I’d venture to guess that most of us think of “settling” in a negative context. As in to settle for less. But to “settle in” means to be satisfied, content, to become calm or quiet, or agree on a situation. I like the Merriam-Webster’s definition, to come to rest.
For me, settling in has a cozy connotation. Like in the book Twas the Night Before Christmas: “And Ma in her kerchief and I in my cap, had just settled down for a long winters nap”. Or when a dog circles around 8 times before he finally gets content and lays down for a cozy nap. He finally got settled in.
For many years now “getting settled” has been a standard term in our house.
It all started when the boys were little. After work, I’d pick them up from daycare or school. Inevitably, as soon as we had walked in the door, they would immediately want something from me or want to start doing something that required my attention. But I needed time to transition from work to being at home. Hence our phrase became, let’s get settled in first.
I’d say, “Lets’ get settled, then we can do those things”, and they would be content to wait. It gave me a chance to put my things from work away, let the dogs out, change into comfy clothes, go to the bathroom, and get my head ready to be in mom mode after those hard days at work.
For me, taking time to get settled is a way to transition from one part of life to the other. Now, with the coronavirus changing everything in our lives, we’ve had a lot to try and settle into.
Something Has Changed
With my husband home from work, and the kids out from school we are stuck at home with people constantly around us. Everyday feels like Saturday. It is truly strange having all of us here at the same time. ALL. THE. TIME. Now we have to try to find variety within our own four walls and it is hard.
Before this social isolation we had more freedom in our everyday lives to decide what to do.
When we were bored we could leave the house to go do something fun, like go to a restaurant, go to the park, go to the next city, go to an arcade, or go shopping. Anything!
Stuck at home you would think we’d be excited to do all those projects we’ve thought about working on in the past but never had the time for. But somehow our choices seem limited.
With a full house there isn’t the mental space or energy we used to have for doing activities. We don’t have the freedom to do things as inspiration hits, like practicing piano or blogging. We are more aware of interrupting each other, our space, and sharing time and things like the laptop.
I feel the pressure to hang out with the family, but also want to do my own things and they want to do their own things too.
Finding the new balance is hard. We are looking for a cozy place to settle.
Like in the Movies
This month our family has been watching a lot of movies and old shows on TV. We watched Groundhogs Day, 50 First Dates, and Seinfeld.
These movies are about repeating the same day over and over. The main characters experiment with small changes every day to see what makes the days turn our better or worse.
Seinfeld is the classic show about nothing. Making light of the mundaneness. These shows depict how our life feels right now; trying to find humor and fun in the repetitiveness.
Like in Groundhogs Day, we try to tweak things a bit to get some variety and see how the days will turn out. The main thing that we adjust is the time of day when we do things or the order that we do them. But there is not much variety in the actual events. Ugh.
The days just seem to go on and on and on and on. It feels like we are on repeat, just waiting for this to be over. Or like the dog circling and circling, just trying to find the sweet spot so it can lay down and rest.
Love & Accepting the Temporary
In the movie 50 First Dates, the main character had no short term memory. She thought everyday was the day before her accident. So her family re-created and lived the same day over and over for her so she could be happy. Until one day, a new man showed up in her life. He fell in love with her and figured out how to give her variety. He had to prove his love to her everyday and it worked. She had to take time every morning to settle in with the realization that she had no short term memory. Everyday she had to re-learn what had happened in her life, who she is now, and what her life is like now.
Like the main character, we need time each day to settle into the reality of this temporary new way of life. We can’t rush it. We try to find ways to love and support each other through these repetitive days and all the difficult emotions each family member is experiencing.
Somedays it takes a little longer to find a rhythm to life that feels right.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about writing a blog about nothing, like the Seinfeld shows we’ve been watching. Because it feels like nothing is going on and my creativity feels empty.
Usually, brainstorming and writing come easy to me. I’m normally a non-stop thinker and without trying, can think up tons of ideas throughout the day about a variety of topics. The empty feeling of having no ideas at all is so strange.
Somehow my mind is consumed with all the nothing, making it hard to think. My mind feels blank. Coming up with things to write about is harder than normal. It’s a nothingness that I think many of us are feeling.
At other times, I am overwhelmed by our lack of doing things. The constant nothing. I find myself wanting to scream at everyone in our house, including myself, to go do something!
Being a part of all this idleness is sometimes very painful and frustrating.
As the mom, I feel like I’m usually the one trying to coax others into doing something. When all of us are all lacking ambition is difficult and tiresome. I long for someone else to magically bring us inspiration and energy to do things.
In addition to the nothingness, I also feel a weird sense of extra responsibility and worry. I feel more responsible for the kids and my mind races with questions like are they eating ok, staying healthy through this, when was the last time they showered, are they doing any reading, practicing their instruments, or exercising? Have I done any of those healthy things? Am I being a good role model? Are their friends, our friends, and our families ok?
My mind and emotions are full of worry and nothingness at the same time. It blocks my creativity, drains the energy out of me, and it is hard to truly relax and settle in.
True Alone Time
Approximately one month into this social distancing, I found myself in dire need of actual alone time. Not time by myself with all the background noise of a family, and the lingering responsibilities of home and parenting. I needed to actually get away.
My husband is so supportive and awesome. He took over schooling for the day and I drove out to the lake by myself.
I watched the waves, the way the light flickers and passes across the water, the birds, the clouds, and the fisherman. I felt quiet inside. It was glorious. I felt so much peace. I napped with the sun shining on me and the breeze blowing through the window. I listened to my own music on the drive and actually felt my mind wander for the first time in awhile.
Truly, nothing in our life has changed so much that we couldn’t still follow the routines that we had previously. It’s all in our heads. I think it’s the fact that we don’t have to do anything or be anywhere at any certain time that it feels strange to be on a schedule when nothing else is on a schedule.
I see a lot of advice on the internet saying to make sure to keep a routine. We loosely have one, I guess. It’s just different than our old one.
I’m a creative adventurer. I have never thrived on strict routines. I love new things, new ideas, and the freedom to follow my intuition. Granted, I like to have a plan for the day, but I like the days to have variety. Being stuck in this time-loop of self isolation with my family is lacking the variety that I love.
We are starting to settle into a new rhythm in our home. We stay up later and we wake up later. The kids usually do their school work in the late morning and get finished by lunch. We eat all our meals a few hours later than normal. We try to find energy for a workout. We work on the fixer upper in the afternoons several days per week. Then come home, make dinner, eat, play board games or watch movies, and then go to bed.
This new loose routine is mostly working for us. I’m nervous to settle into it because I worry about how hard it will be to go back to “normal” even though school will most likely be cancelled until the fall, so there is no pressure to go back to “normal”.
Maybe since this is just a short term thing, it will never feel right. But we can give it a try. We will keep repeating those days, tweeting things here and there, and circling around and around until we find a place we can settle in with our families, make healthy choices, and make the best of the time we have been given.
This too shall pass, we’ve just got to hang on for the ride. Keep giving ourselves and our families grace as we get through this together. Supporting and loving ourselves and each other the best we can. Through the ups and downs of every day, we will come out somehow stronger and better for having been through this.
I hope that you and your family have been able to settle in and find a cozy routine during this new normal. Have faith and keep on doing your thing.