Freeing Myself of a “Can-Do” Attitude

It seems that all my posts are going to begin with an image: how that image totally connects with how I feel is utter nonsense. So, the story behind this picture. I was reflecting on one of the “early” days of COVID and how I was working hard to keep up this can-do attitude. I stared out the window for a solid few minutes because it felt like those days were years ago. Then I decided to see what Google produced if I searched “can do attitude.” Millions of results came up, many including the importance of having a can-do attitude. If I performed this search at the start of 2020, I would have been totally inspired to try and read the steps and apply them at least several times a day. But in late March, I simply stared at the pictures and laughed. It’s amazing to me how global events can humble you so much. And that’s exactly what I want to share today.

Have you ever found yourself in a place where you are excited to try new things in a controlled way that maintains your sanity as your world crumbles around you? Have you ever felt as though your optimism is the one thing so many people are clinging to because they don’t know how to manage their own distress? And have you ever become so exhausted with the charade even you believed that you just want to take off the mask, sleep for days, then start as the real you the next week? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you understand exactly how I felt at the start of this pandemic. If you answered no, you must be an incredibly lucky person.

And now I will channel my inner Sophia from Golden Girls. Picture it, central Massachusetts, March 2020. A pandemic is rapidly spreading across the US, my kids have been informed they will not physically return to school for the next several weeks, and we have no preparations for this. What do I do? Everything! I took on roles I wanted. I took on roles I didn’t want. Handywoman. Head mistress. Robust Amazon purchaser. Scheduler. Therapist. And that’s the heavily redacted list. One day I even found myself taking apart and repairing our washing machine and vent hood. Please don’t ever ask me to do either of those tasks again. The point is, in the middle of national and global distress I figured my resilience and strength were the only things needed to get my family through what we thought would be an unorthodox few weeks. Little did I know.

Between getting my sons’ bikes ready for scheduled outdoor time, ordering hiking shoes, and attempting the tightest schedule possible to provide continuity for my sons, I was tapped. Putting all of my energy towards taking the bull by the horns left me depleted, anxious, and despairing. As much as I kept moving and pushing forward, I quickly felt like a shell of myself and extremely guilty. How was I, the keystone for the family, feeling like I was failing and giving up during the worst crisis we’ve all collectively experienced? I was so hard on myself that I felt like I was failing to keep everyone else mentally, physically, and emotionally above water because I was drowning. There were my 73-year-old parents and three sons to manage. My husband is an essential worker so there’s always the fear of him becoming infected and bringing the virus home. We’re all vulnerable and scared, and I thought I could do all of this alone.

I quickly found out I couldn’t, like everyone else. I don’t write any of this to end with some therapeutic way you all can live your lives moving forward based on what I learned. But I am sharing because there’s so much I learned, and I think a lot of us learned this lesson early on. Others of us are able to keep going for much longer before reaching this realization. Wherever we are on the journey, I only hope at some point we all have that quiet moment with ourselves to say it’s okay that we can’t do and be everything because we were never supposed to. Once I freed myself of that can-do attitude, I felt loads of burdens figuratively lift from my shoulders. Let those burdens fall and free yourselves. Right now the only thing we can do is stay home, be mindful as the country starts opening back up, and be vulnerable with the people around us when we feel ourselves putting on the can-do mask to avoid the reality that we aren’t in control. Freeing ourselves of that mask and control makes it so much easier for us to finish this year stronger than we started. Until next time.

Be well, my friends ​♥

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