Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Take a breath

I'm doing better today. Life always looks brighter after a workout and a decent-ish night's sleep. This month's program is The Work on Beachbody, and I'm enjoying it. I also made a batch of my favorite lockdown cookies (no flour required) and ate no fewer than five. I need to figure out where I'm headed with this summer look. 

(Fitness goals is always a lengthy subject better left for its own post.)

As always, I underestimated my awesome kids by insinuating that they wouldn't take care of our new livestock. Case in point, this morning. 

We got the ducklings almost two weeks ago. For the first twelve days, they stayed in a kiddie pool in the basement, under a heat lamp, since it was too chilly outside (snow every day). Each day I changed their bedding and rinsed them off in the bathtub. This was about as cute as you can imagine. After a week, they had doubled in size and were making twice the mess in their kiddie pool, so I was bathing them twice a day and changing their bedding twice. Worst of all, they'd eat all their food during the night and start frantically jumping out of the pool in the early morning, going to the bathroom on the basement floor and peeping so loudly that it woke me up. I'd run downstairs, chase them around, clean up the mess on the floor, haul them upstairs to the bathtub and spend the next hour changing everything out while they swam around in the tub and the family slept peacefully.

On Tuesday morning, Brian and I decided that it would be passably warm to move them out into the sun. They could not stay here another night. They had grown too big and I was completely exhausted by their early morning needs. I was really looking forward to sleeping until a decent hour on Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday I moved everything out to the barn. The ducks spent the day in their enclosure outside in the sunshine, and in the evening I had Will and Barrett help me transfer them to their new coop inside the barn. "Eventually," I commented, "you guys will wake up in the morning and come out here to let the ducks out."

"What if it's cold?" Will asked. 

"You'll put your coat and boots on," I shrugged. I figured that by the end of the summer, the ducks would be feathered out enough to free-range in the yard and pond, and all the boys would have to do would be open the barn door and let them out, fill up their food and water, and pen them back in at night. Until then, I need to actually carry them out into their fenced pen with a bin, since they can't swim in the pond until they've feathered out or their down will get water-logged and they'll drown. (I guess.) 

But apparently, William took that to mean, "From here on out, you guys will take care of the ducks." I didn't realize this until this morning (Wednesday morning), when I was having one of the most lovely dreams I've had in a really long time. I was dreaming that I was able to Marco Polo people I love who have died. Sister Sharon, Anna, Jonathan - I was talking with them - I could see their faces. Suddenly my bedroom door burst open. "The ducks are not okay!" yelled Barrett, who was suited up in winter coat and boots. "Their water is almost gone and their food bowl is tipped over!"

I stumbled out of the bedroom, bleary-eyed. It was about 6 AM. "Barrett, why are you guys out there with the ducks?"

"William said it's our job to take care of them now! He's down in the barn with them."

I sat on the couch. "You can give them some food if you want, honey, but I'm going to go down and take care of them after I've had my coffee. Just tell Will not to worry about it."

Barrett left the house. A couple minutes later, Will came in. He was crying. "I don't know what to do with the ducks." (He's very uncomfortable handling them.) "Am I supposed to carry them into their pen in the bin?"

"Oh, honey," I said, "I didn't expect you to do anything with them this morning. We were all supposed to be sleeping right now."

"But what about the ducks?

It took another minute to convince him that he wasn't responsible to do anything for the ducks yet. "Go and get your brother," I told him, sucking down my coffee, "and tell him to leave the ducks and come back to the house. I will take care of them. I'll train you guys to do it when it's the right time, okay?"

We had a good day. We planted the garden and no one fought. Brian ran out of grout for the shower tile too soon, but doesn't seem too devastated. He's still on cloud nine since finding out he's likely got the new director position at the university. He's the right person for the job, no doubt. I'm excited to see him in his new role. 

There is much to be thankful for. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2020


It's so discouraging to be you. To try, and try, and fail, and try again, and then turn around - and there you are. Fundamentally, it seems, flawed.

I feel destined to spend my life desperately seeking existential validation from other humans. It is crippling when someone is displeased with me; I am basically useless until I can bend over backward, eliminating every dignity, to set things right. No matter how old I get, I am always a child terrified of displeasing others. 

Are we okay? Am I okay?
I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.
I'm just a mess. I'm sorry.

Conventional Christian wisdom tells me to find my worth and confidence in Christ, and on good days, I can. On bad days, my time in Scripture further convinces me that I will never, ever measure up. And on those bad days, it's hard not to believe that the good days were just a result of a successful internal pep talk. 

Because there's the rub: I naturally, subconsciously have determined that it's also up to me to validate the existence of everyone else, to meet every other need that I encounter since of course I expect that for myself, from the rest of the world. This is, of course, completely crazy, yet I keep coming back to Paul's desire to be "poured out like a drink offering" - a sentiment with which I completely identify. But I don't do it right. I feel I have to meet all these needs and then of course I let them all down.

We received sixteen ducklings in the mail, but three of them didn't survive the trip. Their little bodies were crumpled in the corners. I keep dreaming about them, keep dreaming that I will kill these ducks like I killed my sweet gray cockatiel in high school. I took too much on, too many responsibilities, and even though I took care of her needs, I stopped engaging with her - I couldn't tell anything was wrong until she was splayed at the bottom of her cage. 

So am I destined to run around like a frantic hen, insufficiently trying to meet every need and meeting none? And using that as an indicator of my lack of worth?

Is life supposed to be a cycle of guilt and failure?

