I’m not who I thought I was

So Malaysia announced yesterday that it is extending its Movement Control Order until April 14.  This was completely expected, and I’m very glad that Malaysia is taking proactive steps to (hopefully) get ahead of this and flatten that curve, but I still felt a bit emotional at the news.  Which is OK.  There are many ups and downs in this situation.

Do you guys follow ManRepeller?  As I try to buy less, I’ve been enjoying the site more and more.  Because so much of what they cover is truly high fashion, it isn’t even aspirational for me.  Just pure inspiration.  They have great interviews, pieces on remixing and styling, and info on taking care of your clothes.  But mostly I really like the writing.

Anywho, Leandra has been sharing essays from quarantine.  (Salty language warning.)  These have been fascinating and uplifting and make me feel like I’m not going through this alone.  Instead of mangling her words, let me just excerpt you from one of her essays:

Today is different from yesterday which different from the day before. I think that’s what it’s like when you’re in survival mode, right? I mention it because last night when I was FaceTiming with my mom, she said something like, “To be perfectly honest, I feel more in my element than usual. I’m a survivor.” It clicked for me as she was saying it that what I have been calling her “refugee mentality” for a very long time is actually the sensation of living in a heightened state of survival mode where no time exists beyond the time that’s right in front of you. There is no planning beyond the one hour, 12 hours—if you’re lucky, 24 hours ahead because there’s not enough information to think further out. All you have and all you know is what confronts you at the moment. Trying to prepare for any period beyond that frame is futile; too much is changing and it’s happening quickly. You know? I realize I’m most comfortable in this heightened state of paradoxically routine panic and chaos, too. It can make me feel like a prisoner of my own life when there is no reason to panic. Abie does not maintain this quality—he thinks years ahead of me. That’s one of the primary things that attracted me to him, this sense of psychological freedom I could feel emanating from him. I’ve never been able to identify that before this moment.

And I realized that this hit pretty close to home for me.  You see, I thought that I was our emergency parent.  Not the blood and guts parent.  That’s James.  (I’m not squeamish.  It just somehow ended up in his purview.)  I thought that I was the one who could hold our little family together, beat the odds, knock or wood or do whatever it took if the challenge arose.

But that is the operative word.  “Challenge.”  I like challenges.  You want help to run a marathon?  I will write your training plan, encourage you every step of the way, and then attempt to pull you over the finish by my sheer will alone.  Planning an event?  I got that.  Cleaning our your closet?  Taking a class?  Cooking a meal with three ingredients left in the fridge?  These are probably all terrible examples, but you get the point.  I like a challenge, but it’s a particular kind of challenge.  One with a finish line.  One you can plan to pieces and then execute.

But this kind of open ended, attempting to thrive in a time of survival?  I don’t got this.  I can’t plan my way out of this.  This whole accepting what is and doing what I can in the face of so much unknown?  I’m really struggling.  I’m not saying that this is easy for anyone, but I feel like I’ve had all of my attack strategies and coping skills brutally ripped away.  I don’t know how to handle this.

And that hurts.  Losing this piece of my identity.  If that sounds too harsh, at least realizing and letting it go.

I guess you could argue that I could plan what I can.  I could at least attempt to plan through April 14.  But I doubt that is actually the end.  Even if it is the end of restricted movement, I certainly don’t know what anything will look like then.  Instead of limited planning and taking advantage of this time, I feel like this New Yorker cartoon:

Day 6! Couldn’t decide between starting to write my novel or my screenplay, so instead I ate three boxes of mac and cheese and then lay on the floor panicking.

So yeah.  I’m not feeling motivated to learn a new skill or cook through a new cookbook or watch all of a series I always meant to start.  Which is weird.  There are times when I would have been overjoyed to have all of this unscheduled time.  All of this time together as a family.  This is certainly not how I would have pictured it.  It’s like a super weird staycation.  But it is a lot of time together.

On her Organize 365 Podcast, Lisa Woodruff talks about using this time to make memories.  She says she didn’t have a chance to bake cookies at Christmas, but she’ll be baking with her kids now.  So there’s that.

