In the last week alone . . .
I'm pretty sure I accidentally threw our checkbook and ledger in the garbage.
I met a friend for breakfast -- she picked the place and then showed up at the wrong restaurant.
One of my daughters mistakenly took our dog's allergy pill instead of her own.
A friend told me she was so out of it at home, her husband asked her if she was losing her mind.
We've heard of Pregnancy Brain. Grief Brain. Senior Moments. Well, I'm calling it. Pandemic Brain is a thing. If a scientist or psychologist would like to throw some hard data on this to prove it's real, I'd appreciate it. But I know it's real because I am not dumb. And none of the people I have referred to above is dumb. We are not losing our minds. On the contrary, our amazing brains are doing a pretty good job considering all the information we are having to process.
Think about it. We are going through our days, working, parenting, doing household tasks and chores, paying bills, figuring out all kinds of new technology and systems, and while we are engaged in all this activity our brains are processing enormous amounts of information we are hearing. Information that has to be sifted through for context and accuracy. Information which is constantly changing. The numbers. The states on the quarantine list. The timeline for a vaccine. The safety of vaccines. Political propaganda. Biased reporting. Proposed plans for schools and sports programs.
Where I live, we were given a choice whether to send our kids back to school. Not an easy one for some parents to make, Then it was decided for us, and most kids moved to full-time remote learning. Some of my friends have decided to homeschool, so they are figuring out which curriculum to use and what that will look like. Parents are having to figure out combined schedules for work and school. Some of our kids have returned to sports camps and practices, and it's been so good for them to be active and get back to something normal. And then for some of them, their entire seasons have just been cancelled. Again. We run into the store and have to remember to put our mask on. To squirt hand sanitizer on our hands as we leave. But then, shoot! We touch the cart again. But remember? We sanitized that when we came into the store. Whew! We run into a good friend and have to decide whether to give her a hug or an elbow bump. We go eat at a restaurant and have to remember to wear our masks to our table, take them off to drink and eat, and then put them back on again if we get up to go to the restroom. It's just A. Lot. To. Remember.
My friend -- the one whose husband asked if she was losing her mind -- is a preschool teacher. For weeks she has been going back and forth with the proposed plans for the school, trying to plan for her fall semester while planning for her own children who are now doing remote learning full-time. Then preschool was cancelled. And then her director resigned.
Is it any wonder we are a little off our game? Is it that hard to understand how our brains could be so preoccupied with the craziness of this situation that we do things like put the milk in the cabinet and our cell phones in the fridge? That we accidentally delete 3022 files on our lap top and then delete the Recycle Bin? That we confuse our dry shampoo for spray deodorant? That we leave our credit card in the gas pump and throw our checkbooks in the garbage? (To be clear, I didn't do all of these things, but when I shared on Facebook that I accidentally threw away my checkbook and asked if anyone else had done anything dumb lately, these are some of the responses I got.) My theory with the checkbook is that after my hairdresser cut my hair in my garage (can I just point out this is not normal??), and I wrote her a check on the back of our Jetta, I grabbed my broom and dustpan, swept up the hair from the garage floor, and then walked down to the garbage can which was already on the curb for pick-up the following day. With my towel around my shoulders and my hair dripping wet, I waved goodbye as she pulled away, opened the lid, and probably dropped my checkbook and pen, along with the hair, in the trash.
It was not a normal situation. Few things in my life are normal right now. There is a lot going on in my head.
Maybe you can relate. Do you feel like a GPS that is constantly saying "Recalculating?" Do you feel like that rainbow pinwheel that spins on your Mac when too many files are open and it can't keep up? Do your feel like your relationships are being affected, like when your smartphone tells you your wifi connection is weak or poor? That some of your connections with your regular people and your regular rhythms of life are not as strong as you would like? Are you overwhelmed as you try to figure out what to do about your child's education and what role you will have in it? Are you trying to figure out childcare if you are an essential worker and your kids are now going to be at home? Do you miss going to church and going on vacation? Are you sick and tired of Zoom??
If so, I want to tell you what I told my friend. I said, "You can go tell your husband (who by the way is a very nice person) that you are most definitely not losing your mind. Your brain is extraordinary. Honestly, it's remarkable you are functioning as well as you are, given the circumstances. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself a break. Give yourself grace. This Pandemic Brain is a lot like Grief Brain."
My friend looked at me and replied, "There is grief here. With this pandemic. There is loss." Yes, there is. For some of us more significantly than others, but all of us are experiencing loss. Our kids are experiencing it, too. So be gracious to yourself and to others. Be extra kind and compassionate to yourself and to others. Make allowance for your faults and the faults of others.
I can't wait till we move past this era -- my prediction is that because of how hard our brains are working during this season, we will end up smarter than ever. Hopefully wiser, too.
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