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It sounds crazy. But in these craziest of times, my life has become … well, a lot more sane.
Looking back at a week in the life of my family not even a month ago, I see our shared Google Calendar — still programmed into my iPhone — bursting at its virtual seams.
The rundown of the week of March 1 included my husband’s five-day business trip and a three-day conference for me. There were several of our daughter’s choir rehearsals and the subsequent performance, her 11th birthday, and her Taekwondo carpool; our 8-year-old son’s sports games and practices; our dog’s vet appointment; two friends’ birthday parties; and three out-of-town visits from loved ones.
What’s not shown that week are the additional things we each managed separately, unseen to the other family members: the finer details of our work and school days, invisibly running in the background from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
It also didn’t include the therapy sessions sprinkled throughout a typical month in our family’s lives — the pauses built into the fray where we could address a constant, hovering sense of existential doom. “We live happy and full lives. Tell me, what could possibly be making us feel so anxious?”
Pre-lockdown, I looked at our teeming calendar as a sign of just that: a happy and full life. But now, after two weeks of our Google Calendar being wiped clean thanks to COVID-19, I see it for what it was: an overload of activity threatening to short-circuit our lives.
The first cancellation was my husband’s business trip that week, postponed due to coronavirus. Following our initial reaction of surprise came a massive wave of relief. It was like a wish being granted. He would be home with us all week. His Sunday afternoon wouldn’t be spent packing. We wouldn’t go five days without being together as a family — something we were getting to do less and less. It was a gift.
As the days went on, I watched in horror as COVID-19 overtook the world — and in awe as my life became freed from its load. Despite the mounting restrictions around what we could do, an internal sense of freedom began growing with each cathartic “delete” of a calendar entry.
And I could see how it was bringing our family together. Social distancing and the eventual lockdown order protected us not just from COVID-19 but also from the endless pressures that were pulling us apart. Our offices closed, and my husband and I both started working from home. When the schools closed, the kids joined us, and we organized our work schedules to spend time with them in shifts. Every meal is now eaten together as a family; every evening, we do something fun — a game, a movie, a walk.
Our children, who used to fight constantly, get along better than ever — probably because they are each now the only other kid in their lives. They have no choice; they’ve got to make it work. My husband and I now have time to just hang out, doing home projects together and giving each other space to take care of ourselves. That didn’t feel possible in a world where every second was spoken for.
I realize we are fortunate to have a lot of things working for us. We haven’t lost our jobs (yet); no one in our family is sick (yet). Our kids are in the coveted “golden age” — old enough to be relatively independent and young enough to think spending time with Mom and Dad is the Best Thing Ever. All these things could change in an instant. And my perspective could change with them.
But for now, I’m walking on the silver lining.
As I sit here writing this, it’s Sunday evening. My husband is on a run, and the kids are in the living room laughing as they watch a movie together before bed. Shoot, I’m writing an article for fun. In our pre-pandemic lives, this is the hour normally reserved for pulling up the Google Calendar and discussing, at length, how to quarterback the daunting week ahead.
But tonight, the calendar sits somewhere in the ether. Blank. Waiting. We have exactly nowhere to be tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that — except here.
We talk about the trappings of modern life — funny how it took actually being trapped to finally feel free.
A native of Lompoc and a UCSB alum, Jessica Rohman is a management consultant living in Berkeley, California.