Still Not There Yet

In my years as a divorce mediator, I watched many families go through the struggle to find a “new normal.” As with any process involving grief, the usual experience was messy.

One factor contributing to the mess is the need to reassemble the production line of family functioning. Whereas in a combined household, the eleven year old might be the tech wizard, Dad the czar of tax filings, and Mom the person who made sure oil changes always happened on time, in separate households, those functions have to be reassigned or at least rescheduled. The shock for Dad of having his oil light come on, or for Mom having to drop everything to get the taxes filed can be enormous.

Those speed bumps can feel as if they symbolize a failed marriage, a failed adulthood, enormous loss, and an unkind universe. And there is shock after shock for all involved. The rule of thumb most counselors apply is that a divorce is a three-year quest for a new normal that actually feels normal.

And all of the adjustments must be negotiated while Life Goes On. It’s draining and bewildering, and as I try to get beyond fourteen months of living pandemically, I’m struggling with a lot of the symptoms divorcing families deal with.

For a long time, the only day of the week I had to keep track of was Tuesday, which was barn/bank/grocery day. Other than that, the day hovered somewhere between Saturday (I don’t have to go anywhere or do anything in particular), and Workday (the writing, Grace. Do the writing…). I learned to keep extra masks in the car and purse. I added hand sanitizer to those locations are well.

Now the masks and hand-san are on auto-pilot, but I’m struggling to keep track of a busier calendar. Not a busy calendar, not compared to Before-Before, but busier than I can handle without focused effort now.

At this time last year, I didn’t have to fret over whether I owed distant family a visit, because I could not visit. I didn’t have to decide whether to attend writer’ conferences, because there weren’t any except on Zoom. I didn’t have to fret much about the political news, because the pandemic shoved most of that baloney into the wings.

I feel like my sat nav is busted, the maps I can find are out of date, and I haven’t driven this route in years. I’m finding some comfort in the things that have not changed–I tended to my flower gardening Then, I’m tending to to it now. I rode my horse Then, I’m riding him now. I wrote books Then… I’m trying to write books now, or at least work on book stuff, but this is not how I imagined After This is Over.  It’s a lot messier, though tidying up the mess is a job I’m happy to have.

How are you doing? What’s helping? What’s a particular challenge? The first 20 people who comment get an ARC copy of Miss Delectable, because maybe that’s something I can do help.

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22 comments on “Still Not There Yet

  1. 1
    Susan G says:

    My “work life” is still on hold. Received the news yesterday that we are work from home until
    Labor Day. I am thrilled not to drive in Cape Cod traffic this summer. I worry about re entry to the work place- I will feel better when the return date is provided. I miss my work friends.

    What’s helping? I bought a planner and I am trying to write a reasonable daily to do list. I bring Rose and Greg and we share time on the deck before work. Greg listens to the birds, Rose sleeps & I drink coffee. It’s a peaceful time.

    I am back to dog class on Sundays. I really missed my routine. And I am walking 2 days during my lunch break & weekends. It’s good to get moving and walk the dogs. Everything is new and exciting for Laci – she likes meeting people.

    The pandemic turned things upside down but, it provided me with a chance to take a deep breath & enjoy my family & friends & home.

  2. 2
    Brenda U K says:

    My little bit of paradise(where I live)has been turned upside down and become a battle ground of angry owners( myself included)and the agent firm who is supposedly designated and paid by us to maintain and organise repairs and upkeep of our homes. I love my home and I thought I had found my last move.Demands of more money required are Epping away my savings.Some of my neighbours are selling up.We have got to this point because of mismanagement of funds and poor decisions in the past.A tough call?—-No because over the pass year my next door and I have become friends that help each other out and support each other through this challenge.She lives on her own like me,she has travelled the world and owned restaurants around the UK.Like me she loves her home and resents the troubles we are facing.We are getting on in age but the fight is still there so we will stand firm and not be intimidated by idiots.Others have joined the band ,we all want to defend our homes and peace and enjoy our twilight years.So come what may!!!I have found anew friend and we will strive to keep our homes.So onwards and upwards—-life in us old still!!!!.Keep writing Grace but always enjoy it.You do it so well.

  3. 3
    Ann-Marie says:

    I’m actually doing a lot better, thankfully. Being almost-vaccinated helps with that. A particular challenge, though, is having the arm on my glasses break off three weeks before I’ll be fully vaccinated–and that entailed an eye exam, and a lot of time in a place that sells frames and lenses to get new glasses. I was out of my house and in public for over four hours–the longest I’d left the house since this began. The Anxiety was high–and while I think I’m recovering from that, it was definitely difficult.

