and watch “It’s a Wonderful Life”.
I am thankful for…
This is a very different Thanksgiving. After a brief glimmer of “normal” over the summer, my girls and I are left wanting more: patios, shopping instead of ordering online, and playgrounds to name a few. Now that the school year has begun and cold and flu season is on the horizon, that brief glimmer is fading as quickly as the days are getting shorter.
I want to allow my girls to have playdates, I want to have family gatherings (that aren’t outside and physically distanced), I want to hug people, I would love to go to a concert, or go out dancing. One of my girls desperately wants to go to Chuck E. Cheese. It’s hard for me to reconcile, so I can’t even imagine what it’s like for kids. I feel the heavy weight like someone is sitting on my chest and the almost panic of isolation or quarantine coming.
But today, on Thanksgiving, I am focusing on being grateful. Hopefully, by focusing on the positive today (and moving forward), we can start to change our perspective. I’m thankful that:
- First and foremost, we have our health.
- The schools are open and my girls are back into a routine.
- We have a place to live and food on the table. Through all of this I’ve been able to pay the bills.
- We have some wonderful memories from the summer.
- Technology enables us to still communicate when we can’t visit in person.
- Above all, we have each other, our family and friends.
This Thanksgiving I celebrate with the girls’ immediate caregivers only to respect the COVID-19 guidelines. I will have to get creative, as I have been, about how to make our fall and winter memorable as well. I’m grateful that my girls love being outside which makes all of this easier.
This Thanksgiving should also be a reminder that we can’t take for granted the progress we made over the summer. We can’t let down our guard, we must continue to protect those we love by being careful. And as difficult as it is to do so, remember to be thankful that we have loved ones to protect from this virus.
Where have all the hugs gone?
I am a hugger. When I see friends, I hug them and then I hug them again when I leave. I don’t like fake hugs…you know the kind. Where you barely put your arms around the person and kind of pat them on the shoulders. When I hug, I go all in: arms wrapped around you, big squeeze, cheeks touching. If I care enough to hug you, I care enough to hug you properly.
Since COVID-19, hugs have been in short supply. It’s no longer socially acceptable to hug people (mask or no mask) unless they are in your “bubble”. And even then, you don’t want to hug them in public in case someone sees you and gets all “judgy”.
So where have all the hugs gone? I’ve formulated a working theory. I think the ungiven hugs are stored up in your body, trapped until they can be released. It’s a well-known fact that people need hugs and affection in order to survive. But what happens when you can’t give hugs?
I know there are many reasons, as a 41-year-old woman, that my body might be sore. I sit in front of a computer much of the day, I don’t exercise enough, when I do exercise it’s in spurts and jumps while running after my daughters. But I think my pent up hugs are one source of bodily discomfort. I think it causes strain in your body to keep those hugs inside.
Maybe I’m crazy, but I miss hugs. On the hugging scale, if I’ve missed out on many periodic hugs, can I compensate by hugging one person for a long time? I think the type of hug is also very important. For example, hugs from your children always count for more. Snuggles from a dog or cat are also high on the scale since they don’t ever feel obligated to hug you. I’ve even resorted to sleeping with a teddy bear again just to wrap my arms around something while I fall asleep (sad…or genius?).
I have absolutely no expertise in this matter. I’m not a psychiatrist, I don’t practice physiotherapy or kinesiology, and I certainly haven’t conducted any controlled studies. But remember in a time when hugs are scarce, to hug those in your bubble a little longer and a little tighter. Give a hug to someone who looks like they might need it (as long as you can do so safely). And maybe dig through your childhood things to find your favourite stuffie…or borrow one from your children.
Hugs do your body, mind, and soul a whole bunch of good.
Who has time for self care?!
As if self care wasn’t hard enough before, the pandemic has made it nearly impossible. Flight attendants advise parents to put on their own “oxygen mask” first, otherwise they may be unable to help children or dependents. I believe this to be true, but when you are working, parenting, and homeschooling…there are just not enough hours in the day. Self care becomes sleeping, eating, and showering, if you’re lucky!
Another truth I have heard about self care is that it doesn’t have to take a long time. It can be 5 minutes, 5 hours, or anything in between. This should make it easier for busy parents, but is it feasible to benefit from anything that only takes 5 minutes? I’ve tested this out more than a few times since the pandemic began, not intentionally but out of necessity. I have, on more than one occasion, locked my bedroom door and laid down on my bed, not to sleep but just to close my eyes and have some peace. While 5 minutes doesn’t do much for me, I found that 15 or 20 was useful. It gives me a much-needed “time out” but also allows my twin girls enough time to sort things out on their own. This way, when I emerge from my time out, everyone has moved on from whatever drama drove me to retreat in the first place. And trust me, the percentage of meltdowns by everyone in our house has gone up during COVID-19 isolation.
Maybe you can count this as self care, and maybe not, but it was effective in the moment and there are many things you can do in 15 minutes. At this stage in life, I also feel that I’ve lost track of my own interests to a certain degree. I’ve been focused on kids for the last 6 years, what do I even like to do anymore? Reading is a given, I’ve always loved reading. Some of my other interests have changed though.
Here are some ideas:
- a hot bubble bath (preferably in a deep claw foot tub);
- a cup of tea, coffee, or a cocktail and a book/magazine;
- a short walk, run, or even sitting outside enjoying some sunshine and scenery;
- going for a drive by yourself and listening to music;
- engaging in some intimacy with your spouse/partner or by yourself;
- watching an episode of a grown-up show;
- or a phone/video call with a friend you haven’t talked to in awhile.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but all of these are things that make me feel better!
Since the end of March, I have boycotted “homeschooling”. My girls are 6 and keeping them focused on anything is a challenge. Instead, I have been taking opportunities for learning as they come. I have taught them how to count money, bake cookies, play “go fish”, sew, and a number of other things. A question or a problem arises and we do it together. What I realize now looking back is that this is a concerted effort on my part to incorporate learning. It may not be a 3-hour block, structured on certain subjects, using the online resources that the teachers have provided. But I am taking the time away from work and “normal” parenting to focus on these things. And it’s been challenging but fun. Don’t short-change your efforts during this unusual time–the weight we are all carrying and the accompanying stress needs to be balanced by some much needed self care.
Why don’t we make time for ourselves? Unfortunately, as parents, we often put our kids’ needs above our own and since the younger ages need us frequently, the “to-do” list is never complete. We think that we will get to ourselves once everything else is done, but who are we kidding? If having kids has taught me anything, it’s the that the list keeps growing and you simply have to prioritize the items. So, self care should really be scheduled and prioritized. I still struggle with this…I tend to do it only when my girls are with a family member or when I’m about to lose my *&%$#@!
But what if we taught our kids to engage in self care as well? What if we asked them what activities make them feel calm and happy? What if we schedule time for the whole family to engage in self care, individually if that’s what’s needed? Would everyone will learn to respect each other’s needs and boundaries? It might not be easy at first, but it might also be worth a try…