Oh Maegan, get out of your head. You have a good life. Every day is a new opportunity to walk carefully and do the best you can. Go bake, go drink a cup of coffee, go sit in the sunshine, go for a run. You'll feel better in the morning.

(As a sidenote, it is reassuring to see my suspicions about kids and pets confirmed. Kids and pets do not mix. Kids get bored with animals incredibly quickly. I have felt so guilty about saying no to fish, reptiles, birds... and these adorable ducklings have been a confirmation that I was right. No more guilt. I'd rather say no a hundred times than have yet another animal die at my hands, or tenderly care for a green iguana that no one looks at anymore. Thankfully, Brian wanted these ducks - we didn't just get them for the kids. It was the intention that the boys would take care of them, and that's still the plan - when the ducks feather out and require less maintenance, I guess.)

Sunday, May 3, 2020

COVID-19 Scene

Quarantine ends, to some degree, today, on day 50.

My parents are coming over! We haven't seen them at all, except for the evening before Easter when they stood on our porch with bags for the kids and said hello through the window. Today I'm taking Neva for a mommy-date, and then we're doing a little switch-around, and she'll go home with my mom while my dad and I have my father-daughter birthday date. My birthday's in September, but our tradition is to wait until March. I suppose May will do! All I had wanted this year was to pick up Taco Bell and watch The Godfather with him at his house. And what do you know! Now that's all we could do anyway. Finally, we'll head back to my house and be a big happy family again.

Of course, I've been out of the house a few times. I've gone for groceries, I picked up the ducklings from the post office on Thursday, and I ran into Tractor Supply for their feed. I wonder how long it will be normal to strap on a mask before running into the store, or to call for revised store hours before heading out, or to wonder if what I need at the store will be there (if it's dishwasher detergent or flour, probably not). How long will it be before church reopens? Before we travel up north again? For heaven's sake - will I see all my grandparents alive again? I'm petrified to get them ill, and I'm sure they're worried about getting sick, too. Brian's grandma is 98, still living at home, glued to Fox News, and every week when I call her she regales me with the latest doom. Dogs are getting it now! It's just awful. All the kids are failing their grades; no one's passing. China's working on a new virus for this fall. Those people eat their pets!

I woke up this morning to a loud peeping of a duckling in the basement that had escaped her friends in the kiddie pool. After some half-asleep effort, I caught her, and let a frantic Bo outside while I refilled their dry water bowls. Mac and Neva came down soon afterward, all needs and questions, and the sun was streaming in through the windows and screens that took me all day to wash and install yesterday. I'm sitting here as they eat their breakfast, marveling about how nice it feels to have people and animals and a place to care for. I'd have assumed that after fifty days, I'd be anxious to get out of here, but I'm not.

I feel so strange admitting that, while the world has been falling apart, I've been having quite possibly the best time of my life. Not that my enjoyment hasn't been laced with anxiety about the events unfolding outside my door, or with discouragement over my own halted progress. I spent the first week after our return from the Grand Canyon feeling lower than low. Pajama-bound, exhausted, chocolate-eating, apathetic, and of course, terribly down on myself. What is WRONG with you??? One evening, all chilly, I took my temperature and discovered I was in fact sick. I expected to get worse, but the malaise continued at its moderate level for a few weeks, and it was so freaking nice to sleep in and not have anywhere to be. I hope I had COVID. But what this isolation has done is remove all the "community expectations" that I have internalized. I clean the house for us now, not because people are coming over. And guess what? I keep it clean, after all. I didn't need the pressure of hosting to make me a "better," cleaner person. I am working out regularly - for me - and eating what and when I want, because I am not worried about fitting into my Sunday dress or being beach-ready for Memorial Day. And surprisingly, as a result, I haven't been binge-eating or starving myself, and my weight is at a healthy place, and I'm really happy with myself. The kids are making great progress at home with their studies, and it's easier when I'm not carting them to LEGO class or swimming - gatherings that they didn't miss and were actually happy to avoid. And it's made me introspective about what I dread about going back to "real life" and what changes I need to make. And if I'm being honest, the changes I need to make are mostly in my mind, and what I assume people are expecting of me. I suppose I have discovered that, after all, I am okay. 

I have loved being home. I have loved having Brian working from home. We've been a happy family, doing projects on the house and playing board games. Yesterday, Barrett and Neva got along so nicely that Barrett told me he wanted to marry her when he grew up. 

Social media has been a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it has been tremendously relieving to hear that others are struggling with this quarantine - feeling apathetic about their long-term goals, experiencing anxiety and uncertainty, and coping with social distancing in many of the same ways. I downloaded Marco Polo and have been connecting with friends and family, and it has been amazing. On the other hand, seeing people post their obnoxious conspiracy theories frustrates me. Yes, everyone is entitled to their opinion. Yes, we are all simultaneously concerned about this pandemic's economic impact, threat to civil liberty, and unfortunate effect of non-COVID-related medical issues often going untreated while patients stay home. But we are living in an unprecedented time; pandemics are not a hoax. I sincerely wish people had a better grasp of how messy and complicated it is to compile reliable data during a global event like this. And while data comes in, gosh darn it - sit your butt down and keep the community safer. My two cents.

Of course, it is easy for me to say this. Brian is still employed, homeschooling is chugging along, and I'm feeling more rested and spending more quality time with my little family than I have in a long time, if not ever. But as the world outside is crumbling, I can't help but form my own opinions... and wish I was doing more to help.