I woke up to Edie’s coos and the distinct sound of a 7 year old creating a breakfast masterpiece in the kitchen. You know that sound of many pots, fragile items and metal all clattering together? Gracie has been on a mission to sneak to the kitchen before we’re all awake and surprise all of us with her creation. She wakes before 6am to ensure she has the space to herself and works diligently to concoct something mostly edible.
On one hand, coming down to the noisy and messy area, seeing the last of the milk mixed with a scoop of brown sugar, something likely no one will drink, the scraps of fruit tossed around, more dishes than possibly necessary now piling in the sink could make me grit my teeth and react with exasperation. I don’t need one more challenge to my already overly full day. But on the other hand I see my 7 year old lit with joy at what she has created for us, in a time where she is feeling adrift without her normal routine, her normal interaction with friends, her normal outlets of freedom in parks and the woods and couldn’t for a minute consider extinguishing that.
JOY amidst chaos
We all sit down to the table to our fruit skewers that took Gracie nearly an hour to whip up. She had me chop the apple but everything else she did herself. The pride she feels is evident on her beaming face and the wound she contracted on the palm of her hand proof of how hard she worked. Edie, perched on Steve’s lap, instantly grabs at one of the cups of sweet milk, spilling it over the fabric bench seat and floor. One more mess to clean up and it’s not yet 7am. I feel part of me split off into a rage but keep my surface calm and say “no use crying over spilled milk!” in a sing song voice like I’m Mary Poppins.
Now that the last of our milk has been consumed or spilled, my plan for our lunchtime mac and cheese has been dashed. Checking quickly online I see no click and collect or delivered groceries are available for a minimum of 4 days but keep my frustration locked inside. These are different times and our expectations are being curbed by the day. We’ll make do with something from the pantry.
I’m more than half way through my 6th week being home with my kids and it’s not how I want my time to be spent. But much like a health care provider knows that they sign up for a job that entails sickness, death and unforeseen challenges, this is the life I signed up for when I chose to be a mother of three. We may not always like the hand we’re given but it is up to us to make the most of it.
We control so little. The weather in Eastern Ontario has been mostly garbage, I’ll just say it. I’m not down for a flurry of snow on April 15th or waking up to -8 and driving cold wind (is it just me, hasn’t the wind been incessant?!). BUT I cannot effectively make it warmer, sunnier or less windy and so I must make do with what I’m given, I must see what is good about what we have. I mean it’s not November, so at least there’s that.
So when even our emotions, reactions and responses are being censored and scrutinized it feels like overreach. I think back to the article I recently saw shared about asking people to not “flout pandemic rules by being ‘social’ while grocery shopping right now” and feel my frustration level rise. We know no one would choose this time yet we do have to make the best of what we’re being given, so how would it be helpful to be told how we can feel about this time?
Finding unreasonable joy in unlikely places.
The day I saw that article from CBC being shared I had actually gone grocery shopping. My first time being without my kids in weeks I joyfully packed myself into the car on a sunny day. I had a one hour time window available to me and though grocery shopping in this new way, where we line up like cattle, are shuffled through the store, spritzed with chemical hand sanitizer (have you tried opting out of that? They look at you like you’re the devil) and are meant to keep our head down and just get in and get out as quick as possible is challenging I was meeting that with unreasonable joy. Knowing that it’s my choice to make any situation I’m in joyful, I still tried to consider this a nice escape. To be amongst other humans, to fill my cart with the food we love eating, to attempt eye contact and smiling at each passerby from our now socially acceptable distance.
Later when I read the personal posts people wrote alongside sharing the article and the many shares from people I know and care for my heart broke a little. People imploring others to take any joy they might be experiencing and throw it away.
In writing this I have been interrupted no less than a dozen times — kids that are bickering, kids that are crying, kids needing to show me something or tell me something or need another snack. I’ve had to stop to have a shower, make lunch, feed the baby and watch Gracie and Lily perform their stories for me. I’m frustrated that something that would normally take me no time at all to write is taking most of my day. And still, I see the sun coming in my front window and choose to find the glory in it.
And for the woman with fertility issues who desperately craves the chaos of her own kids that I describe, this article will feel painful and selfish. Just as when I read about the loneliness of the single woman ordering in takeout and watching another movie alone, and feel longing. Part of life seems to be that we’re always seeking that which we don’t have, romanticizing it though we know nothing of it, but we can’t then also try to tell that person to not feel what she is feeling.
Everything is censored heavily now, our words if they don’t align with the current government approved narrative are being possibly legally restricted and the world has become unsafe for people who want to think critically and ask questions. If we can’t even let people take the small pleasure they do from what might be the only time they leave the house, what reality are we asking people to create?
What if today is all we have? How we react, behave, intermingle TODAY would be the only truth of who we are. Tomorrow has never been guaranteed, regardless of what pandemic is afoot, so choosing the best version of ourselves always matters. If you believe that now is all there is but that we shouldn’t enjoy now, then we’ve asked people to choose to willingly suffer.
Each day I can feel the weight of this way of living crushing me and not rally myself from bed or I can consciously become more of the person I believe myself to be. If I give into every whim of outrage I have right now I’d be completely miserable. The slope into misery is slippery and it’s being greased in all sorts of ways right now. If I don’t actively choose to live joyfully in the small ways I can right now, I concede to perpetuate suffering into the world. It’s not a world worth perpetuating is it? That is always my choice, and it should never be censored.
Having the news and possibly well-meaning people shame others for finding or creating joy, for looking forward to this institutionalized way of grocery shopping or getting a gallon of paint to create the a sunny hue in your drab house so you can find some bit of lightness doesn’t lull me into complacency. It makes me understand that now more than ever people like me, who are willing to brave this scary world with a bright face, who are encouraged to find the unreasonable joy in the mundane, are desperately needed.
I see my kids, delighting in the littlest things and though part of me is frustrated and overwhelmed, feeling like I cannot possibly clean up one more mess, go for one more blustery walk, learn about one more crustacean, the bigger part of me will smile. I will approach even the worst of humanity (and this weather) with optimism, faith and with knowing that true joy, no matter how unreasonable it seems in the moment, will never be contained, muted or snuffed by any oppressive agenda.
When in doubt, chocolate always helps.