The Third Third

The Coronavirus Cure for Perfectionism

Mostly, at the end of every day of this sheltering-in-place to help control the pandemic, I am simply grateful.  Grateful for making it through another day.  Literally. Grateful to be well and to know that all my loved ones are safe and well, too. Grateful for my loved ones, and especially that had I known 50 years ago that I would be marooned on this island with my spouse indefinitely, he is still the one I would have chosen to be with.

Also: Grateful to have snagged a spot on the grocery-pick-up schedule. Grateful for whatever contact we can have with family and friends via phone and text, FaceTime and Zoom.  Grateful for the healthcare workers.  Grateful for the scientists working on cures and vaccines.  Grateful for grocers and their workers.  Grateful for the mail, such as it is, and delivery services.  Grateful for my computer and the internet and for journalists. Grateful for the roses daring to bloom. Grateful for sleep.

And finally:  Grateful for a surprising new self-awareness that I am OK even though there is not a darn thing I can do about any part of this mess we find ourselves in except stay put.  I take comfort in hearing from other women my age that they’ve lost focus, can’t concentrate enough to read a book, have whittled their To-Do lists down to the very basics (“Get up.  Make the bed.  Or not.”).  I can relate to them (though not to those who are digging out their sewing machines to design masks or those posting creative new recipes developed from what’s left in the pantry).  But what I have discovered is that I don’t need this kind of comparative affirmation anymore. The pandemic has forced me out of the competition I have created in some space in my head forever. This is a huge relief.  I can see it:  there’s less stress in my face about the things I used to think I needed to get done, and get done perfectly.  And I can feel it: despite the profound uncertainty and realistic fears of this coronavirus crisis, I have a far greater capacity for equanimity and tolerance for “good enough” than I ever knew.

Amazingly, I actually feel closer to my kids, more loved and loving, as we weather the crisis emotionally, if not physically, together.

There are pangs.  I do still sometimes wish I had the knowledge, expertise, skills and platform to make a real difference in how people think about this particular crisis and what they do to ameliorate it.  But I’m OK now, in a way I have never been before, with admitting that I don’t,  admiring the people who do, and thanking them.  It also grieves me to not be able to help my grown kids through this, not even by taking care of their kids while they work, or visiting to ease the loneliness. The well-worn tape that’s playing says a better grandmother/mother would, but the pandemic shuts it off, reminding me I can’t do anything hands-on for them while we’re all sequestered. Amazingly, I actually feel closer to my kids, more loved and loving, as we weather the crisis emotionally, if not physically, together.

I’m still not at all sure how to make the best of these days, and they feel surreally precious, which makes me not want to waste them.  For now — this is a real day-at-a-time situation — I’m still just trying to re-channel the energy I once wasted on competitive perfectionism into gratitude, kindness, and a modicum of inner peace.  Perhaps I would have gotten to this place with maturity and age alone, but I had not yet.  I have to credit the coronavirus crisis for the cure.

 Be well.

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