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Pandemic Pod Panic: Is Your Social Life Causing Angst?

Have you spent more time worrying about your–and your child’s–social life since the pandemic hit? If so, you could be suffering from Pandemic Pod Panic, aka “P3” (I just made this up). I read this interesting piece in the Boston Globe that detailed how many of us have been gripping about how we and our families are left out of social activities during this time of social distancing and isolation. Is this you? I have been guilty of it, I must admit.

First off, let me define a Pandemic Pod, for those of you not in-the-know. It’s essentially a small cohort of families who have stayed together and played together throughout the pandemic. The Pod subscribes to the same level of concern about COVID and, for the most part, interacts socially with an equal level of discretion and safety. Some pods may have more stringent policies when it comes to traveling by airplane, riding the school bus, or dining indoors. Others may be a little less rigid and feel those activities are okay. Typically, what one pod member believes, so does the other. This is why there is not much cross-pollination of pods! And there can be apparent judgment of pods that do not think–and most importantly ACT-alike. This is sounding like a cult..

Let me be clear: I am not judging anyone here. And no one’s beliefs are wrong. Unless they are not mine. Wait, joking! No, I mean, be safe, people. Obviously.

Anyway, back to the topic at-hand: Pandemic Pod Panic. I have noticed that I don’t see or talk to some of the friends that I used to since last March, the onset of COVID. This has caused me to wonder if it’s because of something I’ve done, or how I choose to live during Covid, or if it’s just something about them wanting to isolate. Some of it, too, is because we don’t run into each other at soccer, for example, or during school activities.

I don’t really know. I think we can only assume that it’s that, but who knows!? This reminds me of my recent blog post, Too Many Friends = Too Much Drama, and the feeling of being back in high school. And then, when you find out that friend you don’t see or talk to is actually hanging in her own pod? Then you panic: is it me? Why am I not in that pod? Are we no longer friends?

COVID is killing more than our spirits–it’s killing friendships! (insert scary music)…

Um, that’s a little drastic.

Now, aside from myself, I sometimes wonder about my kids. My son, for example, isn’t as social as my daughter. He basically has lived like a sand mole in the basement and on video games for a year now. Well, that’s not entirely in isolation, though, because he’s on a headset laughing his head off with friends. I’ve wondered if he should go outside and play with our neighbors, but he really has no interest, and I get concerned. Like, is he antisocial? Is he going to have friends when this is all over? We can’t really invite people over who he hasn’t seen or been “podding” with, and hence the P3 begins (Pandemic Pod Panic)

I have been fortunate to have a nice group of friends in my neighborhood, and we have been kind of like our own Pandemic Pod. Our children are the same ages and have played since the pandemic hit. Similarly, we adults have met around the firepit and had some wine and been able to socialize while social distancing. But I have heard others lament that they don’t have those opportunities and feel left out. This sense of isolation is magnified when they see it posted on social media–revelry around a firepit with friends. In the Boston Globe piece, they recommended not posting those types of photos to social media so others don’t feel left out.

Wait. But I only post so others feel less-than, right???? (Insert Mean Girls voice). Just joking.

Anyway, what are your thoughts and experiences with this? Have you felt left out, or judged, or worried about social nonsense during the pandemic? Maybe we are just bored! Perhaps this is self-manufactured stress.

🤦🏻‍♀️🤦🏻‍♀️🥴🥴

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Welcoming Unwelcome Feelings

Sometimes I wake up in this awful shame cycle and think, “I’d be better off if I just locked myself in a basement.” Does that happen to you? Like, you do something or say something and realize you are really not fit for society? Initially, I woke up today feeling that angst and did everything I could to recalibrate and combat that feeling, like go on my new elliptical machine for 45 minutes while watching reality TV, walking my dogs, and now writing. But, I think, as the poet Rumi suggested, maybe I should just welcome this feeling and sit with it, because it may bring me guidance.

Do you ever feel like this?

In his poem The Guest House, Rumi uses uses the image of a guest house as a metaphor that each day is an opportunity to experience something new in our lives, even if it’s unexpected, and each feeling should be welcomed, no matter how unpleasant. We must welcome these “guests,” or feelings of happiness and joy as well as shame and depression. In treating these visitors with equal respect and courage, no matter how unwelcome the feelings are, we can learn from them, and perhaps use them to navigate moving forward.

