Last March when the world turned upside down, two couples sat down and made a plan. Kristen and I sat on our front porch with my ex-husband Chad and his awesome new wife, T. Chad and I share custody of our four kids, T has another four, and they had a bonus child at the time as well. So when a global pandemic hit, we had nine kids (and their germs) to worry about.
We sat on that porch (socially distanced) and had an amazing conversation. We talked, and vented, and laughed, and ultimately came up with what we thought was a great plan. We discussed each kid, how we could support them during homeschooling, how we’d keep them off screens, how we’d now have the time to introduce them to all kinds of new skills.
Ahhhh, remember optimism? JK.
We just had no idea. We had no clue the mental toll this pandemic was going to take from us. There was no way we could have predicted how physical lives became political fodder. We had never experienced a time when our country’s collective anxiety level rose so sharply. We honestly thought by the time the school year started again, surely everything would be back to normal. Right?!
It’s Thanksgiving this week. We are nowhere near “normal”. Two kids quarantining at Dad’s house due to exposure at school. Our college kid is quarantining here. Because of him and the risk he poses, Thanksgiving this year means no grandparents, no aunts and uncles, and no cousins.
But here’s the good news!!! Divorce means a custody schedule and every five days or so (usually) the kids go to the other house. While this brings anxiety over safety, it also gives everyone a break. When we’re all trapped together 24/7, it’s so nice to have an empty quiet house for a few days (with no guilt!!) and then jump back into it. And it’s great for the kids to be able to switch up as well. They are getting just as sick of us as we are of them.
And let’s not ignore the elephant in the room. I am so grateful that we figured out the state of our marriage BEFORE the pandemic hit. If Chad and I had tried to force ourselves to stay “happy” and “good enough” through the ridiculous roller coaster of Covid 19, I can only imagine the mental and emotional toll that would have taken on both of us.
This last week, we incorporated a new coping strategy that I also teach in the Pride and Joy Foundation’s Emotional Intelligence classes as well. It’s the idea that Radically Acknowledging Reality creates the most effective change.
The hardest part of this experience has been the fact that we make a plan and very quickly, the phone rings, an email comes in, or a tweet gets published, and the plan becomes pointless. We are parents charged with the safety of so many lives, so we make the best possible plan we can. Therefore the frustration, anger, and bitterness can reach record levels in just a week of such uncertainty.
We turned a corner this last week. We finally decided to accept the reality that we can make the best plan, but it will probably only be in play for a week. That helped a lot. We all began to feel like the ground was more solid. By the end of that week, we realized that reality is actually more like just a few hours.
Chad and I got on the phone Friday morning and made a plan for Thanksgiving week, but then a phone call from one of the four schools telling us one of the kids had gone down hard and fast, we acknowledged the reality that our four-hour old plan was going to change again. No use in fighting it.
But there was such freedom there! Instead of focusing on the possibility that I wouldn’t see half my kids for my assigned holiday, I focused on the idea that in four hours, the plan would probably change again. And in 72 hours it would be radically different, yet again! I could either go insane or I could embrace that nothing bad is going to stick around for very long.
A reality (total volatility in parenting strategies) that had threatened to take my sanity away, was now my saving grace. Once I stopped fighting against reality and radically acknowledged it instead, stability and strength returned. And how I needed it.
Sometimes I think about what could have been if Chad and I had radically acknowledged the reality of our marriage and my sexuality. I wonder about the fights that could have been avoided, the needless guilt, and you guys, the tears. I am so done with the tears!
Radically Acknowledging Reality can bring freedom, peace, and actual real change. What part of your reality needs to be acknowledged today?