Reflecting on Change and Connection During the COVID-19 Era - Cupcakes & Cashmere

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Reflecting on Change and Connection During the COVID-19 Era

A six-month quarantine check-in.
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It’s been just over six months since we started working from home, and nine months since I moved into a new apartment after breaking off my engagement. The last truly “personal” post I wrote was back in late April, right before the would-be anniversary of the wedding I called off almost a year ago. Truthfully, I was in a rough place then. (How could I not have been?) May 2nd was one of the toughest, most deeply emotional days I’ve had during all of this so far, no question. As the tears rolled down my face that weekend, I was reminded that I’m not alone in this (and neither are you) as I sat cross-legged on my bed and pored through all the wonderful, thoughtful comments you all left for me here and in my Instagram inbox. As I write this now, on a scorchingly hot Friday night in September after the sun has gone down and my apartment has finally started to cool down, I’m feeling… better, finally. But there’s a sort of restlessness I can feel at my core, like I’m “ready” for something, although I’m genuinely not quite sure what.

I don’t know about you, but over the last six months I’ve observed a lot of major life changes going on with those around me–my friends and acquaintances are buying houses, moving to new cities, changing or contemplating a change in careers (many after being laid off or furloughed this spring), going back to school, renovating their homes, ending relationships that seemed pretty solid, or sealing the deal on relationships that are stronger than ever (not one, or two, but three cupcakes and cashmere employees have gotten engaged during quarantine!!). I, on the other hand, feel a little like I’m standing still, unable to move forward or back, rooted so much in the now in a way that is unfamiliar to me. I know where I want to go, I’m pretty sure, but unlike most of those around me, I feel like I’m purposefully not making any major moves right now. It seems to me like maybe these big life changes are a response to a feeling I think so many people are experiencing right now–that the world is standing still, and we are stuck at its mercy until coronavirus is eliminated or controlled. I suppose it’s completely natural that confronted with this feeling, we would want to do something, change something, or control something in a time like this. Take a mental inventory of the people you know right now–how many have made (or are planning) a major change? I think the answer might surprise you.

There has been so much change in my life over the last year that, honestly, I’m extremely grateful for the lack of major changes more recently. Much of the last six months has looked the same for me, every night a repeat of the last, and the days blending into each other like a calendar without any lines to separate each day from the next. As restrictions in L.A. began to lift this summer, I intentionally didn’t change much of what I had been doing since mid-March, for better or for worse. I still spend most nights working until around 5 PM, making dinner for one, and sprawling out on the couch with my latest fling (JK, I mean book) for a few hours before heading to bed. I take long walks around my neighborhood in the warm evening sun, accompanied either by Jess on FaceTime or a Bachelor Nation podcast to give my brain a chance to rest, choosing slightly different routes each time to satisfy my craving for a little "variety." I get to see Alexa usually on Saturday evenings, and smile as I watch her romp around the dog park with other happy pups for an hour before the sun goes down.

Alexa

A lot of people have asked me recently what it’s been like co-parenting a pup with an ex-partner right now. I genuinely wish I had “the answers” to that question, but we’re honestly just making this shit up as we go. It’s funny–the family I built still feels somewhat intact, somehow. We spend a few hours together every Saturday and revel in Alexa’s pure goodness in times that otherwise seem so dire. The decision we made to have her stay with him more full time wasn’t an easy one, and there are still times when it’s hard on me (read: every day), but I knew that the choice I made last December would have unintended consequences. Even though it was a decision I never thought I would have to make, partially letting her go felt like something that I could do to help someone I love. Saturdays have now become my favorite day of the week, and the thing I most look forward to. Is it a little unusual? I’d say it is. But we decided recently that we don’t really care what other people think and have been making an extra effort to be good to each other right now, because the world outside is tough enough as it is.