Okay, so I am sitting here now, welcoming these feelings…and eating pretzels #truth. That is one thing I feel gross about: I ate like 9,000 carbs yesterday, including hot pretzel nuggets with cheese and, that’s not all, it was followed by a bowl of pasta. That’s so not on the diet. However, I did run 7 miles, so maybe that’s allowed! Don’t runners maul pasta before a race? Okay, so I did it afterwards, with a glass of wine…maybe not a tip in Women’s Fitness magazine.

I also can over-share. I do this like every day. I mean, I guess being a blogger, you need to share yourself. If I didn’t write anything personal, it would not resonate with readers. I so envy those who wear their cards close to the vest: the keen listeners and observers who probably never leave a party and think, “Wait, WHY did I say that?!”

So, on the flip side, here I am criticizing myself AGAIN, adding to the shame cycle, which I should in fact be instead welcoming. What can I learn from that? I guess to shut my yapper? Become a different person? I like myself though! I just wish I could be myself, but alone in the basement. I care too much about what others think.

Who are your “house guests” today? Please leave a comment. Oh, and if you don’t know the poem, here it is:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

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A Happy Family, or Just Make Believe?

What defines a “Happy Family?” I ask this after buying a Barbie set that was called “Happy Family,” and it was comprised of a pregnant mom, a dad and one little girl.

I have never seen a pregnant Barbie before, and I was excited to play with it. To my ultimate shock and surprise, her belly actually comes off, and a tiny baby is in it! Like, a full-grown, breach baby (head up). And, you can even turn her stomach inside out, and it’s flat again. Like, the “Happy Family” Mom loses the baby weight immediately! She is as good as new!

The Happy Family did come with some accessories, including a brush (for post-birth glamour shots on Facebook?), a pre-digital camera (imagine waiting to see the photos of the birth after developing the actual film?), and two cell phones. There was no laptop, so I don’t know how the toddler was going to go to school on Zoom, or how the Dad would surf the internet while mom was in labor.

And why are they happy this way? I’m thinking this mom’s not so happy. I mean, she can’t be! First off, she had to give birth in her underwear (see photo). Second, in the accessories, there should have been a bottle of wine and some Chinese food for post-delivery. Third, they could have added in a nanny or a wet nurse? I mean, just to take the pressure off when they get home…

The real question is: what would the “Unhappy Family” look like?

I, too, used to think that a Happy Family looked very similar to what was in this toy box: a mom, dad, and two kids. Well, now, I have the two kids, but I am divorced and their dad lives fifteen minutes away. I would say we get along well, so we can also be called a happy family. And, if you add in new spouses or children, that can be an even bigger, happy family? I don’t know! I wonder if Matel would be open to creating a new “Happy Family” comprised of two sets of parents and stepchildren? Or maybe a single mom and a sperm donor? Or a single dad, or two dads, or two moms and three kids? I know several happy “families” likes that! The list could go on, which leads me to the next point.

I am pretty sure this barbie was recalled, and we found like the last one, an aberration, in Marshall’s yesterday. I bet others took issue with the idea of a Happy Family being depicted as such.

What do you think? Please leave a comment!

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I Want Some Answers!

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Today, I want answers. I want answers to the following questions regarding things that happened to me:

1. When my ADT home alarm system is faulted, and I can’t fix it myself over the phone with them, why must I pay for the labor costs for a technician to come out to repair it? I mean, it’s by no fault of mine that it doesn’t work, so why do I have to assume the costs to fix it? Makes no sense.

2. Why are there very few remote job opportunities now when people are actually mostly only working remotely? I have been perusing Indeed, Glass Door, Linked In, etc., and the remote work opportunities are few and far between. Oh, and I’m like candidate 154, if there is one.

3. How many times can I explain that I don’t get unemployment, because I quit, and I don’t qualify for pandemic assistance? Just curious. I get tired of explaining, as if I didn’t look into those options myself.

