How the Year of the Pandemic was my Most Focused Ever

I was headed for some exciting entrepreneurial creativity before Covid hit. In 2019, I volunteered at my church’s harvest party as a face painter. I got a lot of positive feedback and the hours flew by. I had a lot of fun, the kids responded with excitement, and I was pumped. I found my calling. I didn’t want to wait for the next year’s harvest party to do it again. I felt like now was the time to pursue my passion with my art, interacting with people to spread joy and beauty in a discouraging world where so many struggle to see light. So I did hours of research on how to start and run a face painting business. I was about to order the supplies, even, and start offering to do free events to build experience and hand out business cards in the area.

I was also planning with my aunt to go halvsies and take my grandma to Europe for her first time. (That’s part of the reason I didn’t pay the $500 or so for my business supplies and LLC.) I took a pause from planning my face painting career in order to get an itinerary figured out with my aunt, and we were about to buy the tickets.

Then we started hearing about Italy’s plight with this virus. It kept spreading, and my aunt and her friends were more wary than I was. They put the breaks on the trip, and I’m glad they did. We could have been stuck in Europe with my elderly grandmother for who knows how long.

Innumerable plans and dreams beyond my own involving social interactions have been affected by the pandemic. It has been the worst year of many people’s life, and no wonder as family and friends have become victim to it. However, as the kids all came home from school and my productivity decreased, trying to help them with homework and losing our babysitter due to the fear of the virus’s contagiousness, somehow I did not sink like I initially feared I might.

Who is this new me? Why did I have a sense of determination, of self-efficacy NOW, as the unknown and restrictive new “normal” set in? Well, I can’t say I didn’t have rough days or low days between March 2020 and March 2021, but I think the difference between this year and the ones before was that I had a level of focus on an intentional life that I’d not had prior. That kept me afloat even when life’s waves were stormier than anyone would have dreamed.

What do I mean by “level of focus” and “intentional life”? As a stay at home mom who never had a true career between completing college and having kids, I didn’t have a really structured daily, monthly, or yearly experience that might come with a job outside the home. I floundered because I didn’t know how to be my own CEO. There was no goal before me other than the nebulous “homemaking” umbrella of tasks that were unending, generally uninspiring (from my perspective then), and unrewarding to me as I wasn’t great at doing any of them anyway.

An intentional life? What did that even mean? What would that look like? When kids came along, I was deep in survival mode and postpartum adjustment disorder. I didn’t have time to think. I just wanted more sleep. I had to feed these people. And it. was. hard.

Fast forward 3 years after my second daughter was born, and I felt an urgency to climb out of the hot mess camp. I couldn’t be an anxious ball of unhappiness when I needed to model to my kids good coping skills to face their own ASD/OCD/GAD/SPD issues. I read somewhere that happy moms have dreams. They do self-care stuff. They don’t over-function, as I learned in therapy. They know productivity secrets. Time management is really self-management, I discovered. I started to realize I was no longer late to everything. I was…enjoying life most of the time now.

By the time 2020 rolled around, I had gained a few skills that gave me confidence. I wasn’t a total failure all the time, scattered and broken. I wasn’t doing half bad, actually. I set goals in running my YouTube channel, so when my face painting plan didn’t pan out and my exciting travels didn’t materialize, I wasn’t sitting around uninspired and angsty.

Oh and by the way SURPRISE BABY #3 entered the scene. And I was EXCITED. Not dreading the newborn phase again, even with its lack of sleep. I was taken aback by this woman I’d become, who only a few short years earlier felt great fear of having any more kids, and even slightly avoided babies in social settings out of the negative emotions postpartum had instilled in me. (Ok, so there were underlying hormone issues too, but that’s another story).

I haven’t yet re-entered the newborn phase again, so it might be a doozy, but at this point I am not living in fear anymore. I see a future full of hope, joy, and adventure. And I’m thankful. Not even a pandemic can dampen my enthusiasm for life now that I know who I am as an individual, a creative, and a wife and mom. My 30s have been so much better than my 20s for this reason. My struggle with time management and disorganization (probably undiagnosed adult ADD) was no longer a debilitating issue as I decluttered and used tricks to cope with time-blindness.

For the first time in my life I was described as an organized thinker (by our family systems counselor.) I have never seen myself that way before. But maybe the last few years of listening to time management, productivity and ADHD brain Youtubes, podcasts and books has transformed me a bit without me noticing until it was pointed out. My Covid year of life hasn’t been a dumpster fire. It’s been a gift, despite the trials. I’m so thankful.

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