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A few weeks ago, while wrapping up my busiest season of work and kids’ soccer, someone unsuccessfully attempted to break into my car, damaging the door handle such that my ability to get into my car became unreliable (now fixed). Soon after, my work computer crashed and was unable to get past the log-in screen (still not fixed). I wondered if these were signs of the times — with systems breaking down around me, am I still expected to keep functioning at the same level of productivity?

Two years in, and we are in a much better place than we have been before in terms of the pandemic, at least here in the U.S. And yet to be honest, things to continue to feel a bit apocalyptic. Supply chain shortages and raging inflation, war in Europe, the current state of SCOTUS — all of these things (in addition to many problems that were already evident) seem ominous.

Still, as I’ve written before, it’s essential to maintain hope. Maybe things are especially bad now, but maybe also this feeling of being on the edge of apocalypse is in fact part of the human experience. The bubonic plague is thought to have killed about half of the world’s population in the fifth century, and continued to be a major problem in Europe for centuries to come, finally winding down late in the 17th century. World War I was supposed to be the war to end all wars, and then it was followed closely on the heels by the horrors of WWII. We continue to grapple with disease and war, and now we’ve added the threat that might finally do us in, human-caused climate change.

I’m sorry, perhaps that doesn’t sound hopeful. I mean only to say that the fragility of human life and civilization is not new. Still, bearing witness to the fracturing of our society doesn’t feel very good.

One of the current crises in our country right now is a baby formula shortage. While I acknowledge this is a serious problem and have nothing but empathy for the many families who are affected by this, I also have to ask — how did the human race survive before the 1950s, when modern baby formula was invented? This seems to be a problem in large part caused by the marketing machine of the formula companies that have for years convinced new parents that formula is more convenient than breastfeeding. Yes — some women cannot breastfeed for various reasons, and some need to supplement with formula because of low milk supply, but those numbers should be much lower than they are. I had a very challenging time with breastfeeding my first child, but I was determined to be successful and ultimately breastfed both of my children for two years. I can imagine other moms unable to cope with a similar (or more challenging) situation and would never want to shame anyone for choosing or needing to use formula. But — breastmilk is far healthier than formula AND free, and should certainly be the preferred option in the first six months of a baby’s life. To be clear, if you are in need of infant formula during this time you should consult with your pediatrician and not follow Internet recipes for making formula at home.

The baby formula shortage will be resolved, but some of our other problems are here to stay. How to stay grounded and hopeful in times that may or may not be turning more and more dystopian? For me I’ve worked on strategies to help myself stay resilient throughout the pandemic and I will need to continue relying on them in the months and years to come. These include: exercise, healthy food, prayer & meditation, journaling, practicing gratitude, counseling, engaging in meaningful work, and being a part of a faith community. And perhaps, being okay with being less productive at times. We’ve been bad Cub Scout participants, for instance. What helps you stay grounded in these unpredictable times?

Here we are, eight months into the pandemic and Oregon is entering another lockdown. I’ve never been superstitious about Friday the 13th, but it strikes me that our schools originally shutdown on Friday March 13th and have not yet reopened. Then last week, on Friday November 13, Governor Brown announced another set of lockdowns for a “two week pause.” Seeing how the last Friday the 13th lockdown announcement turned out, I can only surmise that our two-week pause will turn into a two-month pause, easing up slowly as a vaccine begins to roll out for essential health care workers.

Either way, it doesn’t affect me much as I haven’t been participating in any of the activities that are now banned, such as eating at restaurants — or socializing with groups of more than 6 people. No, the only piece of lockdown that significantly affects me is the ongoing school closure. With COVID numbers rising exponentially, this is not likely to change anytime soon, obvi.

We are entering the worst phase of the pandemic, but I do feel like we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m feeling optimistic that my children’s schools will reopen in a hybrid model this spring as vaccines become available. Perhaps by next fall, life will be more or less back to normal. Seeing this light at the end of the tunnel puts me in a much better psychological space than I was last spring.

The school closures have been the aspect of this pandemic that’s been most unbearable for me personally, but at this point we’re in a routine with online school and it’s going okay. Online school now provides us with a fair amount of structure, something we didn’t have from March 13 until school began in late September.

Something that’s been surprising for me is that I haven’t particularly struggled with feeling isolated during this pandemic. Probably because I have a very busy and chatty household! Emphasis on the chatty, my children literally will not stop talking. I also see my parents regularly as we swap Paul back-and-forth (which is a necessity for my survival). But I’m surprised at how connected I still feel to friends just through occasional texts, phone calls, zooms, and rare outdoor in-person visits.

Maybe another way to look at it is, I was already used to being isolated in my life as a mom. Now most people are experiencing some form of isolation, so I’m less alone now compared to everyone else. Either way though, quarantine doesn’t have to be a completely lonely time, and you can get a lot of connection with others just through a simple phone call.

Since my firstborn was a few months old, getting out of the house has been my number one survival strategy as a mom. I was constantly planning outings in an effort to avoid feeling depressed and isolated. Frankly, I was not cut out for being a stay-at-home mom. During the years I wasn’t working, I lamented my lack of career, and whenever I was working I lamented that my career-trajectory was not “successful” enough. Now I find my world has flipped, staying at home is now a survival strategy, and the chronic stress of trying to manage work and parenting during the pandemic has proved beyond my capacity to manage.

I look forward to the time when schools reopen and I can slowly piece my life back together. Hopefully many of us will have grown stronger and gotten to know ourselves better through this process. For one, I know that I need to be pursuing my own goals. Living my life in service to my family is pretty much a necessity for this season, but in the long term I need to balance this with my own life.

“The greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived life of its parents.” — Carl Jung

I have some big career decisions to think about, like whether or not to pursue a return to teaching. And if I don’t want to return to teaching, what are my long-term goals? And what are my goals with writing? Am I content with just writing this blog where I process my thoughts for a small audience of friends and family? Or do I actually want to pursue writing for a larger audience?

Meanwhile, we just need to survive this winter. I think one of our regular activities during semi-decent weather will be family soccer practice. We took the kids yesterday morning to practice soccer on a turf field near our house, and Paul invented the “owl swoop” wherein he runs and dribbles in a large arc before swooping into make a goal.

We also might buy a fire pit for some socially distant outdoor gatherings. And I’m reading Lord of the Rings aloud to Marie. What are your plans to get through this hardest of winters?