    Honestly, the biggest thing that’s helping, I think, is the vaccine. I’m getting excited to get my second shot. And while I’m sure I’ll still wear a mask and social distance–the vaccine gives me an opportunity to expand my bubble a little bit to include my parents, who don’t live with me ((and who aren’t as careful as I have been, which has been Very Stressful and a Huge Challenge).

    Books help, too. Reading distracts me from the stress of remembering the virus and all the devastation it’s caused (and is still causing).

    But I feel like I can see the way out of this now, and maybe that’s the biggest help of all.

  4. 4
    Teenie Marie says:

    I feel a bit in limbo right now. Yes, things are better and opening up but not quite. I had my second shot on May 6 and had a rough reaction–fever, chills, body and muscle aches, headache, etc. for about 36 hours–and the headache and muscle aches lasted for days after. I think my feeling of *limbo* comes from that reaction.

    I want to gradually get back to normal, ease in and it just doesn’t seem like that will happen. It’s a bit like Midwestern weather–it’s chilly for weeks and then BOOM, it’s 88 degrees. Nothing prepares you (even though I’m a lifelong Midwesterner) for the BOOM and after the shock wears off, you adjust. That’s how I feel about getting back to normal–the BOOM is not comforting and it will take a while to adjust to *normal*.

  5. 5
    Tina Ann Armato says:

    Now that we’re fully vaccinated, we have become, once again, the grandparent sitters for when the grandkids get out of school early or have a day off when both parents have to work. Seeing the kiddies is definitely the best part of our week and the very best part of finally being vaccinated. We have always been happy to help out; in fact I watched both kids 9 hours a day 4 days a week for 4 years early on, and loved every exhausting minute! We had long since stopped sitting the kiddies on a daily basis when our son & daughter-in-law moved out of state, but still were occasionally enlisted to help out. Then the pandemic hit and suddenly we couldn’t see each other, except for a very rare, socially distanced, meetup (Thanksgiving & Christmas were very weird last year!). But now things are slowly returning to our new normal. We have abandoned masking completely in our house, once again able to comfortably engage the kiddies while cooking with them or working on craft projects or simply being silly with them (our very favorite thing to do!). I only have positive feeling about our new normal. While we still mask up in public places I no longer look at everyone who passes me in the grocery store as if they are Typhoid Mary! Just giving up that heightened feeling of fear and terror over an unseen enemy is the best feeling in the world!

  6. 6
    AnnG says:

    I am rereading a lot more of my ebooks & I always had hand san with me for years;
    No changes there, just use a different one now!!!

  7. 7
    Alana M says:

    I’ve been home with the kids for years, so that hasn’t changed. We run our business out of our home and I also homeschool. Taking care of barn chores and pets, etc hasn’t changed. But we’ve been out more this past week. Or I’ve taken the kids out more. We went to a local greenhouse and picked out plants/seeds for our garden on Friday. My kids were excited to be able to do that again. Last year they didn’t go with us for plants and we ordered our seeds online. Just getting in the truck and going out is something they haven’t been able to do much in the past year. ( They barely went to any store unless it was in our small town, and that was just the feed store and the gas station) But It felt good. Like an adventure that we took for granted before. Something we wouldn’t have thought twice about over a year ago. It was just something we did every year was pick out seeds and plants. I imagine it kind of became a chore. Now it’s new again and I think it was fun for them (and me). It’s seems like people are starting to be friendly again too at the grocery stores or even at the greenhouse. For awhile there you could tell that some people just needed the interaction and to just talk to someone and be friendly. Now it seems like more people are opening themselves up again and smiling. Not being afraid to interact with others.

  8. 8
    Sarah says:

    Quarantine happened at a transitional time for my family, I have a high school senior and a 7th grader, so we are at a different stage now and the old normal no longer fits. The new normal has yet to emerge and I think the basic outline is taking shape (getting ready to send my daughter off to college is hard to wrap my head around even in the middle of it) but none of it feels normal yet. I feel like focusing on my breath and allowing things to sort and take shape on their own timeline is my challenge, because I would really like to proclaim “this is how things are” and have it all on my terms after such a long hard uncertain quarantine. Patience isn’t my strongpoint in general, but I feel really pushed on that front right now. Now that I am fully vaccinated, I’m going to have some time away by myself, and I’m hoping that will help.