I’m curious how my thinking will change the longer this goes on.  Maybe I’ll start to get back some of my planning mojo.  For the most part, I’m giving myself permission not to “crush” this lockdown.  I probably won’t come out of this with a new skill or the ability to do pull ups or to speak a new language.  And that’s OK.  I’ll just keep repeating my mantra which is “All I have to do right now is to be at home with my family.”  Which seems reductive, but is also true.  I’m not going to plan for a future I can’t yet picture.  I’m not going to stress about all the unknown.  I’m just focused on this moment.  And all I have to do is be at home with my family.

Scenes from quarantine

So this is admittedly a misnomer.  We’re not in quarantine.  We’re in the midst of “lockdown” which isn’t really lockdown, but just a time when we are subject to Malaysia’s Restricted Movement Order.  I just liked the way it sounded.

Also, this should really be an an Instagram post, but some pics were taken with James’s phone and some with mine, and I can’t figure out a convenient way to get a bunch of pictures in one post when that happens.

Also also, these photos are not edited because I’m too lazy.

Enough caveats for ya?  This is what we’ve been up to:

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Now for some gratitude

Thanks for listening to me whine.  Now I’m focused on gratitude.  First and foremost being the health of my family, the fact that we are all together, and that we are not worried about our next paycheck or meal.

Here are other things, big and small, that I’m grateful for at the moment.  (This list is not inclusive and lack of publication should not be deemed as lack of gratitude.)  In no particular order . . .

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Can I just whine about?

As I established previously, I am a gazillion percent lucky for a gazillion reasons.  I am very grateful, and I am focusing on that gratitude and I will share more of that here soon.  In the meantime, can I just whine about a few things?  These are all very minor, don’t matter in the grand-or-even-small scheme of things, but it makes me feel better to let it out.  So thanks for listening.  Here we go.

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What a strange time it is

As I’m writing this, we in Malaysia are a few days into our “lockdown” which is actually a restricted movement order to try to flatten the curve.  Schools are closed.  Almost everything is closed.  You can go to grocery stores and some restaurants.  (We haven’t tried yet.)  Food delivery is available, but grocery store delivery times are booked for days straight.  Police have checkpoints around to make sure that people are staying home and not congregating.

All of us around the world are living in a strange time.  An unprecedented time.  A challenging time.  A time with a lot of uncertainty.

Our strangeness is compounded because we were already living with an unusual time.  Our tour in Kuala Lumpur is nearly finished.  We are due to leave at the start of June.  This means that our time has become increasingly dominated by logistics.  Dealing with sorting and packing our things.  Dealing with an exciting summer in the States of seeing family, but one that also comes with a lot of logistics and the stress of being homeless for a few months.  Preparing for our next tour which is set to be in England.

Besides the logistics, there is the hefty emotional toll.  For almost three years, this has been our home.  We have to say goodbye to many dear friends.  We have to upend our routines.  As the boys are getting older, it is more difficult for them to leave a school they have enjoyed and all of their friends.  We love being able to live overseas, but this is the really hard part.

We were starting to enter into the “this could be the last” phase.  Right before lockdown, we had a last trip to Fraser’s Hill, which has been a beloved weekend getaway during our time here.   We aren’t quite there yet, but each visit to a restaurant, a park, an anything has us wondering will this be the final time there?  I was planning a going away party and other going away fun.  Now, not so much.

Supposedly, we are still set to leave on time.  But who knows.  Right now the coming weeks (and months, eep) are up in the air.  For everyone.

I’m trying not to, but I can’t help freaking out about that.  Not knowing what is going on in this crazy world is hard enough.  Not knowing what is going on, and then feeling like you don’t have a home on top of it?  Not ideal.

But then I vacillate to gratitude.  We are SO very fortunate.  My little family is all together.  We are not in a heartbreaking situation of losing our jobs or not having enough food.  We are very very very lucky.  I know this.  I tell myself that all I have to do at the moment is stay at home with my family.  That’s it.  I can do this.  That is all I need to worry about at the moment.

And it’s OK to both acknowledge that this is hard and sucks, but that many people have it worse.  We are all struggling at the moment.  This is a strange, crazy time.  We are all just doing the best that we can.

I hope you are OK.  I’m sending you health and sanity and good vibes.  I hope to be writing here more again if for no other reason than my own processing, but with all of us at home and with a toddler, my typing time is at a premium.  In the meantime, I wish you all the best.