I feel like, somehow, I’ve finally reached a new level of acceptance with COVID and all the changes that have come with it. Right after my 31st birthday in mid-July, I felt a deep “summertime sadness” that I couldn’t shake. I had been subconsciously using my summer birthday as a measuring stick for when COVID would probably be “over,” and when the clock struck midnight on July 13th, it was as if all the hope I had been holding on to that the “after” might finally begin was suddenly extinguished. I found myself with tears in my eyes and a heavy feeling in my chest almost every day for about three weeks, and eventually took the risk of getting on a plane to Minnesota to help snap myself out of it. The risk was considerable even with an incredible amount of precautions (although shout-out to Delta for the flight experience, which couldn’t have been better), but all in all it was worth it. I escaped to the North Shore with my family for a long weekend, quarantining ourselves from the outside world, and reconnecting with other humans and nature in a way I really hadn’t done since early March. A dome-shaped cabin on Lake Superior, a family who loves me, empty hiking trails with gushing waterfalls, and the sound of waves lulling me to sleep turned out to be exactly what I needed to feel somewhat normal again.

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The most thought-provoking thing that happened on my trip was a question my brother-in-law asked me on the first night I arrived in Minneapolis. I was still wearing my mask from the airport as I pulled up at my sister’s house, and upon seeing my face still covered, he asked permission to hug me. I inquired why he had even asked, and he said because I had gone without human contact for so long that he wanted to make sure it wouldn’t overwhelm me. He was mostly right in his assumption, as the only person I had hugged a few times in almost five months was my ex-fiancé (these are weird times, y’all). "No, it’s okay," I remember telling him as I went in for a bear hug, which didn’t feel foreign, odd, or intrusive at all. I think in that moment it really hit me that we are truly social creatures, and we’re meant to be together. It’s not our natural state to be apart–to go without the magical and very necessary touch of another human being for months on end. COVID has made it temporarily necessary to be apart as much as possible (and for many of us, we’re now completely alone most of the time), but hugging my family members after so much time apart didn’t feel at all strange–it felt like coming home.

I’ve been back for over a month now, and I feel like I’ve moved into a much more positive mental space. I have days of happiness where I remember what it is to feel joy again, like the days I get to take Alexa for a long walk or help a friend in need. I have days where I feel content instead of restless, feeling a sense of accomplishment as I turn the last page of a 400+ page book, receive a new piece of art that I’ve bought for my apartment, or finish an annoying-yet-necessary task like organizing all the shoes in my closet in order of how likely I am to wear them anytime soon. Do I still have down days? For sure. But those “days” are more likely now to be just fleeting moments of feeling depressed or resentful of my current situation, rather than an entire day of feeling helplessly alone or like the world will never be the same again. I accept my reality now, I guess. Several times recently I’ve caught myself standing in a moment of contemplation, looking slowly around my apartment at all its new additions coming together, smiling with appreciation and thinking, “this is my little sanctuary from the world,” rather than my prison.

My future milestones to look forward to now also look very different than they did in the first half of this year. Instead of an abstract idea like “COVID will surely be gone by my birthday,” I’m now looking forward to things I can count on like Saturdays with Alexa, The Bachelorette premiere in October, and the holidays with my family. Eventually the coronavirus vaccine will make the list too, but I know better now not to assign any kind of date to things that are so uncertain, as mental protection from becoming unhinged when or if the date passes by uneventfully.

For the rest of 2020, I’m contented to work my way through my never-ending reading list, make sure our new Social Media Coordinator (who starts in about a week–hi, Lauren!) feels welcome and at home in her new position, and finally finish decorating my damn apartment basically a year after moving in. I’m looking for joy in the little things (Alexa’s floofy tail, making an entire funfetti cake just for myself, listening to Folklore every morning but skipping the last six tracks) and remembering that this too shall pass. Life isn’t ideal right now–I’d be lying if I tried to pretend that it is–but it’s not as bad as it was, either. I’m past the grief/stress/anger phase of a failed relationship, and have entered into a cordial acceptance with our new friend, COVID. He may have already overstayed his welcome, but I feel renewed strength in knowing that I’ll be okay with him crashing on my couch a little while longer.

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