Life · personal growth

My New Normal in the Time of COVID-19

My new normal is working in my pajamas and not brushing my teeth until noon. I roll out of bed fifteen minutes before the beginning of my work day to make a pot of coffee, feed the cats, and corral my hair with a plastic clip. I don’t even bother brushing it first. No make-up. I haven’t worn a bra in days. It looks like depression.

I sit at my desk in my bedroom for hours. I talk to voices that used to be faces. I sit in virtual meetings on mute so no one can hear the dogs barking in the other room. I leave my new office long enough to say hello to my sister-in-law in the living room, collect my Uber eats delivery, and grab a Diet Coke from the fridge. I’m a hermit with a head-set. My connection to people is a string of instant messages and emails.

My work day ends by closing my laptop—no goodbyes over cubicle walls; no see-you-tomorrows; no drive home to clear my head. It’s like I’ve snapped my fingers and am instantly home. My bedroom is a bedroom again. I take a nap, make dinner, hang-out with the family in the living room (steps away from my “office”), and go to bed at my usual time because tomorrow is a work day. One day is identical to the next and I don’t even care what day of the week it is.

Before COVID-19, I dreaded going to work, not because my job is dreadful, but because I just wanted to stay home and hide from the world. I didn’t realize going to work and being in the world helped me manage my depression. Depression loves my new normal. It’s been trying for years to keep me home in my jammies. It loves that I don’t shower every day or brush my hair. It loves my isolation and our long conversations. It loves that I look like I’ve given up.  It loves that I look like I feel. It loves that it’s my new co-worker I have coffee with in the morning instead of my best friend.

I don’t know how long my new normal will last. We live in a strange, frightening new world. Social distancing is a word I didn’t know existed before the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay-at-home orders, quarantines, and travel bans are part of our everyday language. Personal protective equipment and ventilators are on everyone’s minds. It’s not just my depression that loves my new normal. My anxiety thrives on every uptick of COVID-19 cases and the real possibility of someone I love dying. It’s not my usual fear of death. It’s so much more.

There’s much I don’t have control over right now, but I can define my new normal. It includes hope, hair brushes, and hot showers. It includes creativity in place of naps, FaceTime coffee dates, and inhaling fresh air. It means telling depression and anxiety to keep it down during work hours. I’m thankful I can work from home, and so very grateful for those who leave home to save lives, keep our world running, and give us hope. They normalize the world that is anything but normal right now.

Life

I’ve Been Squirreled!

Having Attention Deficit Disorder as an adult presents some unique challenges, especially when you have to be a productive employee and an attentive mother and wife. A squirrel is no longer an animal in my world. It’s a verb. Sorry, I meant to pay attention to you, but I was squirreled. I would have finished that super important project, but I was squirreled. Damn squirrels! Hey did you see that fat squirrel out the window? Who’s that walking by with the cute dog? I like cats. Hey, here’s a link to a funny cat video. Did you see that fat squirrel?

Here’s a snapshot of my life with ADD.

Jenny at work

Department head: “Jenny, do you have anything you want to say about this super complicated, convoluted policy we just came up with?”

Jenny: Shit. The only thing I heard were the introductions at the beginning of the meeting. Okay, just smile. “Nope. Sounds good to me.”

The absurd, logic-defying policy rolls out.

Jenny: “Who the hell agreed to this?”

Also, Jenny at work

Manager: “Jenny, I need you to write this last minute, super important legislative report by noon today.”

Jenny: “No problem. I’m on it!”

I write a sentence. Oh, an email just popped up on my screen. I better read it. Crap, I need to write this report. Oh, another email. I fall into a rabbit hole of emails that can clearly wait, but I answer anyway. Focus! I write two brilliant sentences. Oh, I need a cup of coffee. Whoops, I just spent fifteen minutes wandering through cubicles on my way back from getting my coffee that’s now lukewarm. A few more sentences. Hey, what’s this piece of paper you just put on my desk? Nothing important? Great, let me read it in detail and make edits. Oh, another email! I better go to the bathroom. Now, what was I working on? Shit! The report! Manager walks by. “How’s the report coming along?” “Almost done,” I say. 11:45 – I write like a bat out of hell with super-focused precision for fifteen straight minutes and finish the report. “Nice work, Jenny.”

Jenny at home

I better clean the kitchen. Oh, this random thing doesn’t belong here. I’ll put it in the office. Wow, what a mess. I need to rearrange things in here. Oh, this is something the kids made when they were little. I better put it in my special treasure trove. I spend the next hour going through every single treasure. Better let the dog out. I wander outside with him. Ugh, these weeds. I start pulling weeds and then notice the patio furniture is in disarray. Wow, the patio needs a good sweeping. I go into the garage to get the push broom. Hey, I left a glass out here in the garage. Weird. I better go put it in the kitchen sink. I start to empty the dishwasher. Ugh, these cupboards of full of things we don’t need. Better open every cupboard and pile everything on the kitchen counter. This junk drawer is a mess, too. The contents of the drawer are dumped onto the counter to sort through. It looks like a bomb went off in the kitchen. I now have an overflowing Goodwill box and a full trash can. That made me thirsty! I open the fridge to get a Diet Coke. Wow, what a mess. I start cleaning out the fridge and now the sink is full of dirty Tupperware. I start washing the dishes again. Geez, I wonder why I feel so tired. Babe, I’ll finish the dishes after my nap. I wake up. Not a dish in the sink. My sweet husband washed them.

Jenny during conversations with her family:

Mike: “Babe, listen to this hilarious story. I’m going to say the person’s name I’m talking about fifteen times.” The story concludes.

