Photo: Courtesy of Natalie Stechyson
This isn’t the end of a wellness journey. It’s the beginning of one. And, so far, it’s going about as smooth as the legs I attempted to dry-shave after two glasses of wine last weekend.
While there haven’t been any peer-reviewed studies that prove embracing personal wellness while parenting young children during the pandemic is scientifically impossible, it certainly has felt that way to me. Perhaps never more so than when I attempted a group postpartum pelvic floor yoga class on zoom, and my older kid kept whipping a ball at my head until the instructor finally asked me to turn off my camera.
(Did I finish the eight-week class? Well, let’s just say you don’t want to sit near me when I sneeze).
But now we’re two years into this pandemic, and I’ve had a realization just as motivating as it is depressing: it seems no one will be rescuing us parents from the soul-sucking cycle of isolation, illness, quarantine, testing, anxiety and heartache. So, it’s time to stop living like this stress and madness is temporary, and start prioritizing my own health again. But is it even possible when I can barely remember my own age (I recently fought the pharmacist administering my COVID-19 booster shot on this), let alone find time to meditate or huff some essential oils?
I’ve been living in a perpetual state of survival ever since my younger son was born three weeks before the first lockdown, and my physical and mental health have paid a hefty price. Two years in, and my kids are healthy and mostly happy—thank god—but I am, for lack of a more eloquent term, dead inside. (Outside is looking pretty corpse-like, too, if my flaking skin, thinning hair and hallowed eyes are any indication). But, as I cried into a glass or four of wine most nights, I told myself it was just temporary. I was doing what I needed to to survive.
Then Omicron burst in like a toddler realizing its mama is on the other side of the bathroom door: relentlessly, and with zero fucks that you’re at your breaking point. And as experts warned that variants may just keep coming, that we may just need to learn how to live with COVID in our lives forever, I realized that I could not continue to just survive.
So, for the past month, in small, manageable ways, I’ve been trying to focus more on my own health and wellness.
In the spirit of the new year, I quit drinking. Well, for 11 days. But it’s a start, and I’m back on the wagon again after that wine-induced shaving incident (which, by the way, did lead to some much-needed marital romance that I would also categorize as wellness, so you know, it all balances out).
I’ve started eating oatmeal with fresh blueberries in the morning instead of toast. I drink more water, and am trying to lay off the Starbucks grandes ever since I realized they might be why my heart feels like it’s beating out of my chest most afternoons. (I mean, it could also be the state of the world, but I can control the cappuccinos.)
I’m trying to use my 30-minute lunch breaks from work to go for walks (except for the days I use them to nurse my toddler, who will never wean, or monitor the weird stuff my five year old is watching on YouTube, or put 37 dirty sippy cups in the dishwasher). I’m setting positive intentions for my day (even if the best I can muster is “hug my kids”), and have stopped voluntarily engaging with people who bring negativity into my life (such as the anti-vaxxer influencer I hate-follow on Instagram).
I’m playing Wordle (badly). I bought adult colouring books that I do intend to someday use. I force myself to do six minutes of squats before I get in the shower each morning. Is any of it working? Am I a “well” person yet?
Not exactly, but it’s a nice change from survival. And you know what? I do feel better.
Maybe what’s most important is that I’m trying to be kind to myself when “wellness” looks like Netflix and a brick of cheese, putting moisturizer on my itchy winter armpits, or letting my kids watch Encanto for the third time in a single day because I’m so tired that I kind of wish I could go ahead and catch the damn virus just so I’m forced to lie down for a few days (kidding, universe!).
And no, I’m not going to win any sobriety awards for my 11-day streak, but considering I’ve been drinking, um, several glasses of wine every single night since 2020, it’s progress.
So, yes, I am on a wellness journey, even if my journey is more of a haggard limp wrapped in thread-bare leggings and tied up with a scrunchie that smells like wet towels.
But something had to change. And if it’s not going to be this effing pandemic, I guess it has to be me.