Two Years Ago…

… next month, a small group of neighborhood parents got together at a favorite margarita spot to celebrate, or rather commiserate, the end of spring break. News had hit about this strange virus possibly impacting local schools, and I remember being adamant that there was no way our school district would close. Pandemic Lesson #1: I know nothing and should say nothing. After an extended spring break, classroom doors did not open again for the rest of the 2019–2020 school year. Little did we know, so many more earth-shattering changes were on their way.

As our household approaches the two-year anniversary of learning about this pandemic, I can’t decide if it’s time for reflection or revolution. You know everybody’s still struggling when the moms that represent the best and brightest of this fine city are drowning now more than ever. Will this ever get better? When?! How do we survive any longer? And how do we heal?

I was talking to ACM’s lovely editor, Jill, about all the things… How was winter break? Did we have a winter break? Was anybody not sick? Oh, and yeah, I’m totally behind on writing. Besides the winter work hibernation, we once again commiserated about where we all are. And essentially, where do we go from here?  I’m not sure any of us knows. As we continue to learn more, flex more, do more… Have we lost sight of where we came from and perhaps where we want to go?

It’s funny because while we were talking, both of us tried to make comments about our children and the past two years. What seemed like too extreme of language made us double back and edit ourselves. It was something about the years that we’ve all lost, then hesitating and saying, oh no, I guess it wasn’t really a loss. Or that we want to be done with all this. But nobody wants to sound selfish or inconsiderate. I’m pretty sure trying to measure our losses against others will never let us process and heal. Before we are able to support others hurting, we have to take care of ourselves fully. In order to move forward, sometimes we have to look back.

I remember at the beginning of it all, when it took months before we knew anyone who was exposed. But all the while we were making major changes to our family life, our work lives, our health care decisions, our daily routines. All before anyone we knew was sick. Then little by little, we passed this point of inflection where now we’ve all either had the virus, or we know lots of people who have. My kids still remind themselves they wear masks to keep themselves safe somewhat, but mostly to stop the spread and protect others. I wonder, would we have had the discipline to do all this just to protect ourselves? Or did we survive because we thought about others?

I don’t think we should sell ourselves short. We have SURVIVED this pandemic. Whether or not we’ve lost a loved one or a job or more, we have all experienced immense loss. Loss of support, safety, routine, growth, comfort, health, predictability, consistency, connection, and the list goes on. The mental health losses are immeasurable. Feeling guilty about any blessings that may have come during these tumultuous two years won’t help anyone heal. We have been through the fire and back. It’s time to start processing.

We have to start processing everything we’ve lost. We have to show our children what that feels like. I don’t think a single person is where they expected to be. That shouldn’t surprise us. If we really think about the weight of this—the gravity of a worldwide pandemic—it makes sense that we should have big emotions.

On any given day during 2020… 2021… and now 2022, I feel like Anna in the cave of Frozen II after Olaf drifts off into the mist. Remember, when all she could do was the next right thing? Except the cave is darker. There are three fussy kids in there with me. We can’t find OSHA Dad. It’s pitch black. And we’ve been in there for years. No concept of time makes sense anymore. I think Omicron is the omega for this mama. You know, Alpha to Omega. Beginning to end. Yup, tomorrow I’m officially done with this pandemic…

Then we get up the next day, make sure we have our masks and hand sanitizer, take our immunity vitamins—and head off to war. Did we ever really have a choice? Will we be able to look back on this, when our children are grown, and ask them if they remember the YEARS we all survived this pandemic?!

I need a break.

I need to breathe.

I need help.

But darn it all, Mama, you are stronger today than you were back in 2020. Now you keep those babies (shoot, they’re not babies anymore) healthy even when those H-E-B shelves are running low. Make daily life-altering decisions—check. Set boundaries for your family, while still respecting others’ versions—done and done. Showing everyone around you that even in the darkest of times, friendship, fun, and kindness go a long way.

Nobody will be the same afterwards, if and when this thing ever goes from pandemic to endemic. Who do you want to end up? Because, cue the cathartic tears, I’m proud of the sacrifices I’ve made and lessons I’ve painfully taught my little monsters. I’m definitely not thanking the ‘rona for any of this—it can still go jump off a cliff. But I’m thankful for so many things we used to take for granted—like our home and all the extra hours we spend in it now. Every nurse, teacher, delivery driver, and essential worker who keeps the world turning. This beautiful, sunshiny city we call ours, with all its outdoor entertainment. Every library and every book. Music, old and new. Any kind of work, no matter the reward. Our family’s health, on good days when we win, and on bad days when we’re building our immune systems. Another trip around the sun, no matter how bumpy the ride.

I’m thankful for all our blessings. And again, I’m completely aware there are so many still suffering.

We are all suffering. We have to help ourselves how we can. But I’m not looking back at the person I was pre-pandemic. I’m thankful for the will God gave me to grow stronger than I ever thought fathomable.

I’m proud of the mother I’ve become.

Pandemic Lesson #283,746: Reflection can be exactly what you need to start healing.

Born in Germany to two true Southerners traveling the world thanks to the USAF, she went to 5 different elementary schools before calling Texas home. She was an NCAA Student Athlete, before transferring and graduating from UT Austin, BSME'08 TEXAS FIGHT! She took a victory lap for her Master's in engineering education with her ChemE husband (aka OSHA Dad) before traveling again for consulting. Missing TX and a teaching job brought her back to family in San Antone before three little longhorns were born! Kristen loves to travel, teach, and feed her family. Together with her loud and crazy family, she has two rescue kitties, one aussie, and a beta fish. Fav SA Restaurant: Panaderia Fav SA Tradition: Chispas Fav SA Landmark: Landbridge