Updated: Oct 1, 2021
This pandemic has been a multitude of things- anxiety-provoking, disheartening, lonely. In various ways, many of us were forced to live our lives in a way we never imagined. In addition to concerns about contracting the virus, many of us had concerns about employment, our children’s education and safety, childcare, and how to support loved ones. Some of us lost loved ones. It has also been taxing on our mental health and impacted all our interpersonal relationships, as well as our most beloved relationship with ourselves. At the beginning of this pandemic, I did not think much about this one aspect. I believe I was more concerned with contracting the virus itself and finding ways to adjust to this new lifestyle, in addition to finding accommodations at home and a balance between work and “mom life.” I specifically recall seeing reports that predicted that divorce rates might rise during this time. I remember thinking that this was highly likely as we were living in a time of uncertainty, plagued with multiple and sudden stressors. I could easily comprehend how these stressors would negatively impact any relationship, especially a marriage, but somehow did not see this as a possibility for my own. It is not that I believed that my husband and I were exempt. I never had the thought of “this wouldn’t happen to me.” Still, I was completely oblivious to the fact that my marriage was not in a position that was solid enough to withstand these current conditions without serious work. I came to realize that this not only meant work within the marriage but, more importantly, work within self.
We are now a year into this pandemic, and I must attribute most of my self-reflection and inner work to the time and pain that this pandemic has provided me with. In the Summer of 2020, my husband and I hit a devastating low in our marriage. We reached a point where we lived separately. We were both unsure and conflicted about our future together and how it would impact our children. When we were living apart, I found myself indulging in anything I could to numb the pain. I initially described it as “numbing” or distractions because I felt so low about myself and so out of touch with my emotions that I could not allow myself to classify these things as what they really were, methods for healing and self-improvement. I re-discovered journaling and exercise, downloaded meditation apps, and referred to sermons for guidance. At the time, all I could think about, aside from my children, was where I stood concerning my husband instead of evaluating who I was outside of my marriage. I wanted to do anything I could to fix our marriage until it dawned on me that, first and foremost, I needed to “fix” myself. I also found that while it was important for me to work on myself, he also needed to do so for himself.
This was not the first time we faced conflict in our relationship. We’ve been together for eight years and began dating when we were in our early 20’s. However, I will say this was the first time throughout the course of our years together where I was pushed to thoroughly examine myself and discover exactly who I am and who I want to be outside of my marriage. I would say that our challenges, in combination with enforced quarantine, provided me with ample time to think a lot about my mistakes, my fears, my insecurities, and shortcomings. I did not only reflect on the negatives, but I also began to think hard about my talents, my strengths, my goals, and my dreams. I brainstormed ways to connect with my “authentic self.” I truly began to analyze myself as an individual. Not as a mother, not as a wife, not as a friend, not as an employee or any of my other roles. I spent some days in a state of deep thought as I processed how complex individuals are in general. I recall my husband referring to what he was experiencing at this time as a “crisis,” and it resonated with me. I realized that often, in the context of our relationships, we fail to see where we stand as individuals and fail to understand that sometimes we will be met with battles and hurdles to overcome that are strictly internal.
Whenever you consider how complex and multi-faceted human beings are, you cannot help but understand how this impacts our relationships, which are also complex and complicated. After making this connection, I find myself taking a significant amount of time trying to reframe how I view relationships in general. I am still learning the importance of grace and compassion, observing how beneficial it is to any relationship. Understanding that as we navigate life, we will face many obstacles that we initially may not be equipped to handle. This is okay—understanding that there may be times where we are drowning in confusion and feelings of doubt—understanding that a lot of us are seeking recovery from trauma, some that we have not even begun to process fully. In different ways, we can be walking around as a shell of ourselves.
I started practicing and applying some of my reflections to my everyday life. I am learning that while it is important to meet others with compassion and grace, it is essential for me to do the same for myself. It is crucial to allow myself to make mistakes and not refer to negative self-talk as a medium for correction, and instead understand that I am human and entitled to growth. I am discovering healthier ways to improve myself and, ultimately, all my relationships. Regarding my marriage and children, I have made the realization that I cannot even begin to be there for others if I cannot show up for myself. I am grateful for the trials and tribulations that I have experienced in the past year because they are genuinely pushing me in a direction where I can confidently say that I am learning how to love and take care of myself. I realize the significance of actively practicing self-care and not just relying on it when life gets overwhelming. Most importantly, I am taking a journey to dig deep within myself and resurface with all the beautiful qualities and talents I possess.
It was at the end of last summer that I created this blog. For all my academic career, writing had been my strength. I can draw as well. When applying to high school, I specifically looked at art schools and programs for journalism. When I initially entered college, I picked up media studies before switching to Sociology, as I had dreams of blogging and specific interests in music journalism. I remember shutting my dreams down as I told myself that I was too shy to follow through with them. Many years before that, I had stopped drawing altogether. As I conclude this blog post, I cannot help but acknowledge the sense of relief and pride I feel in trusting myself to take this step. I invite everyone to join me on this journey as I further explore ways to re-discover, nurture, trust, and believe in myself. I hope that I can inspire many of you to do the same.