Not Myself Today

A few weeks ago, when Covid-19 began keeping us all home, my partner Malve dug an old mental health button out of the junk drawer. It said “Not Myself Today.” In case any of us need it, she said.

With two adults working from home and three kids home schooling, she thought it was a good bet that some of us were bound to feel “off” once in a while. And when we did, we could pin the button to our shirt and the other family members would know to be a little kinder, a little more gentle.

Funny how the mind works. I secretly thought I was the only one who wouldn’t need that button. As someone who has daily routines that keep me grounded, I felt pretty confident in my own coping abilities.

Cue the pandemic, an introvert’s nightmare. Suddenly, my time alone, the invisible but essential scaffolding of my life, evaporated.

I found myself still working from home, as I always had, but now with four other people present. Back in the olden days, when everyone else left for school and work, it was just me and the animals. I decided when to work and when to eat and when to walk the dog. There was silence, long swaths of it, and when I wanted another voice, I turned on a podcast.

Now, my partner and I sit together in the morning and make a detailed schedule of the day. It includes Google Classroom meeting times, assignment deadlines, shopping for elderly parents, and Zoom birthday parties. There is nary a dull moment, and certainly not much space for “alone time,” the thing I completely took for granted.

Back to the button. If I didn’t think my teenager would mercilessly mock me, I’d be wearing that button nearly every day.

I do not feel like myself. That’s the truth. There is a short fuse, more judgement, and frowning. There are also tears and impatience and the need for apologies. Thank goodness for a supportive partner who still sees me even when I cannot.

Can any of you relate?

I certainly didn’t set out to be a superhero when this pandemic started. That wasn’t my goal. But I also didn’t anticipate that I would begin to feel less resilient and positive and solid.

The pandemic is teaching me a lot and one of the most personal messages is the importance of continuing to carve out time where I can be alone. I’ve come into the full realization that it’s not just “nice to have;” it’s actually essential in order for me to be the most sane and solid version of myself.

I no longer have hours and hours alone, so I’m learning to make the most of limited time. For me, this has been a return to basics. When I ask what I can do to “feel like myself” again, and I listen to the answer, it always includes writing. When I put the pen to paper and allow myself to think and feel through words on the page, a deep breath moves through me and I feel myself coming home.

Maybe it is the same for you. Maybe you also feel most like yourself when you’re writing. If so, consider this a postcard from my soul to yours. May it inspire you to find time today to sit with paper and pen and return to yourself. Even if it’s only for ten minutes with your morning cup of tea or coffee.

May your writing help bring you home too.