Two sentences every night: Expressing gratitude and making a record for the future

A small child riding a trike.

My husband and I have been working from home since March 19 while caring for our two-year-old daughter at home. One of us works, the other watches her, and we switch, from the minute she wakes up until the minute she goes to bed. Then we collapse, exhausted. We're running on empty.

 I thought quarantine would be lonely and kind of boring. I didn't expect it to be. I'm angry because our neighborhood, Manor Park in Brightwood, is littered in discarded gloves, masks, and takeout food containers. I'm terrified my curious toddler will touch one and we'll all get sick. The only place we can go outside of our home is on walks around the neighborhood. I just want to feel like our sidewalks are safe.

I'm also happy that my neighbors are spending so much time planting flowers. Some have "Thank you, delivery workers!" signs. One put up a bunch of yard flamingos, just to brighten your day when you walk by. We know our neighborhood so much better now. My toddler has a particular stretch of sidewalk she loves because there's a big bump in the sidewalk and she can really go downhill  fast there. Most days, she asks to go visit "the bump." Before quarantine, we never would have noticed it or made it a landmark!

I'm frustrated that I'm not longer a productive and thoughtful leader within my team at work.  I'm slow to respond. Always in reaction mode. All I do is put out the worst fires. I used to help us set our future path for digital engagement and now I can't find the headspace to think beyond the series of emergencies right in front of me this hour, let alone ahead into next week or what our audiences might need from us.

 I'm also grateful I have a job and that it's somewhat flexible so that I can work early in the morning or late at night. I'm exasperated with the storminess of life with a toddler. We have to make hand-washing into a game so she'll do it and sometimes she just won't so we end up tackling her and she screams at you. While my email at work is pinging me over and over and over, I have to respond first to her shrieking at me, "No I want the PURPLE cup!" because I gave her blue.

 I'm also grateful with this extra time with her, for getting to be part of her day in a much more active way than if she were at daycare. It's hard being her entire social circle but it's wonderful having this time together when she's getting so good at talking and expressing herself.

 So what do I do to find resilience?

First, if I see a pretty flower in our neighborhood, I take a photo of it. Just having that on my phone reminds me there were moments of sunshine.

Second, I write two sentences each night in my "one line a day" journal. I try to note what was good about the day. How our toddler learned a new skill or said something funny. How the breeze felt so good as we strolled our neighborhood. How she became friends with a local dog through a fence and talks about him all the time. How she noticed a ladybug and watched it for seven minutes straight (while I tapped out a quick email). In this moment of quarantine, it feels like so much is taken AWAY.

And it's nice to take a daily photo and write something down that feels like "no this is mine, I get to keep it." We are sacrificing time with family, travel, the comforts of stopping by a favorite restaurant. But that doesn't mean we aren't gaining something.

This journal likely isn't going to help historians in a bunch of years. "Oh wow, her toddler got better at using a fork on May 2!"they will probably never utter. But it makes me feel like I'm documenting this moment, setting it down in writing for my kid to flip through one day. Hopefully she'll find it funny and she'll feel the warmth and coziness of her family wash over her. She'll know we went through this weird and awful time together but that we didn't fall apart. So many people are suffering and we are so privileged.

Anyway, that's my moment of resilience. Two sentences, every night.


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