  9. 9
    Beth says:

    Bought the paperback for my keeper shelf, so I’m recused.

    Discovering I don’t want a lot of the “normal” back. Dusted off my No word & using it liberally. Not that I don’t want to break the isolation, just getting picky about who & how.

    Using my energies for maintenance of self & my domain. Car trouble turned into a blessing as I discovered an excellent Auto Zone nearby & a new battery during daylight hours before I’d get dinged financially for missing upcoming doctors’ appointments. Quote for new gutters on the house & waiting on the quote to screen the porch.

    I find I’m getting ruthless with things that aren’t working for me. Dragged the wicker loveseat no one uses off the porch & acquired a folding card table & matching plastic chairs on sale so the corner by the outside electrical plug can be an early morning/evening work area now the nice neighbor has put brighter bulbs in the porch light & I’ve found my citronella candle. Clothes ruthlessly pruned, not so comfy shoes in the charity bag…Change is Coming. (Intoned in an ominous narrator’s voice.)

  10. 10
    Pam says:

    I am writing a fairy tale at work. My job right now mostly consists of designing a computer system based on a platform that I know nothing about and that will be written in a language I don’t know. in other words, I don’t know what is possible and what isn’t. I could retire right now but have decided to give them what they think they want and head out the door quickly.

    I was buffaloed for a long time, but finally shrugged and just went with it.

    I am fortunate and I know it. I have a good retirement coming and I’ve been gainfully employed making a living wage for almost 40 years now.

  11. 11
    Make Kay says:

    I am finding it so difficult to change my mindset about masks and people touching me. I still recoil when people around me come close to me. And because of the CDC, everyone feels entitled to brazenly invade my space without first checking to see if I’m ok with it. And I am most emphatically NOT ok with it. Don’t hug me! Just wave hello from a few feet away, please.
    That will take some time, I’m sure. And also more than just the CDC’s say-so, but also the buy-in of most of the country’s foremost epidemiologists, which has not happened yet.
    Baby steps…
    I’m glad to hear your life is getting back to a more pre-pandemic feel, Grace!

  12. 12
    Laura says:

    I guess I am doing OK, but I would like to be doing better.

    I moved from my home in Houston (after 41 years) a few months ago, and I know fewer than 10 people in my new city. And all of those are friends of my daughter, and I have promised myself that I will not attach myself totally to her life.

    I am staying “in” full time, except for visits to her home and various medical appointments. However, her family now includes my first grandchild, and that truly makes ALL the difference in the world. But I have not been to a library or a grocery or any other commercial establishment at all.

    It is hard to meet new people when you go nowhere! I think I just need to feel more settled here, but am not sure how long it will take and how to move that process along.

    We are all double vaccinated and very careful, but as Make Kay stated above, I feel myself tremendously wary of other people. (I do walk in the park with my daughter and baby)

    We are all healthy and COVID free, and that is a wonderful thing.

  13. 13
    bn100 says:

    am reading more books

  14. 14
    Nancy Faries says:

    I’m feeling a calm restlessness these days. Serene because I live in Hawaii, 50 miles north of Kona in the rural uplands. Restless because of a nasty degenerating disc. I never would have reached the state of serenity without my divorce 15 years ago. The awful platitude, “it just takes time” was both unfortunately and fortunately true for me

    My youngest daughter, Emily is a family lawyer and a divorce mediator in Maryland (guess where she got that urge from) and I lived in Virginia for 50 years, growing up and then in science at the USGS. My scientists were lovely people, but wrangling geologists to sign their timecards in the pre-electronics age was like herding cats or a Nicholas. They were always dodging out the door to visit their favorite volcano or iceberg.

    Reading your books and mulling them through really does help my restlessness. My much younger self realizes you got Ethan’s and Alice’s panic attacks just right and that is part of the book’s allure for me. Being known.

    Having just discovered how much richness voice can add – I’m reading my own internal audiobooks now. I think of Alice’s voice as starchy and prim at first and Ethan’s as low and sometimes slightly hesitant to begin with. It was peaceful to travel with them as they and the boys towed each other and all together out to the sunlight.

    Thanks for letting me puzzle pieces of my life together this morning. Reviewing while looking at snow on the top of Mauna Loa and waiting for the Sunday much-loved six-way family zoom fest this afternoon is uniquely good for any soul.

