Soul & Steady
I conceived of this website before the impact of COVID-19 hit. The idea came to me when I realized I wanted more flexibility at work. I also wanted more time for my family and myself. Ultimately, I wanted to restructure my job so I could “take my workload to zero” if my family needed me. I put those words in quotes because that is what I remember saying as I negotiated for a work situation that suited me — and my family. Of course, I had no idea that the impact of COVID-19 was just around the corner. I could, however, imagine my children needing their parents. Since my husband was in the military and we had been through deployments, I knew it would fall on me.
The compromise that was offered was very generous but didn’t allow me the flexibility I was wanting. So, after a lot of struggle, I decided to quit.
During this internal struggle, I had talked to another mom while our children were at soccer practice. She had previously talked about spending the weekend at their beach house and taking out their boat. This time, the conversation was much different. She said, “I have a confession. I’m so busy that none of my kids have ever been to a dentist.” Her oldest child was around 8 years old.
On one hand, I was really surprised. On the other hand, I knew the struggle because my own children hadn’t regularly seen a dentist in the three prior years. I knew what it was like to have so much to take care of that the urgent tasks kept getting put in front of the important ones. She opened up about the stress she and her husband were under at their full-time jobs. From the outside, they were living the American Dream. From the inside, it was a nightmare of constant stress and juggling work and family demands.
This conversation had become the norm. The more I talked to families, the more I realized just how hard parents worked to make ends meet. Most of my friends were always on the go. Most people I knew were burned out. The part of me that woke up gasping for air in the middle of the night recognized myself in their sunken eyes.
My husband and I started thinking about what we wanted and how to get it. We quickly decided we wanted and needed more time to ourselves, with each other, and with our children.
We made it happen. Before the impact of COVID-19, we moved across the country so he could work at a job that has an excellent schedule. No commutes! He gets a three-day weekend every other week. He can come home for lunch. He is home by 5 most days.
No longer working evenings and weekends, I had the liberty of creating the work that I wanted. I ended up taking my time because we were adjusting to our new life. We enjoyed spending a lot of time together as a family before school started. Then, I thought I would take a few months to help them adjust to school while I start getting to know the community. Then, I set to work.
Soon after returning from a work trip where I led play therapy workshops in Jamaica, I started preparing more workshops. I also started to write. My return-to-work plans were thwarted. We received an email at the end of a school week that our district was switching to an online platform. COVID-19 was spreading. I had already prepared for a potential shelter-in-place order. I was ready for the impact of COVID-19. I dropped everything so I could be there for the children.
I also had a hunch that my husband would deploy to New York City with the Air Force Reserves to help fight COVID-19. “We both need to be ready for you to leave in two weeks,” I said to him. He got the call exactly two weeks later. Less than 12 hours after the call, I drove him to the base and said goodbye.
Once again, I found myself parenting on my own. I had been through deployments before. One was for seven months while I worked full time, including evenings and weekends, and the children were out of school for the summer. This one was harder. It was more challenging because I didn’t know when he would be coming home, I had no social support system, no family nearby, no neighbor friends to surprise me with dinner, no place to go to get to a moment alone, and my children were struggling. My teen was developmentally stifled. He had gone from leaving for school at 6:30 AM and returning home at 5:30 PM to being home with us all day long. They all were missing friends at school, music lessons, and martial arts and boxing classes.
After my husband returned from deployment, we finally found a house we liked (love, actually). We bought it and moved in. Due to the nature of his work and promotions (since COVID-19 while I pulled back at work to care for family and home, he has received three promotions and at least one award … that’s a blog post for another time), he started working more. I set up the home and got it ready for another year of online school.
This year has been challenging. When the children switched to virtual school last year, they at least had relationships with their teachers. Not this year. It’s been harder in many ways, especially for my 7-year-old, who has yet to sit through a full day of online instruction.
The impact of COVID-19, less than a year after a cross-country move away from family and friends, has taken a toll on my children. That toll includes weight gain, anxiety, and depression. We’ve worked through most of these issues and are in a flow now, but I don’t know how we could have done this if I worked full time. I am glad I listened to my intuition.
Originally, I intended to create Soul and Steady as a resource to help more women explore what they needed to feel connected with what really matters. As the pandemic impacted families and forced them to make changes and to cut back on or even to let go of their work altogether, I wondered what this website would become. I let it percolate … then, inspiration started to flow.
Throughout these transitions (to the West Coast, settling in, sheltering at home due to the pandemic, coping with the open-ended deployment, buying a house, moving again, and adjusting to virtual school 2.0), I pulled back. I went inside. Hibernated. I let deadlines come and go like waves. I felt the shadows of my dreams accumulate like sand on a deserted island.
Truthfully, though, I was healing through both a crisis of narrative and a crisis of meaning while the world demanded I stretch to hold space for my family’s needs. No wonder I wasn’t creating! While I couldn’t imagine being in a creative space again, I trusted I would find it. I’ve witnessed healing before. So, I permitted myself to let go of everything and focus on myself and my family. I let go of doing and focused on being. Additionally, I made time for prayer, walking, yoga, and reading.
The fog started to clear in December. I noticed because I started to write again. The fog cleared out on Thursday. Ever since then, I’ve been creating. I don’t have a plan; I don’t think ahead. Instead, I make time and space for creating at the moment, and I get into a flow.
The twin crises of narrative and meaning unwound the story I had in my mind of who I was. And that was before the pandemic. The impact of COVID-19 exacerbated both crises. It stripped away my social buffers. I didn’t have many, but the ones I had really mattered to me (Wednesday night yoga, for example, was a physically and spiritually intense experience wrapped in a hug. It renewed me.).
Since the pandemic, some days, all I did was shift focus from one child to another as they navigated and exploded in intense feelings. There were days I couldn’t get through a recipe without adding the wrong amount of ingredients or burning the meal altogether. I’ve burned soooo many pancakes. I’d forget what I was doing or get called away. Oh, and the dishes that we’ve all broken. Not on purpose, just from being so distracted or not quite being present.
Sometime in December, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I started to grieve. I took time to grieve the loss of not seeing my family and friends for so long, the loss of the identity and relationships, the loss of certainty … there’s just been so much to mourn and let go of.
I am feeling again. I feel the pain, and I feel the joy. My feelings and I wander together, hand in hand. They have led me on walks and on wanderings throughout the garden. They’ve helped me figure out where I want to go. Not in life as a whole, rather from moment to moment.
This moment led me here. The previous moment led me to create the seasonal series of experiential workshops I set up for 2021.
I don’t know exactly what form Soul and Steady will take. As I wrote about on this website a couple of years ago, however, I trust that as long as I connect to my soul and keep my pace steady, I will get right where I am meant to be.
I am meant to be here during this time. We were made for these times.
I invite you to journey with me.
Join me for these seasonal experiential workshops:
Limited to 9 participants.
Follow Story Garden — my writing about grief, feelings, and meaning.