So, it turns out we’re all human.
Without hair salons, many of us are showing our “true colors” after just a few weeks. With nowhere to go, many are questioning their need for non-drawstring pants. And, we are really getting up close and personal with each other’s homes and families through virtual meetings–and it’s not quite the neat and tidy picture many of us have painted on social media prior to this pandemic!
At first, the thought of others having a peek into the chaos that is my life–especially my life with kids home from school–was terrifying! I am used to working from home occasionally, when my kids are out of the house for the day, and the only meaningful difference between remote work and being in the office prior to March, 2020 was the absence of a commute. So, when our office turned entirely remote, I prepared for what I knew–I imagined I would work quietly from my couch or my office, have meetings virtually, and maybe even find time to throw dinner in the oven and hug my kids on one of my breaks. This was going to be great, I thought!
The first day of having all of my kids home was a disaster. Far from the calm, quiet, and productive work-from-home days I was used to, my house was meltdown-central. One kid couldn’t figure out how to print their work, the other couldn’t access the zoom room that the school sent, my youngest missed playing with his friends in person and hated seeing them on a screen instead of in person, and there was food and mess and dishes everywhere.
While I was never the parent who crafted pinterest-worthy activities for my kids or got them to eat vegetables at every meal or do chores, I thought I was doing ok on the parenting front. I made it to most of my kids’ activities, I cooked for them once in a while, and we even played some games together on occasion. I managed to post some really great pictures of happy times to social media, and they were true moments of joy and fun, even if they did leave out the less-than-perfect sibling fights, illness, and otherwise unglamourous parts of my life.
This messy, chaotic, loud, and unstructured post-COVID-19 life is a whole new world for many of us, and there is no hiding it! There are moments that it feels overwhelmingly scary, intensely painful, and unbearably uncertain. And, there are other moments–when I’m outside biking with my kids at 5pm, or helping them paint a picture for their room with no interruptions for hours, or letting them stay up late to watch a movie in my bed on a school night, that I can enjoy the pure, wild chaos that is life with no early busses, no evenings filled with travel to sports games, and, most importantly, very few social expectations.
Perhaps the most interesting piece of this era of “social distancing” is how much closer it has actually brought us to those around us. There is a human connection to others that has emerged that is wholly different from the way we engaged with the world at large as professional, manicured, and tidy people. Everyone is seemingly in the same boat–anxious, scared, sad, overwhelmed–just trying to survive and yet finding moments of intense gratitude for things and people we may have taken for granted in the past.
Instead of posting about our perfectly packaged lives, people are sharing how hard life is right now. I keep wondering–isn’t life always messy? Isn’t it always hard? Maybe it’s challenging in different ways, but life has never really been the picture-perfect snapshots we share out to the world. Now, we are admitting it. We are human. We are doing our best. We are not perfect. Something about this collective admission has brought us closer, even when we cannot actually be together, and it’s freeing.
It has taken a global pandemic for us to admit that our lives are messy, hard, and imperfect all the time, and to accept that we can share that with each other. My hope is that after this is over, humanity, kindness, and connection will emerge as a by-product of our ongoing honesty. Perhaps there will be less stigma, less shame, and less judgement–of ourselves and others.
We all need more love and acceptance as well as more gratitude for the people and things that bring happiness, health, and safety to our lives. Maybe, on erev Pesach, this painful moment can be our escape from the slavery we felt to maintain a lifestyle, or the appearance of a lifestyle, that in reality was devoid of the connection and time we need with loved ones to truly feel imperfectly whole. As Winston Churchill so poignantly said, we should ”never let a good crisis go to waste.”