Guest Mom Squad Contributor: Brigitte Peck
I hear footsteps coming down the hall and turn to see who it is while whispering, “shhh” into my baby’s ear. I am frazzled. We are at my mother’s house for the holidays and I’ve been bragging about how my daughter sleeps through the night. As punishment for my smugness, this is the third time in 90 minutes that she’s woken up screaming like she’s being tortured.
My older sister stops and looks in through the half-open door.
“Sorry,” I say. “I know it’s loud. I don’t know what’s wrong with her. She’s not normally like this.”
“Well,” my sister says, stating the obvious, “this is not normal.”
This is not normal.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve repeated my sister’s words to myself over the past 17 years. As I grappled with grief after my best friend died and again when my father died, they explained my tears and the hollow feeling I carried around like a handbag. When my husband lost his job, they justified the days when I could not get off the couch, where I sat weighted down by uncertainty. They helped me fight a toxic work environment; survive a house flood; and process a tree falling across the street onto my house and car on a clear winter day.
Knowing that the sadness or fear or frustration had been brought on by events that are not normal gave me permission to feel sad or scared or annoyed. I did not have to worry about what I was (or wasn’t) doing, because when things returned to normal, so would I.
This is not normal.
Of course, you don’t need me to tell you that. This is the most not normal situation imaginable. Everyone is home. Summer plans are cancelled. And, even the kids are looking forward to going back to school in the fall (PLEASE let them go back to school in the fall!)
People are baking bread and taking online painting classes. We clap for health care workers and thank the clerks at the grocery store. My mother has a Zoom account and I’ve invested a small fortune in fashionable face masks. Every week, I have drinks with my college friends. From Singapore to San Francisco; Washington, D.C. to Atlanta, we dial in and share stories and movie suggestions and tips on how to cover our gray hair.
People are scared. I worry that someone I love will get sick. I worry about being able to get tested. People are worried they will lose their jobs. Lots of people already have. I still have work, but when these contracts end, I don’t know when I’ll be able to replace them. It’s hard to get new business from your house. I do what I can, but I’m not sure that’s enough.
Hope is not a strategy, but these days it’s often all I have because this is not normal.
I, once again, find myself crying at unexpected times and anchored to the couch. I swing between gratitude and grumpiness; between giving myself grace and wondering why some people are discovering hidden talents while I’m binge watching The Americans. I’m surprised that I don’t feel stir crazy. House confinement isn’t something you’d expect an extrovert to adapt to.
This is not normal.
And, I don’t know when normal will return and when (if ever) it will feel like normal did before. There will be a new normal, but as it emerges, I will embrace it. I will sleep and play and get off my couch, venture out of my house, and rediscover myself and others.
I will laugh about all my grand plans that came to nothing and keep having weekly drinks with my friends. I will put the puzzles back into the cabinet, invite friends into my house, and go visit my mother. There will be school buses on the streets and toilet paper on grocery store shelves. That day will get here, though no one can tell me when. Until then, I’ll just take every day; every hour as it comes. Some will be good; others, not so much. But, I’m not going to worry (too much) about it because, this is not normal.
About Brigitte Peck
When forced to describe myself, I stick with my Twitter bio: Wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, professional fundraiser, reader, writer, college basketball fan. When I’m not working as a fundraising consultant, writing postcards to voters, or figuring out what’s for dinner, you can find me hanging out with my teenage children, drinking bourbon with my husband, and checking my Twitter feed. It’s not a bad life.