Lemons & Lemonade
At the beginning of the world's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be easily said that just about everyone on the planet was thrust into a state of confusion and shock. Directives from governments and new rules for interpersonal interaction were coming from left and right. Employers were scrambling to figure out what to do. Every sneeze and cough put individuals on high alert and the term "survival mode" took on a whole new meaning.
Initially, the number of individuals with COVID-19 seemed low - so low that it was easy to not take it seriously and feel like the virus did not affect you. This brought on countless memes about people demanding their six feet of bubble space, frustrated parents during homeschooling and, of all things, toilet paper.
But once the haze faded and jokes subsided, something else happened pretty early on, too.
Each day that we spent hauled up in our residences, trying to keep up with the news while teaching our children in between conference calls, some people, including me, began to realize that even with the whiplash... this working and teaching from home thing isn't so bad after all!
The Old Normal
Last year, depression was the best friend I never wanted. Through counseling, I was able to slowly rebuild the emotional capacity to feel whole again. "No" became my new favorite word. Every chance I got, I was saying "no" as a means of over-correcting on my previous lack of boundaries.
Anybody: Jera, can you...?
Anybody: Jera, do you want to...?
Even in this space of making room for me again, I felt weighed down by lingering baggage.
Post-counseling but pre-pandemic, there was still church, PTO, soccer, Bible Study, birthday parties at random “fun” centers and a bunch of other stuff that I simply did not want to do! All of this while being forced to show grace and understanding to people who did not deserve either one in my opinion. (If you could earn degrees in gaslighting, tone policing and patronization, I know a few people who could be excellent deans of the colleges that would bestow these symbols of achievement, but that's a topic for another post... in the meantime, pray for a sistah 🙏🏽.)
Then COVID-19 took over and just like that, my schedule and my mind were clearer. Even typing right now, I am still overcome by a sense of sweet relief.
It. Was. Glorious.
Instead of perfecting my "no," I could make room for the yeses that I wanted to parcel out oh-so selectively. The only things I wanted to do was get better at piping icing onto cupcakes while baking with my son, making sushi rice for the best at-home California rolls and growing food in my little garden.
I typically didn't have energy for these joys in life. Most weeks looked like this: Being on the road for work for two or three days, battling traffic every morning and evening - somehow never managing to make it on time for the school bell regardless of the time I left home and then barely making it for after-school pick up - trying to cook semi-healthy meals to avoid pulling up to a fast food chain for dinner, helping with homework when my son was already tired from learning all day and waiting for me during latchkey into the evening (this alone makes me want to cry), finding a sitter (plus a back-up sitter) in advance of a work event that I had no choice but to attend, rushing away from work to get my child to one of several activities, feeling like I was always behind on metrics for my job, and then feeling like I needed an eighth day in the week that was actually reserved for rest because Saturday and Sunday were no better. Plus co-parenting.
I couldn't take it anymore! So, when the frenzy turned into space - all I could do was thank God!
The New Normal
Mothering became fun again and my son was thriving.
Cooking became joyful and nutrition was a priority.
Fitness became a natural part of my day and taking walks with my baby was priceless.
With gratitude for this new normal, I was able to quickly refocus my thoughts when any "whoa is me" feelings dared to creep into my mind. I was healthy. I was comfortable. I was blessed. I was able to take care of myself better. Therefore, I suddenly had the energy to care for others.
But everyone around me didn't seem to share the same sentiment even if their work circumstances were similar.
There was discussion ad nauseam about wanting life to get back to the way it was before "all of this mess" started. I would be the first to speak up and remind people, especially my colleagues, that there was no need to rush. Besides, I wasn't going back that hot mess of an existence anyway!
An old adage came to mind during these conversations:
When life gives you lemons, turn them into lemonade.
It struck me that this remark, which often passes as a call for positivity, is really the exact opposite. It's negative as all get out!
First of all, the assumption has to be that the way things were pre-lemons was preferable to the resulting lemonade. Thus, the lemons are a derailment and the lemonade is a second-best outcome.
I really had a moment when this hit me. Like... hold up!
I like lemons!
I intentionally add them to recipes, water and cocktails. Lemons are known for promoting digestion, supporting weight loss, boosting vitamin C and aiding in healthy skin and hydration, among other benefits.
And ya know what else... I like lemonade!
It reminds me of summer and sunshine. Of family reunions and fellowship hours after church. Storytimes and picnics. When I’m at a restaurant, I often choose it as my beverage.
When it comes to lemons and lemonade... Give me both.
Now, at this point in my reflection, I am totally willing to acknowledge and admit to the world that my lemonade epiphany comes from a place of privilege.
Yes, I had the ability to maintain full employment and great benefits while working from home and raising my child in safe space that was stocked with food and electronics. Yes, I had the ability to buy groceries online, pick them up curbside and grab one of many masks from my glove box to cover my face. I also had yet to receive news of the first of what would become several COVID-19 deaths within my family and friends group when I was sorting through these initial feelings.
But that's the thing about privilege... once you admit that you have it, you can explore how to put it to good use.
Had I still been in a stressful and frenzied space, I wouldn't have been able to process my feelings and support my mother through our own family's back-to-back losses.
If the world was still going, going, going, George Floyd would have been just another Black man who "probably deserved it."
Microaggressions would still be "all in our heads."
We would still be blaming poverty on those who were born into those dire circumstances.
Working a full-time job and not being able to make it still wouldn't be our collective problem.
And the U.S. would still be fighting to hold onto its sense of superiority.
Bottom-line: Life before the pandemic was not great and we should not desire to go back.
Tragedies are inevitable. Sadness and loss will happen. None of us can predict the future. All we have is the now and all we can do is strive to make room for what is destined to come.
In The Message translation of the Bible, God declares: I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out - plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. ~ Jeremiah 29:11
To achieve what is hoped for, we must use our God-given gifts to make a better life in the now. The Creator's plans are never second best. Yet, they aren't always pleasant either. And then there's the devil... That thing has been busy in 2020, ok?!?!
You have to be paying attention in order to discern them.
If I learned anything at all during this pandemic, it is that the current moment matters more than the next one that has yet to come and the past is for learning, not for dwelling.
This has become a daily practice for me. Stopping to live in the moment every chance I get and building upward. There are areas in my life where I can do it better, but as long as I have this moment, I have a fighting chance.
So, yes. Cheers to lemons and lemonade! Give. Me. Both.