House Arrest

Photo by Josh Hild on

I’m not superstitious about the significance of how a year starts, but this one has us locked down in quarantine, finally stricken with the boogie man COVID-19, who we have been hiding from for two years. Literally going so out of our way to avoid the darn thing, only to have it find us at my kid’s school. Just like that. 

I’ve gone back and racked my brain trying to figure out how I could have prevented it. These things always feel worse when it wasn’t our choice. It wasn’t a party I chose to go to. Somehow having it happen at a place where I had no control–school– makes it sit differently.

But we’re all vaxxed and I’m boosted, so it was mild. I felt almost nothing, but I don’t want to jinx myself. I can only speak for today. Today I am feeling normal, but testing positive. The kids have recovered amazingly fast. We are fortunate and grateful, but anxious to bust out of quarantine.

I’m mentally exhausted. From everything. The fear of catching this thing. The anxiety of missing work and falling behind. Wondering if my days will be covered. Coordinating. Canceling. Rescheduling. Decision and calculation fatigue. What if. What next? Feeling like I’m not keeping up in this rat race of life. Like everything I’m doing right now isn’t good enough. That this life– this current reality– wasn’t supposed to be, and somehow we’re all being short-changed. It feels difficult to stay positive. Not test positive. You know. The other kind.

I suspect I’m not alone in this boat. These are not easy times for anyone. Our boats are all different, but the storm is the same.

In general, I’m anxious about not following my plan. It’s how I felt when we were first quarantined two years ago, when we were required to deviate from the usual ebb and flow of our lives. I’m not comfortable floating aimlessly. I need a plan and direction. 

Then there is this revelation: am I really unraveling over a two-week life pause? Yes and no. 

And how pathetic is that?

I’ve done a lot of reading, like this article about the importance of teaching kids how to be lazy. Mine have their father’s genes. They have already perfected the art of loafing. I, on the other hand, dwell at the other end of that spectrum, and find myself riddled with guilt and anxiety over the loafing. I find the confines of house arrest breeds an inert energy that makes me unhinged. I thought I would like binging Netflix, but I should have known better. If I’m not crossing things off my to-do list, I’m not feeling on track.

Another interesting essay I read was about extraordinary being overrated. One nugget I took away from it was to “stop glorifying the idea there is always something better to find.” 

In exactly a month, I will turn forty. This brings another ball of angst to unpack. I remember turning 30 and feeling anxious about not accomplishing what I thought I should have done by then. In a society that glorifies early accomplishments and young success, it’s disheartening to accept that you are no Mark Zuckerberg. You can imagine I’ve been ruminating over the ordinary circumstances of my life.

This past decade has been filled with many experiences that I never included in my little girl dreams. I started the decade a married mother of one. I am ending it as a widowed mother of three. Yet that is not my entire story. There has been so much more. Unpacked. Digested. Chewed on. Cried over. Growth. Revelations. Aspirations. Progress. Regression. Highs and lows, new opportunities and abundance. Doors opened, doors closed. Buried and unearthed. Everything in between.

Maybe this is the ordinary I am supposed to lean into; an acceptance of this life as is. Perfectly imperfect and custom fit just for me.

As I near a new decade, the meaning and purpose of life weighs heavily on me. If my life is half over, I want to be strategic about what is left. 

Thich Nhat Hanh passed away recently. My foray into Buddhism began reading popular books from the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh, but my heart gravitated to Thich Nhat Hanh and I began reading more of his work, and I tend to quote him in the dharma talks I have begun to give. I loved his activist heart. I was inspired by pictures of him with Martin Luther King Jr and the poetic words he was prolific in writing. Simple, poignant words to convey the depth of life’s meaning.

This is one of my favorites, especially the last part: 

“This body of mine will disintegrate, but my actions will continue me. In my daily life, I always practice to see my continuation all around me. We don’t need to wait until the total dissolution of this body to continue—we continue in every moment. If you think that I am only this body, then you have not truly seen me. When you look at my friends, you see my continuation. When you see someone walking with mindfulness and compassion, you know he is my continuation. I don’t see why we have to say “I will die,” because I can already see myself in you, in other people, and in future generations. Even when the cloud is not there, it continues as snow or rain. It is impossible for a cloud to die. It can become rain or ice, but it cannot become nothing. The cloud does not need to have a soul in order to continue. There’s no beginning and no end. I will never die. There will be a dissolution of this body, but that does not mean my death. I will continue, always.”

I think about my life. I think about the lives of others who live on through me, around me, in front of me. I wonder how my life will make a difference. I love the focus on actions. What can I do today to make a better tomorrow. A deep sense of interconnectedness to everything in this universe.

In a Psychology Today article, there is an argument made for a psychologically rich life versus a happy life. According to the article, a psychologically rich person is “curious, open to experience, and experiences emotions intensely, both positive and negative. They value personal growth, autonomy, self-acceptance, purpose, and positive relations.” A happy person would say on their deathbed that they had a fun life. A psychologically rich person would end their life saying, “what a journey!” 

I like this focus on the process. Making meaning out of all that life has to offer. It’s about the experiences. The people. What you learned, and what you created. This is what I want for my life. Psychological richness. I know it won’t always be happy. I just want it to be filled with intentionality.

Jodie Sweetin– who I grew up watching on Full House– just turned 40 and posted about it. She said, “I remember thinking that 40 was such an “official” age when I was younger. Now? I realize 40 is just STARTING to feel like an adult. It’s old enough to have learned from lots of mistakes, but young enough to still go for the adventure. It’s finally feeling great in my own skin. It’s self-acceptance. It’s hustle. It’s knowing how to take care of myself and when to be totally selfless. It’s remembering that you’ve made it through ALL the bad days up until now. It’s finding joy in small things and not needing life to be big and grand all the time. It’s realizing your time on this planet is very limited, so you better fucking enjoy it. It’s about focusing on the “we”, not the “me”. It’s about looking inward and figuring out what the rest of it all is gonna look like.”

All of this to say I am starting 2022 forcefully slow-paced and not where I want to be, staring down a new decade that looms in the near distance. 

Maybe, just maybe, these bumps in the road are meant for introspection, recalibration, and envisioning. A time to add and subtract, reconfigure and contemplate.

I am a Mary Oliver fan. I want to end this essay with part of her poem, “To Begin With, Sweet Grass.” She wrote:

What I loved in the beginning, I think, was mostly myself.

Never mind that I had to, since somebody had to.

That was many years ago.

Since then I have gone out from my confinements,

though with difficulty.

I mean the ones that thought to rule my heart.

I cast them out, I put them on the mush pile.

They will be nourishment somehow (everything is nourishment

somehow or another).

And I have become the child of the clouds, and of hope.

I have become the friend of the enemy, whoever that is.

I have become older and, cherishing what I have learned,

I have become younger.

And what do I risk to tell you this, which is all I know?

Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world.


  1. “Our boats are all different, but the storm is the same.” So true! We are all in this together. Thanks for the reminder Teresa. Your stories are always so relatable.

    Liked by 1 person

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