In a time where movement is restricted and crowds are the new social evil, these days are filled with work and family. I keep busy and tend to the here and now but once the day is done I try to find quiet time that calms my mind. Being at home this much is not normal for me, and I’ve become restless. I’ve become sedentary and still and I don’t like it.
As I approached my midlife, I developed a new found appreciation of household freedom. Things were more in order. I didn’t feel obligated to maintain the same meal schedule as when my kids were home. I enthusiastically dispelled the sense of responsibility I overcultivated as a young mother and enjoyed the ability to stay up late, see friends on a whim, and not cook to please everyone in the house. These BP times (Before Pandemic) supported a more “free to be me” exploration. But not any more. As we have shut our doors, wear our masks and stay close to home, everyone has had to make changes. I now have family who have returned to the nest, as the struggle continues to adapt to our new normal.
I admit, this opportunity to focus on the present and remain healthy and happy has been a blessing. I am working to be more attentive to my relationships. I attend to my self care. I try (but not as successfully) to be more active. The fact that I now assess the quality of my day by the readout of my sleep and steps has shifted me into a new paradigm. For most of us, this pandemic has introduced too many plates to juggle. The perspective I hold on my daily living is now rooted from my home base and how I must pivot to adjust to each new challenge. Pivot has become the new word for me. The discovery of my ability to pivot has strengthened me. It is not just the steps forward I take each day but how I respond to the daily events of the world.
Strangely enough, I find a renewed sense of purpose in this perspective on life. Maybe I’ve been too focused on moving forward, moving fast, moving ahead and beyond this craziness. It’s not sufficient to keep up. Maybe my athletic prowess needs work, as I “dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge”. In fact, demonstrating the best possible pivot might better be served from my preteen fashion modeling class. Each step forward gets you the end of the runway, but your pivot is what shows you off to the most people in the room. So as 2020 has brought me to the edge of my personal runway, here’s to the pivot showing off my best possible self to 2021.
During this time of COVID-19 and the importance of limiting exposure to the outside world, I believe we have all spent a little more time focused on home. More of my friends and family put up holiday decorations earlier than normal. Wanting that feeling of coziness and safety among dear ones was key to supporting one’s emotional health. I was sent plenty of images showing Hallmark movie holiday décor and families in festive attire. Social media blurred its lens to display pictures that others in our community wanted us to see – that they were making it. They were surviving. That they were ok and looking ahead to healthier and happier times. But this season, not all families wore matching Christmas pajamas.
In many families, like mine, there is discord at home. Fractures in our faith in what is right and what is wrong have made me uncomfortable with those who tell me my mask makes me someone who doesn’t value freedom. I am afraid of the growing violence and hate disguised as support for our leadership. And most of all, I am concerned that friendships are being torn apart. At a time when my world is small, and restricted, my relationships with family and friends are what I have left to connect me with the outside. While my midlife self is decluttering my home of memories and emotional baggage from the past in order to live in the present, it means that I am more closely examining the four walls of my world. And right now, my world is my home. My door keeps sickness out and lets family in. My friendships help me sort out what to keep and what to throw away. However, in these desperate times, I am not feeling as safe in my community. The overly attentive mother is examining her midlife with scrutinizing detail, and what she is finding is not pretty.
The complexity and challenge of remaining healthy and compassionate when the world around you is crumbling can be overwhelming. The discourse of the day about vaccines, masks, and even safe holidays at home put me at odds with what normally makes me healthy and happy this holiday season. While I should have been decking the halls and making merry, I was fortifying my structure and engaging in debate that weakened my faith in my community. This new year, I have found cracks in my ceiling. I just hope that my roof, and the roof over us all, doesn’t come tumbling down.
As long as I can remember, I loved to dance. Dance while with my friends, dance while no one is looking. The energy and love I exude while moving to the musical beat put me in a state of happiness that I simply could not recreate elsewhere. Body and mind were one. Until I started getting older. My mind moved one way, my body another. I shimmied while I shook – but not in unison. My outer self no longer reflected by inner self. While feeling betrayed by age and life, I’ve begun seeking how I can find my happy place in the middle age of motherhood.
I recently started back up with a Zumba class, energized by the Latin beats and inspired by fancy footwork of our instructor. Our class is full, with all levels of participants. I am filled with a feeling of safety as I recognize my limitations and making conscious choice to still have fun without the guilt of underperforming. I get lost in the mamba motion, imagining how skilled I feel by tackling these steps. Until the group shifts and I am standing in front of the mirror.
A wave of disappointment crashed over me as my inner joyous self met my outer midlife self. How could I be fooled enough to think I was mastering my joy over my midlife unfitness? I felt guilty. I felt cheated. Why did I have to step in front of the mirror? My thoughts, these days, have been about mastering my own destiny, charting my own course, creating my own happiness. I recognized the time for change.
A quote attributed to Marty Rubin summarized the lesson I was about to learn:
“Mirrors: they show you what you lack, not what you have.” This gym class mirror couldn’t show me all I achieved, all that I was to those in my life. It was showing me what I lacked, and I was placing too much importance on this. I have made this my new mantra – frame the way you live your life in terms of what you’re doing for health and happiness – giving it to others, but now – even more – giving it to yourself. Your life before was more about what you did for others. Don’t regret it. Don’t feel guilty that you were unable to place yourself more of a priority then. Doing it now is a step in the right direction on your journey. What you see in the mirror is capturing what you are doing right. What you lack is buried in the past.
So, as I lace up for another class, I am going to find the strength to stand in front of the mirror. Truly open my eyes and my heart and see what I am doing. I am going to take each step in front of the mirror and it will remind me of my mindful journey. I will just have a meringue rhythm to keep me on track.