Potty Training in a Pandemic, Part 2

Isolation atop Isolation

After our not-so-stellar start, and the hard-slam of perfectionism, we regrouped. I paused, I wrote. My husband and I got back on the same page. We talked about our feelings and we made a new plan moving forward. We realized that starting a big, all-consuming endeavor like potty training twins is not best left for days of little sleep, nor the weekend. You see, on paper, it sounds nice. Potty Train over the weekend so both parents could help--seems totally reasonable and even smart. What we didn’t factor in was how tired we are by Friday and how much of a break we are both looking forward to come Saturday.

Our new plan was to start after the long Easter weekend. And we did! And, what do you know, two people with a little more sleep and aligned agenda felt loads more prepared for the transition. The girls even handled it better than expected.

Wait, go back, did I say transition?

Fuck, no wonder I’ve been out of sorts this week, too. This is another transition! How do I always seem to miss them? And hold on…if we’re in transition, that means we have a…new routine. New. Different.

Hello, anxiety.

New routine!? Did I just give myself a new routine in the middle of an already new quarantine-routine?

I thought I was fine. I thought our regroup was all that was needed. After a few days I unraveled again. You see as we were trying to prepare them for a new routine, it didn’t actually occur to me that we were going to have a new routine. Temporary perhaps, but I had not factored in that it would be a disruption to what was.

. . .

We’ve been housebound for four days, we haven’t watched any TV, I can barely check the time on my phone let alone think of something besides, “Tell me when you need to go pee.” The sobriety meetings I’ve been attending, the self-care runs and walks, the being in nature, and the creative outlets have all been on pause this week. In essence, my entire self-care routine I’ve relied on during quarantine suddenly went POOF.

. . .

And what gets me is I didn’t see it coming. Not really. I knew I’d be watching them like hawks, and it was a personal choice to not do screens so as to keep their minds a little less idle, and our couch a little more dry, but I didn’t really think about the impact it would have on my day. Or my week. Oh, my god, is this forever?

It’s how it’s impacted me that’s been interesting. It’s actually been quite telling as to what this particular strand of anxiety does to me. For the first few days I couldn’t figure out what was really bothering me. The Monday before we restarted, I had trouble even setting a weekly intention–I couldn’t quiet myself enough to stop and listen to what I needed. And what I realized after a week of potty training is that my voice of reason felt drowned out, again. Worse–resentment, annoyance, and pure exhaustion crept back in, almost mocking my previous stride of well-being.

I felt the anxiety rise in the same places it did this winter.
I’ve been here before.

After a few days, I heard the same thought, “I don’t feel free with my time.”

It took me until then to realize I was feeling the same restlessness I had experienced before this spring. I was now isolated amid already being isolated. Moreover, I was stuck. I couldn’t go anywhere and I couldn’t do anything. Suddenly, I didn’t know what to do with myself. There were things I wanted to do, but couldn’t, and my body felt on attack because of this. Not to mention, I felt so mentally taxed from my constant underpants-vigilance.

There were some bright spots–like going for an evening run instead and letting my husband know I needed time to shower! I will most definitely count those as big wins in my book of self-care, because for me they are often the hardest to do.

But when the anxiety hit, and it hit often, it would try to tell me that I was missing all the timelines, that I wasn’t moving fast enough. These thoughts only further fueled that desire to be somewhere else than where I was. Exactly the same struggle I had during my last transition.

. . .

Thankfully, they weren’t my only thoughts. I got more quiet than usual this week and tuned out what I didn’t need. I also tried to tune in my inner voice, asking each emotion what it wanted me to know. I think that’s how I realized what was going on.

So, why am I sharing this? Maybe as a reminder to my future self to recognize just how triggering transitions, disruptions to routine, and waning purpose are to me. Maybe the more I see it, and the more I write it, the more it will stick. Maybe this is a self-congratulatory applause to myself for being able to recognize my own patterns a little faster this time and honor this ebb and flow. Or, maybe just to remind myself once again, I am human, I have needs and I don’t have to feel guilty about that, I just have to notice them.

I know this can be a typical grievance during potty training, that: Omg, I have to actually watch them ALL DAY realization. Maybe that is the hard part about this new transition, new routine. Not so much the soiled garments but the meeting our own expectations and needs. The changing. The going with the flow. Again and again. Trying and trying, having small successes, but still feeling like you’re coming up short. Still, the endless needs.


And meeting those needs atop a pandemic? Yeah, this is hard.

I thought I found a way. In fact, I did find a way and it worked beautifully…until it didn’t. Until it couldn’t. My new, awesome self-care routine worked great until something changed and it forced me to have to accept it wasn’t going to go back to what it was. The parallels to the pandemic response are striking. Only I’m feeling this now as opposed to at the start of quarantine. Like a child learning to use the toilet, I go at my own pace. I feel things when I feel them and it’s not necessarily in sync with those around me. But here I am now. It’s two steps forward, one step back, cautiously looking at the horizon, missing a little of the past, but hopeful for a brighter future.

Maybe this is all another jot in my journal to show me that I don’t have all the answers; that it’s OK to not know sometimes. To remember, I know until I don’t and then I get a chance to learn again.

And that’s why there’s been so much more anxiety this week. I gave myself a new routine, floundered in finding my footing, and I’ve been questioning my every decisions. Then I panicked without my self-care in place.

So that’s why I’m doing what I can now to take responsibility for it. I know this is up to me. I know it still might get harder before it gets better, it might twist and turn at me more ways than I can count, but, at least for this moment, I feel in charge. I feel ready to say, “Let’s go.”

Take off the shackles of perfectionism
Drop anxiety at the wayside,
Breeze, breeze by of your own accord
and stay, stay, stay in the game.

. . .

I’m still in the thick of it but I see shimmers of self-love returning. A voice whispering, “Be good to yourself.” And on it goes:

Hello, love. I see you struggling.

Your heart hurts and you feel bound and constricted.
It feels like there’s no end to this pain and misery. Breathe, babe.
You are simply resisting again. You’ve finally hit that “This pandemic shit is hard” phase, maybe for different reasons than others, but you are connected to them through the same emotion. And ya’ll are matched now. It’s hard, but it will be OK. You will find your footing again. Maybe a little slower this time.

So, savor what you do get.
And, please, please, please, love before all else.

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