Jenny: “Wait, who are you talking about?”

Kylie: “Mom, I want to talk to you about this problem at work.”

Jenny: “I’m all ears.”

Kylie: “So, what do you think I should do?”

Jenny: “About what? Hey, do you want to go to Starbucks?”

Jenny writing

I can’t use the word distracted again. Let me use the thesaurus on my phone. Hey, I got a Facebook notification. I spend the next hour stalking people on social media, reading random articles posted by a friend, and watching a few funny cat videos. Right, I need to get back to writing. I look up distracted in the thesaurus. Oh, frenzied is a fun word. That leads me to the word corybantic. Wow, what does that mean? I look up the definition. Oh, it means frenzied. Back to the thesaurus. Oh, berserk is a neat word. I then start singing the berserker song from the movie Clerks. Hey, I wonder if that actor is in anything else. I then fall down the IMDB rabbit hole and don’t find my way out until forty-five minutes later. Oh yeah, I’m supposed to be writing. What’s another word for distracted? Let me check the thesaurus.

Never a dull moment, my friends.

Family · Life

One Sassy Mother

Jenny with sassy girl #1
Jenny with sassy girl #2

I’m a sassy gal. It goes without saying that I’m a sassy mom who raised sassy, strong women. I’m honest in a way that is completely inappropriate and embarrassing. My grown daughters share with me the bits of wisdom and advice I gave them during their formative years and I can’t believe my absolute absurdity. I either sugar-coated the shit out of something or told them the good, bad, and ugly. I either told them everything or nothing at all. There was no in-between. There are things I wish I would have told them when they were younger, like my struggle with depression, but I didn’t want them to worry. Maybe they did and I just didn’t know.

A lot of times, I gave my girls a heaping pile of sass with a side order of unwelcomed advice and attitude. I sprinkled in my opinions, observations, nagging suspicions, and worry. When they gave it back, I was petty, pushed buttons, and pouted. It was hard to tell the teenager from the mother. I shared my moodiness and negativity willingly, even though no one wanted it.

I have a sassy sense of humor that can be a little dark and questionable. Does that stop me from sharing it without discretion? Absolutely not. I will say the craziest, most incredulous nonsense just to hear my girls’ authentic, addictive laughter.

If you want to see real sass, I dare you—I double dog dare you—to mess with my girls. I won’t fight for myself, but I will go medieval when it comes to my beauties. I won’t be polite about it and I won’t compromise. I won’t back down until you back away. I will not hesitate to rip your face off, figuratively of course.  I’m not a psychopath.

Yes, I’m a sassy, stubborn mother. I’m a little bit of a handful. But I’m also the mother who encourages her girls to dream, chase adventure, be true to themselves, live in awe of the moon and the stars, love deeply, and love life. I’m the mother who reminds them they are brave, brilliant, and so much bigger than any challenge that comes their way. I champion them, cheer for them, and celebrate them.

I am the mother who loves them to infinity and beyond.

Life · personal growth

What if?

My best decision was marring my best friend in 1990.

It’s human nature to ask what if. What if I said yes instead of no? What if I chose the road less traveled? What if I left home three seconds later or turned left instead of right? What if everything was different?

Life is a series of choices. Sometimes your life is shaped by the choices made by others before you even knew you had a voice. Sometimes the choices you make have a profound impact on those closest to you, and even those with whom you may have shared a handful of moments. Every second presents us with choices to make, some mundane and insignificant, but others shatter your world—the life you made for yourself, dreams you chased, a future you thought for sure was certain. Sometimes life presents you with one opportunity to make the right choice. Sometimes we get to make the same choice time and again until we learn to choose better. Sometimes we never learn.

My life has been a series of calculated choice—each decision led me away from a life of poverty, addiction, and abuse. I chose hope. I chose to end cycles that passed from one generation to the next. I chose me. I could have easily made other choices, no one would have blamed me if I had, but I wanted more for myself. It wasn’t going to be gifted to me. I fought for it.

What if my parents would have made different choices? Would I be as stubborn and strong as I am now if I hadn’t struggled every day until I left for college? Would I choose to be as compassionate as I am now if I didn’t know what it felt like to carry around pain and fear I collected as a kid? Would I be as creative as I am now if writing and reading stacks of books hadn’t been my only escape from a chaotic, violent homelife? Would I be as hopeful as I am now if hope had not been the only thing I had growing up? Would I diligently manage my mental health now if I had not watched depression and drug addiction destroy my parents? I could choose to see the tragedy in each choice my parents made, but instead I choose to see triumph. That which did not kill me makes me stronger. That may be true, but it sure hurts like hell.

What if I would have made different choices? I’ve made choices out of fear that absolutely broke my heart. I’ve made decisions I knew were right, but hurt those I love. I chose with my heart instead of reason, and chose reason when my heart begged me not to. I chose to be stubborn and irreverent, when being open-hearted and open-minded would have made all the difference. I chose skepticism over faith, pessimism over positivity, pride over humility, and doubt over confidence. I chose passivity when I should have shouted from the rooftop and anger instead of forgiveness. I chose denial when confronted with facts and chose to believe my worst fears couldn’t possibly be true.

But I chose to try again, knowing I can be better.

There are choices I am so proud I made—being hopeful, going to college, reaching out for help, marrying my best friend, getting out of bed every day, buying a home, raising strong, sassy girls, loving with my whole heart, writing, letting my self be vulnerable when I needed to and strong when I had to, and never giving up.

What if I am living the life I’ve always wanted?

I am.