    • 14.1
      KarenM6 says:

      That’s a beautiful post, Nancy. Thank you. I can feel your serenity and I’m sorry for the disc issues causing restless ness.

      But LOL about “herding cats or a Nicholas”!
      It always puzzled me how people known for their preciseness (engineers in my case) had the hardest time with filling out timecards!

  15. 15
    Karen H near Tampa says:

    Being retired and a prefers-to-stay-at-home and read introvert, my last year wasn’t too much different, except that I was able to skip the family get-togethers since there weren’t any. I find them exhausting more than anything so didn’t miss them. But now my extroverted sister and her family are starting to invite me to things. I know they mean well but I don’t trust that they’re getting vaccinated and even though I have been, I don’t want to spend hours (family get-togethers are always long-lasting) in close contact with them. I’ve told them I’ll think about the fall/winter holidays when the time comes. I don’t actually trust most people, especially here in Florida, to do the right thing so I’m staying hunkered down at home. A quick 30 minutes in a grocery store or restaurant, with my mask on most of the time in spite of dirty looks from fellow attendees, is about all I can stand. Distance is comfortable.

  16. 16
    Yvonne says:

    We are a farming family so Covid did not change that — planting still had to happen, harvest still had to happen. I turned off news and social media — too negative and I do not need the constant negative messages. My off farm job returns to mostly normal June 1 and we are having a party. Looking forward to all working together and fewer Zoom meetings!

  17. 17
    KarenM6 says:

    I’m doing well considering.
    I now try to get all my outside tasks done on one or two days instead of just “stopping by the store” on the way home. I am constantly surprised at how some people are ok with being maskless. I hope they are all vaccinated, but the truth must be that some of them just don’t want to wear masks. This is a perfect example of the phrase: “to each his own.”
    Helping: using this time to heal and do a lot of self-reflection. Reading and escaping into stories helps, too.
    Challenge: feeling stuck. This time has really engendered a feeling of “I can’t do anything until….” However, the reality is that I am using this time to “do”, it’s more of an internal do instead of an external do, though.
    The phrase “my sat nav is busted” really perfectly describes what I mean by feeling stuck!!
    Letting go of this “feeling” (which isn’t truly _real_) will help! I have to regrow my “do” muscles! 🙂

  18. 18
    Rebecca Rungsang says:

    Here in Bangkok, Thailand we are undergoing another bad wave of infections and mandatory mask mandates include when driving alone in your car(!) as well as walking outside in public (anywhere outside your own home). Otherwise you are heavily fined. Needless to say, we are very lucky we can order online and have almost ANYTHING delivered, so there is very little need to be out in public. Relatively few people have been vaccinated and foreigners are at the end of the line to receive them. (OK with me as me and both my daughters have underlying conditions which make the known possible side effects a very PROBABLE problem for us. I am retired so work isn’t a problem, but I truly enjoy losing myself in my books. As I have always been a loner, not really a people person,the past year has not been as difficult for me as for many others.

  19. 19
    Angela Thompson says:

    There is hope and we emerge stronger. In this age of masks and isolation I have found time to take a deep breath and prioritize what is important in life. I have see society do the same. We started checking on the elderly, and the isolated. Making sure they had food and necessities. We stopped focasing on the media darlings and focased on family and helping eachother. I learned to Zoom my grandchildren. Some of us have taken up new hobby or dusted off old ones. I gave my oldest grandaughter one of my dip pen ink and sealing wax and started teaching her the art of cursive writing and calligraphy. It hasn’t all been positive. There has been missed births, marriages, and deaths of loved ones. The sadness and lack of closure is difficult to naviagte. We will deal with this for sometime to come. Then I see, the kindness generosity, and care. I am amazed and greatful every day for eachother.

    Angela Thompson RN emergency/ICU

  20. 20
    Tamara says:

    I’m having trouble with this too! I have been teaching online, which means no commute. But I am struggling with going back to campus to prepare for fall. It’s going to take a while to feel normal again.

  21. 21
    Marilyn McGee says:

    We’re getting closer to normal.
    May 22 my husband and I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary. Now that things are opening up in Connecticut
    we were able to spend a couple of nights at a beautiful resort by the water.
    What a treat to spend a little time away from home!
    Just sitting at a bar having a glass of wine and having a great conversation with the bartender felt revolutionary.