4. Ew, why am I so belligerent right now? Ha!

5. The song my son keeps singing, which he has titled “Poop Under the Covers,” and really only has those four words repeatedly…does it mean something? Is there some hidden meaning, or just hidden poop under his covers?

6. Can we really not wear white in a week? I mean, who even made that up? I didn’t wear enough white this summer, and if we are just home and not going into work or school, who cares if we sneak in some white sweatpants?

7. Are Dunkin’ Coolatas made with real strawberries and fruit? If so, are the blue raspberry Coolatas then made from actual fluorescent blue raspberries? If these exist on some farm, I must see and pick for myself.

8. Is mail-in voting going to work? I sent in a ballot via mail. Did you?

9. When my daughter tells me she is exhausted because she had TWO play dates (insert screams)…do I feel bad? Um….

10. Why is only Season 3 of Siesta Key free, and the episodes before it are $17.99 if you want to catch up??

11.  My children don’t actually go back to the school till October in Massachusetts. Is this actually going to happen? And I can’t believe it’s September, and I have a whole other month of summer left home with them! How am I supposed to even get a job? Oh, and when they go back, it’s scattered half days: half-remote, half in-person. So, essentially, I have two young children, varying times of learning and drop offs and pick ups, but I’m supposed to also work. Go figure.

12. When I ask my son to help clear the dinner table, and he tells me, “It’s not 1982!” What does that even mean? Oh, PS-he was born in 2010. And, I mean, I guess, yes, in 1982, I was indeed helping my parents clear the table!

 

 

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To Homeschool or Not to Homeschool? That is the Question.

Who here is struggling with whether or not to homeschool in the fall? I am raising my hand virtually, because I can’t decide! I mean, on the one hand, I am totally in fear of the fact that I will have to be their teacher again, and I’m gonna be honest…I wasn’t that great at it! Not only did I lack some real patience, but I also let them have recess too long, and I skimmed over some stuff, and I totally let them take advantage of me, like we used to do when we told the substitute we were never given homework on Tuesdays.

On the other hand, I don’t want to send them to school and worry each day that they’re carrier monkeys who didn’t wear their masks, or didn’t wash their hands, and did not keep their distance at recess. I can say now from my observations this summer, that when kids get together, the distance seems to go out the window. So then, I think, “Okay, let’s just bite the bullet, and I will step up and be a good teacher. I will have a curriculum, and I will stick to a schedule and I will forgo my life for the school year, even more so.”

Then…I sit on the couch and stare out the window, frozen, and think about making a run to the liquor store.

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Fact: I didn’t look like this. I was not smiling, and my hair isn’t that short.

So maybe I won’t make a decision. Isn’t that a decision? I just want people to decide for me. I remember going to therapy, and I’d ask the therapist, “Can’t you just tell me what to do?” And she’d be all, “No, that’s not my job! You have to figure that out for yourself. I can lead you in that direction, but I can’t make a decision for you.” Well that made my decision: not to go to therapy anymore…

Also, don’t our decisions constantly change? Or is that just me? For example, today, I implored my children to go to the beach with me. See how messed up that sounds? Like, I have to beg someone to go to the BEACH? How ’bout y’all get a job, and then we can talk about how painful the beach is… Anyway, so my daughter says to me, “No! I’m not going so you can sit on your can in the sun and not swim!”

SIT ON MY CAN!

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What I sit on

Can you believe she said that to me? First off, where’d she get that expression (#guilty?). Second, I had to not laugh (even though it was kinda hysterical) and tell her that she better shape up and stop disrespecting me.

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So we decided not to go to the beach and instead to go to the Vineyard on the ferry boat. Good plan? Okay, maybe. So I go get dressed, walk the dogs, get ready to roll, and the kids are not moving. They’re now settled in with their devices, playing Adopt Me and Shark Hunt, and now I’m pacing back and forth like a rabid hyena telling them we “NEED TO GO!” so we can find parking and get on the hot, COVID ferry only to ride over and be hot in a mask. They didn’t respond.

So I decided not to go to the Vineyard.

Now I am doing this.

See? I can’t make a decision. Can you? Homeschool or no? 

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