Holding Everything In To Keep Everything Together


It’s been a year since our collective world’s came to a quarantined halt. Since I, as a single mother by choice, began working from home with a then 11 month old. It’s been a year since I have seen my parents, my siblings, and my 96-year-old grandma. It’s also been a year since I last cried. I take that back, I cried the morning of December 18th when my boss, who shared that he was raised by a single mother, asked how I was coping with the pandemic. He was the first person to ask me that, and so far, the only one. Not that I expect anyone to ask—we are all dealing with our own versions of coping. Maybe that’s why I cried that day. Not because he was going to make everything all better, but because he simply acknowledged how f*cking hard this all has been.

Each and every day I am a parent, teacher, chef, housekeeper, troubleshooter, playmate, chauffeur, full-time employee, freelance writer, and landscape architect to a half-acre of lawn. Hectic, but all part of the single mom territory. Pre-pandemic life moved fast, but there were slow-moving moments. Brunch with our family, spins through the Target aisles, a couple of hours out with friends that were just mine. Little pockets of free time.

For the past year nothing has been slow. Every second has been spoken for, every thought has been occupied, there is not time for myself. Not even one second to cry.

Like most parents, I am in survival mode. Trying to survive a pandemic, a quarantine, all the while testing positive for COVID-19 myself and exposing my son. Trying to work on spreadsheets and take zoom meetings while a baby clangs on the keyboard, or nearly falls off the couch. Giving my all to everything, and people saying it’s not enough and asking for more.

Yes, I would like to cry, but as every action movie has taught me, survivors don’t cry while things are still up in the air, they cry when they know everything is going to be okay. And maybe that’s what I am waiting for, a sign that we are all going to be okay.

As a single mother to a now two-year-old child, the everyday pressure of parenting is very real and it’s unending. Slap a pandemic on top of it, and it’s numbing.

As a single mother to a now two-year-old child, the everyday pressure of parenting is very real and it’s unending. Slap a pandemic on top of it, and it’s numbing. I work so hard to hold everything together, that I am holding everything in. Tears, anger, frustration, fear, and probably even a little joy. I know it, and I feel it. Everything I can’t express externally, I hoard internally, and it has wreaked havoc on my physical health. Normally a pretty healthy person, in 2020 I went to the ER after my arm suddenly went numb. Supposedly, this was an extreme case of carpal tunnel. Later in the year I visited two urologists, underwent one transvaginal ultrasound, one CT scan, and several appointments with a pelvic floor physical therapist because my muscles were so constricted that I was subconsciously, and constantly, squeezing my internal organs, namely my bladder. Not only can’t I weep, but I can hardly pee, and to some extent that’s been almost worse.

Ordinarily, I would talk all my stressors out over a few phone calls, or let it loose by just laughing with friends. During a pandemic no one is really laughing, and I don’t want to saddle my troubles on top of someone else. So I’ve just crammed my feelings into an internal junk drawer, somewhere next to the spare car keys, to be hunted for at a later time.

I am aware that how I am treating myself isn’t healthy, or a good example to set for my son. I know something needs to change. I wish I could give you a 30-minute sitcom wrap up that ends with smiles and in-person hugs, but I can’t. We just aren’t there yet.  So for now, I hold on to the little things and muddle through as best I can. Instead of throwing in a load of laundry every single night, I pop on a yoga video. Rather than sending that 7 p.m. email, I take a shower. Instead of taking a lunch break, I schedule a virtual session with a counselor who encourages me to set boundaries with the things and the people that make this time even harder. Once I hit run on the dishwasher rather than climbing straight into bed, I jot down three good things that happened that day.

These are my stolen little moments. My little attempts to take care of me, and maybe if I am lucky, get in one good ugly cry. I’m ready to release.

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