My husband was supposed to be out of town well before this COVID-19 pandemic occurred. He was going to be gone training for work, then working at a remote location, for a year or more. We had set everything up: all the bills were auto-withdrawal, I had the logins for all his important websites, and I was ready to put his car on storage status for awhile. The day he was supposed to leave, we get the call that he needs to wait for some more paperwork (travel restrictions were starting). That wait kept continuing.
A very long story later, my husband is at home during the pandemic with me.
I went to visit my therapist, Ira, the day after he was supposed to leave. One of the things we’ve been focusing on is how my husband leaving will be like experiencing grief again and what that affect that will have. Sessions were usually around the idea of what my new life will mean once he’s gone. Sounds dramatic, yes, but going from living with the person you love full time to not living with them for over a year is a form of loss that I would need to prepare for. We had discussed my exercise goals, some local groups I wanted to get involved with, and mindfulness practices for when my anxiety peaks at night and can’t sleep and how I won’t turn to drinking myself to sleep. So when I went to my appointment and sat down to discuss, my therapist asked how I was doing and I couldn’t help but let out a very long and exasperated moan.
“Ok. What does that mean exactly?”
I explained to him the stress of the go, no-go, go, no-go last 48 hours. Now there’s pile of new stressors that I have to balance, while also being prepared that we spend every day on a 24-hours notice that my husband could leave tomorrow. I had set my work schedule up to be fully submersed in some new projects, I was doing online classes at home to finish my degree, and I had signed up for a lot of events. Now my husband was home and I would have to maybe rearrange my busy lifestyle and cancel everything because I want to be an attentive partner to him. But he could also leave the next day.
All of that stress and time spent at therapy only for the entire country to go on lock-down, everything is cancelled anyways, and it doesn’t matter if we’re stuck together; everyone is. Now there’s ANOTHER mental battle to face:
Did you know that in China divorce rates are skyrocketing because of COVID-19?
Husband and I have discussed this quite a bit and are trying our best to be aware of what others are having issues with. I had moved us into a small two bedroom apartment (because I was going to be alone!) and now we were stuck in here. So we set up one bedroom with a recliner, books, a study lamp, etc. We rearranged the living room furniture a bit in order to make some more space. He’s taken on the lion’s share of chores and cleaning to allow me time to finish my degree. I’ve take on most of the bills because my income supports it. We’ve started making communal meals (usually we meal prep separately) and are learning to bake together. On days where one person is just depressed and down, the other gives them space or cuddles depending on what the depressed person expresses they need. We apologize after small fights. We made some masks together.
We’re trying really hard to live in the now instead of focusing on what the world will look like after this. It’s impossible to make plans when you don’t know what the world is going to look like (when will I ever be able to hang out with friends again?)
In Viktor Frankel’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he writes, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” There’s almost nothing I can do about the situation we’re all finding ourselves in, but I can choose to find meaning in my suffering (be it the loss of my parents, the loss of normalcy, etc.) and I can chose to find worth in the suffering (lose weight, run better, stronger marriage).
That’s something that therapy has helped with a lot: control what you can. I cannot control what happened in the past, but I can use those lessons to control what I can in the future. I want my marriage to be there to the end of my days, so I must work on that. I want to age gracefully, so I must maintain my health. I want to be a successful and competent human being, so I work on learning what I can to better myself.