210. Shifts and Breaks

I took a Covid swab test today. It felt like the prudent thing, since I’ve been on two road trips recently, and don’t want to be sick and not know it.

It also felt discordant with the resumption of impatient outside life around us. I pulled up at the curb outside the pharmacy and called the store to let them know I was there, per instructions. I have tested at this site before, so knew the drill. It’s a busy and cramped parking lot, and a guy who had to navigate carefully past my car turned to glare and shake his head at me. I looked like I was pulled over in a ridiculous place just to chat on the phone. Whatever, man, I thought, and performed the disgusting nasal swab. Let us pray it’s negative.

This sense of rushing and that people are done with summoning up patience is prevalent again. The thing I dislike the most about living in New Jersey. Driving is a video game again. I can no longer stick my AirPods in my ears to go for a walk because lots of our townsfolk are no longer trying to avoid sidewalk contact, and I don’t want to be startled by them and their dogs. Pretty much whoever didn’t already have a dog now has one, so everywhere is teeming with them, and walks are a complex endeavor for someone like me who doesn’t want to be around them. Covid precautions gave me a delightful break from sidewalk intrusions, but now I am the one who has to watch my back, cross the street, and generally keep moving away. So bye bye podcast accompaniment. It’s not a huge deal, but in a period of giving up so many simple pleasures, it’s another one I’ve had to relinquish.

There are so many realities. Intense caregiving has made it so we are always aware of that. But everyone has felt it for nearly two years now. On a recent respite retreat that I organized and went on with some other mom friends, we heard incredulity in one form or another from random strangers. The idea that we (people doing complex parenting) would think of ourselves as special enough to need respite raised some brows. “Everyone is tired,” we were told intermittently. Indeed. And yet, a whole national non profit exists to give us caregivers breaks. 😉

And our situations ARE special. Some of the attendees have relatively simpler situations, and are able to take less drastic-feeling breaks. Sleep a full night. Some of us cannot. I fall into the latter category. It is not a cry for help, a complaint, or a denigration of my child to plan such getaways. He knows I love him. Explaining why someone like me might need a break is silly, and I won’t waste my time doing it.

I’ve been making plans to meet with friends individually during the holidays, and am looking forward to those plans. I’m not ready for group gatherings; they still feel germy and risky. I am also looking longingly at a pile of books on my desk, and hoping to read at least a couple of them. But if that doesn’t happen, that’s just because holidays and the loss of routine can be hard on A, and we count the days till they are over, and he can go happily back to school. In the meantime, we hug and rough house a lot, he bops to his favorite songs, goes for drives with his dad, and we cat nap as we can.

I hope those of you with complex parenting will reach out and talk to someone if you need it. I know not all of us have judgment free zones. And I get why it’s often easier to self isolate. If you choose floating in silence, I understand that too. If you celebrate the holidays that fall during this time, I hope your extended families offer you and your children room to exist in your reality as-is. And if not, I hope you feel free to leave. Love and acceptance are not found everywhere, but they are what we deserve. Unstintingly. Without caveats. And not in some nebulous, endlessly deferred paradise which we might someday earn through the saintly sufferings of the present.


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