In the early days of sheltering in place, I was spending a lot of time hiding in my blanket fort, watching reruns of Survivor and eating copious amounts of Skittles. I sorted my Skittles into different piles, mixed and matched flavor combinations (green and red together for the win!), and found hibernating with my candy very comforting.
After a few days (weeks? months?) of doing this pretty regularly, my desire for reality television and candy in a dark cave dissipated, and I was able to move on to other ways of coping.
Then, I received this drawing in the mail from my friend Natashia, who created an ode to Skittles piece of art work for me. Her beautiful pencil drawing gave me permission to honor this part of my process of learning how to live through a pandemic. She said something to the effect of “I know you have moved on from the Skittles, but hopefully, this can be a fond memory of when they brought you love and comfort during a stressful time.”
Friends, this is how we pandemic …
We accept and embrace all of ourselves, all the parts that are just doing the best they can to navigate this new reality. Over the past six months, I have experimented with various ways of coping through the collective grief and loss prevalent during this time. I continue to check in with myself on a regular basis about what would feel loving and supportive to me right now, in this moment. And I promise you, the answer is never to beat myself up about a way I coped earlier today or yesterday or last week.
In these last few months, I’ve talked to other women, particularly moms, who whisper to me about the coping strategies they are employing, like eating Twizzlers in bed for comfort, drinking more wine than usual to escape after the kids to go sleep, or spreadsheeting their brains out to feel a sense of control. They whisper because they are embarrassed, because they feel like they “should” be coping differently or better. Like with meditation and exercise and journaling or whatever.
First of all, to be clear, you get to do both. You get to eat your cake and read your super trashy romance novels and drink your martinis. And you can also journal and meditate and join the online Zumba class. There is room for all of it (I mean, prolly not all in one day because that feels like a lot to have on your calendar during a pandemic, and you should at least, like, throw some string cheese at your children from time to time, and maybe you have to hide in the bathroom to eat your cake, but you get the idea).
Second, sometimes we fall apart, check out, numb out, collapse, have a meltdown and don’t have a clue how to parent because we are in desperate need of parenting ourselves. And that’s totally okay! You are doing the best you can, and it’s okay to not know what the hell you are doing right now. Give yourself more compassion than you think you deserve. And then see if you can sprinkle yourself with even just a little bit more.
And third, I love you. Thank you, sweet Natashia, for inspiring me to embrace all parts of myself and truly taste the rainbow (see what I did there?).
Autumn Vandiver is an early childhood educator and parent coach. Learn more about her and her work at Coaching With Autumn.